Can you get DIRECTV 4K with a portable dish?

This is one of those articles that could be rather short. I could just say, “No” and let you go on your way. But if you’re curious, read on and I’ll explain why you can’t do it, and if you’ll ever be able to do it.

So to be clear…

If you have a portable dish like a Winegard RoadTrip, King portable dish, or even an 18″ round DIRECTV dish, you won’t get 4K. There are two big reasons for this, and neither is about to change.

Reason #1: Those dishes don’t get the right satellite

All of DIRECTV’s 4K programs are found at its 99 and 103 satellite locations. For years, those locations housed the only satellites sophisticated enough to do 4K.  While that’s not true anymore — there’s a sophisticated satellite at the 101 location now — the 4K programming is still at those other locations. More importantly, the signals that carry 4K are in a range of frequencies that those small dishes don’t get.

DIRECTV is unique in the world in that it uses frequencies in the Ka band in addition to those in the Ku band. What does that mean? Most satellite providers in the world put all their broadcasts somewhere between 12 and 18GHz. This is the globally accepted place that direct-to-home satellite signals go. However, DIRECTV also uses the frequencies between 26 and 40GHz. I believe they are still the only licensee for satellite television in those frequencies for all of the Western Hemisphere.

By using Ka-band frequencies, DIRECTV has virtually limitless expansion potential. However, Ka-band frequencies are a little harder to receive. They take hardware that isn’t available off-the-shelf the same way that Ku-band satellite hardware is. So, manufacturers like King and Winegard have chosen not to develop their own Ka-band receiving equipment for their smaller dishes.

Reason #2: Those dishes can’t use the right equipment

In order to get 4K, you need a Genie DVR and a 4K client. That hardware requires a multi-satellite dish. It’s literally designed so that you can’t connect it to a small portable dish. This was a change made several years ago. I’m not sure why the folks at DIRECTV did it. It was part of a new software model that allowed for easier dish setup by taking out old options.

Unfortunately they took away the option for DIRECTV Genies to work with small portable dishes at all. If you can get one to work, it takes extra hardware and you’ll get a lot of meaningless errors when you do it.

This isn’t likely to change, as DIRECTV hardware tends to move forward, leaving older equipment behind. I can’t think of a single case where they made their receivers more compatible with something older. It makes sense for a company that’s been in business for 27 years to occasionally streamline. In this case, the streamlining left some users behind.

What can you do?

If you’re away from home and want 4K DIRECTV, your only option is to put up a multi-satellite dish like Winegard’s Trav’ler SK-SWM3. This dish mounts permanently to an RV and can get the 4K broadcasts you want, but it can’t do it while you’re moving.  There are in-motion alternatives, but for the most part they are too big to be put on an RV. If you have a boat, they work very well though.

Want to know more? Call the experts at Solid Signal at 888-233-7563 and we’ll help you understand all your options!

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.