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The main task of the satellite receiver is to decode the satellite
transmissions into a format that can be displayed on screen.
The receiver works by sending out power on the coaxial cable
to power the LNB and the Diseq switch if present. It also sends
out different voltage levels, tones and Diseq commands to tell
the LNB which band to pick-up as well as what satellite to
choose on a motorised or multi-dish set-up.

There are several types of digital receivers. Analogue satellite
receivers are gradually becoming obsolete. An analogue receiver
can only pick up analogue transmissions where as a digital
receiver can only pick up digital transmissions.

The most basic digital receiver is known as a FTA system which
means that it can only pick up free-to-air transmissions. FTA
systems are relatively cheap and are mainly intended for those
who just want to improve their channel selection. An FTA
satellite receiver is able to decode the MPEG-2 data
compression protocol used in most Free to Air satellite
transmissions. An FTA receiver will not be able to un-encrypt
Dish Network or DirecTV satellite programming. Most FTA
receivers are stand-alone hardware boxes which look very
much like Dish Networks or DirecTV receivers. Some PC-based
FTA satellite receivers also available. These devices enable
you to watch FTA satellite on your computer.

Quality manufacturers of FTA satellite receivers include Viewsat,
Pansat, Coolsat, Fortec, BlackBird, UltraStar, Ariza, MultiStar,
Digiwave, and Twinhan. In addition to a FTA satellite receiver,
you will also need a satellite dish, an LNB and an antenna
motor.

For the reception of encrypted channels, a digital receiver with
either a built-in CAM or removable CI slots is required along
with a suitable viewing card. For the best customisability, it is
best to choose a receiver with at least one or more CI slots to
allow for future expansion.

A CAM is a module that decrypts one or more encryption
systems. In the early days of analogue transmission, a
decoder (descrabler) use to be a physical set-top box which
connected to the receiver. Now the decoders are in the form
and size of PC Cards known as CAMs which plug directly into
a receiver with CI slots. Like with a physical set-top decoder,
most CAMs require a suitable viewing card in order for the
CAM to derypt channel the user is entitled to watch.

The most popular encryption systems in use are Viacess, Irdeto,
Nagravision, Betacrypt, Seca, Videoguard and Conax. Seca is
also known as Mediaguard and Videoguard is also known as
NDS. Many receivers come with a built-in cam, which can either
receive one of these or all of these. For receivers with one or
more CI slots, a PC-Card type CAM (PCMCIA) can be installed
for decoding additional encryption systems.

The most popular multi-encryption support CAMís at present
are the Magic Module and the Matrix Reloaded CAM. Both of
these are capable of decrypting most of the above encryption
systems with an appropriate viewing card (and subscription).
Note that these programmable CAMís are often supplied blank
for legal reasons and must be programmed with the
appropriate downloadable firmware prior to use. Dedicated
encryption CAMís such as a Viaccess CAM are supplied ready
for use.

When shopping for a satellite receiver, remember that you are
buying an entire system. A satellite system consists of a
satellite receiver box that connects to your TV, an outdoor
satellite antenna and a remote control. A subscription to a
satellite provider is necessary to obtain access to the signal,
and your choices are currently limited to DISH Network and
DirecTV.

Standard satellite programming uses an 18-inch round satellite
dish, while high-definition reception requires an oval dish
measuring 18x20 inches. The satellite dish is usually included
as part of the package when you sign on for service. To receive
a signal, the dish must be installed with a clear southern
exposure, without obstruction by trees or buildings.

Both DISH Network and DirecTV offer local programming via
satellite, but this option is not currently available in all areas of
the United States. If this is the case in your area, you can use
a rooftop antenna to receive over-the-air local broadcasts,
while the satellite handles national channels.

Satellite receivers come with either standard or HD tuners. A
standard receiver decodes the digital broadcast signal and
presents it to your TV in analog format, along with an electronic
program guide (EPG) that lists the available channels and
programming. An HD receiver is designed for high-definition
satellite signals, and it presents them to your HDTV or HD-
ready TV in their native widescreen digital format at 720 or
1,080i. Not all channels broadcast in high-definition, however,
so an HD receiver will also handle non-HD programming.

One option that has exploded in popularity is the combination
receiver/digital video recorder (DVR). This format combines a
DVR and satellite receiver into a single component, which saves
valuable space in your home theater setup. While it doesn't
have all of the functionality of a TiVo or other advanced system,
an integrated DVR still allows you to pause, rewind and fast-
forward live TV.

Because the DVR works together with your satellite service's
EPG, setting the DVR to record future shows is quick and
painless. This is also a smart move money-wise, as DISH
Network and DirecTV offer DVR receivers for significantly less
than you would pay for a stand-alone DVR from TiVo or
ReplayTV.

Satellite TV packages are available directly from DISH Network
and DirecTV, as well as through numerous resellers like Best
Buy and Radio Shack. Shopping around can deliver significant
savings, as well as bonuses like free installation and discounts
on equipment. In addition, both providers often run promotional
specials that include free installation and programming, so you
can save a bundle if your timing is right.

Each provider has its own programming packages and program
guides. DISH Network currently offers more high-definition
programming than DirecTV, but DirecTV has a larger customer
base and may be available in more locations. Both services
have their advantages depending on what you like to watch,
so you should thoroughly research their websites to determine
the right provider and programming package for you.



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