Signals from the Heavens


Over the weekend there was no flying to be done, instead I had a project in mind of a different sort.  When I bought my home back in 2004 it came with a satellite dish mounted on the roof but it was very old and did not offer the features that the newer ones do.  I recently purchased a PVR receiver from Bell Canada and hooked it up to discover that I only had access to half of their channel line up. You see Bell offers programming on two different birds. Their primary satellite is known as Nimiq1 and is located at 91 degrees west. It carries many of the common channels and is the place that my dish was pointed. Bell also has another satellite, Nimiq4 located at 82 degrees west. This bird carries many specialty channels and all of the HDTV signals. If I wanted to ever enjoy my new HDTV or order the Chinese network I would need to have access to both Nimiq1 and Nimiq4.

A satellite dish also known as a parabolic antenna is designed in such a way that it collects weak signals from space and aligns them with a LNB. The trick with satellite dish “pointing” is that you need to aim this dish of metal at a certain place in space. If you get the angles all correct, you’ll obtain a signal. If you wanted to obtain signals from more than one satellite then you would need more than one dish. That is until more recently when someone in the genius department determined that you could actually get signal from more than one satellite using only one dish with multiple LNB’s. This is all achievable by something known as “skew”. If you have a dish that is pointed and tuned to one bird, it is a simple affair of angles of elevation and azimuth. When you want to see more than this you need to turn or skew the dish which will result in the ability to obtain signal from both, albeit a slightly compromised signal overall.

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