A Glossary of Satellite TV Terms and Definitions – Images from Above
Ah yes – satellite tv – another new technology. And all those terms and
acronyms that you have absolutely no idea what they mean. Well, help is
on the way…in fact it’s here now! To help clear the fog, following is a list of
the more commonly used terms revolving around satellite tv.
- Access card
An access card, also known as a smart card, is a removable credit-card-sized
plastic card included with each satellite receiver. It identifies each receiver
and tells your program provider your Pay-Per-View (PPV) usage each month.
- Additional Outlet (A/O)
An additional outlet lets you connect more than one receiver to the dish,
allowing other televisions in the house to be on different programs than the one
connected to the primary receiver.
- Audio/Video (A/V) Jacks
The A/V output jacks at the rear of a satellite receiver provide a superior
picture and sound to your TV, VCR and home theater system. Three jacks provide stereo
sound: one for the video, one for the right channel sound and one for the left
The azimuth is the side-to-side adjustment of a satellite dish from true north,
along the horizon, to the DBS satellite, measured in degrees.
The bandwidth is the complete range of frequencies over which a circuit or
electronic system is allocated to function, measured in MHz.
Bit is short for binary digit. It’s the smallest unit of data in a digital
system, with a value of either 0 or 1. A group of bits, such as 8-bits or
16-bits, compose a byte.
- Check Switch
Running a check switch procedure starts a series of tests in DISH network
receivers which confirms that a good signal connection between the receiver and
the multi-sat dish switch exists. At the end of the test, a list of which
satellites you can receive is displayed.
- Clarke Belt
Named after its founder Arthur C. Clarke, the Clarke Belt is an orbit used by
satellites at a height of 22,250 miles, in which satellites make an orbit in 24
hours, yet remain in a fixed position relative to the earth’s surface.
- Coax Cable
Coax or coaxial cable is the standard type of cable used by all satellite TV
technicians. Coax cable carries the signal from the dish to the satellite
receiver and on to your VCR and TV.
- Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS)
DBS is the signal frequency range (11.70-12.40ghz) intended for direct TV
broadcast by satellite TV program providers.
DSS is an acronym for Digital Satellite System. It’s also a common name used to
refer to a DirecTV satellite system or component.
- Digital Compression
Digital compression is a process of translating video images into a digital
code. Its purpose is to take up less transmission space than the original
signal would have, allowing more channels per satellite transponder.
- DirecTV System
A DirecTV System, trademarked for the consumer hardware and created to receive
DirecTV programming, includes a dish (standard size is 18"), a remote control
and the DirecTV Receiver.
DirecWay is the new name for the DirecPC satellite internet access system
offered by Hughes Networking. Two connection types are offered. A
dial-return-system (DRS) uses your existing dial-up service to provide a
connection to the internet for all out going data and the satellite is used to
route all returning data via satellite. The DRS systems offer a very nice
Internet browsing experience at about half the upfront and monthly cost. The
satellite-return-system (SRS) uses no phone lines after the initial setup and
provides a 24/7 connection.
- DISH Network System
DISH Network System, trademarked for the consumer hardware and created to
receive DISH Network programming, includes a dish (standard size is a 20"
multi-sat dish, called DISH 500), a remote control, and the DISH Network
- DISH 500
A DISH 500 is a multi-satellite dish used to receive DISH Network programming.
Some programming for DISH Network is only available if you have a DISH 500 dish
or a 2nd single satellite dish pointed to the 110 satellite for DISH Network.
The DISH 500 dish is used to receive simultaneous satellite signals from the 119
and 110 satellite slots.
- Dolby Digital/AC-3 Compatible
Dolby Digital provides 6 independent sound track channels through the optical
output jack. When connected to your AC3 compatible home theater audio setup,
this connection provides Dolby Digital Surround Sound (when Dolby Digital is
part of the programming being viewed).
- Dolby Pro Logic
Dolby Pro Logic (known as Dolby Surround in the theaters) is based on the use of
an amplitude-phase matrix. This is a method of encoding four channels of
information into two tracks of stereo media and then decoding them back into
four channels for playback.
DTH, or Direct-To-Home, is the official term used by the Federal Communications
Commission to refer to the satellite television and broadcasting industries.
- Dual LNB
A dual LNB has two coax connections. You can operate up to two satellite television receivers with a dual LNB.
The company that owns and operates DISH Network.
- Electronic Program Guide (EPG)
A chronological listing of all available programming covering an extended time
period (typically 36 hours or more). This listing displays on your TV screen.
The elevation is the upward tilt of a satellite dish antenna required to aim it
at the communications satellite, measured in degrees. When aimed at the
horizon, the elevation angle is zero.
- Feed Horn
A feed horn collects the signals at the focus of the satellite dish and channels
them to the LNB.
Geostationary refers to satellites which orbit the Earth 22,300 miles above the
Equator and rotate at the same relative speed and direction as the Earth's
surface, therefore appearing stationary.
- Hard Reset
A hard reset is the same as rebooting a computer.
HDTV, or High Definition Television, is a digital television format, that combines
high-resolution video and theater-like sound to create a movie theater-quality
TV viewing experience.
- Interactive TV
Interactive TV lets you use the enclosed remote control to access
up-to-the-minute news, sports, financial information, weather, get program
trivia, respond to free offers and shop, all while you watch TV.
- IRD (Integrated Receiver Decoder)
The IRD is the official name for the satellite receiver, which has a built-in
decoder for unscrambling subscription channels.
Kbps stands for kilobits per second and refers to the speed of a signal
An L-Band is the frequency range from 0.5 to 1.5 GHz. All satellite TV systems
use this frequency (950 to 1450 MHz) to carry the satellite signal from the dish
to the receiver.
An LNBF (usually called an LNB) is a Low Noise Block Converter with Integrated
Feed. It amplifies received signals and converts them from microwaves to lower
L-band frequency signals which are then sent along a cable to the satellite
- Matrix Switch
By using a Matrix switch you can add more than two receivers to a dual LNB.
MPEG2 is a video compression method. Compression is used to combine several
programs into one satellite transponder.
- Multi-satellite dish
It's often necessary for consumers to use a multi-satellite system, such as the
DirecTV Oval Dish or DISH Networks DISH 500 because some programming extends
beyond the satellite provider's "core" programming, like HDTV programs, and
local channels in many areas.
- Multi-satellite switch
To accommodate the multi-sat dishes offered by DirecTV and DISH Network, you
must use a multi-sat switch. You can’t intermix DirecTV and DISH Network
switches. DirecTV controls a multi-sat switch with a 22kHz signal and DISH
Network use a digital signal to communicate with their switches.
- Must Carry
Effective at the beginning of 2002, the FCC established a condition that if a
satellite service provider is going to carry one local network in a specific
market place or DMA then they must carry all local networks in that market
- National Standards and Testing Program (NSTP)
The NSTP is a program created to provide basic installation training to
satellite TV install technicians.
NTSC stands for the National Television Standards Committee, a video standard
established by the United States (RCA/NBC) and adopted by numerous other
- National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC)
This organization provides telecommunications services to rural electric and
rural telephone cooperatives. If you live in a NRTC district you cannot use
DirecTV services unless you go through your local NRTC office.
- OTA (Over the Air)
This is the acronym commonly used to describe standard television broadcast
signals received by a rooftop antenna, sometimes called off-air.
- Orbital Slots
Orbital slots refer to the location of satellites around the globe. Their are 6
main slots used for DBS TV.
- Pay Per View (PPV)
A pay-per-view event may be purchased separately from any package or
subscription. This could include a movie, special event, sporting event, or an
- Parental Lockout
Parental Lockout allows users to set a password to control access to programming
based on channel, rating or content.
Pixelization occurs due to errors in decoding the MPEG bit stream where areas or
patches of color appear instead of the higher resolution image. It might be
described as the picture "breaking up". The patches of blocks appear and
disappear, and can happen anywhere on the screen but usually are "part" of the
image "in motion". Pixelization most often occurs during rain fade or if the
satellite system has too low a signal strength to operate properly.
A Personal Video Recorder PVR satellite receiver) has a built in hard drive for digitally recording
satellite television programs, with 35-hour recording capability and two
internal satellite receivers. Dual tuners allow the user to record one program
while watching another or record two programs at the same time.
- Quad LNBF
A combination LNBF and multi-sat switch component for DISH 500 systems can
accommodate up to 4 DISH Network receivers.
- Rain fade
Raid fade is the loss of signal from the satellite during a heavy rain, which
happens more or less to all DBS systems.
- Rating Limit:
The rating limit is set by the customer using the main menu. When a system lock
is active, this limit controls the viewing of programs that have been assigned a
- Remote Extender
A remote extender is an after-market device that allows you to use an Infrared
(IR) remote to control a satellite receiver from another room.
An RG-59 is a common coax cable used in many homes for the last 40 years.
An RG-6 coax cable is recommended for digital satellite TV installations. RG-6
is a larger-size cable than the lower-grade RG-59 cable found in some homes.
- R/F connectors
The R/F connectors are the output/input screws on connections for coaxial
cable. They won’t provide stereo from the satellite receiver to the TV or
- S-Video Jack
Some televisions have an input for an S-Video cable. This is better than
audio/video jacks or R/F connectors. It is for the video, not the sound.
- Satellite Dish
A satellite dish is used to collect signals from a satellite in orbit and focus
them to the front of the dish where a feed horn collects them and passes the
signals on to the LNB to be amplified and sent to a satellite receiver.
The SBCA (Satellite Broadcasting Communication Association) is an
organization of satellite TV manufacturers, program providers, distributors and
dealers. They are the leading voice for the satellite industry in congress and
all across the U.S.
- Solar Outage
Solar outages occur when a satellite dish is looking at a satellite, and the sun
passes behind the satellite and within the field of view of the dish antenna.
Solar outages occur during the spring and fall as the sun moves up and down the
sky during the equinox. The outages only last a few minutes for a few days a
A splitter is a passive device (one with no active electronic components) which
distributes a television signal carried on a cable in two or more paths and
sends it to a number of receivers simultaneously.
- Spot Beam
A spot beam is a satellite transmission that is focused on a specific area
within the footprint, or broadcast area, of the satellite. Both DISH Network
and DirecTV use spot beams to increase the capacity of channels they can
provide, thus allowing the broadcast of more local networks.
- SW-21, SW-44, SW-64
These are all multi-sat switches used by DISH Network systems. The first number
refers to the number of satellite input connections and the second number
indicates how many receivers that switch can accommodate.
A transponder is a satellite component that receives, modulates, amplifies, and
retransmits a signal. More than one television or audio channel can be
transmitted over a signal transponder using MPEG compression.
- Twin 500 LNB
A twin 500 LNB is a combination of an LNBF and a multi-sat switch component for
DISH 500 systems, accommodating up to 2 DISH Network receivers.
- UHF Remote
A UHF (Ultra High Frequency) remote control can operate the receiver from
another room, unlike the IR (Infra Red) remote which needs to be pointed at the
So there you have it! And now that you have a good understanding of the
terminology, you can go to a satellite tv provider and discuss – with knowledge
– your satellite tv needs.
About The Author
Gareth Marples is a successful freelance writer providing valuable tips and advice for consumers purchasing satellite TV systems & receivers, or looking for DSL, Cable, Satellite or 56k Internet Service Providers and free satellite dish installation. His numerous articles offer moneysaving tips and valuable insight on typically confusing topics.
This "Glossary of Satellite TV Terms & Definitions" reprinted with permission.
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