Can you upgrade a mobile dish for HD or 4K?

The first mobile and marine satellite dishes came out close to 20 years ago. It’s hard to believe. In the meantime tens of thousands of folks have come to appreciate satellite television in their tailgate setups, RVs, trucks, and boats. It’s become a must-have.

Throughout their history, these mobile dishes have been fairly expensive. You know that if you have one. It’s a combination of low demand (compared to the tens of millions of stationary satellite dishes) and the high-tech required to make these dishes work. Naturally, folks want to get the most out of this investment.

The world of TV has changed

In the early 2000s, both DIRECTV and DISH had systems that really only needed one satellite. Both companies were starting to experiment with multi-satellite dishes, but it was pretty easy for folks to get all the content they needed with a single 18″ round dish.

That would still be true today, but people’s wants and needs have changed. We want high definition and 4K. We want more channels than ever before. Both DIRECTV and DISH now use fleets of three satellites each to provide the full experience.

Unfortunately, most of those early systems only see one satellite at a time. So what can be done? It depends on your system.

Compact systems

Gumdrop-shaped systems like this one have been very popular over the years. They don’t need installation. You just put them down on level terrain and they do all the work. They’re also among the least expensive mobile dishes you can get.

Unfortunately, this sort of dish can’t be upgraded for multi-satellite use. For DISH users, you’ll get about 1/3 of your stations with each satellite and there will be an aiming process as the dish moves. For DIRECTV users, all the stations you can get are on one satellite but they’re all standard-definition. It’s a compromise no matter what.

There aren’t multi-satellite versions of these compact dishes. Making a multi-satellite version would make these devices a lot heavier. The cost would also go way, way up.

Self-aiming in-motion systems

Maybe you have one of these white domes on your boat. They tend not to be seen on RVs or tailgate systems because they are so large. Even the 30cm versions (the smallest) are a little too big for the average land-based vehicle.

Some of these systems can be upgraded, but most can’t. Switching to a multi-satellite system requires a full redo of the internals of the dome. You’re essentially talking about putting up a new system with the exception of the outer shell. But in some cases, something can be done. That’s the good news.

RV satellite systems

There’s some good news if you have a folding dish on the roof of your RV. Not all of these systems can be upgraded, but some can. You can add multi-satellite capability to some, and you can upgrade to the SWM or Hybrid system you’ll need for a Genie or Hopper.  Because these systems are the most similar to the standard satellite dishes for homes, they tend to be more upgradeable.

How can you know your options?

You need an expert. You need a friend in the business. And, luckily, you’ve got one. Signal Connect, the activations arm of Solid Signal, handles more marine and RV satellite systems than anyone else. We’re familiar with all the big brands and all the popular models dating back 20 years.

When you call an expert at Signal Connect, they’ll tell you what can be done with what you have. It can be as easy as swapping out an old receiver, or sometimes it comes down to quoting you a whole new system. If that’s the case they can help you decide whether or not to stay with satellite TV or move over to satellite internet. They can even give you advice on whether or not you can get by with just a mobile cellular connection.

It all starts with a call to 888-233-7563. If it’s after East Coast business hours, or if you’d just rather email, fill out the form below and an expert will get back to you, usually within one business day.

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 9,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.