Minisatip: A possible way to extend the distance between a satellite dish and your TVHeadEnd (or other backend) server

One of the issues that satellite enthusiasts sometimes face is that you can’t always place a dish where you want to.  Sometimes you don’t have a clear line of sight to the satellite you want to receive from any location that is reasonably close to your backend.  You may have a large piece of property, or maybe you can make arrangements with a nearby relative or neighbor to put a dish on their property, but either way the problem is that the dish is far enough away from your satellite backend that it would require such a long length of coaxial cable that the signal would be severely attenuated.  If you can get a reliable network connection going between where the dish is and your backend, then there is another possible option.

Note that when I say “a reliable network connection” I mean something reasonably fast, and preferably something that does not involve using the commercial Internet, at least not if you have bandwidth caps in your area.  TV streams use a LOT of data so unless you are only watching an hour or two a week, you really don’t want to be sending that data over an internet connection with usage caps.  But if it’s on your own local network, you’d don’t have to worry about that.  There are several ways to extend the range of an Internet connection; if you own or control all the property between your backend server and the dish then I prefer running fiber optic cable. However, if the dish is nearby but someone else owns property in between your backend server and the dish, then you may need to rig up some type of wi-fi connection using directional antennas (I’ve never done this so I won’t comment further on that).

Either way you will either need to run the cable from the dish to a nearby building that has power, or you will need a small enclosure near the dish (could be mounted on the dish pole, I suppose) that is weatherproof and large enough to hold whatever equipment is used at that end, but you will still need power to run that equipment. If you do use an outdoor enclosure (or for that matter, if your equipment is in a building that’s not climate controlled), be aware that in summer it will bake without adequate ventilation, and in winter it could get too cold to operate properly, so take those things into account when selecting an enclosure.

But the question is, how do you send the signal from the dish back to the TVHeadEnd or other backend?  The probable answer, at least for now, is that you will need to have a computer near the dish that can hold a DVB-S2 tuner card, and on that you will need to install some version of Linux and then run Minisatip on it.  While you could also just put your backend computer at that location (in other words, you could just run TVHeadEnd or whatever you use as a backend on that computer), that might not be desirable for a number of reasons, particularly if that location isn’t climate-controlled.  And if perhaps you have a dish or two (or more) near your house, and one or two more out in the back 40 or up on the mountaintop, you’ll almost certainly want your main TVHeadEnd server inside your house. However you don’t want to have to run hundreds of feet of coaxial cable between your remote dish(es) and your server.  So rather than put your backend server out by the distant dish(es), you could try using a small computer and running Minisatip on it. Here’s the description of Minisatip:

Welcome to Minisatip

Minisatip is a multi-threaded satip server version 1.2 that runs under Linux and it was tested with DVB-S, DVB-S2, DVB-T, DVB-T2, DVB-C, DVB-C2, ATSC and ISDB-T cards.

The protocol specification can be found at: satip.info/sites/satip/files/resource/satip_specification_version_1_2_2.pdf

It is very lightweight (designed for embedded systems with memory and processing constrains), does not need any additional libraries for basic functionality and can be used by existing satip clients like: Tvheadend, DVBViewer, vdr or Android/iOS applications. minisatip can act as a satip client as well in order to connect to satip servers from different networks.

The application is designed to stream the requested data to multiple clients (even with one dvb card) in the same time while opening different pids.

It is tested on x86_64, x86, ARM and MIPS platforms and it requires DVBAPI 5. Supported protocols are rtsp (both tcp and udp), HTTP (port 8080) and SSDP (as specified in the SAT>IP documentation). On top of that, it supports dvbapi protocol implemented by oscam (requires dvbcsa library) to decrypt channels using an official subscription and support dvbca protocol (requires dvben50221 library) for dvb cards with CA hardware. In order to enable/disable features, please edit the Makefile.

Please use https://toda.ro/forum/ for any questions.

Now the part about decrypting channels does not apply to us here in North America; that is for the lucky Europeans and people in other parts of the world that can subscribe to a service and get a conditional access (CA) card to plug into their tuner, if the tuner card has a card slot, so they can receive that service. The North American providers have never enabled this system, so we are pretty much out of luck here as far as getting subscription programming into TVHeadEnd. But there are still a lot of channels that are in the clear, no decryption needed, and this software should work perfectly well with that.

So what you would need to do is set up a small computer – it does not need to be a high-powered computer, in fact the Minisatip readme file quoted above indicates it will run on an ARM-based platform which means that it might even run on an inexpensive single-board computer such as a Raspberry Pi. Of course you cannot put a PCIe tuner card into a Raspberry Pi, so what you may wind up using is the most inexpensive setup you can find that will let you plug in a PCIe tuner card, unless you feel like trying your luck with a USB-connected external tuner. And you will also need a way to connect that computer to the network, which will depend on whether you are using a wireless or fiber network connection. So you will have one to four pieces of equipment close to the dish – the computer, the network connection device if the computer doesn’t have an adequate built-in network connection, optionally a USB-connected satellite tuner if the computer can’t accept a card, and perhaps an external directional wi-fi antenna to get the signal back to your backend location.

Then what happens is when you want to watch a channel from that satellite, your backend server (such as TVHeadEnd) connects to the Minisatip server. All that the Minisatip server does is tune in the requested stream and send it to your backend server. Your backend server still takes care of all PVR functions, as well as streaming the signals to clients such as Kodi. I suppose there is some way you could stream from Minisatip directly to Kodi, but then you would not have any PVR or EPG capabilities. In TVHeadEnd, I believe you would create your muxes using an “IPTV Network” rather than a “DVB-S Network” but in any event TVHeadEnd is supposed to have SAT>IP support.

I have not tried to set any of this up personally because I have no need to do this, and also I just found out about this software today, and it intrigued me. If there were no bandwidth caps on Internet usage I would be tempted to try this, but using a TV antenna and an ATSC tuner somewhere near a large city (if I owned property there, which I don’t). But as I noted, TV (especially the HDTV variety) can eat up bandwidth VERY quickly; I have seen a one hour program from a satellite feed consume around 17GB of data on my hard drive, so without some way to significantly reduce the size of those streams (using some form of compression) you would not want to be sending them over the Internet if there are bandwidth caps at either end. But if it’s on your own local network, you can use as much bandwidth as your equipment allows, without worrying about your ISP’s bandwidth caps.

I’m only throwing this out there for those who have a need for something like this and aren’t afraid to experiment. What I would really like to see someday is the rough equivalent of a HDHomeRun device, but for satellite TV rather than terrestrial TV. It would connect directly to a DVB-S2 LNB, and convert those signals to data as close to the dish as possible. But until someone builds such a thing and offers it at a reasonable price, this would be the closest substitute I can conceive of.

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