Q. Is unencrypted C-band satellite TV reception legal in the United States?
A. Yes. Title 47 (Telecommunications), Chapter 5 (Wire or Radio Communication), Subchapter VI (Miscellaneous Provisions), Section 605(a) (Unauthorized Publication or use of Communications) of the United States Code states that interception of any communications by wire or radio is generally illegal, with certain exceptions. One such exception is satellite television programming and it is codified in Section 605(b) which reads as follows:
The provisions of subsection (a) of this section
shall not apply to the interception or receipt by
any individual, or the assisting (including the
manufacture or sale) of such interception or receipt,
of any satellite cable programming for private viewing if:
(1) the programming involved is not encrypted;
In layman's terms, this means that it is 100% legal to intercept and watch any satellite programming that is NOT encrypted. Such programming is commonly referred to as FTA (free-to-air), OTA (over-the-air), ITC (in-the-clear) and includes fronthauls, backhauls, wild feeds and anything else transmitted by satellite. Furthermore, provision (b) makes it explicitly clear that the manufacture or sale of equipment for assisting in the interception of unencrypted satellite cable programming for private viewing is 100% legal.
To legally decrypt encrypted satellite programming, you must be lawfully authorized by the broadcaster (e.g. TV stations, cable company, etc.).
Q. Is unecrypted C-band satellite TV reception legal in other countries?
A. Laws vary from country to country, but in general, it is lawful to intercept satellite transmissions that are not encrypted in most countries. Please consult the code of laws and regulations for your country.
Q. My cable provider told me that FTA C-Band satellite reception is semi-illegal. Is this correct?
A. No. The law pertaining to unencrypted programming is codified in Section 605 of the US Code and was already discussed. Your cable provider is only interested in selling you programming that is already free and 100% legal to watch. In fact, one satellite company specializes in selling C-band programming packages that are mostly FTA.
Q. Do you sell descramblers for encrypted C-Band programming?
A. ABSOLUTELY NOT. This is unlawful and anyone inquiring about a descrambler will be denied any and all sales. If you are a TV station or cable company, please contact your content provider for information about authorized decoders.
Q. Is it legal to install a big dish on my property?
A. In general, as long as you don't violate any zoning by-laws in your municipality, it is perfectly legal to install a C-Band dish on private property. If you are part of an association or renting your property, you will need to get written permission from the property manager or landlord to install your dish.
2. Consumer vs. Commercial Antennas
Q. What is a 'Consumer' Antenna?
A. Our consumer antennas are intended for the home satellite TV market. They are designed with aesthetic appeal in mind and intended for residential backyard installations. They come in sizes ranging from 6-ft to 13.5-ft, in both mesh and solid reflector styles and are polar mount to simplify aiming and tracking the satellite arc. They are affordable, light-weight and ship by low cost carriers like UPS. .
Q. What is a 'Commercial' Antenna?
A. Our commercial antennas are intended for critical commercial applications like television station or cable downlinks. They are constructed using thicker gauge steel / aluminum and incorporate a center hub for maximum structural strength. They come in larger reflector sizes ranging from 10-ft to 16-ft and in a variety of mounts: fixed, polar and az-el. These are extremely heavy-duty, expensive and ship in wooden crates by truck freight only.
Q. Can a backyard enthusiast purchase a commercial antenna?
A. Yes. However, keep in mind that these are extremely heavy antennas that mount on large diameter poles (e.g. 5.5" - 10.0"). You will likely need to purchase the King Post from us because such large poles are not readily available. You will definitely need help mounting such an antenna and we do NOT recommend you attempt to lift the antenna, mount or motors by yourself. If you are working alone or installing these for a living, please consider purchasing our winch motor antenna lifter. It will make the installation much easier and your back will thank us later!
Q. Can a TV station use a consumer antenna?
A. Yes, but it is not recommended. If your budget doesn't allow for the purchase of a commercial antenna, or if a lower operational wind speed is acceptable in your application, then purchasing a consumer antenna might be a reasonable option. Our consumer antennas are by no means dodgy, but they are designed for the home tv market where the consumer threshold for some signal loss under extremely high winds (e.g. 80 mph) is very low.
Q. Does a commercial antenna have a higher gain?
A. No. The gain of an antenna is determined strictly by the reflector size and surface accuracy. Only a larger antenna will produce more gain.
Q. What is the weight difference between consumer and commercial antennas?
A. Our 12-ftconsumer mesh antenna weighs 170 lbs. The equivalent commercial mesh antenna weighs 300 lbs and the commercial solid antenna weighs nearly 350 lbs. The weight of the pole, motors, struts, feeds, cabling and weather protection is extra.
Q. How much space is needed for a motorized C-Band dish installation?
A. It depends on the dish you are installing. A good rule of thumb is to take half the diameter of the dish and imagine a sphere with this radius centered on the top of your post. For example, if you want to install an 8-ft C-Band dish, you will need a spherical space free of physical obstructions with a radius of 4-ft and the center of that sphere situated on the top of the post. Use a measuring tape to ensure there are no obstacles around your selected installation spot.
If you live in an urban area (e.g. apartment) or have a small backyard or limited space, you may consider installing a 6-ft dish. Such a dish will receive most of the basic FTA channels. If you live in the countryside or have lots of space, you should definitely consider installing a 10-ft or 12-ft dish! A larger dish will ensure you lock more satellite signals and therefore maximize the number of channels received, especially when it comes to the newer UHD programming and wild feeds. Our most popular C-band consumer dish is the 10-ft mesh polar mount.
Q. Won't obstructions like trees, fences or other houses interfere with my dish?
A. Yes they will, that's why you need to select an appropriate installation location. In general, you want to have an unobstructed view of the southern sky from west to east. Any obstructions will probably occur in the eastern horizon or western horizon as satellites in those locations are low in the sky.
Use our digital inclinometer to survey your location. Tilt the inclinometer 10-15 degrees at eye level and make sure you can see past all obstructions, especially at the eastern and western horizons.
Q. How difficult is it to install a C-Band dish?
A. If you are handy with tools and have ever installed and aligned a small dbs dish (e.g. Dish Network or DirecTV) then you will be able to handle the installation of a C-band dish. A C-band dish is just a larger version of its smaller cousin, the Ku-band dish. The same installation principles apply, except you need a bigger pole and perhaps a ladder to stand on when assembling the antenna or adjusting the feed. The only tricky part is motorizing the dish to track the Clarke Belt. Tracking the Clarke Belt takes some patience, but most people eventually get it right after some trial and error.
A Complete Guide to C-band Dish Installation can be found here.
Q. Are professional C-Band dish installers available?
A. Unfortunately, most C-band dish installers retired many years ago and you will likely have a difficult time finding an experienced installer. Your best bet will be to contact a local TV station and find out if any of their station engineers want to install your dish for extra money. Another option is to contact local dbs (small dish) installers and find out if they do C-band installations. If you need assistance planting the steel pole, we suggest contacting a local fence/deck contractor for this job. If you can get the pole installed and the dish assembled on the pole, then follow these instructions for dish alignment.
Q. What size mounting post do I need for a C-Band installation?
A. It depends on the size of the dish. For our consumer antennas, you will need a 3-inch diameter steel post for our 6-ft dish and a 5.5-inch diameter steel post for our 13.5-ft dish! For our commercial antennas, steel posts range in diameter between 5.5 - 10 inches, but don't worry, we have everything you need in our store! The post length should be at least half the dish diameter above ground. For example, if you are installing an 8-ft diameter dish, your post should be at least 4-ft above ground. In addition, it should be encased in at least 2-ft of concrete below ground. This is known as the 2:1 rule for in-ground post installations. In other words, the total length of your post would be at least 6-ft long.
Q. Do you sell the posts?
A. Yes. We sell all styles and sizes of post mounts for every possible installation, including: in-ground, pyramid base, king post, wall mount and non-penetration mounts.
Q. Do I need anything else to install a C-Band dish?
A. If you are planning to use an in-ground pole for the installation, you will need about a dozen cement bags which can be purchased from your local Home Depot or Lowes. They are about $5 each. You will use the cement to set your post into the soil/grass/ground. Please follow the instructions on our webpage.
Q. What tools do I need for the installation?
A. You will need some basic tools such as: an adjustable wrench, ratchet, screwdriver, hammer, drill, etc.
Q. Isn't the alignment of a C-Band polar mount dish for tracking multiple satellites very difficult?
A. If you don't follow our instructions and don't have a digital inclinometer, the process can be very frustrating. Once you have the dish mounted on the post, you will need to make three adjustments: elevation angle, declination offset and azimuth. The elevation angle and declination offset are based on your latitude and are obtained from a table. Once you know these values, simply place our digital inclinometer on your elevation screw and adjust accordingly. Do the same for the declination offset. Then rotate your dish on the post until it faces due south. Lock down your dish. It will now track the satellite arc perfectly.
Q. What is C-Band TVRO? What is Ku-Band TVRO?
A. C-Band TVRO simply refers to satellite TV reception of transmissions in the frequency band 3.7GHz - 4.2Ghz. Ku-Band refers to satellite TV transmissions in the frequency band 11.7GHz-12.2GHz.
Q. Why do I need a large dish for C-Band satellite reception? Why won't a "pizza" size dish work?
A. The simple rule of thumb to remember is that antenna gain is directly proportional to aperture size and to the square of the signal frequency. In other words, the larger the physical size of the parabolic reflector, the larger will be the gain. The higher the frequency, the higher the gain. C-Band TVRO transmissions occur between 3.7GHz and 4.2GHz, while Ku-Band transmissions occur between 11.7GHz and 12.2Ghz. Since C-Band frequencies are much lower, the physical dish size must be much larger than a typical Ku-Band or DBS pizza size dish for equivalent performance, assuming the same amount of power is being broadcast in both cases.
Now that you understand the relationship between antenna gain and frequency, it reasons that a C-Band dish should be 9 times larger in area than a Ku-Band dish (since 12GHz/4Ghz = 3). This means that the diameter of a C-Band dish should be 3 times larger than a typical Ku-Band dish. Since the smallest Ku-Band dish is approximately 60cm (24-inches) in diameter, it follows that the smallest C-Band dish should have a diameter of at least 180cm or 6-ft.
Q. What is the minimum dish size for reliable C-Band reception?
A. We recommend a minimum dish size of 6-ft for basic reception. Anything smaller and you will be sorely disappointed. You will receive only a fraction of the satellite transmissions and experience the constant frustration of pixilation on others. For this reason, we do not stock any C-band dishes smaller than 6-ft and do not recommend you buy anything smaller. In fact, we strongly recommend that serious home satellite tv consumers purchase an 8-ft or 10-ft dish for reliable reception.
Q. Will a C-band dish also receive Ku-band programming?
A. Yes, with the proper feed.
Q. What is the difference between a mesh and solid C-Band dish? Which is better?
A. Performance wise, there is no difference between a solid dish and a mesh dish as long as they are both the same size and have been manufactured with precise parabolic geometries. There is an urban myth out there that a solid dish will outperform a mesh dish because some of the radio waves will "slip" through the mesh holes and not be reflected to the focus, especially Ku-Band signals. In actual fact, because the mesh holes are so small, little or no radiation is lost and a mesh dish will always achieve a gain of 98% or more of a solid dish. Those who claim that a solid dish significantly outperforms a mesh dish are neglecting to account for aperture size and/or the manufacturing precision of the parabolic surface.
Q. Should I purchase a solid or mesh C-Band dish?
A. Both will work equally well. The main difference is that the mesh dish is much lighter and therefore, cheaper to ship and recommended for home satellite TV consumers. Most people also consider the mesh dish more aesthetically appealing and suitable for both rural and urban areas.
Solid antennas are usually preferred by TV stations and cable companies because their heavier weight and rigidity allows them to remain operational under much higher winds. They are also less prone to geometric deformation and thus signal degradation over time.
Q. What is a dish mount? What are the most common dish mounts?
A. The dish mount firmly attaches to the reflector and its purpose is to accurately aim and track a communication satellite. There are two principle classes of mounts:
Az-El Mount: This mount aims at a communication satellite by rotating the dish to the correct azimuth angle, followed by raising the dish to the correct elevation angle. A fixed Az-El mount is simple to construct and often used to aim at a single communication satellite, whereas a motorized Az-El mount (with motorized skew adjustment) is more complicated and expensive to construct and might be used to track inclined orbit satellites or to survey the entire sky by radio astronomers with pin-point accuracy.
Polar Mount: This mount aims at a communication satellite by rotating around a single axis known as the polar axis. This single movement can track the entire Clarke Belt of geostationary satellites with a high degree of accuracy. Because this mount can track the entire satellite arc with a single movement, it is the preferred and most economical mount for home satellite tv enthusiasts who want to track as many satellites as possible with a simple controller.
Q. What is an LNBF?
A. The Low-Noise Block Feed (LNBF) is the electronic device at the focus of the dish that collects and amplifies the satellite signal before sending it to your receiver.
Q. What is an Actuator?
A. An actuator is a type of motor used for moving a C-band dish so it can track multiple satellites. The actuator extends and retracts when commanded by the controller to push and pull the dish on its polar axis.
Q. How many satellites can I track with a motorized dish?
A. In north America you can literally track over 50 satellites along the Clarke Belt. Most of these satellites are separated by 2° of longitude ranging from 11° to 139° west longitude. That is a lot of satellites and a lot of channels!
Q. What is DVB-S and DVB-S2?
A. DVB-S and DVB-S2 are modulation and error correction algorithms used to transmit digital satellite signals. DVB-S2 is the most recent standard and used almost exclusively for transmitting HD channels. You will need a DVB-S2 capable satellite receiver to watch most HD broadcasts. All the receivers we sell can decode both DVB-S and DVB-S2.
Q. Why are DVB-S2 signals harder to lock?
A. DVB-S2 signals try to cram a higher bit rate signal into the same bandwidth and are used for transmitting HD channels. In order to do this they have to use more complex signalling schemes and the LNBF electronics can't always lock the signals due to noise thereby resulting in higher bit error rates. The only way around this problem is to use a larger C-Band dish. For example, people who use a 6ft C-Band dish can only lock on DVB-S signals and hardly any DVB-S2 signals. A 7ft diameter C-Band dish will lock most, but not all DVB-S2 signals. An 8ft diameter dish will lock practically all DVB-S2 signals, including signals with a high FEC rate like 5/6 or 7/8. A 10ft diameter dish will do even better and have signal to spare!
5. TV Channels
Q. How many TV channels will I receive?
A. There are over 50 satellites accessible from north America and each satellite may broadcast up to 80 channels for a grand total of over 4000 channels! However, some channels are encrypted while others may be international. Still, that leaves literally hundreds of free channels for English speaking users.
Q. What kinds of channels are available?
A. Approximately 99% of all TV channels distributed by cable companies come from C-band. Nearly 4,000 TV and radio programs can be found on C-band and almost 40% of these are unscrambled. You will have access to major networks like NBC, CBS, ABC, CW and Fox and all their feeds where they transmit their programming to affiliate stations. There are all kinds of news broadcasters like RT, NHK, CBC News, France24, BBC, Bloomberg, Reuters, CNN, CTV, etc. You will receive countless diginet channels that show classic TV programming like Retro TV, COZI, MeTV, Decades and more. There are also dedicated movie channels like MOVIES! or REELZ. If you enjoy sports, then you will enjoy watching the countless wild feeds of hockey, football, boxing, wrestling and more!
A. Yes, absolutely. At the time of writing (early 2019), there were about a dozen full-time 4K (UHD) channels on C-band satellite and many are being transmitted FTA. In fact, there are more 4K channels and feeds available on C-band satellite today than anywhere else. Many C-band enthusiasts consider themselves early adopters of new technology like 4K and 8K broadcasts. It was the same when HD broadcasts began almost two decades ago.
Q. What are fronthaul feeds?
A. Quite simply, they are the master feeds of all the regular programming (TV channels) found on cable. 99% of all cable TV channels in the USA originate from C-band satellites. These master feeds are uncompressed and transmitted at bit rates as high as 30 Mbps and look absolutely stunning!
Q. What are backhaul feeds?
A. In addition to regular programming, broadcasters often transmit feeds to their affiliates. These feeds include breaking news, live sports events (baseball/soccer/football/hockey games) and events like Wrestlemania, SuperBowl or UFC/Boxing fights. In addition to these live events, feeds of prime-time programming are also transmitted. You will see episodes of Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Modern Family, etc., before they actually air on the main networks!
Although most of these feeds are broadcast in the clear, you will have to find the feed frequencies yourself by scanning all the satellites or browsing an online forum where other users post the latest feeds.
A. In general, premium channels are encrypted and not available. However, occasionally the encryption is turned off and you can view these channels while they remain unencrypted. For example, this occurs when a premium channel is first added to a new satellite and uplink technicians want to test it for several months or when broadcasters move channels from one satellite to another. The best place to check for unencrypted premium channels is on a C-Band forum.
Q. Are Adult channels available?
A. Adult channels broadcast in north America must be encrypted by law. Broadcasters would be legally liable if they ever transmitted such programming in the clear, but it actually does happen even if only temporarily.
Some broadcasters in central or south America do occasionally broadcast such content where different laws are applicable, but it is not always available on a regular basis.
Q. Are there more channels on C-Band or Ku-Band?
A. Without a doubt there are more and better quality channels available on C-Band. The FTA experience is simply incomplete without C-Band. You must keep in mind that practically every single channel available through cable subscriptions actually originates from a C-Band satellite. You must also keep in mind that C-Band channels are high bandwidth, studio quality transmissions from the broadcasters.
Q. Are there HD channels available?
A. Yes, of course. As more broadcasters move to HD and UHD, more and more channels become available in high-definition and ultra high-definition. To conserve bandwidth, content providers are gradually migrating all their content to HD and UHD and within 5 years, there probably won't be any SD (standard-definition) programming anymore.
Q. Are there a lot of Hispanic channels available?
A. After english language programming, spanish language programming is the most ubiquitous. There are probably over 100 spanish language channels available over north America. In addition, if you install a 10-ft or larger dish, you will have access to many spanish broadcasts originating from central and south America.
Q. C-Band programming sounds almost as good if not better than cable. How can this be?
A. Well, the cable companies are in business for profits and don't want you watching TV for free. That is why they work hard at creating the myth that only religious channels are available on FTA and lobby hard to persuade large electronic retailers NOT to sell C-Band equipment. In fact, all the cable companies do is setup 20-30 C-Band downlink dishes to receive master programming from the broadcasters, compress it from the original format, and then charge you a subscription to deliver this overcompressed programming to you!
For less than the cost of a 6 month cable subscription, you may as well invest in your own motorized C-Band TVRO and cut cable off forever!
All consumer products sold are for legal free-to-air satellite reception only. TV stations and cable companies using commercial antennas must be authorized to receive programming from providers. We do not provide decoders, support or after-market products for encrypted programming. All TVRO antennas sold are for RX (receive) operation only and are not certified for TX (transmit) operation unless otherwise stated.