When you want to send data from a dish to a backend, but all you have available is some random type of wire…

The world is going digital, yet in many cases we still use LNB’s that send their signals down a coaxial cable to our satellite backends. The obvious problem with that is that coaxial cable is lossy, and it’s also prone to getting waterlogged if it’s buried underground and there are any breaks in the insulating jacket. And there are a few newer LNB’s that can send a digital signal, but require a network connection. Maybe you want to use some kind of equipment that requires a network connection at your dish, but you don’t trust your coaxial cable anymore (if you did, you could just use a MoCA Network Adapter, assuming you had a suitable weatherproof enclosure and power at your dish).

Now, my preference when running digital cable at a distance is always to use fiber optic cable, because it doesn’t carry electrical current of any kind. But one pitfall with using either MoCA or fiber optic equipment is that you need to run power out to the remote equipment. If you have a dish that’s several hundred feet away, that could get expensive in a big hurry.

Many older dishes have a multi-pair cable running to them that is intended to control the positioner motor, and in addition they have a three conductor cable (or maybe four conductor if the original installer got a deal on phone wire) cable that’s intended to control the servo motor. But if you are replacing the LNB with a digital model, more than likely you won’t be using that servo motor anymore. And of course there is always the original coax. Presumably some or maybe even all of these wire may potentially be available for reuse, but none of them are data cables, or were in any way intended for use with data connections. These cables aren’t Cat 6, Cat 5, or even Cat 3 (multi-pair phone wire), they are Cat-nothing because hardly anyone was doing home networking when they were installed. Does that mean they are useless? Maybe not!

It turns out that Patton Electronics has come out with a new device, their Patton CopperLink 1101E Industrial Grade Power over Ethernet Extender. The feature list is as follows:

  • Ethernet Extension—Extends 10/100Base-TX Ethernet over 3,300 feet (1005 meters) using 2-wire, 24-AWG twisted-pair, Cat 3, Cat 5e/6/7, or coaxial cable.
  • Delivers PoE—PowerPlus technology powers up both the remote CopperLink extender and the PoE enabled device connected to it. No power is required at the remote location.
  • Transparent LAN Bridging—Will pass higher layer industrial Ethernet protocols such as BACnetIP, EtherCAT and Modbus TCP.
  • Plug and Play—Modems need no configuration to operate, Ethernet ports are auto-sensing 10/100, full or half-duplex.
  • Overvoltage Protection—Overvoltage protection on Line and Ethernet ports prevents damage from ESD (electrostatic discharge), CDE (cable discharge events), and lightning.
  • Made in the USA—This Patton equipment is designed by Patton engineers and built in our Gaithersburg, Maryland facility. Patton’s American-made manufacturing process delivers high-quality networking solutions with reliability you can trust.

In case you missed it, there are two main advantages here: First, it can use types of wire that might otherwise be considered unsuitable for data, even down to a plain old single-pair wire, at a distance of up to 3300 feet (which is about ten times the maximum distance of a normal Ethernet connection). And second, power for the device at the far end AND any PoE equipment connected to it is carried over the same wires, so you may not need to run a separate power line out to your weatherproof enclosure.

Hookup diagram for Patton CopperLink 1101E Industrial Grade Power over Ethernet Extender

In the above diagram, you could imagine an ethernet connected LNB in place of a HVAC controller or IoT gateway.

Obviously, making a connection to a dish at some distance isn’t the only possible application. As Patton’s overview of this product notes:

Ethernet, however, presents a few drawbacks that may overshadow the benefits by creating escalating infrastructure costs and system downtime. The Ethernet standard specifies a distance limitation of 328 ft (100 m), which restricts location options for device installation. Standard Ethernet also requires Cat 5 cabling or better, which often leads to installing new cabling infrastructure—involving tearing into walls, ceilings, pavement, and worse.

The CopperLink 1101E kit from Patton enables Ethernet connectivity over previously installed copper infrastructure. The solution breathes new life into circuits previously deployed for such traditional non-IP applications as RS232/485 HVAC and building automation controls, alarms, CCTV, analog phones, intercom speakers, and others.

I will note that there are actually at least three varieties of this device, the standard model CL1101 which is probably sufficient for most indoor applications, and the CL1101E industrial grade model that I have shown here. And then there is also the CopperLink 1101E/IP67 model that is designed for outdoor operation, and therefore would not require a separate weatherproof enclosure (here’s a press release on that model). This same company has an entire line of Ethernet Extenders so if one of these models doesn’t meet your needs, wander around their site and you might discover a more suitable device.

I have mentioned this particular device because of their claim that it has Overvoltage protection that “prevents damage from ESD (electrostatic discharge), CDE (cable discharge events), and lightning.” Since lightning protection would be a big consideration for any wiring running outside, that seems to be a very desirable feature. Please note that I am neither an electrician nor a lawyer, and that your local electrical or building codes may require additional lightning protection. I have never tested nor personally used this product, so I cannot guarantee that it will be suitable for your specific application.

Two things that I am not certain about are the connection speed, and the price. They seem to go out of their way to not mention a specific connection speed, and I suppose that’s because it varies depending on the wire used and the length of that wire. It seems obvious that you wouldn’t get the same throughput on an old, long, small-gauge two wire connection that you would using a few dozen feet of Cat6 underground wire, but will the throughput be adequate to carry satellite video? I would certainly hope so, but can’t guess with any certainty until some reviews are in. As for the price, that depends on which model you choose, and whether you buy one or a pair (obviously you are probably going to need a pair!). Let’s just say that if you have the option of running fiber optic cable, or using MoCA network adapters with the existing coax, you may find those are less expensive options (depending on whether there are any labor costs involved in running new cable). These devices are just another possible tool in the toolbelt, so to speak.

As a side note, the indoor units definitely seem like they could be problem solvers in cases where you don’t want to use WiFi or it doesn’t work well, but the only available wiring is old telephone, intercom, or alarm system wiring. Many homes built in the 80’s, 90’s, and the first part of the 00’s were pre-wired for telephone service, and while newer installs may have used Cat 5 or Cat 5e wire that’s already suitable for Ethernet (if you are lucky), older installations may have used Cat 3 (twisted pair phone wire) or even the older quad-style wiring (red, green, yellow, and black untwisted wires). For some homeowners, it may be worth spending a few hundred dollars to utilize that existing wiring rather that having to run new Ethernet cable, but on the other hand you can buy a whole lot of Spackle and paint (to repair temporary holes in drywall made while fishing new wire) for that same amount of money, so you need to look at the cost and difficulty of running new wire as opposed to the cost of using equipment such as these extenders, that can apparently use existing wiring for networking.

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Electronic Frontier Foundation: The patent on Dolby Digital (AC-3) has just expired

To quote from an Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) page,

What is Dolby Digital (AC-3)?

AC-3 is a compressed digital audio format like MP3. It made its public debut in 1992. AC-3 has become the most common format for audio in film and television.

  • For digital television, AC-3 is a mandatory part of the ATSC standard (North America), DVB standards (Europe), and others.
  • For home video, AC-3 is a mandatory part of the DVD and Blu-ray standards.
  • For Internet streaming, AC-3 is supported in HTTP Live Streaming on many devices.

AC-3 supports up to 5.1 surround sound.

This is the format used to deliver 5.1 surround sound on many North American free-to-air TV channels. What this means is that satellite receiver manufacturers have one less patent to worry about.

This ought to put an end to some of the whining that occasionally appears in the satellite TV forums about cheap imported receivers that (in the opinion of the authors of the messages) violate patent laws, because the manufacturers allegedly did not purchase legitimate Dolby Digital licenses, yet included an AC-3 decoder in their receivers. Usually it is satellite equipment dealers that overbought on more expensive digital satellite receivers, and are sitting on old stock they’d like to sell, that complain about such things because they hate the competition (some dealers that have their own forums even censor discussion about such receivers, which strikes me as incredibly petty and self-serving, but it’s their forums). They fume that (in their opinion) such receivers enter the country illegally, and are sold more inexpensively than they should be, because the (usually Asian) manufacturer never cared about such things as paying patent license fees for their Dolby Digital decorder. Well as of today (March 20, 2017), payment is no longer required, according to this EFF article.

Manufacturers probably should avoid using trademarks such as “Dolby Digital” on their equipment, packaging, description of their product, in on-screen menus, etc. and instead stick to the non-trademarked “AC-3” designation, in order to stay on the right side of trademark law. And, as the article explains, this patent expiration only applies to AC-3 format. It does not apply to EAC-3 (“Dolby Digital Plus”), MLP, or TrueHD, which are still covered by several patents.

I am not a lawyer, and am only reporting what the EFF has to say about this, so if this matters to you, please consult your own lawyer for legal advice. Again, the article is here: At midnight on March 20, 2017, Dolby’s last relevant patent on Dolby Digital expired.

By the way, for anyone that’s ever had an argument with a friend or family member about whether a channel is carrying 5.1 audio (especially when Kodi claims it’s 2 channel, yet your ears tell you otherwise), note this article states that “AC-3 supports up to 5.1 surround sound”, and then further down, it also mentions AAC, DTS, and Opus as examples of other multichannel formats. So if Kodi shows the audio source as AAC or AC3, yes, it still might actually contain some form of 5.1 audio.

What is a SAT>IP server, and can you use one in North America?

To begin, I suggest you watch this YouTube video. As someone familiar with free-to-air satellite in North America, you may not quite understand it all at first, in particular why there are four cables coming from a single satellite dish. The reason is that this was originally developed for the European market. I’ll try to walk you through the differences but to get the general overview, watch the video first:


In order to understand the need for the four cables from the dish and the four inputs on a SAT>IP server we need to talk for a moment about the differences in LNB’s as used in Europe vs. those used in North America. If you are technically-minded you may want to refer to the Wikipedia page on the Low-noise block downconverter , which I’m using as a source here.  I’m mostly quoting directly from the Wikipedia page for the following tables, with a few minor edits to make things a bit clearer (mostly converting GHz to MHz for consistency).  To start with, these are the specifications for a North American C-band LNB:

  • Local oscillator: 5,150 MHz
  • Frequency: 3,400–4,200 MHz
  • Noise figure: ranges from 25 to 100 kelvins (uses kelvin ratings as opposed to dB rating).
  • Polarization: Linear
Supply
voltage
Block Local oscillator
frequency
Intermediate
freq. range
Polarization Frequency band
13 V Vertical 3,400–4,200 MHz 5,150 MHz 950–1,750 MHz
18 V Horizontal 3,400–4,200 MHz 5,150 MHz 950–1,750 MHz

Note that nowadays most North American satellites use 3,700-4,200 MHz for C-band. A C-band LNB that receives the entire 3,400-4,200 MHz range is usually marketed as a “wideband” model in North America, and is generally only used to receive certain international satellites that are closer to the horizon in the eastern sky. To find the exact intermediate frequency for any given C-band frequency, subtract the C-band frequency from the local oscillator frequency of 5,150 MHz. This does mean that the higher the C-band frequency is, the lower the intermediate frequency will be. Next, these are the these are the specifications for a North American standard linear Ku-band LNB:

  • Local oscillator: 10,750 MHz
  • Frequency: 11,700–12,200 MHz
  • Noise figure: 1 dB typical
  • Polarization: Linear
Supply
voltage
Block Local oscillator
frequency
Intermediate
freq. range
Polarization Frequency band
13 V Vertical 11,700–12,200 MHz 10,750 MHz 950–1,450 MHz
18 V Horizontal 11,700–12,200 MHz 10,750 MHz 950–1,450 MHz

What I want to point out here is that the intermediate frequency range is roughly the same for C-Band and Ku-band, the only difference being that the Ku band has a narrower frequency range. So when we in North America set up a receiver or a tuner for DVB-S or DVB-S2 signals, the only control sent to the LNB is for the voltage, in order to make it switch polarity. The LNB then sends the entire local oscillator bandwidth back to the receiver or tuner, and it is up to the receiver or tuner to pick out the correct frequency, in much the same way that a traditional TV receiver picks out one TV channel out of all those coming in over the antenna or cable.

One other difference between C-Band and Ku-Band is the way you exact intermediate frequency for any given Ku-band frequency. For Ku, you start with the Ku-band frequency and subtract the local oscillator frequency of 10,750 MHz, which is the reverse of the way it’s done for C-band. Don’t ask why, that’s just the way it is!

This brings us to the Universal LNB, or as it’s sometimes referred to in Europe, the “Astra” LNB. As Wikipedia notes:

A Universal LNB has a switchable local oscillator frequency of 9.75/10.60 GHz to provide two modes of operation: low band reception (10.70–11.70 GHz) and high band reception (11.70–12.75 GHz). The local oscillator frequency is switched in response to a 22 kHz signal superimposed on the supply voltage from the connected receiver. Along with the supply voltage level used to switch between polarizations, this enables a Universal LNB to receive both polarizations (Vertical and Horizontal) and the full range of frequencies in the satellite Ku band under the control of the receiver, in four sub-bands.

They do this because Astra uses a wider range of frequencies for Ku, starting at 10,700 MHz as in North America, but ending at 12,750 MHz. If you want the details behind this see the Wikipedia article, but the specs for the Universal LNB used in Europe are as follows:

  • Noise figure: 0.2 dB typical
  • Polarization: Linear
Supply Block Local oscillator
frequency
Intermediate
freq. range
Voltage Tone Polarization Frequency band
13 V 0 kHz Vertical 10,700–11,700 MHz, low 9,750 MHz 950–1,950 MHz
18 V 0 kHz Horizontal 10,700–11,700 MHz, low 9,750 MHz 950–1,950 MHz
13 V 22 kHz Vertical 11,700–12,750 MHz, high 10,600 MHz 1,100–2,150 MHz
18 V 22 kHz Horizontal 11,700–12,750 MHz, high 10,600 MHz 1,100–2,150 MHz

Some North American satellite enthusiasts have been using 22 kHz tone switches in their setups for years, probably without knowing the original purpose for them. When we use them here, it’s typically to switch between two LNB’s, such as a C-band and a Ku-band LNB. But in Europe, they were used to switch between the upper and lower half of their expanded Ku band.

It’s not that uncommon to find Universal LNB’s with four coaxial outputs.  Although in most cases the outputs can be individually switched by sending the correct voltage and by the presence of absence of the 22 kHz tone, in many cases they were used in systems where each output would be dedicated to one of the four possible states.  That would make the entire European Ku band on a single Ku satellite available to a satellite distribution system.

A universal LNB can be used in North America if you have a compatible receiver or tuner, but remember that our Ku band only goes up to 12,200 so you won’t find any Ku-band signals above that.

This explains why most SAT>IP servers have four coaxial inputs, typically labelled V/L, V/H, H/L, and H/H. The letter before the slash is the polarity (Vertical or Horizontal) and the letter after the slash is the band (L=10,700–11,700 MHz, H=11,700–12,750 MHz). These would typically be connected to a quad output LNB that is pointed at a single satellite.

So, this fits in with the European idea of free-to-air – typically you get all your content from a single Ku-band satellite. Generally speaking, the major reason SAT>IP was developed was so that people didn’t need to run two or four coaxial cables to every receiver in their home.  Instead, the SAT>IP server would stream the desired channels to the various computers and devices on the local network.  If you’re familiar with a HDHomeRun device, it’s similar to that, but for satellite frequencies.

So hopefully now the video at the start of the article makes more sense, if you are one of those who’s never understood the European way of doing things.

The question you may be asking is, could we use a SAT>IP server in North America with our version of Free-To-Air? And my answer to that would be maybe, but in limited circumstances. I don’t know of anyone that’s importing SAT>IP equipment into North America, probably because at the present it would have limited usefulness here. As far as I can tell, SAT>IP servers have no way of dealing with a moveable dish – they expect the dish to be permanently pointed to a single satellite. And beyond that, I don’t know if any of them can be configured for use with a C-Band or linear Ku-band LNB. You can get dual or quad output Universal Ku-band LNB’s in North America, and by doing the math you could perhaps use a dual-output C-band LNB by configuring the server to use an equivalent Ku-band frequency (one that would be converted to the same local oscillator frequency) but you’d still be limited to pointing the dish at a single satellite.

There’s probably no reason you could not have more than one SAT>IP server on the local network, in order to receive signals from multiple satellites (assuming you have more than one satellite dish), but I have no personal experience with such devices so I cannot say that with certainty at this point in time.  And another thing I don’t know is whether you can configure a SAT>IP server with four inputs to use multiple sources from different satellites.  Here in North America it would make a lot more sense to use two of the inputs with a dual output linear Ku-band LNB, and the other two inputs with a dual output C-band LNB or a different dual output linear Ku-band LNB.  There’s no reason either of these scenarios would not be technically possible, but if the software or firmware in the SAT>IP server doesn’t know about C-band or the North American Ku band, it would be a lot more difficult to configure.

There probably are situations a SAT>IP might be useful. If you are primarily interested in a channel or channels from a single satellite, and particularly if in order to receive that satellite you need to position the dish at some distance from your house, it might be worth using SAT>IP to backhaul the signals to your home instead of running a long run of RG-6 or RG-11 cable. You’d need to use server that’s in a waterproof, weather-resistant enclosure, and you might also want to use fiber optic cable for the run, although you’d still need some way to get power to your equipment enclosure. The same is true if you attempt to use some type of WiFi link; you still need power for the equipment at both ends.

I had originally discussed something like this in my article Minisatip: A possible way to extend the distance between a satellite dish and your TVHeadEnd (or other backend) server but at the time I wrote that, I really had no conception of what SAT>IP actually was (not that I consider myself any kind of expert on it now). The difference between what I was taking about in that article and in this one is that in the earlier article the emphasis was on software running on some kind of dedicated computer, whereas here I’m talking about a hardware device specifically built to be a SAT>IP server.

SAT>IP Tuners in TVHeadEnd

SAT>IP Tuners in TVHeadEnd

So where would you get such a hardware device? There is a list of them (and other types of SAT>IP products) at the satip.info site. The same site has links to software and hardware that can be used to view the streams. But keep in mind that if you are running a PVR backend, such as a recent version of TVHeadEnd, it may already have the capability to receive and record SAT>IP streams, and to pass on the live streams to your frontend systems. In fact, I believe the newest versions of TVHeadEnd can detect a SAT>IP server on the network and use it as a tuner, in much the same way that it would find and use a HDHomeRun device.  As an aside, TVHeadEnd can also act as a SAT>IP server.

One thing I find especially interesting are the new (and possibly as yet unreleased) SAT>IP LNB units, such as this one from the Danish company TRIAX:

Triax SAT>IP LNBUnder the boot in the above photo there is a standard Ethernet jack:

Underside of Triax SAT>IP LNB with boot removed

I’m not sure if this LNB is available for purchase yet, because I can’t find it offered for sale on any site anywhere in the world, but from the product specifications I’ve read, it appears that this is a combination LNB and SAT>IP server with eight (8) tuners!  So, just by connecting this to the Internet (most likely through some type of power insertion device – the specifications state it is “Powered via 802.3@rev 2012 PoE type 1, class 2” but do not mention whether a power supply is included), you have eight Ku band tuners available from a single satellite, with no need for an additional SAT>IP server.  Now, if only they would build a C-band LNB with similar capabilities!  We could skip the tuner cards (with their buggy driver issues) and we’d never need to worry about RG-6 cable loss, although since underground Cat 5e or Cat 6 is limited to about 100 meters (328 feet) in length (and actually less than that as a practical matter, since packet loss can get rather significant as you approach 100 meters), you probably would want to run fiber optic cable for any extended length.

SAT>IP is an interesting technology and although it’s not yet gained wide acceptance among free-to-air users in North America, the day may come when it is more useful here, particularly for those with fixed dishes permanently parked on one location in the satellite arc. I will caution you that if you decide to order any equipment from overseas in order to experiment with the technology, it will probably not come with a North American-style power supply that plugs into a 120 VAC outlet. Unless you feel like installing a 240 volt outlet for the server, I’d check to make sure it uses a “wall wart” type power supply that can be replaced with one of similar output ratings, but that will plug into a standard USA/Canada power outlet.

TBS DVB-S2 tuner users may now be able to use open source drivers

I had briefly mentioned this previously in the article, Hints on receiving 16APSK signals using TVHeadEnd or similar PVR backend software, but in case you didn’t happen to read it there I thought it was worth calling attention to. If you consider yourself a Linux expert, you may want to give the open source drivers mentioned in this thread on the TBS forum a try. Note that not every TBS card is supported, so make sure yours is before you try these, but that said, I believe that more cards are supported than just those specifically listed.

This is probably going to be a bit of a daunting task for those not well-versed in the ways of Linux, although if you read the entire thread first it might help because there are little gems of information buried in there that can help you succeed. For example, there is this post by user liljim:

I was able to get the TBS6909 installed on a fresh installation of Ubuntu 16.04, but ONLY after having followed this from CrazyCat’s bitbucket README:

NOTE: this document assumes that all prerequisite packages like kerner headers
and build tools are already installed in your Linux system.
———-
For Ubuntu:
sudo apt-get install git build-essential linux-headers-generic \
ncurses-dev libproc-processtable-perl fakeroot\

(https://bitbucket.org/CrazyCat/linux-tbs-drivers)

This information is not in the github documentation. Maybe that’s an obvious bit of advice for most users, I don’t know – I overlooked it to start with. I feel as if it should be included in the github README regardless.

So what is the advantage of using the open source drivers? Well, some would claim that they provide better performance, or fix bugs in the original TBS closed-source drivers. TBS doesn’t seem to discourage the use of these drivers (the thread on this is in their forum, after all).

My only real concern is that there is no clear path for the person who already has the original TBS drivers installed, but wants to give the open source drivers a test drive, but with the ability to go back to the original drivers if something doesn’t work or if it turns out they have an unsupported card. A Linux expert would probably know what to do in that situation, but a regular user would likely panic because they’d have no idea how to get everything back to a working state, short of a total reinstall of the operating system. Also, the installation process requires the use of git, which may not be installed on all systems. If you’ve found the installation of the original TBS drivers a challenge (even when using the bash script posted late last year), you’ll probably not be happy with all the steps necessary to install the open source drivers.

I think for these to be generally accepted they are going to need to simplify the installation process. It would be great if they could provide an installation shell script that would do all the heavy lifting, but I am not holding my breath on that one. And don’t forget that you will likely need to reinstall these drivers every time you apply a Linux kernel update, so if you attempt an install of these drivers and you don’t have a photographic memory, you might want to keep notes on what you had to do to make them work so you can do it again at some time in future.

Hints on receiving 16APSK signals using TVHeadEnd or similar PVR backend software

Every now and then you may see a report of a satellite transponder using 16APSK modulation, rather than more common and easier to receive formats such as QPSK or 8PSK, and you might wonder if you can receive it. If you use TVHeadEnd or similar backend software, you may have attempted to scan in a 16APSK transponder, with no success. So what is the secret to receiving such feeds? Here are some things you need to keep in mind.

First, not all satellite tuner cards can receive 16APSK signals, even if they were originally advertised with that capability. At least one manufacturer, TBS Technologies, offers both “consumer” grade and “professional” grade cards. The “professional” grade cards can cost nearly twice as much as the “consumer” grade ones, but if you really want to receive 16APSK signals, it appears that only the “professional” cards will do (disclaimer: Obviously I have not tested every “consumer” grade card out there; there may have been one or more made that really do receive 16APSK signals). I do not know the technical details of why certain cards will work and others will not, but if you have a “consumer” grade one, you might want to check the currently advertised specifications for it, and see if the manufacturer still claims it will support 16APSK.

Second, even if you have a tuner card capable of receiving 16APSK signals, some versions of TVHeadEnd may not be able to scan the transponder. In at least one case it was discovered that temporarily changing both the tuner’s “Skip Initial Bytes:” and “Input Buffer (Bytes):” settings to zero (0) allowed a successful scan of a transponder (don’t forget to change those values back to their original values after the scan is complete, otherwise you may have problems with live viewing and/or recordings). If a newer version of TVHeadEnd is available, you may want to consider upgrading, but backup your existing system first in case the upgrade causes new issues – that is a whole other subject.

Third, but only if you are a true Linux geek, you MIGHT want to consider trying the open source drivers mentioned in this thread on the TBS forum. This is not a requirement; the standard TBS drivers will work to receive 16APSK, and right now installing the open source drivers requires some Linux expertise.

Fourth, if you have multiple C-band dishes (lucky you), try a different one. 16APSK signals are difficult to receive – see my previous article, Two reasons a dish may pull in some available free-to-air signals but not others: The modulation and the FEC (Forward Error Correction) code rate. If you find that you can receive the 16APSK signals but have frequent video and/or audio glitches, you may need to tweak your dish settings. Setting up a C-band dish is something of an art in that not only does the dish need to be pointed directly at the satellite, but the LNB skew must be correct, the focal depth of the LNB must be set correctly, and the scaler ring and LNB must be the correct distance from the center of the dish and pointed exactly at the dish center. Oh, and the dish should be perfectly round and not bent out of shape. If any of these are off, you may lose a couple dB of signal strength or more, which might not be enough to impede your ability to receive QPSK or 8PSK signals, but could destroy your chances of receiving 16APSK signals reliably.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you stand almost zero chance of receiving 16APK signals reliably on anything smaller than a 10 foot dish. If you can find one, a 12 foot dish will probably work better than a 10 foot one, provided all the other adjustments are correct (it is pointed precisely at the satellite, the skew is set correctly, and so on). But if you have two or more 10 foot C-band dishes, it’s worth trying each of them to see which offers better reception. The advantage to having a larger dish is that it gives you more “wiggle room” in case some of your dish adjustments aren’t perfect.

Fifth, this may be one of those situations where a phase-locked loop (PLL) LNB really is a good idea – see Are phase-locked loop (PLL) LNB’s a good idea?. PLL LNB’s seem to work best on weaker signals, and these definitely qualify.

If all this seems like a lot of effort, keep in mind that there are very few 16APSK transponders in North America, and the ones that are up there tend to be transient – you never know when they will go away. Also, one reason that 16APSK is frequently used is to cram more channels onto a single transponder. It saves the uplinker money, but can mean that the available channels are low quality, with lots of compression artifacts. Nevertheless, I understand that some may wish to try to receive everything available, so hopefully the above will be helpful. If you have any other hints for receiving 16APSK signals, please feel free to leave a comment.

What is MoCA, and how can it solve networking problems in some older homes?

Ever since cable television came onto the scene over half a century ago, there have probably been millions of miles of coaxial cable installed inside homes. And in homes built in the pre-Internet era, you sometimes hear the lament that the owner or tenant wishes they had a network (Ethernet) cable, where only a coaxial cable now exists.

This can impact us Free-to-Air satellite viewers, too. It may be that we have a satellite receiver or a combined PVR backend/frontend with a satellite tuner card located next to the TV set, but no network connection there. Or we may not have a problem getting the network connection to the backend server, but maybe we want to watch TV using a computer running Kodi in an upstairs bedroom where only a coaxial cable connection is available. As long as there is a coaxial cable that runs from that location to a place where an Internet connection exists, we can use that cable as a network connection.

Of course, there are also other possibilities besides the coaxial cable. You could try to use WiFi, and many people do, but this can be problematic for several reasons, particularly in multi-level homes. You could also try Ethernet to powerline adapters, which can work reasonably well in some situations, but often don’t support high speed connections. The best solution, and possibly the most cost-effective one if you can do it yourself, would be to just run a new Ethernet cable. But perhaps you are in a situation where that would be a major effort, where there is no clear and easy route for new cable. And, perhaps you are not so lucky as to find that Cat 5e or Cat 6 Ethernet cable was installed for telephone wiring that’s no longer used, and could therefore be repurposed as a network cable. But you do have that coaxial cable coming into the room, so you could use that for your network connection.

What you need is a pair of MoCA complaint Ethernet to Coax Adapters. If you need the cable to carry both TV signals and the local network, make sure the adapters support that.  You should look for devices that support at least MoCA 2.0.

This is an example of such a unit; remember you need a pair of them.
Actiontec ECB6200 Bonded MoCA 2.0 Network Adapter
This is not exactly an inexpensive solution; a pair of these will set you back around $150, give or take some.  But that might be cheaper than hiring a professional to try and fish a new network cable through your walls, and in many cases it will offer a far more reliable connection than WiFi. There is a review and thread about the pictured device here.

To find more of these units, search Amazon or another online retailer, using a search string such as “MoCA 2.0 Ethernet to Coax Adapter”. I do NOT recommend buying off of eBay, at least not unless the seller has a 100% feedback rating, because in my opinion eBay has become a haven for scam artists. And it appears you can no longer trust eBay’s feedback system, since negative feedback apparently simply disappears with no explanation. You may find a lower price, but whether you will get a pair of working adapters is anyone’s guess.

For more on MoCA, see this article: Networking 101: What is MoCA?.

Please note: For safety reasons, if you are running cable between unconnected buildings, I highly recommend using fiber optic cable rather than coaxial.

Who makes the LNB’s that are sold by companies in the USA and Canada?

One of the problems with buying satellite equipment in the United States and Canada is that there are so few distributors, and you may have found that a few of those distributors are not people you’d care to do business with in the future, for any of a number of possible reasons. Let’s just say there may be a seller or two out there who thought that “The Soup Nazi” episode of Seinfeld was an instructional video on how to treat potential customers.

Another problem is that satellite equipment sellers tend to exit the business without much notice. So you buy an LNB from a company and it works well for you, and then a year later you get a new dish, or maybe your original LNB got hit by lightning, and you want a replacement. Sadly, the seller is nowhere to be found. In one case a web site still exists for a distributor that apparently left the business years ago. None of the phone numbers appear to still be working, but that site is out there. But interestingly, it has some pictures of its “Factory & Offices in China” that give us a clue as to who their supplier was. That’s because some of the same photos appear at the bottom of this page.

The Chinese company that seems to make a lot of the LNB’s that are sold in North America under private labels is Anhui Bowei Electronics Technology Co., Ltd., and as best I can determine their main web site (in English) is at http://www.chinabrave.com/en/ but most people wanting to buy their products retail would likely go through their store on AliExpress.

You do have to be a bit careful when buying this way because the shipping charges from China are a bit high, and you may or may not have the same level of buyer protection that you would have with a USA or Canadian seller. Also you have to be careful that what you buy will work with your equipment. For example, when buying a C-band LNB, most equipment sold in the USA and Canada expects to use voltage switching to switch between vertical and horizontal polarization. But there are LNB’s being sold now, including some by this company, that do dual local oscillator frequencies, where the local oscillator frequency for the vertical channels is the usual 5150 MHz but for the horizontal channels it is 5750 MHz (here’s a page in PDF format from a New Zealand supplier that explains the advantages of this scheme). Not all receivers, tuner cards, or software may be able to deal with that, so if you are not sure, it’s safer to stick with the older models that show only a single L.O. frequency of 5150 MHz in the specifications.

And if you happen to be looking at a product that plugs into a wall outlet for power, make sure you can get it with a USA/Canada type plug, or that it at least comes with an adapter, and that it will work with 110/120 volts AC at 60 Hz. Remember that much of the rest of the world (including much of North America outside the USA and Canada) uses 220/240 volts AC at 50 Hz, and while some devices can deal with either type of power, not all can, plus plug styles vary from country to country.

If you have never used AliExpress before, one tip is that when you are on a seller’s main page, look at the (usually blue or green) bar at the top of the page and mouse over the “Products” link; it will show a dropdown of product categories offered. Even then there may still be products offered by a seller that for some reason don’t appear in their store listings, but that can be found if you do a general search in AliExpress for a particular type of product (such as “C band LNB”). AliExpress isn’t eBay, and their site doesn’t appear to be quite as well indexed.

Of course, Anhui Bowei Electronics Technology Co., Ltd. is not the only maker of LNB’s in China, it’s just that their product line seems to include some models that looks suspiciously like models currently being sold in North America under a different brand name. I have no idea if they are the same or not, and obviously the USA importers are probably not going to disclose who they purchase their products from. But the point is that when a North American supplier appears to either drop off the face of the earth, or angers you to the point that you wouldn’t buy a bottle of water from them if you were dying of thirst in the desert, then it may at least be possible to go “upstream” and buy from their supplier.

In the course of looking for this information I did find a couple of other sellers of LNB’s and other satellite equipment on AliExpress:

SatMaximum (AliExpress Store (retail), AliExpress Store (wholesale))
Yian Technology Limited (AliExpress Store)

SatMaximum in particular seems to carry about as extensive a line of LNB’s as Anhui Bowei Electronics Technology, but again you have to be careful about the local oscillator frequencies, to make sure you don’t get a dual L.O. unit if your receiver or tuner can only handle voltage switching of polarity. I have never dealt with any of these companies personally – I am probably like most Americans, a bit reluctant to order direct from overseas due to the higher possibility of disappointment, and the inability to return a defective item without paying more in shipping than what the item is worth (in many cases). So when you buy like this it is a bit like buying a pig in a poke, although AliExpress attempts to mitigate these concerns with their Buyer Protection. If anyone has purchased a LNB, or any other satellite equipment for that matter, from one of these Chinese companies using AliExpress you’re welcome to share your experience (good or bad) in the comments.