Commercial Installers: Should you prewire for 4K now?

4K is coming. Actually, 4K from DIRECTV is here. But let’s hope there’s a whole lot more coming. DIRECTV’s own three channels are great but they’re not enough to start a whole 4K revolution.

The good news is that I hear that a lot more 4K is on the horizon. It’s hard to know where it will come from, since there still hasn’t been a single 4K channel announced by content providers this year, but there’s a lot of channel capacity out there and the folks at AT&T are really jazzed about using it. After all, putting two massive satellites in orbit and licensing a whole new frequency range costs a lot of money and of course you want to use it.

DIRECTV will be moving to a new satellite dish for commercial use that has — believe it or not — six lines instead of the traditional 4. These extra two lines will be used for the “reverse band” frequencies that are going to be used for that extra 4K capacity. DIRECTV customers at home will be using the Reverse Band 3 LNB which only requires one line from the dish but commercial customers will be encouraged to use a multiline LNB for several reasons. The “legacy” LNB will allow commercial customers to expand beyond the 13-receiver limit of the Reverse Band 3, and using the “legacy LNB” also moves the multiswitch inside where it can benefit from a little extra climate control.

So, you’ll be running some more wires. Is it worth it to run 6 or 7 lines now instead of just running 4? I would say, yes it is.

First of all DIRECTV has been specifying 7 lines from the dish for about two years now. That’s four lines currently in use, plus two more for 4K, and one spare. So from the point of view of “following the rules,” you definitely should be stringing that extra copper, as well as using 6-port products like taps and multiswitches that are designed to be future-proof.

Even though that new LNB isn’t available yet (it soon will be) you really want to be stringing those extra lines unless you feel like there is “absolutely no” chance you’ll be moving over to 4K in the next three years. It just makes good sense to string all those cables now and know that there’s room in the conduits for them rather than have to snake new cables next year.

And look, I know that’s a lot of copper and copper is expensive. It also takes extra time to terminate all the cables properly and label them so that you know which is which. It takes time to test and maintain them when you visit your customers for those checkups you do every year. And look, I know it’s going to be hard to explain to your customer why they have to pay more for all this 6-line equipment when only 4 lines are used today. I know you’re always in a price-sensitive situation.

Still, it’s really the right thing to do. It makes sense to do all your cables right the first time, and to do it the DIRECTV approved way. You know I’m right. It’s just a matter of explaining it to the customer. That may be the hardest part of the whole thing.