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.

Useful tool to make burying cable easier

The thing I have always hated most about installing a satellite dish is having to dig a trench for the cable. Digging is boring, plus it will probably be a couple years before the lawn looks right again. But you can overcome both those issues in many soil types with this tool (no, I do not get any commission on this thing, just saw it mentioned in another forum and thought it interesting):

This won’t work in all soil types, and it doesn’t dig deep enough for high voltage wiring (110/220 volts, which by code in most cases must be buried at least two feet below ground level in the U.S.A.) but for low voltage wiring and coaxial cable it would be great. Personally, I’d make the top of the trench a little wider and push in 1″ (or slightly larger if you have several cables) black irrigation tubing (the type you buy on 100 foot coils in the home improvement stores) and run the cables through that; it will offer some protection for your cables if you forget exactly where they are and have to dig in the area for some other reason, as long as you don’t mistake the irrigation tubing for a tree root and start trying to chop it with a shovel (not mentioning anyone that might have done that, but will just say that although the irrigation tubing was a bit worse for wear the cables inside were fine). 😉

The commenters on YouTube seem to want to point out that there are some types of difficult soil for which this isn’t suitable, but that would be pretty much a given with any tool; even a shovel won’t dig through solid rock. And if you are passing near trees you might still need to dig underneath aby large tree roots that are near the surface, so definitely still bring your trenching shovel and hatchet for those situations.

P.S.: If you do buy irrigation tubing for your cables, 1″ tubing is adequate for one or two coaxial cables, maybe even three, but for anything above that I’d suggest going slightly larger. It’s a real pain trying to pull cables through too-small tubing, and could even damage the cables. If you do find that the tubing is a little crowded and the cable is pulling hard, go to your nearest electrical supply store or the electrical department of a home improvement store and pick up a container of wire pulling lubricant, and use that liberally to reduce friction during the pull. Also, note that while irrigation tubing is fine for protecting low voltage wiring, it may not meet code in your area for use with high voltage electrical wiring (110/220 Volts); consult a licensed electrician if you are contemplating any such use. Disclaimer: I am not an electrician, so do not rely on any statements in this article as accurate regrading electrical codes; when in doubt, consult an electrician or the national and local codes in your area.

Here’s how to find a satellite dish installer, but should you?

I suspect that most readers of this blog install and maintain their own satellite dishes, either willingly or reluctantly. Just as some people like to tweak an automobile until it’s running perfectly and exceeding the manufacturer’s specifications, some people enjoy the challenge of setting up and maintaining a satellite dish system. But there are others who would prefer to simply pay someone to get a system installed. I don’t recommend that approach, because the more you know about your system, the easier it will be for you to resolve any problems that occur down the road. But if you really want to just pay someone to set up your system for you, I suggest you take a look at this article:

8 Ways to Find a Satellite Installer

HOWEVER, don’t just find someone through that site (or any other site) and call them up without first taking the step of entering their company name (and their personal name, if it’s given) into your favorite search engine. If one of the returned results goes to a well-known satellite forum (and I stress well-known here because anyone can set up a forum, and some dealers have done so, and not all of them are good guys), then I strongly suggest you go there and read the comments. The reason I say that is because there are a few guys out there (one in particular) that are selling overpriced crap systems that will only pick up a small number of channels, and meanwhile they are doing their best to kill the Free-To-Air hobby in the hope that you’ll have to come crawling to them for one of their inferior systems, or else pay for service from a cable or commercial satellite company. Even if you don’t get that asshole, you could wind up with an installer that badmouths free satellite TV throughout the install, then tries to sell you one of the small dish pay services that he conveniently offers (and on which he receives a nice fat commission when he sells one).

I will also point out that before searching an online resource you might check to see if there are any older guys still around that were in the TV repair business during the 1980’s. Particularly if they were installing TV antennas back in the day, they may have also installed satellite TV systems, or they know someone who did. Many of those guys have since retired, both because fewer and fewer people get TV’s repaired anymore, and because climbing antenna towers isn’t exactly safe for older people (or anyone, really). But there are a few still around, particularly in smaller towns, and some of them might not mind lending you their expertise for your install. Another possible avenue to explore would be the amateur radio community, if you know any “hams”. Those guys often tend to know people who’ve installed towers and satellite dishes back in the day. If there are amateur radio “swap meets” in your area, you might want to go to one and wander around and ask some of the guys if they know anyone locally that does C-band or Ku-band satellite dish installations.

If you do pay for an installation I suggest you watch the entire install, and if the installer doesn’t mind, take pictures and ask questions. Your goal should be to learn what all the parts are and how they work together, and what is involved in aiming a dish. That installer won’t be around forever, so learn what you can while you can!