Ten-Foot Television Dishes v. 18-inch Models

Driving along in the countryside, I sometimes spot huge 80s-era satellite dishes still in usage. What advantages do these bohemoths provide over the 18-inch models?

I think this has been covered on the ‘What is the average size of a man’s penis’ thread.

Just read through it substituting ‘penis’ with ‘television dish’. The logic is unaffected.

Uh, not really. The large dishes can be tuned to pretty much any satellite that broadcasts standard signals and is not encrypted, and for which there is an adequate line of site. This allows people using them to tune into things like network syndication feeds, for example, to watch the ball games without any commercials. (And sometimes hear the announcers say funny things during the breaks. :slight_smile: )

They can also receive signals from European and South American broadcasters, which can be viewed assuming you have the correct equipment. Pretty much anything that gets beamed back down at the Earth from a satellite and isn’t encrypted can be picked up by one of these things.

The 18 inch dishes you see are different for two reaons.

  1. They are designed to receive a digital signal (such as DirecTV or Dish Network) on a specific frequency range
  2. They are stationary and point directly at exactly one satellite; the one which provides the subscription service.

Well, THAT was an uncalled-for flip answer. How about a real one?

The difference is that the two dishes are serving different purposes, and operate at different frequencies. The small dishes receive direct-broadcast video, which was designed from the get-go to be transmitted to such dishes.

The rule is that for the same frequency, the larger the satellite dish, the higher the signal-to-noise ratio, and therefore the less power required by the satellite, and the less sensitivity required by the receiving electronics.

Those huge dishes are meant to receive general satellite video broadcasts that were never really intended for home users to pick up. For example, if you want to pick up the NBC affiliate feed from one of their satellites, you’ll need one of these big dishes. The size requirement comes from the need to pick up a signal that was originally intended to be recieved by dishes that large on the rooftops of network affiliate stations and such, so the system was designed with that size in mind.

The chief advantage of those big dishes is that they can pick up all kinds of satellite traffic, including ‘in the clear’ unencrypted network feeds etc. The small dishes only work with direct-broadcast satellites, so you are forced into buying the channel packages those companies provide. Because the smaller dishes aim at a single satellite, they can be fixed in position as well. The bigger dishes generally have to move from satellite to satellite to pick up the programming you want to watch, so they require complex mounts, motor drives, indoor motor controllers, etc. That’s why the little dishes can be had for $100 or so, while the big ones costs several thousand.

There are still enthusiasts around for the older satellite technology, but they are starting to fade away because the utility of those big dishes is eroding rapidly. For example, I believe that all network affiliate feeds are now encrypted. There are still interesting things to be found, but they are becoming few and far between.

Uh, friedo’s message wasn’t flip - I was talking about the one before that, which was the only message in here when I started my post.

That’ll teach me for writing long, windy messages.

Sorry. Wrong forum.

For one thing cities allow 18" models, city ordnances can prohibit the ten foot ones.

The content is free is on the big dishes. Not necessarily the good stuff, but there’s definitely free stuff out there. Not so for the mini dishes.

The C-band dishes also used to be the only choice for people in rural areas. Cute side effect: A lot of people switched to the small ones when they came out, and just wanted to get rid of their old big ugly dishes, and so you could pick them up relatively cheap.

Lots of differance. I own a 10 foot dish, and this is one of my favorite topics. Here goes:


[li]Picture quality. The little dishes cant compare. Contrary to what you have been told, almost all the signals you get off a little dish, were brodcast on a big dish first(c-band). These signals are then comressed using MPEG, and rebroadcast to the sat again… You are getting essentially an 2nd gen copy, and its compressed like an mp3 is to music. Watch it on a small set, its fine, compare it on a big screen to a c-band signal, you going to feel ripped off. the resolution on the little dishes suck in comparrison[/li][li]number of channels: a cband with a 4DTV reciever(digital, http://www.4dtv.com) can get around 900 or so channels. HERES THE BIG PROBLEM WITH LITTLE DISHES. HDTV signals take up 4 times the bandwith on a little dish, so when they start broadcasting everything in hdtv, you will be limited to about 50 channels or so. CBAND analog takes up more bandwith than HDTV, so every chanel on cband that goes to HDTV actually frees up bandwith and makes more channels available. Hah.[/li][li]Wild feeds. all the shows you watch on your regular tv stations, are sent there on cband first. I get to watch most of the shows the day they come out. For instance, the lone gunmen is on while I get ready for work, I can watch a bunch of shows the day before.[/li][li]wierd stuff. I can get un-edited news feed being sent to the stations. I can sit there and watch the crew and cast of a news show shooting the shit while waiting for the local stations to switch over. A friend of mine got to see someone beheaded in some news feed from the middle east. Obviously this stuff gets eddited out before it hits the air[/li][li]Its just cool having this big motorized dish on top of your house moving around.[/li][li]Nasa has several sat channels that I can pick up 24/7. Any sattelite or shuttle lauch I watch as it happens.[/li]
[li]cheaper programming. HBO, and all the premo stuff is offered at a cheaper rate, and there are more of them[/li][li]if one sat goes down on a little dish, your screwed, when they go down on a big dish, hbo just moves thier stuff to another bird, and your back in business within hours.[/li][/ol]

The down side

[li]its expensive. A 4dtv reciever will run you $900 bucks or so. I still just have one of the old analog ones. I want the 4DTV really bad. IT has optical audio out, and svideo out, and onscreen sat guides and all…I was hopeing to get one before my back surgery, but the money is just not there. Still, I have a whole but load of channels(there are as many free chanels as there are little dish channels total)[/li][li]Its a pain in the ass. a storm can knock your dish out of alignment, ground noise can interfere, the ground settles around your pole, you have to re-align everything. You have 24 or so sattelites to aim at, on an arc, and if your pole is just a little off, only some of them will come in. Also, weather affects them in many ways[/li][li]it gets to be annoying sometimes waiting for the dish to move. Makes channel surfing a pain[/li][/ol]

Only some of the content is free. You still have to pay for the good stuff. They finally got the encryption down so you just steal the pay channels.

You can get the BUD (big ugly dishes)free, but the modern recievers cost a bit. 4DTV just came out a while back, and there just arent that many on the used market yet. Do a search on Ebay for 4dtv 922, they are still pretty high. They just came out with a side car that you can hook up to the old reciever, but its still $400 bucks or so, and doesnt have the light pipe out, or the svideo.

And you still have to pay someone to set up the dish unless you really know what you are doign, and have a sat signal strength meter laying around(like I do)

Actually, they are making a comeback. A lot of the people who switched to the little dishes are switching back because they miss the picture quality. And with hdtv comming, and the 922 c band recievers that motorola just came out with, people are going back to the big dishes. Not exactly in droves, but motorolla wouldnt have dropped a bundle into the 4dtv reciever if they thought it was dying out. I still pick up a lot of network feeds, only some are encrypted, but they probably will go that way. The premium channels like HBO and Showtime are still going strong on Cband, and you can get more of them. Big dishes are not going anywhere

Quality of the Small Dishes:
Y’all might be right that the big dishes are better, but let me tell you that the small dish is significantly better than cable. Anytime I have to watch local cable, ugh, it give me a headache.
Actually, the amount of compression used by satellite companies (DirecTV in my case) is variable, to increase or decrease the quality on the fly. This is done in order to conserve bandwidth. For example, highly compressing “Martha’s Kitchen” is a good thing, because that leaves some extra bandwidth for high-quality NFL Sunday Ticket broadcasts.

Single Dishes
I get the point; the big dishes are moveable, a la “The Arrival,” or those who remember pre-cable days, the “rotor” for your rooftop antenna (it would allow you to point your antenna to the station for better reception).
But, the “little dishes” aren’t limited to just a single satellite. I recently had to replace my 18" RCA dish with a 24" Sony oblong dish. Why, you ask? To receive transmissions from two satellites (the DirecTV Para Todos comes from a different satellite than my regular DirecTV, and I like the Spanish stuff for my wife, and now I actually like, gulp, “Uga Uga”).

Most of this has been covered but I think C-band programming is still much less expensive than DirecTV and Dish Network. There are multiple vendors to order the same programming from for C-band while the small dish is more of a monopoly.

I was an early adopter of DBS and paid a small fortune for a Sony reciever and dish. I used it two years then moved into an apartment where I couldn’t have it. Now they practically give the hardware away.

If you want to see how bad the quality of cable or even small-dish satellite is these days, try watching it on a front projection system.

I have a projection system with an 8’ wide screen. DVD looks gorgeous, and it feels like being at the movies. But try and watch a compressed cable channel, and the MPEG artifacts will drive you insane. It’s totally unwatchable.

You should see your big screen hooked up to 4DTV reciever, svideo. Its a religious experiance.

Are the dishes for CBand always 10 feet in size? I somehow don’t think the city I live in would be happy with me putting up a 10 foot dish on my roof… I’ve heard that the dishes are sometimes smaller nowadays…

If it was 3 or 4 feet maybe I could get away with it on my roof… Although I’m not even sure about that…

I have been fascinated with the idea of CBand ever since I first heard about it MANY years ago, but just figured I couldn’t ever have it in a city…

I’d love to be able to get some of the Canadian Feeds down here near San Fran… The only thing I get on DirecTV is Newsworld International which is like a very watered down version of the CBC news 24 hours a day…

I tried looking into CBand dishes on the sites I found, but it’s way over my head… (no pun intended)


They range in size, bigger the better. some parts of the country you can get away with smaller. I hear in canada they are much smaller, but I dont know. Best bet, if you can afford it is to look for C band dealers in your area, and ask them what works where you are. IF you wanna go the cheap route, watch the classifieds and for sale news groups. You can often find someone giving the dish or the whole system away. Sink the tallest pole that you can get away with in concrete in your yard, and make sure it is straight up and down. Mount the dish on the pole, run the cable into the house(if you get the cable with it) and then call a sat company to set it up for you. You will save a bit by doing all the mundane stuff yourself. My dish is about 18 feet up in the air, and points out over my roof. You cant see it from the street. Look for trees blocking line of sight. You may get an older reciever with the dish, and if so you may have to buy a newer reciever. I got my GI 650 for about 100 bucks used. It has a UHF remote, so I can control the sat from anywhere in the house. Toshibas are supposed to be some of the best,

there are a lot of good quality used recievers on ebay, or for sale local, because of people upgrading to 4dtv, or going to the smaller dishs. I would go with General instruments , or Toshiba. The newer the better.

S F Canadian
Winegard makes(made?) a 4 foot C band dish.I haven’t been in the buisness for several years but I did install one of them once.
My dish is a 8 ft MaCom Prodelin. IMHO the very best dish made. I just wish that I could have convinced others that it was best while I was in buisness.I’ve had it about 12 years. A tree has fallen on it and it still produces a studio Quality picture.
As far as what dish is best for you since you are further north the larger dish would be better.
My dish will recieve tha same signal that the 18-inch model will. The electronics do the rest.

      • I know nuts about sat TV, but where I work the music is delivered on a sat signal. The music service switched to another (weaker?) satellite and re-aimed the small (~2-ft) dish, but the music had static badly and even though everything was tested, it didn’t improve until the company got a bigger (~6-foot) dish. - MC

They can’t force you not to put up a dish.

I knew I had seen this covered before, and now that I’m getting better at this VB search thing, I went back and found where it was discussed.

Perderabo nailed the answer here. He/she also includes a link to the FCC where they explain the law.

Bottom line- Landlords can’t ban digital satellite dishes.