Is this the LNB of the future?

Inverto iLNB™ 8 channel SAT>IP LNB with PoE Adapter

Inverto iLNB™ 8 channel SAT>IP LNB with PoE Adapter

One question that has been in the back of my mind for quite some time now is this: Why we are still using coaxial cable to bring signals from satellite dishes and antennas into our homes? The problem with coaxial cable is that no matter how good it is, it’s lossy. That is to say, the signal degrades over distance, and moreso as the cable ages. The longer the cable, the more the signal is degraded. You can compensate for this a bit on a long run by using high-grade RG-11 cable rather than RG-6 (I hope no one is still using RG-59), but you’re still going to lose signal.

With a strong signal, it doesn’t matter that much, because with digital signals we only need a signal strength that is “good enough” to give us a perfect picture. But not all signals are strong signals. Even in the case of satellite TV, some transponders are weaker than others, and then there is the case where you are using a dish that is maybe a bit smaller than it should be, and is only delivering a marginal signal to begin with. If you have a few more dB of loss in the cable, that could make all the difference between perfect reception, and something that is totally unviewable.

It would make a lot of sense, in my opinion, to convert the signal to digital TCP/IP (in other words, to the signalling used in a computer network) as close to the antenna as possible – in effect, putting the tuner right at the antenna or LNB, to minimize cable loss. For a terrestrial antenna, you could possibly do this by putting a HDHomeRun in a weatherproof enclosure and mounting it right under the antenna, but you’d have to figure out how to get power to it, and maybe to protect it from lightning. I’m a little surprised that the SiliconDust folks haven’t released an outdoor unit such as this, but perhaps they don’t think there would be any demand for it.

The same principle could be applied to a satellite LNB, but in that case it’s actually been done by Inverto. Their iLNB™ 8 channel SAT>IP LNB with PoE Adapter is described as follows:

Inverto’s iLNB™ delivers satellite broadcast content to Smart TVs, Tablets, Smartphones and PCs connected to the home IP network The iLNB can receive up to eight different transponders of a satellite orbital position. It allows up to eight SAT>IP compatible Client devices/apps to receive their selected TV program concurrently. The iLNB can also operate as an IPTV multicast server allowing selected TV programs to be distributed as IP multicast streams over a local area network.

The iLNB digitally samples the satellite signals directly at the antenna and makes the satellite spectrum data and other link quality metrics accessible over the home network. TV Programs can be streamed to fixed and/or portable SAT>IP compatible screens, devices or apps such as SmartTVs, STBs, PCs, Tablets and Smartphones that are connected over the same home network. Where a record function exists in the Client device [such as tablets] then the user has the added ability to record the program and watch off line at a later time.

The iLNB can connect to your home network WLAN router via a direct Ethernet connection or over power-line communication (PLC) adapters and can be used for free-to-air (FTA) or pay TV services.

Key features:

  • Universal Ku-band frequency range 10.7-12.75GHz
  • Reception of up to 8 DVB-S/S2 transponders
  • Compliant with the SAT>IP communication protocol
  • Operating modes: Unicast or Multicast
  • Supporting up to 8 different SAT>IP -compatible Client devices/apps
  • Web-based management interface
  • Software upgradable online or through a local PC
  • Power-over-Ethernet Type I, less than 10W for 8-channel operation

It’s a great idea, but the price (329,00 € at one German vendor, which at the current exchange rate is somewhere around $375 US, not including shipping or any duty that customs might impose) will put it quite a bit beyond the reach of many hobbyists. But keep in mind that it appears that you could use one of these without any kind of receiver or additional tuner, and suddenly the price doesn’t seem quite as bad.

In theory, once you have connected one of these to your network, your media player software or your PVR backend software should be able to receive and record or play the signals. And in fact, one person has “very successfully” used one of these with TVHeadEnd!  Unfortunately for MythTV users, it doesn’t appear that such devices are supported by MythTV yet.

Personally, I would love to see other manufacturers, particularly ones that don’t ignore the North American market, release units like this. And also, I’d REALLY love to see them release C-Band LNBs designed this way. It would be great to run one length of underground Cat 5 (or better) cable from the C-Band LNB back to the local network and be able to tune and/or record up to 8 different channels simultaneously, from a device anywhere on the local network.

Not having to worry about attenuation of signal over a coaxial cable would be great! And even very long runs from a dish to a home could be supported, if part of the run were made with fiber optic cable (you could mount a fiber media converter in a weatherproof enclosure on the dish pole, and another inside the house, and then other than the fiber optic cable you would only need to run a power cable sufficient to provide power to the media converter and to the POE injector for the LNB).

And if you want to think even bigger, why not have multi-satellite LNB’s that could receive signals from multiple satellites simultaneously using the same dish? Then you would not be limited to the programming on a single satellite. I don’t know if that’s actually possible, but you do see those oval dishes the pay-TV providers use that have two or three LNB’s on them, and I know that a few hobbyists have used even more LNB’s than that on the same dish. Naturally you could only do that for a limited section of the satellite arc, but if someone came out with a unit that would let me receive up to 8 channels simultaneously from maybe a half dozen adjacent satellites in the arc using a single Cat 5/5e/6 cable, I would definitely be interested, particularly if there was a way to do that on C-Band!

But for now, I will just say again that it would be REALLY great if someone could release a C-Band LNB that works like this, maybe at a bit lower cost. This is the right time for development of a product like this. Let’s rid satellite TV of coaxial cable loss once and for all, and by the way, let’s not overlook the fact that this type of LNB eliminates the need for DiSEqC and 22kHz tone switches, and similar switches that also can attenuate the signal!