Getting Started with FTA, Step 2
Get your equipment
FTA reception requires three main components: the receiver, the LNBF, and the dish.
The receiver is the brains of the system. Its job is to convert the DVB (direct video broadcasting) signals to something your TV can understand. It can be a standalone box or a card for a computer.
- To search wild feeds and other ephemeral signals, the receiver needs blind search.
- To support multiple dishes, make sure the receiver supports DiSEqC (digital satellite equipment control).
- To support a motor to move a dish, the receiver needs USALS support or DiSEqC version 1.2.
You might also consider spending more to get a receiver that can handle HD channels. As more HD channels become available, HD receivers become handier. But if you want to start with a low-cost standard-definition receiver, that's okay; the receiver is the easiest component to upgrade later.
The LNBF (low-noise block converter feedhorn) is the piece that points at the dish. The LNBF translates and amplifies the weak signal from the satellite into a stronger signal that can travel to the receiver via RG6 coax cable.
The LNBF's signal sensitivity is measured in decibels. A rating of 0.5 dB is good, and 0.3 db is excellent. The lower the rating, the better you can receive weak signals.
Some LNBFs are the standard linear polarity type; others are universal, with a wider frequency range. In North America, almost all FTA Ku-band channels can be received using either LNBF type. The LNBFs that come with Dish Network dishes are circular polarity; they can only pick up a few FTA channels.
The dish is the simplest part, although it's the hardest to ship. The minimum diameter is about 75 centimeters (about 29.5 inches), but a larger dish will help you pick up more, fainter signals. As noted in Part 1, you can install a dish up to one meter wide (about 39.3 inches) almost anywhere in the US.
Check with local satellite dealers for their dish prices, then check the prices of online dealers. Because dishes are so bulky to ship, you may want to buy a larger dish locally. If you're just getting started, your best deal may be a package price for the whole system shipped at once.