Why Satellite?

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What is satellite TV?

Direct broadcast satellite, or DBS, beams hundreds of digital-quality video and audio channels to your home via satellite. The satellites are positioned in a geo-stationary orbit 40,000km above Europe. To be able to receive digital satellite broadcasts in the UK, a small 43cm satellite receiver dish - mounted somewhere outside your home - picks up the transmissions. The dish is connected by means of a special coaxial cable into a DBS or Digibox, receiver. Digiboxes are usually set-top boxes; however some are are built into the TV sets. The signal is then routed to your TV.

Is satellite TV better than cable TV?

In many ways satellite TV is more adaptable than cable. The service is available nationally, including remote areas. Prices between satellite and cable companies are comparable. However, satellite TV offers far more channels than cable companies. They also offer things like pay-per-view sports coverage, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio and many free radio channels. By taking advantage of special promotions (providing you subscribe for the minimum contract period) you can be up and running very quickly and for next to nothing.

The quality of the video image is generally very good. However, it's digitally compressed which means that you may occasionally experience video glitches or 'artefacts'. The weather can also play havoc with satellite reception. If you experience heavy rain, snow or lightning then you may notice that your picture breaks up or maybe you lose it all together. This is the problem with digital transmissions - they are either 'all or nothing'. Some people say that satellite picture quality is not as good as a good cable system, but it's better than an average cable system. If you have cable, look at the quality of the blacks in the picture on a major channel. If you see 'snow' or 'ghosting' then satellite should be able to offer you a better picture.

On the negative side, satellite does have a few limitations. For example, you must have a reasonably clear aspect towards the satellite arrays - usually pointing very slightly towards the south-south-east in the UK. Tall buildings, trees or anything that blocks this line of vision may affect how you receive your transmissions. Satellite TV's other big problem is that of installation which can be very tricky. Only the handiest of handy will be able to successfully install a satellite system on their own. However, the plus side is that free installation is most likely given away with satellite systems.

What are the options?

The two main options are to go along the route of choosing Sky directly from the company itself or to choose a smaller company to set up your satellite reception for you by tuning in to one of many other satellites orbiting the globe. Sky offers just their own choice of TV channels - which is wide and covers most interests. However, for country- or language-specific reception a smaller dealer should be able to set up your chosen package for you. In this case a larger satellite dish is generally required - usually 80cm - or a motorised system can be used.

The costs vary from dealer to dealer so it's best to shop around. There is a lot of information on the Internet as well as from dedicated satellite magazines which may be bought from High Street shops. Costs on top of the hardware involve also the cost of subscriptions to channels. It can be an expensive exercise all-in-all but one which is very fulfilling and rewarding, especially if your interests involve looking into other countries' cultures.

There are new innovations coming into the satellite world, as in any other high technology field, all the time. Hard drives are now being incorporated within satellite receivers to record your favourite broadcasts in your absence without the use of video tape and sound gets better year by year. To experience the surround sound to its full potential though you will need to connect your TV or decoder into a suitable hi-fi system, preferably surround-sound with a good pair of rear speakers.

For the Bang & Olufsen owner, it used to be that separate B&O products (BeoSat RX and BeoSat LX) could be purchased for the purposes of receiving satellite broadcasts. However, in the UK at least, Sky Digiboxes may now be incorporated with most of the current range of Beovision TV sets that are on sale so that you can control the receiving of Sky programmes via your existing Beo4 remote control. Your preferences need to be established within the menu of your TV first though, but once done the 'STB Controller' (bought as an accessory) is able to control your Digibox as though it were part of your Bang & Olufsen system!

Created: 10th January 2007
Modified: 2nd April 2007

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