Thursday, 9 April 2020

DIY: Track and Watch Free-To-Air (FTA) Satellite Television With Ease.

Tracking free-to-air satellite TV signal is an art (science rather, eh?)  to be mastered. When you come across Pro satellite TV signal trackers/installers you can't help but be awed by their skillful seemingly effortless nailing of any 'bird' of choice! 

I have attempted tracking satellite TV signals myself after seeing the knack with which the several Pro satellite TV installers I have contracted in the past got the job done, my success rate used to be about 20%.

My quest for improving on my tracking skill got me experimenting and searching...

How to record programmes on your Strong decoder

Interestingly, as in other fields of human endeavour, technological advancements now make it easier to track Satellite TV signals with relatively cheap tools/ devices. These devices are readily available, you can buy from electronics parts supply store near you.

I will share here how to track any satellite TV signal of your choice with the aid of two different types of satellite TV signal tracking devices.

However, before you get your rig out to track a Satellite, there are some basic information that you will need to gather for a satisfactory end result.

One very important starting point is knowledge of the available Free To Air TV satellites beamed to your area of the world. You will also want to know the satellite TV programmes running on each of these Satellites. You can get this information from Lyngsat website:

A sample page of the lyngsat website showing information about the MultiTV is shown in Figure 1.0 


Fig 1.0 MultiTV page on Lyngsat website
The page shows that the Satellite is  positioned at 28.2°E and the beam is targeted at West Africa. You can see from the colour of the row that it is SD/Clear which means it is free (not encrypted - you don't have to pay to watch) and in Standard Definition. The frequency and symbol rate are two important information you will need when you want to track the Satellite.

To see the programmes available on this Satellite, click on the Astra 2F under the Satellite column.

The table shown in part in Figure 1.1 will be displayed, here you will see the TV stations you can receive on the Satellite. A careful look at this table also shows you the footprint of the Satellite in the different regions of the world targeted and the type of signal beamed e.g. HD/Clear means the broadcast is free to air and in High Definition.

Fig 1.1 TV stations available on Astra 2F Satellite

You will need to point your satellite dish at one of the Communication Satellites placed in the Earth's orbit in Space, these Satellites are numerous and placed at different positions, you will need the Satellite elevation and azimuth to help you track your Satellite of interest. There are several apps available on Google Play Store that comes handy.

For the purpose of this guide, we will visit the website, you input your location and choose the particular Satellite you want to track and the data will be made available to you.  For example to track Astra 2F in Abuja Nigeria, see result below:

Your Location: Abuja
Latitude: 9.0765°
Longitude: 7.3986°
Satellite Data
Name: 28.2E ASTRA 2E | ASTRA 2F | ASTRA 2G
Distance: 36364km
Dish Setup Data
Elevation:  63.5°
Azimuth (true):  112.6°
Azimuth (magn.):  113.0°
LNB Skew :  -58.3° 
Turn counter-clockwise standing behind the dish.

Let's say we're tracking the same Satellite in Leicester, UK; we'll have:

Your Location: Leicester
Latitude: 42.2459°
Longitude: -71.9087°
Satellite Data
Name: 28.2E ASTRA 2E | ASTRA 2F | ASTRA 2G
Distance: 43452km
Dish Setup Data
Elevation:  -15.8°
Azimuth (true):  263.2°
Azimuth (magn.):  277.3°
LNB Skew :  -39.8° 
Turn counter-clockwise standing behind the dish

You will observe that the positioning of your tracking dish is dependent on your physical location on Earth.

One other thing that you need to know is the skew - the rotational position (in the sense of a clock hand rotation) of the LNB mounted on a satellite dish.

See Figure 1.2 for a visual representation of elevation and azimuth.

Fig 1.2 Visual representation of elevation and azimuth

Enough said of the theory for now, let's get tracking!

A. How To Track Astra 2F (MultiTv) Satellite TV Using Televes SatFinder

For the purpose of this instruction, we will be tracking Astra 2F Satellite on which MultiTV broadcast it's programmes with a Strong decoder. We'll assume we're tracking in Abuja, Nigeria.

The Satellite information for this:
Your Location: Abuja
Latitude: 9.0765°
Longitude: 7.3986°
Satellite Data
Name: 28.2E ASTRA 2E | ASTRA 2F | ASTRA 2G
Distance: 36364km
Dish Setup Data
Elevation:  63.5°
Azimuth (true):  112.6°
Azimuth (magn.):  113.0°
LNB Skew :  -58.3° 
Turn counter-clockwise standing behind the dish

First you should secure your receiving dish to a surface or pole.

Connect the Televes SatFinder 'ToRec' connector to your receiver, the other end marked LNB to your LNB and power on your decoder and TV.

On your decoder settings menu, under dish installation submenu, enter the TP, symbol rate and polarisation of MultiTV that we have gotten earlier i.e. transponder frequency, TP 12525 symbol rate, SR 30000, polarisation V (vertical). See a sample picture below of the Strong decoder Menu. Similar Menu will be available on your brand of decoder.

Fig 1.3 Dish Installation Submenu on Strong decoder

Stand at the back of your dish at a position that will allow you loosen/tighten the bolts holding the dish to its stand, as well as allow you to rotate the dish easily.

With the bolts slightly loosened, angle your dish at about 55° from the ground, point your dish towards the north, reduce the gain of the Televes SatFinder to about 2dB and start moving your dish slowly towards the east, pay attention to the sound emitted by the SatFinder and the scale on it, when a strong Satellite signal is received the pointer moves higher up the scale and the sound changes to an higher pitch. Note the position at which this happen. Slowly move your dish upwards, the sound from the SatFinder becomes stronger as you get closer to the Satellite signal. With this steps you have a very good idea of where your dish should point.
Go ahead and tighten the bolts holding the dish to its stand but leave just enough slack to enable you move the dish with some force.

Now, more slowly move the dish carefully around the position where you got a good signal in the steps above, i.e slightly left/right, up/down until you get the best signal. At this time the L and Q bars will turn from red to green on your TV. Tighten the bolts holding your dish fully. You may need to rotate your LNB to get even higher signal strength.

B.  How To Track Astra 2F (MultiTv) Satellite TV Using V8 SatFinder

There is an even easier way to track your choice Satellite for free to air TV programmes.

With this method you don't need your decoder, don't need your TV, you don't even have to bother about availability of power supply!

What you need is a very small device, a V8 SatFinder and your smartphone!

The physical tracking procedure is same as explained above. The ease of tracking is however tremendously improved.

After buying the V8 SatFinder, you will need to download the app V8 Finder from your App store. The app calculates the elevation, azimuth and the skew of your LNB for you.

See picture of the V8 SatFinder and the app interface in Fig 1.4 below.

Fig 1.4 Picture of the V8 SatFinder and the app interface.

Let's track the same Astra 2F Satellite for MultiTv reception using the V8...

Loosen the bolts holding the satellite dish to it's stand as explained earlier.

Connect the V8 SatFinder to your already mounted satellite dish LNB (with a short length of coaxial cable terminated at both ends with F-connector). Connect the V8 SatFinder to a power bank.

Launch the V8 Finder app on your smartphone, ensure the bluetooth is turned on and your phone paired with the V8 SatFinder.

On the V8 Finder app, click on the satellite icon, see Figure 1.5 below, on the next page, click on the + icon and add MultiTV TP and symbol rate, save with the name MultiTV.

Fig 1.5 Add MultiTV TP to the app and save

Now, begin to move your dish from left to right while keeping an eye on the app, as you get closer to the position of the Astra 2F Satellite, you will observe the Quality and Strength bar fillling up, changing colour, when you get best signal moving from left to right begin the up down motion, until you get the highest signal. Tighten the bolts on your dish. You may want to adjust your LNB until you get the best signal.

With the difficult task of tracking out of the way you will have to scan for pro
grammes available on the Astra 2F Satellite beamed to your area.

Cheers! To your success as you bring down birds of choice for your entertainment!

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