Getting started. A guide for beginners.


So you have taken the plunge, and you are the proud owner of your first satellite receiver and a second hand dish. How do you set it up? This is a simple guide to get you started.

Please note - I use the terms "satellite receiver" and "satellite decoder" both to describe the box which sits next to your tv.


The connectors on the back of the receiver.

The first thing to consider is the back of the decoder - there are several connectors on the rear panel and you need to get them connected correctly. The picture below shows the rear panel of typical analogue receiver. In this case its a Pace MSS 100, but most other receivers will be similar.


Rear panel Pace MSS 100 receiver


From left to right on the picture we have:

RF tuner in / out. This are the connections which loop your tv terrestrial signals (BBC 1 / BBC2 / ITV / C4 / C5) into the tv. Most receivers also have a tuner built in, so you can put the output from the decoder onto a spare channel on yout tv. When you connect everything up, disconnect your tv aerial from the TV or video, and connect it to the RF-in socket. (Sometimes labelled ANT) You will need a new flylead (From a high street electrical store) to connect the RF-out to your tv / video. (Connect it to your video and you can tape anything you want to keep once you have tuned the video in to your receiver).


You will need to tune the tv and video to your satellite receiver.

The third connector has a screw thread. This is where the cable to the dish is connected. You need an "F-connector" for the screw thread. (More on these later).

Next are 2 scart sockets.

The red and white sockets are audio out phono connectors. You can connect these to a hifi to give you better sound. More information on that here.

Next up is another scart socket. The three scarts on this particular receiver are labelled TV / Video / Decoder. If you want to use scarts instead of the rf output to get your pictures into the tv then connect the TV socket to your TV. You can connect the Video socket to your video. Forget the decoder socket. These were used to connect outboard decoders for the Filmnet and other D2-Mac channels in the mid 1990's. Most of these signals are long gone from analogue, and are now digital only.

The final connector is the "figure-8" power socket. If your decoder is missing its power lead, dont worry, most of the common ones are available from high street electrical shops for a couple of pounds.


Connecting your dish up.

OK. We know what all the connectors are for. Now we need to find out if the equipment is operational. If possible, rig a portable tv somewhere in the garden, and connect the receiver to it. Connect the LNB on the dish, and run a length of satellite coax cable to it. You need 2 "F-connectors", one for the LNB, and one for the back of the receiver. (You can get these from you local B&Q if you dont have any. They are about 1 for a pack of 2. Not the sort of price you want to pay if you need 500, but its not going to break the bank if you only need 2).

Tips on wiring up an F-connector can be found on Martin Pickering's excellent Satcure site. The most important thing is to ensure you dont get any stray whiskers from the outer copper braid touching the inner solid conductor. This is vital.

Before you plug the receiver into the mains, connect the F-connector from the dish to the back of the receiver.

Connect the receiver to your tv. First you need to tune a spare channel on your tv to the receiver. If you don't do this, you aren't going to see anything.... (If you are using scart connections, then find your AV channel on the tv).

Ok, we are almost ready to go channel hunting, but there are a few things to consider before you are going to find any signals.


Technical tweaks.

Most receivers have a menu structure which allows you to set the receiver up for the LNB characteristics. (The LNB is the bit on the end of the arm which sticks out from the dish). You need to set the receiver up so it is using the same electronic characteristics as your LNB.

The LNB has electronic innards called a "Local Oscillator" (Also known as L.O.) The L.O.converts the frequencies transmitted by the satellites to a lower frequency that our coax cables can handle. The technical details dont matter - all we are interested in are the frequency details of the L.O. You should find these on the outer case of the LNB. (See the picture below for a typical LNB).

Typical LNB - this is a Sky Digital unit

This LNB is for a Sky Digital dish, but the picture shows the sticker with the frequency details. Its not terribly clear, but the silver sticker has the info "GEO-UNIVERSAL" on it.


There are 3 main types of LNB: 

The earliest LNB's had a L.O. frequency of 10GHz (= 10,000 MHz). These are still usable today, but you wont get the low "Astra 1D" channels. (These LNB's were designed before Astra 1D was ever put into service, so it's not surprising they dont cover these lower channels. If your LNB doesn't have any sticker on it with a frequency, chances are its one of these 10GHz units.

The next type of LNB were the "Enhanced" type. These had a L.O. of 9.75 GHz (= 9750 MHz). These cover all the channels in use today from the Astra 1 satellites. If you have one of these 9.75GHz LNB's, you have an good LNB for analogue satellite reception.

Most modern LNB's are "Universal" They have two L.O's. fitted, 9.75 / 10.6 GHz (= 9750 / 10600 MHz) The two bands are switched by a 22KHz tone squirted up the coax cable from the receiver. Modern LNB's can be used for digital reception if you ever decide to upgrade.

(Please note. If you want to watch the French channels on Atlantic Bird 3 at 5W, you MUST have a Universal LNB - the French channels broadcast on higher satellite frequencies than the Germans at 19E. The earlier types will not work).

There are other LNB types, but they are unusual, and for specific purposes.I won't considered them further here, but if you are interested, information is available on the web..


Set up the LNB settings in your receiver menu system to match your LNB. If there is any setting to turn "LNB power" ON,   then make sure its turned on.... If you are using a Universal LNB, look for a setting labelled "22KHz" or "Tone", and turn it ON.


TV signal hunting.

OK so you have set the receiver up and you are ready to go channel hunting. Start with the Astra 1 signals at 19E - (mainly because these are very easy to find). Tune your receiver to 11494H. This is ARD 1, and is a nice strong signal to look for. The advantage of this particular tv channel is that whatever type of LNB you are using, you will be able to view it.

Now to find 19E and align the dish. In the UK, this method is a rough way of finding the right location. You need to find due south for starters. If you have a compass available, use that. If not, the sun is due south at midday GMT (1pm during British Summer Time). Set the dish up so the front face of the dish is more or less vertical.

Point the arm of the dish south, and imagine a clock face. Due south is "12 o'clock" Move the arm of the dish so that it points at "11 o'clock" You will be in the right general area now, so move the dish slowly from side to side. If you can't find anything, adjust the face of the dish slightly, and move it side to side again slowly. Sooner or later, you will run across your signals.

Once you have got everything working, and you are happy, waterproof the f-connector on the LNB. DONT use sellotape or electricians tape - they arent waterproof, and will peel off in no time. If this happens, water will get into your coax cable, which at the very minimum will affect reception. Use either self-amalgam tape, or I have used "duck tape" here successfully.  (If water does get inside your cabling, it is possible that it will eventually run right through the cable, and start to fill up your decoder with rainwater... You do NOT want this to happen!!)



Everything looks ok, you have spent half an hour pointing the dish in roughly the right direction, but you dont get any pictures. DONT GIVE UP! It's normally something simple and a few minutes logical teoubleshooting will get you your foreign tv.

There are only 4 main things that can be wrong

1    The decoder is faulty.

2    The cable is damaged.

3    The LNB is not operating.

4    The dish is not aligned properly.


How to fix these problems:

1    Its certainly possible that the decoder is at fault, but its unlikely. Most analogue decoders are more or less bomb proof. If you can see the menus from the decoder on your tv chances are that the decoder is operational.

2    Assuming you havent put a nail through the cable, and its not obviously split, then the only real problem you can run across is whiskers of copper braid shorting across onto the central conductor when you put the f-connectors on. Check your f-connectors carefully at both ends to ensure there isnt any short circuit present.

If you are using a pre-existing dish / cable run, then make sure there isnt any obvious corrosion inside the f-connectors and the very end of the coax cable. If there are any blue/green deposits present at the dish end of the coax, water has got in. Rainwater can run along the inside of coax cable by capilliary action, so if its at all suspect, remove the cable, throw it away, and put a new run of coax up.

3    Assuming the LNB is actually operational, then there isnt much can go wrong with them. They are sealed units, so if its definitely a duff unit, throw it away, and buy a new one. Double check that you have got the LNB characteristics set up correctly in the receiver menu's. (See the "Technical Tweaks" section above, and follow it through carefully).

LNB's are powered by 13v squirted up the coax cable from the decoder. To check if the decoder is delivering the neccessary voltage, connect a multimeter across the inside and outside of the screw thread connector on the back of the receiver. (If you dont have a multimeter a 12v car light bulb will do just as well). If you are getting voltage at the screw connector, connect up your coax, and try again at the dish end of the coax. (Connect the multimeter across the solid inner core and the copper braiding). If you get 12v here, all is well and the LNB is getting it's required electricity supply.

4    Dish alignment is really a matter of trial and error. Read the "TV Signal Hunting" section above, and follow it carefully. If everything is working properly, you will find your signals sooner or later.


Tips from a complete beginner.

This information has been provided by Chris Ashford. He recently set his first satellite tv system up, and has kindly written up these simplified tips based on his experience of getting his system working:


Step By Step Guide to Tuning Equipment

1.    Get all the equipment together in a place where you can see a TV when you are moving the dish around (e.g. the garden), as tracking satellites is a very precise business.

This equipment should comprise:

* Portable TV, Power Cable + Aerial
* Satellite Decoder + Power Cable
* Satellite Dish
* Coax (With F-connectors attached)
* Fly Lead
* Extension power lead if required

2.    Connect equipment up as follows:

* Fly Lead from TV Aerial Socket to Satellite Decoder 'TV' Socket
* TV Aerial into Satellite Decoder 'Ant' Socket
* One end of coax into Satellite Dish LNB socket
* Other end of coax into Decoder 'LNB' socket

3.    Tune in equipment as follows:

* Connect Mains
* Switch on Mains Power
* Switch on TV
* Switch on Decoder
* Tune spare TV channel to RF output of decoder (You may have to access box menus to see RF output)
* Check Decoder setting matches LNB GHz setting (If not, make necessary alterations)
* Set Decoder to desired channel (You may need to check frequency setting to make sure channel and MHz are correct e.g. ARD1 = 11494 MHz)
* Move dish slowly back + forth and up + down until you see a TV picture

4.    Congratulations! You have now have Satellite TV!








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