This is a Step-By-Step Beginners Guide to setting up a portable satellite TV system for motor homers and caravaners.
Setting up a portable satellite TV dish is simple and quick … if you know exactly how to do it and you have done it 10 times before. For those who have never been shown the basic principles or who have only undertaken the task a few times, it can be the most frustrating thing in the world. We regularly find people who are so annoyed with their new satellite TV system, that they are ready to toss the whole set-up into the sea. Imagine setting up a satellite a bit like the first time you tried to ride a push bike, its pretty hard to start with but becomes really easy with practice.
FIRST OF ALL – don’t despair! You are not the first person to find it hard (or near impossible) to set up your new system. This guide aims to help ease the pressure giving you the basic knowledge and tools to get the system operational.
Some technical stuff
- The satellite that your TV signal comes from is called “Optus C1”. Optus C1 orbits the earth at 156 degrees, in a geo-stationary position 35,000 km’s above Paupa New Guinea (geo-stationary means that the satellite orbits the earth at the same speed as the earth rotates – it therefore seems to be stationary from our view-point).
- When we move from place to place the satellites apparent position in the sky changes.
- There are hundreds of other satellites up there with C1 – and three of these are annoyingly close to our Optus C1. Your satellite finder can tell you when your dish is pointing at a satellite – it cannot tell which satellite you are pointing at.
- The ‘signal level’ reading on your decoder is of very little use – the ‘quality’ is the only useful indicator. Try pointing the dish at the ground – you will often get a high ‘signal level’ reading (but low or no quality and no picture of course).
- The dish reflects the signal from the satellite into the ‘LNB’ – this is the part on the end of the dish arm where the coax cable attaches. LNB stands for Low-Noise-Block. The LNB’s function is to catch the signal reflected from the dish and translate it into a form that the decoder can understand.
- The signal strength is not the same all over Australia – some areas are strong (particularly in capital cities) and other areas are very weak.
The first few times
Here a few important hints for setting up the dish for the first time…For the first few times that you set up your dish, plan to do it in daylight – it is much easier to follow instructions, find tools and read a satellite finder when it is not pitch black outside.
- Don’t start under pressure! 5 minutes before the beginning of the grand final is not the time to start setting up the system. For the first few times allow lots of time.
- If you can, get a helping hand. Your wife or husband watching the TV screen can save a lot of running around (do try not to take it out on them if things don’t go quite as planned).
- Do it yourself. It can be very tempting to accept help from the person parked next door. You will never become better at something you let others do for you.
- The dish is not pointing where you think it is. If your dish is of the off-set type (almost all are) the dish is pointing 5 to 15 degrees above where the arm is pointing.
Stage one – Pre-Setup 1
- Use the charts or the table provided to determine the correct elevation and direction for your current location – write these down on a piece of paper. Please note that this is just your starting point with the ground mounted dishes and the elevation used to gain a signal can be 5 - 10 degrees higher than what is stated in the instructions.
- Select a location for your dish… A. Avoid trees and other obstacles – you need a clear view of the sky in the direction of the satellite. Remember, the signal arrives 5 – 15 degrees above where the dish arm is pointing (depending on your dish design). B. Make sure your cable will be long enough to reach the decoder.
- Make sure the stand is as plumb as it can be – the vertical support needs to be as close to vertical as it can be. Use a level if you have to.
- Peg the stand down. It is difficult to adjust a dish on a stand that is wobbling around. Most people drill holes in the legs of their stands and drive steel tent pegs through these holes to hold the stand firm.
- Place the dish as low to the ground as you can. A dish that sits high on the stand is more prone to being moved or even blown over by the wind; it is much easier to adjust a dish that is lower to the ground.
- Leave the decoder turned off while you connect the coax cable to the finder and the LNB. Make sure that you have the finder connected the correct way around – the connection marked ‘to LNB’ must be connected to the small cable leading to the LNB.
Finding the satellite
- Set the dish elevation according to the iTechworld instructions. Remember this can be 5 – 10 degrees out.
- Turn the VAST decoder on.
- Turn the volume on the TV up loud – the VAST 800 tuning channel has a distinctive music to let you know you have locked on.
- Check that the finder is working by turning the sensitivity adjustment up until the finder makes a noise (if there is no noise – check your connections and that the decoder is switched on).
- Stand behind the dish and keep the sat finder at eye level.
- Point the dish well away from the correct direction and adjust the finder until the needle is pointing half scale. We usually point it due North.
- Rotate the dish back close to the correct direction (use the compass provided).
- Slowly rotate the dish until you see and hear a change in the finder – the finder needle will rise.
- IMPORTANT – our aim is to get the needle to go “off the scale”.
- Once the needle goes off the scale it should be a Optus C1. Check the TV to see if channel 800 is there.
- If 800 is not on the screen, wind the needle back to 8 and adjust the dish position and elevation until the needle spikes again. Repeat this process until you have channel 800 on the TV screen.
- Channel 800 is on the screen HOORAY! Pat yourself on the back – you have done it!
If after following all of the instructions above you find that you still have no pictures, the most likely cause is that you have found the wrong satellite!
From the diagram above you can see that there are four satellites grouped quite closely together … B3, C1, D1 and Pas8 (The actual elevation above the horizon is different for different locations throughout Australia). Optus C1 is the satellite that we need the dish to be pointing at. If you have found the wrong satellite, it is most likely that your dish is mistakenly pointing at Optus B3. Adjust the dish down a few degrees. Set the finder at half scale. Slowly rotate the dish to the right – the needle on the finder will again start to rise. Follow steps 8 to 18 above (in the finding the satellite section) until you are locked onto Optus C1.
Aside from the elevation and direction, one other thing changes slightly as you move around the country. The third dish parameter that changes is called the skew or LNB rotation. You should only need to adjust this after moving 200 – 300 kilometers. Please note this is only a fine tune used after you have picked up the signal to gain a little extra quality.
- Make sure the dish is fully set up and you have the best alignment you can get. Be sure it is firmly locked in place.
- Have the decoder switched on and make sure you have a good picture.
- Using the remote control, find the signal level and quality bar graphs on the decoder.
- You are only interested in the quality graph.
- Note the value of the quality on the graph.
- Rotate the LNB a few degrees clockwise (be careful not to move the dish).
- Make sure you are well out of the way of the dish and again check the quality graph.
- If the quality is higher – you are going in the correct direction.
- If the quality is lower – you are going in the wrong direction. Rotate the LNB a few degrees counter-clockwise.
- Keep rotating the LNB (in very small amounts) until you cannot get the quality bar to go any higher – you now have the optimum skew setting.
Packing the dish away
Before you pack the dish away take 1 minute to make a small pen mark on the elevation bracket at the current position. This will be your starting point next time you set up the dish (assuming you have not traveled thousands of kilometers). This mark will only be useful if you always have the stand sitting level. Both the dish and the arm are extremely delicate – any distortion in the dish or slight bend in the arm will make it very difficult or impossible to align the dish. Pack it carefully. Do not consider cutting or hinging the arm – it may still work in high signal areas, but it will not function in the lower signal areas.
Elevation to Optus C1 from all parts of Australia
Direction to Optus C1 from all parts of Australia.
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