Will DIRECTV Bring Back the SWM5?

What you’re seeing is a bit of a rare bird. DIRECTV’s first move into single wire technology was the SWM-5, which as its name suggests could handle 5 tuners at once. The device was made by Zinwell, who today manufactures the SWM-8 which looks quite similar. It never reached wide distribution and was rarely seen outside of DIRECTV’s own test pool.

With today’s manufacturing techniques, it’s not uncommon for a prototype run to get massive changes to it when it hits the mainstream. In the case of the Single Wire Multiswitch, the device was modified to provide support for 8 tuners and to put out a stronger signal. Later revisions of the SWM built all the electronics into an LNB for an even easier installation.

It seems like the SWM-5 could be a good fit for Genie, the new 5-tuner DVR from DIRECTV. Commercial installers seem a bit stymied by the new system, which requires an entire 8-channel SWM (or one quarter of a SWM-32) be assigned to each apartment that’s being serviced. If DIRECTV brought back the SWM-5, there would be no waste; one could even imagine a SWM-30 where 6 apartments could share 5 tuners each.

Let’s say, it’s not impossible. But really, the SWM-8 probably costs the same to make as the SWM-5 did, so other than the comfort of knowing you’re not “wasting” a tuner, there’s no benefit. A SWM-30 could be built but it would probably be more expensive than today’s SWM-32, although with the ability to service 6 apartments instead of 4 it might be worth it.

Another option would be to allow the HR34 Genie DVR to run in 4-tuner mode, allowing for 8 apartments to be serviced by one SWM-32. This might work for 1-bedroom apartments, but DIRECTV seems pretty keen on the idea that its 4-room setup is its most popular one, so 5 tuners seems like a minimum, assuming the basic notion of watching live TV in four rooms at once and recording something in the background. So, this is a non-starter.

DISH has had some success with its 3-room Hopper/Joey system which allows for only 3 recordings or 3 rooms watching live TV at one time, because for prime time it expands to allow for 6 recordings at one time. When in use as a 3-tuner system, it doesn’t do a good job of working in a 4-room setup.

So, it’s not likely that we’ll soon see the return of the SWM-5, even though on one level it makes sense.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.