Satellite TV has really come of age in quality and affordability, since its inception in the early 1990s.
The service was initially only embraced by the avid TV enthusiasts who were willing to put up with the expense and inconvenience of installing a satellite dish in their yards. These customers would also need to have ample space available in those yards, as early dishes were much larger than the compact dishes that dot rooftops today.
However, satellite TV did provide a range of viewing options that dwarfed cable and broadcast systems at the time. Quite a few of the networks that we see available on cable packages started out on satellite TV, with special interest viewers in mind.
How Does It Work?
Satellite TV systems work using the same principle as broadcast TV. In broadcast TV, a signal is transmitted through the air and picked up by TV antennas.
In a few key areas, this system was limited. The first was the number of available viewers. The signal was broadcast in a straight line and because of the curve of the Earth, the signal would eventually go outwards into space.
In order to receive the broadcast signal, you would have to be in a line of sight with the broadcast antenna (line of sight for radiowaves, anyway. Because of amospheric conditions, you would rarely see a distant broadcast tower unless it was an exceptionally clear day, with vision over buildings and trees etc.).
In some areas, broadcast TV signals became weak or distorted. You may have noticed that, years ago, someone living in a hilly region may have erected a large antenna tower in order to collect signals that could not directly reach a TV’s antenna because of the surrounding landscape.
As said before, satellite TV works on the same principle of broadcast TV, but varies in several significant ways.
How Satellite TV Is Different
First of all, let’s talk about the line of sight issue.
Because the signal is being broadcast from a much higher point than an antenna tower, the reach of the signal is much farther. Satellites go around the Earth in what is called a geosynchronous orbit, which means that they are moving at the same speed that the Earth rotates, so they are constantly over the same part of the planet.
A big advantage in this system is that your satellite dish will only need to be aligned with the satellite once, because the relative position of the satellite remains constant.
Also, because the signal is from a constant, unchanging source, the signal quality is higher. For anybody who lived in the days of adjusting a TV’s bunny-ears antenna hoping for a good signal, that is definitely a relief.