A SWM-8? Now?

DIRECTV’s SWM-8 is old enough to be a grandfather to other equipment. Seriously. The first images were posted back in 2007 when the technology was still called “FTM.” You would think that after all that time it would be obsolete. You’d be right… but you’d also be wrong.

What SWM is

This legendary blog post, viewed over 60,000 times in the last 6 years, lays it out pretty well. SWM technology is a two-way system that lets multiple signals go over a single wire. This in turn allows multiple receivers to share the same “home run” line between a splitter and the multiswitch.

SWM was invented in the mid-2000s when the big objection to satellite TV was that it was too expensive and difficult to install. Both DIRECTV and customers were unhappy about multi-hour installs and a lot of holes punched in walls. The original mandate was that houses that had been “prewired for cable” could use SWM technology and no additional wire would be needed. Unfortunately the quality of contractor-grade wiring made that impossible, but it still made for a much simpler install experience.

The evolution of SWM

The SWM-8 module itself wasn’t actually used in new installs for very long. While the technology was shown in 2007, it was only used for apartment installs until mid-2008. By 2009, the technology had been integrated into a dish so no external module is needed. Later, the technology evolved so that you could use even more devices on the line.

But SWM-8 modules kept soldiering on and there are some good reasons.

SWM-8 is one cool character

By 2010 DIRECTV the SWM-8 replaced in commercial installs with the SWM-16. The SWM-16 allows you to connect double the number of receivers. But the SWM-16 modules run very hot, leading to concerns about reliability. Time proved that the the SWM-16 is just as reliable as the SWM-8. However, the excess heat created doubt for many people.

SWM-8 is an easy install

The SWM-8 module is smaller than any other SWM module (except the SWM-30, which didn’t come out until much later) and easier to understand when installing. You have 8 tuners total but it doesn’t matter if you have 8 on one output and zero on the other, or 4+4, 3+5, or whatever. With a SWM-16 you had to have a max of 8 on one output and 8 on the other.

SWM-8 is the easiest upgrade path from older multiswitches

Although it’s not the same shape as an older multiswitch, it’s a very simple swap to go from an old multiswitch to SWM-8. So a lot of people went that way. The SWM-8s are so reliable that they’ve never needed replacing, even if they’ve been in place for close to a decade.

Because people think they can diplex with it

The SWM-8’s original design spec let people run off-air antenna signals along with the satellite signals. However that capability doesn’t work at all with any HD receiver and shouldn’t be used even though there is still a port labeled “Off-Air.”

But should you buy one now?

For the most part I send people to the SWM-30 multiswitch instead of the SWM-8 today. The SWM-30 will support 4K and a total of 26 tuners compared to the 8 supported by the SWM-8. The SWM-30 uses less power than the SWM-8 and is definitely more futureproof. Since DIRECTV stopped making the SWM several years ago, every multiswitch is “new old stock.” That means it’s been in a warehouse for a while.

And, the SWM-30 certainly isn’t past-proof.

If you still have older standard definition hardware, you want to stay with the SWM-8 for now. You will need to make the move to new HD hardware fairly soon but if you need a multiswitch to support those old receivers, SWM-8 is the one for you. For that reason, techs still install this venerable old veteran every single day.