What is a B-Band Converter and when would you use one?

It’s not something you see every day… at least not any more. Many a DIRECTV veteran has a dozen of these B-Band converters in a box in the garage, but if you’ve been with DIRECTV fewer than eight years you might never have seen one. It’s a B-Band converter and it’s used to let DIRECTV receivers and DVRs work with the company’s newest satellites when you don’t have a SWM multiswitch. Let’s talk about what it does.

DIRECTV’s original technology was designed to work with one satellite location and one set of frequencies. It wasn’t difficult to upgrade it to work with multiple satellites, but when DIRECTV started broadcasting on the Ka band (26.5–40 GHz) on its new satellites there was a problem. Ka-band broadcasting is a key part of DIRECTV’s plan for local HD broadcasts, but by 2008 there were millions of existing HD receivers and DVRs that couldn’t tune those Ka-band signals. The long term answer was SWM technology, a much better way to get programs from multiple satellites to one receiver. The problem… by 2007 it wasn’t ready to go into every home. An interim solution was needed.

The problem was a technical one… DIRECTV’s satellite tuners couldn’t hear the frequencies that the Ka-band satellites used. The dishes translated those frequencies to the B band (250-500 MHz) but satellite receivers can only listen on the L Band (950-2150MHz.) Why didn’t DIRECTV put the new channels on the L band? It was full.

The answer was the B-Band Converter. When needed, it would translate the B-Band signals to the a range that the receivers could hear. It worked very well, but it did mean ugly adapters on the back of the receiver. But it served well enough until SWM technology came in and made everything right.

Today, it’s rare that you would need a B-Band converter unless you’re traveling or temporarily hooking up a non-SWM system. They actually sell pretty well for another purpose — Ham Radio operators use them to access frequencies that older radios don’t normally get. That’s really why we still sell them, and if you need one for satellite as well, they’re still available.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.