C-Band Satellite Information

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C band is in the microwave range of frequencies ranging from 4 to 8 GHz. A typical C-band satellite uses 3.7–4.2 GHz for downlink, and 5.925–6.425 Ghz for uplink. C band is often used for Television receive-only, or TVRO.

C Band was designed from the ground up, to deliver full broadcast video bandwidth. Initially, all C Band television broadcasts were "in the clear" as in, not scrambled. C Band transmissions by comparison, are of the highest broadcast quality, and the very ones used by all the major networks, cable providers and small dish satellite operators themselves to receive their programming. There are no digital artifacts, since the signals are totally uncompressed. What you see, is virtually the signal quality as from the master tape. C Band transmissions use no compression.


NOTE: As of Aug 1, 2007, most channels will have moved to 4DTV and a 4DTV receiver is required to receive them except for these four channels that are still available on analog c-band after Aug 1: CNN/Headline News, TBS, TNT and The Weather Channel.

  • Showtime on G5-24 leaves analog March 31st 2008



There are channels that you can receive "in the clear" which means that they are not scrambled. These channels are free for you to view. There are FTA (Free to Air) channels (not scrambled) that you can receive, as well as network feeds known as "wild feeds."

Unlike small dish systems, C Band subscription programming (the stuff that's scrambled) may be purchased "A La Carte". You can pick and choose to pay for only the channels you want. This way you don't pay for and subsidize the garbage that isn't worth paying for, or may even be offensive to your belief system (ie Bravo and MTV). C Band programming can be less than half the yearly cost when you consider the the channels you actually watch.

Just to elaborate more on A La Carte programming, you will likely find that digital providers such as Dish Network claim to offer it. Be advised, as a practical matter, paying only for channels you want to watch is a foreign concept to DBS. DirecTV and DISH offer very limited a la carte choices. Whereas A La Carte is standard in the C-band programming business. Virtually all programming providers allow a la carte subscriptions with only a minimum channel number, usually five, required.

One big advantage to C-band equipment is that you will continue to have something to watch even if you don't pay your subscriber bill. As mentioned above, the FTA stuff will still be there for you to view. Digital providers will shut you off completely and you will have nothing to view if you don't pay them. Your Dish Network or DirecTV equipment is useless unless you pay for a subscription, while your C-Band equipment always remains useful even without any subscription.


Big Dish Programming Providers

For owners of a Big Dish, there are programming providers that offer al la carte and packaged channels for both analog C-band and C-band digital, known as 4DTV.

See the Big Dish Programming Providers section on the DirecTV and Dish Net Alternatives for Satellite Television section of this WiKi for more details.


The End of C-Band Days

For years industry experts have been warning C-Band subscribers that the technology is in its twilight days, advising them to switch to digital satellite systems using smaller dishes. However, most of the major television networks continue to use C-Band transmission and most of your cable television providers receive their programming that way. Even small dish providers themselves use C Band to receive their programming.

In more recent years there are, however, new factors to consider, such as HDTV satellite broadcasts and at least one major network dropping all use of C-Band. (details to come...)

Fox News left C band analog in November of 2007. WGN on G5-13 has left analog. HBO West left G5-8 in December of 2007. Cinemax East, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Spike, Nick, and E! and a few others have all also left C band analog.

Fox News is available digitally on G3-581 for paid subscribers of certain packages.


C Band Equipment

As mentioned in our Television Satellite Dish Reference page, you should consider buying used equipment. Due to the popularity of digital satellite systems, people are selling or sometimes giving away their old C band equipment. Two excellent, used receiver brands to look for are General Instrument, Drake, and Uniden. Avoid systems made prior to around 1992, off brand equipment, and broken systems. Popular brands will usually mean that a large stockpile of repair parts are available.

Make sure the receiver is capable of receiving C band and Ku band. You should be able to get around 1000 channels if you have a receiver capable of both, and most receivers are.

An Example Receiver:


Here is a General Instrument C and Ku band receiver. The General Instrument "Innovation" 450i. This unit includes "Videopal" which is a system for ordering subscription programming. This is considered a fairly modern C and Ku band analog satellite receiver.


Smallest Possible C-Band Dish

The Television Satellite Dish Reference shows examples (pictures) of some C-band dishes, as well as smaller Ku band dishes.

Depending on the satellite footprint, the power of the satellite, and your location you can go as low as 5ft for receiving a signal from a few select satellites. The 8ft dish is very common for C-Band reception. One problem with having a small dish for C-Band reception is that of adjacent satellite interference. The minimum size to work with the 2 degree satellite spacing we have now is about 8 1/2 ft.

Offset dishes are typically more efficient than prime focus primarily because with a prime focus dish the struts that hold the feedhorn assembly block some of the signal. An offset dish will pick up less thermal earth noise lowering the noise floor level. You can get away with a smaller dish if it is an offset dish.

8.5 ft is about the smallest size for proper C-band reception in most of parts of North America. An 8.5 ft reflector should eliminate adjacent satellite interference issues. 10 ft was the standard back in the 80's when satellite transmission power was, on average, less.