Can you have one satellite system that works everywhere in the world?

If you are lucky enough to have a large yacht, you may actually choose to take it all around the world. You’ll want to bring TV service with you, and obviously you didn’t get a big yacht by wasting money. So, you’ll want a satellite system that works everywhere… if you can get it. It’s a little harder than it looks.

There are several satellite systems in use around the world and none of them are particularly compatible with each other. Throughout Europe, there are both “Freeview” and paid satellite systems, each requiring its own receiver. Freeview systems replace land-based broadcast towers and are used in countries where all broadcasting is done by the government. Other satellite systems add more channels and more service if you’re willing to pay for them.

If you’re looking for satellite service throughout the world, it’s actually possible to use the same satellite dish, or dome as they are sometimes called in the marine world, for much of the world. Satellite broadcast technology isn’t terribly different throughout much of the world and only the receivers need to be changed out from country to country. Of course if you’re talking about a paid system you’ll need a subscription for every country you visit.

The big exception is North and Central America. Both DIRECTV and DISH use proprietary systems that are different from the ones used anywhere else. DISH used to use a very common system but has begun moving to a “hybrid” system that uses different wiring from any other system in the world. This follows DIRECTV’s lead; they started using single-wire technology for US and some Latin American operations about a decade ago and are starting to phase out the older wiring systems that were compatible with global systems.

This is beginning to create problems because if you’re traveling around the world, or even just around the Atlantic Ocean, you could need two or three different wiring schemes in order to get DIRECTV service in the countries you visit. In some cases a skilled engineer can change the switches needed rather easily, or have more than one system active in the closet and move the output cables from one place to another. This is a much better idea than having two or three sets of cables running to each stateroom, since every inch of space in a yacht is precious.

DIRECTV is the largest satellite TV provider in the world, covering the US, the Caribbean, and several Central American and South American countries. Unfortunately the distribution systems in Latin America are different from the ones in the US, and of course Latin American programming is on different satellites from US programming. Special hardware and software on the satellites means that it’s very difficult to get service outside the area you’re supposed to; in other words it’s practically impossible to get US DIRECTV service in Venezuela, and equally impossible to get DIRECTV Venezuela programming in the US.

DISH’s “footprints,” the areas served by the satellites, are a little more forgiving because DISH uses two fleets of satellites, one for the east and one for the west. While this makes things more complex for people on land, it’s actually a benefit to seagoers, especially in the Caribbean where it’s often possible to get DISH programming nearly everywhere you travel.

If you’re considering outfitting your yacht with satellite service, you need to call the professionals at Signal Connect, the commercial arm of Solid Signal. The experts there have set up more marine accounts than any other company and can give you the advice you need to get the right equipment installed. Call 888-233-7563 or email to get started!

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.