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Installing a Dish Network Satellite TV System in a Foreign Language Lab

Dish Network offers international television programming in the following languages/countries/regions:

Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Filipino, French, German, Greek, Israeli, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, South Asian (Bangla, Hindi, Punjabi, etc.), Spanish (Dish Latino package), Ukrainian, Urdu and Vietnamese

A relatively low-cost satellite system can be installed to receive foreign language TV in a language lab and/or foreign language classroom. The information provided here may assist school technical staff in installation. Alternatively, a local contractor can install the system (call Dish Network at 800 454-0843 for a list of installers in your area).

Equipment for a Dish system

Dish Network broadcasts programming from several satellites. The satellite dish (or dishes) must be capable of receiving broadcasts from specific satellites, depending on the desired programming. All international programming, except Spanish, is broadcast via a satellite located at an orbit of 118.7 degrees (duplicate broadcasts of a few international channels are available on other satellites as well). Spanish programming is broadcast from two satellites, one located at 110 degrees and another at 119 degrees.

The most versatile systems contain a satellite dish capable of receiving broadcasts from three or four satellites. The photo below is a Dish 500 plus satellite dish (not to be confused with a Dish 500). The Dish 500 plus receives broadcasts from satellites at 110, 118.7 and 119 degrees, the best solution for those who need programming in Spanish and another foreign language. For Spanish programming only, a Dish 500 satellite dish will also serve the need, receiving broadcasts from the 110 and 119 degree satellites. A Dish 1000 plus satellite dish is also available, which receives satellites 110, 118.7, 119 and 129. The 129 degree satellite broadcasts English language programming in high definition (standard definition English programming is available on the 110 and 119 degree satellites).

For those who decide to install a system, rather than contract the work, equipment can be ordered from any of several online vendors. The satellite dish should come packaged with an installation manual. At least one receiver and some RG-6 coaxial cable are needed to complete the system. For a Dish 500 plus or Dish 1000 plus dish, at least one Multi-Dish Switch (either model DP 34 or DPP 44) is also required. The model 34 can accommodate up to three satellites and distribution to as many as four receivers per switch (gang two or three switches together to obtain distribution of the signal to as many as 12 receivers). The model DPP 44 is similar to the model DP 34, but can accommodate up to four satellites.

Installing a Dish System

The easiest satellite dish installation is probably on a flat roof with a non-penetrating roof mount, as illustrated in the photo above. This type of mount does not require the use of bolts or other types of anchors connected to the roof structure. Rather, ballast (in the photo the concrete blocks) is used to keep the mount in position. The proper amount of ballast is important to keep the mount stable under the highest wind loads expected. A chart should be provided with the mount to determine the proper amount of ballast for a specific geographical location and elevation setting of the dish. Confirm that the mount is sized appropriately for the dish and that the mast diameter of the mount is correct for the dish before placing an order.

Pointing data should be collected prior to selecting a mount location for the dish. Consult the installation manual to determine the azimuth and elevation settings for the dish, which are specific to the geographic location of installation. Alternatively, you can find the pointing data by using your receiver (1. press Menu on remote 2. select System Setup 3. select Installation 4. select Point Dish/Signal 5. on Point Dish screen select Peak Angles button 6. on next screen select your system [Dish 300 or Dish 500] and enter your Zip code). Pointing data is also available online. The azimuth setting is the bearing on a compass (north is 0 degrees, south is 180 degrees, etc.). In general, the dish will need to be pointed in a southerly direction, but will vary between approximately 100 and 270 degrees, depending on location in the United States. There should be no obstructions in the azimuth direction, especially if the required elevation setting is near the horizon (no trees, buildings, etc.).

Long runs of the coaxial cable that are exposed to the outdoors should be in conduit (pipe designed to house electrical wire) to protect the cable (see photo above). The cable run between satellite dish and receiver should be kept as short as possible. Keep this in mind when selecting a location for the dish. The literature from Dish Network states that the cable run should be limited to 200 feet. However, at John Carroll University, we have found that an installation with 200 feet of cable from dish to the Multi-Dish switch plus an additional 130 feet to the receiver yields an acceptable signal. It is important to use high quality coaxial cable, especially for long runs. Use RG-6 cable with a solid copper center conductor to minimize resistance. The cable should be rated to 2150 MHz minimum. Care should be exercised when pulling the cable to avoid stretching.

An LNBF (Low Noise Block converter with integrated Feedhorn) is the device that collects the signal reflected from the dish and converts it to a signal that can be transmitted through the coaxial cable to the receiver. The photo below shows the LNBFs of the Dish 500 plus, a single LNBF for the 110 satellite and a dual LNBF which collects the signals from 118.7 and 119 satellites. The Dish Network satellites at 110 and 119 degrees utilize DBS technology, which requires a minimum of 9 degrees between satellites. If these satellites were placed in orbits with less separation, the receiving satellite dish could not discriminate between the two signals. Note however, that Dish Network utilizes another satellite at 118.7 degrees, very close to the 119 satellite. The 118.7 degree satellite uses another broadcast technology called FSS and therefore can coexist in close proximity to the 119 satellite without any tuning problem. A special LNBF is required to receive broadcasts from the 118.7 satellite, which Dish 500 plus and Dish 1000 plus systems contain.

Installing the Satellite Dish

Prior to dish installation, review the pointing data for your geographical location; azimuth, elevation and skew, from the installation manual. Make sure the mast (pole) of the mount is absolutely vertical by checking it with a level. If it is not vertical, pointing the dish may be impossible. Following the instructions in the manual, first set the skew angle and tighten the appropriate bolts to the specified torque (a torque wrench is helpful for this task). The skew angle should be set accurately at the beginning of the pointing procedure and not changed. The dish is then adjusted in elevation and azimuth to maximize the signals received from the satellites. To start, set the elevation to the value found in the manual for your location (keep in mind that your final elevation may not be the same as that in the table). There is no scale on the dish mount for azimuth. Use a compass to find the approximate azimuth that matches the value in the manual for your location. You will need to make your best guess as to the actual direction the dish is pointing in azimuth since there is no sighting device.

The pointing is done by trial and error, while the dish is connected to a receiver. The dish is swept back and forth in azimuth in the general direction found by your compass reading. Move the dish slowly in azimuth while monitoring the screen output of the receiver. You may also need to make adjustments in elevation if your initial sweeps in azimuth don't pick up a signal. Patience is the key.

Here is the specific procedure I used to point our Dish 500 plus.

  1. Set the skew and elevation on the dish, then mount the dish on the mast.
  2. Connect Dish receiver to the 119 degree port on the dual LNBF. (You will need a short coaxial cable to make the connection. You will also need to connect a portable TV to the receiver and you will need an extension cord to supply electrical power at the location of the dish.).
  3. Run the Check Switch procedure on your receiver (consult receiver manual for exact procedure, here is a common menu path: 1. press Menu on remote 2. select System Setup 3. select Installation 4. select Point Dish/Signal 5. on "Point Dish" screen, select Test)
  4. After the Check Switch procedure completes, navigate on the "Point Dish" screen to "Satellite" and select 119. Then navigate to "Transponder" and select transponder 11 or higher (Dish Network instructions - I used Transponder 13 - some transponders will not yield a signal at all so I suggest you try 13)
  5. At the bottom of the "Point Dish" screen, find the Signal Strength meter. Unless you are extremely lucky, the meter will indicate a signal strength of 0 (i.e. the dish is not pointed at the satellite). Slowly sweep the dish back and forth in azimuth in the general direction of the azimuth value provided for your geographical location in the installation manual. If you are lucky, you will find the signal on your first sweep. If you are not lucky, like me, you will need to adjust the elevation by a degree or two and try another sweep. As your sweep approaches the correct position, the signal meter will indicate a rising signal strength. At the moment you pass the correct position, the signal meter will begin to register a declining signal strength. Keep in mind that there are two satellites that you might find when sweeping (110 and 119). You must find the 119 satellite (because you have connected the receiver to the port on the LNBF for satellite 119). In addition to indicating the signal strength, the signal meter also identifies the satellite. If you find the 110 satellite, the signal meter will indicate that you have found the wrong satellite, and will display a red bar on the signal meter. When you find the correct satellite (119), the signal meter will display a green bar. Adjust the azimuth of the dish for maximum signal and then tighten the mast bracket bolts. Now loosen the bolts for the elevation and adjust the elevation to maximize signal strength (make sure you have a firm grip on the dish so that it does not drop when the bolts are loosened). Tighten elevation bolts and loosen the bolts for the mast bracket. Sweep the dish in azimuth again to maximize the signal strength, then tighten the mast bracket bolts. Your dish is now pointed for maximum signal from the 119 satellite.
  6. The 118.7 satellite broadcasts a weaker signal than the 119 satellite. I would recommend therefore, that you check the signal strength and fine tune the dish position for maximum strength for the 118.7 satellite. To do this, connect the receiver to the LNBF port for 118.7 (see photo above). Then repeat steps 3 through 5 for the 118.7 satellite (use transponder 23 then check signal on transponders 2 and 7). After you have maximized the signal strength for 118.7, you are finished with the pointing procedure.

Now connect the coax cables on your roof to the LNBFs of the dish (a complete installation for the Dish 500 plus requires three cables - when you run the cables, mark each end - you need to know which cable is connected to which LNBF port when connecting to a switch). The cables should be terminated with a high quality connector rated for outdoor use. I like the Thomas & Betts connectors called Snap-N-Seal. They are easy to apply to the cable and much better than the typical crimp-type. Make sure you get the correct connector for your cable (this depends on the type of cable shielding). I also wrapped the connections to the LNBFs with a special electrical tape that bonds chemically to itself when wrapped (very good moisture seal but you will need a razor blade to cut the tape if you need to disconnect the cable in the future). You should electrically ground the dish mount and provide ground blocks for the coax cable where it enters the building. These measures help protect your switches and receivers in case some stray current from an electrical storm finds its way to your dish (in the case of a direct lightning hit, you may still have fried equipment).

Unless you have a simple installation (one satellite, one receiver), a multi-dish switch will be needed. The model 34 (DP34) provides connection to three satellites and output to four receivers (you can gang a maximum of three switches for output to 12 receivers). Alternatively, the Dish Pro Plus 44 switch (DPP44) provides connection to four satellites with output to four receivers per switch (gang a maximum of three switches for 12 receivers). The photo below is a DPP44 switch.

Photo below is a set of three DPP44 switches configured to receive four satellites (in this case 61.5, 110, 118.7 and 119).

Assuming you are utilizing a multi-dish switch, the coax cables from your satellite dish(es) are connected to the inputs of one of the switches (the left one in photo above). If you want more than four receivers (or cable drop locations) in your system, you will need to gang additional switches together (maximum of three switches). Run coax from the switches to each location where a receiver is to be installed or temporarily connected.

Connect your receivers to cables running from the switches. Then connect your receivers to your display devices (TV, projector, etc.). For each receiver, run a Check Switch procedure as described previously. You will need to run Check Switch again for the receiver you used initially for pointing the dish (why? because initially you connected the receiver directly to one port of the dish, now you have it connected to a switch, which requires a different receiver configuration).

Once you have successfully run a Check Switch procedure on each receiver, your system installation is complete! At this point you need to phone Dish Network Commercial Services (800 454-0843) to set up an account. In preparation for your call, you will need to collect the receiver number and smart card number for each receiver. Here is how you find the numbers: 1. press Menu on remote 2. select System Setup 3. select Installation 4. select System Info. On the screen display note the receiver number (starts with the letter R) and the smart card number (starts with the letter S). Educational institutions are assigned commercial accounts, which are allowed a maximum of 6 receivers. If you want more than six, you will probably need two accounts (which means your subscription cost will be double that of a single account). The John Carroll University system is equipped with five receivers but has cable feeds to 12 locations. Some feeds terminate in local classrooms, where a cable drop is available at a faceplate or smart classroom unit. For these locations a receiver is transported to the room as a portable unit as needed. In other locations (one classroom, lab, department library) receivers are permanently installed. The satellite feeds are NOT connected to the campus cable TV system, which would require a different type of account (much more expensive). Prior to making your phone call to Dish Network, you should also have a list of programming that you desire. Check the web site for programming, but keep in mind that the packages offered you as a commercial customer may not match exactly those offered to individuals with home accounts (which the web site addresses). For Spanish the packages are called Dish Latino. For other languages there may be a package offered and/or subscriptions to individual channels.

There are two general classes of receivers to consider when designing your system: 1) Dish Pro equipment for standard definition TV  2) equipment designed to receive standard and high definition TV. Unless you plan to include high definition English programming in your system, select a receiver for standard definition only (currently there is no international programming in high definition as far as I know). The model 311 is the economical choice for a standard definition receiver. However, you may want to include at least one receiver in your system that is capable of recording programming (DVR models such as 510 - if you can find a new one, don't buy used - or the dual tuner model 625). We find recording equipment essential because many desired programs do not coincide with scheduled class times. A recorded program can be played back directly from the DVR-equipped receiver or transferred to a DVD disk, which can be played back in classrooms too distant to be connected directly to the satellite system. Keep in mind that there are restrictions on recording programming. You should follow so called "guidelines for off-air taping for educational purposes." You can find guidelines published online by a number of educational institutions, here is one example.


last update 10/27/08


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