How Does Satellite TV Work?

Satellite TV is one of the most popular ways people get their television programming. What many people don’t realize is that satellite TV works more like broadcast television than cable. Both use wireless radio signals to send the programming to the viewer’s television set. The only difference, really, is that satellite TV sends the signal to space. Broadcast television uses a big antennae to send the programming, via radio signal, to a bunch of smaller antennas that translate the signal into the images and sounds that appear on the screen. The problem with broadcast television is that radio signals can only travel in a straight line and they’re easily distorted. Trees and buildings break up the signal. The curvature of the Earth breaks up the signal. If the Earth was flat and if “stuff” wasn’t in the way, the radio signal could travel for thousands of miles. Satellite TV solves these problems by using space satellites. A company, like DirecTV or Dish Network, collects the programming from various television stations and then beams the programming, via radio signal, to a space satellite; this is basically the “big antennae.” The space satellite is in geosynchronous orbit, which means it is always in the same place in relation to Earth. Because it’s way up in the sky, a satellite has a direct line of sight to millions of homes. The homes have specialized antennas, called satellite dishes, which receive the signals. Because the satellite is in geosynchronous orbit, the satellite dishes only have to be adjusted once. That’s almost it. There’s one more step – the receiver. The satellite dish sends its signal through a receiver. The receiver plays a few important roles. Its foremost job is decrypting the signal so that it can appear on the television. Part of that decryption involves splitting the signal into the different channels. The receiver also sends info to the service provider to ensure proper billing. For example, if you watch pay-per-view, the receiver knows and sends this information to DirecTV, Dish, or whatever you service provider is. So there you have it ... the basics of how satellite TV works. Satellite television has come a long way since its humble beginnings. It used to be huge dishes in the backyards of rural properties. It used to be about questionable signals and spotty sound. But now, read any satellite TV review and you’ll see that those are things of the past. These days, the technology has advanced to the point that satellite TV offers picture and sound that rivals any competitor, it has a reliable signal year-round, and the dishes are small and barely noticeable. From urban apartments to country homes, satellite TV has become a mainstay in the television service industry.
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