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Glossary Terms

It's the oldest trick in the book, especially when selling technology. The sales staff will trot out different units and then start rifling-off technical terms and jargon until you have completely lost track of what you wanted in the first place. That's why you need to know the technology before you even look at the hardware.

The following is a comprehensive glossary of technical terminology that you are bound to encounter on your quest for the perfect satellite TV home entertainment system. Organized alphabetically, our comprehensive list of terms is not only a great reference tool, but also your best hope at cutting through the mumbo-jumbo and getting the best deal.

Additional Outlet
An additional outlet is an extra satellite or cable outlet that can be plugged into the satellite or cable box to provide an additional feed of the satellite signal. This new feed can then be used to take the satellite signal in an extra and different room, allowing residents to watch different channels on separate televisions at the same time. The additional outlet usually costs a set installment fee and also a small amount extra per month, as you will be using two satellite signals.

Audio/Video Jacks
Audio/Video jacks are electrical connectors on the back of your television set that allow you to input audio and video from another device (such as video game consoles, digital video cameras, dvd players, etc) to be displayed on the TV. These jacks are called "input jacks" as they receive video and audio as input. Your TV may also have output audio jacks that allow you to redirect your TV audio to a sound system.


Azimuth is the term that is used to describe the rotation of a satellite antenna around a vertical axis. The azimuth is the side-to-side angle of the antenna and is used to position the satellite dish in the correct direction, to receive the satellite signals. A dish-pointing calculator is used to find the required azimuth angle and this angle is given in relation to true north, which is zero degrees.

Bandwidth is the word that is used to define the rate at which information travels through a network connection. The information is data that is in a range of frequencies and is expressed in Kilobits per second. The bandwidth determines the rate at which information can be sent through a channel. The greater the bandwidth, the greater the amount of information that can be sent in a given amount of time. A common standard to describe the bandwidth is a full page of English text. This text is about 16,000 bits and a 56Kbs modem can easily move 16,000 bits in less than one second.

Baseband is the name given to a transmission method in which the entire bandwidth (the rate at which information travels through a network connection) is used to transmit just one signal. Baseband is a cheaper method than broadband and is typically used for shorter distances of transmission. The digital signals that are carried via baseboard are un-modulated meaning that the signal is not adjusted before hand. Baseboard is commonly used in LAN networks (Local Area Networks) that are most commonly used in offices.

The word beam describes a signal that is transmitted over a narrow path. Satellites use a beam to transmit information from the satellite orbiting the Earth to the Antenna that catches the information. The antenna catches the beam as a data stream and routes this through the satellite cables into your TV. The satellite beams form a footprint over certain areas, showing the coverage and signal strength over various regions. The stronger the beam, the more area it can cover and the better the signal reception.

A blackout is a period where the signal communication between the satellite and the antenna is lost and no signal is able to appear on the T.V screen. A blackout can occur due to any number of reasons including solar storms and sunspots, which release cosmic particles that interfere with satellite communication. Blackouts are not that common with satellites and generally they do not last for a prolonged period.

A bird is merely a slang term to describe a satellite in orbit. In the case of satellite TV, those birds beam an uninterrupted signal down to earth that contains millions of bytes of condensed programming. The term hotbird is most often used in the context of European satellites offering Europeans satellite programming. Currently there are 4,000 birds orbiting the earth and each year more and more are launched into our orbit.

Castle Rock Broadcast Center
The Castle Rock broadcast center is located in the sate of Colorado. It is here where Direct TV has colluded all of their uplink satellites to receive the transmission from their six satellites orbiting the earth. Once collected, the signal is then beamed, along with other programming gathered with fiber optic cable, to Direct TV dishes all across America. There is also a broadcasting center in Los Angeles California.

While most smaller satellite TV providers have begun offering high-speed Internet to their customers, C-Band is the first to offer the service to owners of the old model larger dishes. The principal is still the same. The Internet signal is beamed down and users can surf the web and download like any other high-speed connection. Users cannot upload however, as that would require a transmitter powerful enough to reach space.

Clark Belt
A satellite system receives signals from satellites that orbit the earth. The satellites are in what is commonly called the Clark Belt, 22,000 miles from the earth's surface, directly above the equator. Satellites may transmit several different types of signals. One type is called digital MPEG-II. The signal is received by the satellite dish. Then it is processed by the satellite receiver so it can be turned into audio or video that can be enjoyed by the satellite user, you.

Direct broadcast satellite, or DBS, is a relatively recent development in the world of television distribution. "Direct broadcast satellite" can either refer to the communications satellites themselves that deliver DBS service or the actual television service. DBS systems are commonly referred to as "minidish" systems. DBS uses the upper portion of Ku-Band. Direct TV is an example of a DBS.

Digital Audio Broadcasting
In the past, sound was transmitted via the analog formats of AM (amplitude modulation) and FM (frequency modulation). Today, pure, crisp, uninterrupted sound is delivered to satellite systems using DAB. The sound is transformed into binary code, which is then sent to a receiver and translated back to its perfect original form.

Digital Compression
Digital compression uses the same principals as Digital Audio Broadcasting. The video signal is compressed into MPEG format, where it takes up less space. It is then beamed to a dish where it is the receivers job to decode it. This is same technology used for DVD. The compression allows for a smaller dish size and is the reason that DBS is replacing the larger satellite dishes.

Dolby Digital/AC-3 Compatible
Dolby Digital has become the standard audio for most DBS systems. Essentially Dolby digital means the audio of your programming is encoded for maximum clarity. But its real advantage is its 5.1 channels. Think of it this way: when you are watching television, sound only emits from one speaker. With Dolby digital, you can have up to five simultaneous audio tracks. These five separate tracks can give the effect that there are five distinct audio events happening at the same time.

Dolby Pro Logic
When a provider wants the sound accompanying an image to be surround, it has to be recorded and coded with five distinct channels. What Dolby Pro Logic does is takes audio that was not recorded with the intention of surround sound and extrapolates what it would sound like if it had been. This is in effect a mimic of surround sound that, while not the real thing, still sounds remarkable.

Simply enough, the downlink is the signal that is sent from the satellite orbiting the earth to the satellite dish. In the case of DBS, the downlink is actually received at a broadcasting center and then redirected to your personal satellite. Currently the downlink can also contain a wireless Internet signal.

DTH stands for Direct To Home satellite service. This is simply what Canadians call DBS. In Canada, they have a similar situation as Americans with two large companies competing for the satellite TV market.

DVB is an acronym for "Digital Video Broadcasting". It is an industry consortium of over 300 companies working together to promote a worldwide standard for the progression from analog to digital broadcasting. The DVB Consortium has a website at www.dvb.org that has information on background information and Membership.

A close cousin of the Azimuth, elevation refers to the height and angle (vertical axis) the satellite dish points while searching for a signal. Signal calculators will let you know what the correct elevation is. The elevation of your dish must be properly fixed in order to get the best signal possible.

Feed Horn
The feed horn in a satellite receiver system consists of scaler rings and a resonant cavity where the signals coming down from a satellite are consolidated for amplification by the low noise amplifier.

Fixed Dish System
A fixed dish system is another term for a DBS system, although it could mean larger satellite systems used by the government or military. A fixed dish system means that the actual dish only ever faces one direction and it uplinks with a geosynchronis satellite in orbit. This is in contrast to the large satellite dishes you see on top of sports bars and in rural backyards.

When a satellite in orbit beams its signal back to earth, it can only reach a portion of the earth's surface. This portion is called a footprint. Therefore, to receive a satellite signal, you must be inside the footprint. However, companies like Direct TV have managed to cover a massive portion of the globe by launching six individual satellites. Because of the altitude of the satellite and its geosynchronis orbit, this is a lot of ground.

Also known as geosynchronis, geostationary is used to describe satellites orbiting the earth at the same speed as the earth rotates. Essentially, it orbits in unison with the earth. This allows fixed dish satellites to receive a satellite transmission without rotating the azimuth and elevation. This means fewer moving parts on the dish and fewer repairs. It also allows the dishes to be smaller.

Impulse Pay Per View
In the past, pay per view movies were ordered over the phone. Now, a connection is established between the receiver and your phone line that allows you to simply make a selection on the menu screen and your movie will begin. This has saved the satellite providers a lot of money and it is more convenient for the customer. It is also a watermark for the future of satellite TV, Internet and pay per view.

Interactive TV
Most satellite TV receivers are now outfitted with a telephone jack that plugs into your existing phone line. This connection allows you limited access to the Internet; this is interactive TV. With interactive TV you can shop online, access your banking information and send and receive emails. While this technology is still in its infancy, it looks to the future of an integrated entertainment system featuring satellite, movies and Internet capabilities in every system.

IRD (Integrated Receiver Decoder)
This is simply a fancy term for a standard Satellite TV Receiver. When the information is beamed from the satellite, it is collected by your satellite dish and sent to the receiver. The information is then decoded and decompressed, allowing you to view your programming.

Ku-Band satellite signal is the designation given to the satellite signal for smaller fixed dish systems and DBS systems. The larger, older model satellites use C-Band technology. Ku band allows for more information to be beamed to one footprint because of its compression technology and MPEG video format. Direct TV and iDish networks use the Ku-band dish signal.

LNB (Low Noise Block down-converter)
The LNB is the component located at the end of the arm projecting from the satellite dish. It converts the Ku-band signal beamed from the satellite to a 3.7 - 4.2GHz signal, then filters out low-end frequencies and amplifies the high-frequency signal before sending it to the LNB's coaxial output(s). Satellite service providers (such as DIRECTV) have satellites in multiple orbital positions and a separate LNB is needed to access each satellite position. Essentially it just 'tunes' the feed from the satellite.

Locks & Limits (Parental Controls)
Because all of the programming for satellite TV goes through broadcasting centers, it can all be given a designation based on content. This designation can specify whether the content is suitable for children. Parental controls allow you to block these channels and restrict their access to people with a certain permission code.

Moving Pictures Experts Group (MPEG)
This is the Digital video format that has changed the way video is watched, not only on computers, but also on DVD's and satellite systems. MPEG's are compressed digital video files that take up far less space than previous video files. This technology allows satellites to beam a larger signal to a smaller dish. MPEG also contains compressed digital audio information that is converted into digital sound tracks.

MPEG I/II Compression
Originally created in 1988, MPEG I was the first file format to deliver high quality information in a smaller compressed file. It was used in Video CD's and MP3's. Currently, MPEG II is the standard for digital televisions and DVD's. In development are MPEG formats as high as MPEG 21, which will be used for complex multimedia especially designed to stream over the Internet. It stands to reason that the compression technology will continue to improve making for faster high quality data transfer. This means more channels on your satellite TV.

Noise Figure
The noise figure is the standard measurement for the performance of LNB's. As the LNB 'tunes' your satellite TV signal, it strives to lower the noise figure. Noise figure is usually measured in dB. You should look for a noise figure anywhere between dB 0.7 and dB 0.4. Anything higher will not give you the quality that you would expect from a satellite system.

Offset fed antennas are most commonly found on Ku Band DBS satellite dishes or 'mini-dishes'. The benefit of the offset configuration is that it positions the feed horn away from the dish itself as to not get in the way of the satellite signal arriving from space. Offset dishes are often referred to as 'asymmetrical' and often have a parabolic satellite dish.

One-Touch Recording
With only one single touch of one-touch button on the remote, a viewer can create multiple time recordings of future programs in the on-screen guide. The satellite also controls the VCR; its starting and stopping the recording at the proper times.

Pay Per View
With satellite TV, you are able to interactively browse their selection of movies and, for an additional fee, you can have that movie sent to your home after a short phone call to order the movie. In the past pay-per-view was restricted to certain movies at certain times. Now there is impulse pay per view, which allows you to order movies from a far wider selection through the interactive display menu on your TV.

Rain Fade
This is the loss of signal from the satellite during a heavy rain. This happens more or less to all systems so if your signal fades, check the weather report. The loss of signal is usually only for a few minutes and usually only during heavy storms. Rain fade can occur even if it is not raining at your location. Large black thunderheads can block a signal if it gets between you and the satellite.

The receiver is the device that collects the satellite transmission signal from your home satellite dish and decodes and decompresses the information. A satellite dish is completely useless without a receiver. The receiver, which sits close to your television, also allows you to change channels, enjoy interactive features and browse the Internet. Newer receivers may have built in HDTV components and even personal video recorders (PVR's).

R/F Connectors
Shorthand for radio frequency connectors, RF connectors are the small, conductive screw-like mechanisms located on the end of coaxial cables. You use the RF connectors when you attach your satellite dish to the receiver. Most stereo equipment has switched over to three pronged patch cords, but televisions still use this slightly more delicate technology.

RG59 cables are standard issue coaxial cables. These cables run from your satellite dish system on the outside of your home to the satellite TV receiver above your television. R59 cables are inexpensive and reliable and are the best way to transmit information from an output to an input.

Rg6 cables are pretty much the same as RG59 coaxial cables except they are easier to use. The RF connector at the end of an R6 cable is sometimes a spring system rather than a screw system, which makes it slightly more prone to breaking, but much easier to use, especially in confined spaces.

Satellite Home Viewer Act (SHVA)
The Satellite Home Viewer Act (SHVA) was passed in 1988 and has been updated and reenacted in 1994. The purpose of the Satellite Home Viewer Act is to protect the copyrighted area of local satellite network affiliates. SHVA states that satellite service providers like, DirecTV and DISH Network, can only allow clients with national networks to use their services when the signals from their local network affiliates are not available through the use of a rooftop antenna. Additionally, the SHVA act prevents clients who have not received network affiliated stations via cable within the past 90 days from hooking up their satellite systems.

Satellite network companies like DirecTV and Dish Network have specific geographic areas that qualify for these national network feeds.

The SHVA act was further updated and passed on November 29, 1999. This SHVA legislation allows DirecTV and Dish Network to offer local network affiliated stations to their customers now. However, if the local networks are not offered, customers must still meet the above criteria to receive the national networks.

S-Video Jack
The S-Video Jack is found on VHS VCRs, TVs, DBS receivers, DVD players as well as other types of audio/video equipment. S-Video inputs and outputs use a round, 4-pin jack to convey video signals. S-Video's "S" means separate, as in having two separate paths transmit portions of a video signal so that they can be processed separately. The two portions of a video signal that get transmitted are color (chrominance) and brightness (luminance). Because of separate pathways, S-video is able to provide a much sharper picture than a composite video. A composite video input or output uses a single standard RCA-style jack to pass video signals.

Smart Card
The Smart Card identifies the satellite receiver to the general network. It is used to authorize descrambling of the satellite signal. Additionally, it authorizes purchases using the receiver.

In Audio/Video terms, threshold is the measure of sensitivity of a satellite receiver measured in decibels (dB).

This term comes from a combination of the words "transmitter" and "responder". Transponders are used in satellite communications as well as in location, identification and navigation systems. A transponder is a wireless communications device that is usually attached to a satellite. This device is designed to receive as well as convey radio signals at a prescribed frequency range. Once the transponder receives the signal, a transponder will automatically broadcast it (signal) at a different frequency.

UHF Remote
UHF stands for Ultra High Frequency remote control that can operate the satellite receiver from another room. The more common remote is an Infra Red remote, which is a line-of-sight remote that controls the satellite receiver and two to four other infrared units, such as TVs, VCRs, DVDs or stereo amplifiers. The IR remote needs to be pointed at the receiver in order for the system to operate properly.

Lots of manufactures, including DISH, RCA, Hughs and Sony, offer UHF remotes. UHF remotes can control a satellite system from another room or in the same room if you wish to locate the satellite receiver out of site. Most receivers will have this function built in. Others use an external box to receive the UHF signals and then process the signals through a small cable that plugs into the back of the receiver. If your satellite receiver doesn't use UHF remote, you can probably get an upgrade from the manufacturer; a kit that should give you all the UHF features.

Uplink refers to the function of a transmission signal being sent from a ground station on Earth to a satellite.

This is a multichannel system allowing a film to be broadcasted immediately if it is requested by an individual viewer.

Hammer Need to know what another term means? Visit our Satellites forum to ask other satellite owners for a definition.