Why can’t you put your dish on top of the TV?

Well you could, but you’d have to put the TV on the roof. The point is, you can’t have a dish inside the house.

Back when the TV in this picture was considered “high tech,” we used to talk about the idea of the “set-top dish,” replacing rabbit ears with a small dish and picking up satellite broadcasts. Back then, the idea of satellite TV seemed almost magical, but then again the satellites of the day tended to look like this…

and be between 9 and 13 feet in diameter. Hey, all of sudden that 30″ dish on the roof doesn’t look so bad, right?

Unfortunately we never got to the point where the dish could sit right on top of the TV, but it’s not for lack of trying. You really only need an 18″ dish to pick up a single satellite in most cases, and that’s not too far off the 9″ dishes we all imagined. Unfortunately, you need a lot more than one satellite to fill your guide with HD programming, and that means a bigger dish.

There’s another problem… the signal loss through your house. Satellite dishes work best when they have an unobstructed view. By the time the signal reaches your dish (after traveling over 22,000 miles) it’s pretty weak. So weak that even a pane of glass will stop it. That’s why the dish goes up on the roof, where it’s not likely to have anything but clear blue sky between it and the satellite.

In order to see a set-top dish, we’d need LNBs (the receiving part of the dish) that were 4-8 times more sensitive than the ones used today, and even if that were possible it would be much much more expensive than people are willing to pay for.

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.