EXCLUSIVE: The best way to share programming throughout your home

Too many TVs. You can never have too many TVs.

DIRECTV gives you the best options for having multiple TVs with multiple receivers. In fact, unlike other providers there is no limit to the number of receivers you can have in the home. However, until recently it has been very hard to share programming between more than a few receivers.

If you’ve read our white paper on having more than 16 tuners in the home, you know that it’s easy to have up to 8 DVRs share programming using the SWiM-16 multiswitch. What if you need more than that?

Our labs have been hard at work testing a solution for homes, based on our experience with commercial installations and it looks like a real winner! We’d also like to thank Signal Group Forums user VOS for real-world testing.

The problem: signal loss

If you’ve read our series, “Cables 101,” you know that signal loss is a fact of life. It’s impossible to transmit a signal across a cable with 100% fidelity, because in the real world, there are a lot of different factors that keep picking away at a perfectly good signal until it’s completely unusable.

But… I hear you saying, a digital signal is immune to loss.

That’s not really true. Digital signals are actually just as affected by loss as plain old analog signals, but they respond better to amplification, signal processing, and a bunch of other tricks. That’s the idea behind digital satellite TV and over-the-air digital television.

If you use DIRECTV for whole-home viewing, you’ve got the best possible chance at getting a good signal. First of all, DIRECTV has put the Connected Home signal (the programs from your DVR in the other room) at a really good “spot” on the cable: 550MHz. Unlike other satellite signals that are at higher frequencies, the Connected Home signal sits down where signal loss is lower. That should make it more resistant to problems.

In addition, every DECA and every DVR is testing the signal constantly to see if it’s ok. If your DECA or Cinema Connection Kit is showing a yellow light, there’s a problem with your Connected Home signal. So… it should be reliable. However, there’s a lot going on with a Connected Home signal. Unlike other signals that travel through the cable, Connected Home is a 2-way signal. There’s the information from your remote control, plus the video and audio coming down, and constant checks to make sure that you’re not pirating the signal. It’s very complex, therefore a little line loss can cause big problems.

The solution to many whole-home problems

The DIRECTV Whole-Home system allows for a maximum of 8 DVRs. However, it also allows for individual receivers to be used. Unfortunately, there’s no supported system for using more than 16 tuners. Remember, each DVR uses 2 tuners (except for the HR34 DVR which uses 5.) If you want to share programming, there are some options but they are not very good. You have to buy multiple Cinema Connection Kits and share them through a switch and even that doesn’t work all the time. There is a better solution… the NAS STD9501M Diplexer.

A diplexer is designed to intelligently combine signals on two different frequencies through a single cable. The STD-9501M was originally designed to let you use an over-the-air antenna with a satellite system on the same cable. The bad news is that you can’t do that anymore… the Connected Home signal uses the same frequencies as broadcast TV. However… that means that you should be able to use it to combine Connected Home data into a satellite signal too.

In fact, DIRECTV uses this technique for its Residential Experience system and it has been proven to work.

Connecting two multiswitches using the NAS-9501M diplexer

As stated before, DIRECTV does not offer any approved method of using whole-home service between multiple multiswitches. A maximum of 8 DVRs is supported, and all DVRs must be connected through single wire multiswitches (SWMs). Anything beyond that, and you’re on your own.

How to use the NAS-9501M diplexers
The purpose of the diplexers is to provide internet access to all receivers on both multiswitches, as well as to allow all receivers and DVRs to see each other. This method bypasses all the internal crossovers within the multiswitches, for the strongest possible signal.

You’ll need a combination of parts including:
DIRECTV Cinema Connection Kit (DECABB1R0) from Solid Signal 
NAS STD-9501M Satellite / Off Air Diplexer Power Passing (STD-9501) from Solid Signal – You will need four of these
DIRECTV SWS-4 Satellite 4-Way Wide Band MRV Compatible Splitter (2 -2150 MHz) from Solid Signal – You will need one in addition to any other splitters you are using.

You will also require all the parts, including power inserters, splitters and satellite connections, that you would need for a regular installation.

Interconnection is easy, just follow these steps:

  1. Connect both multiswitches using one of the suggested steps here: WHITE PAPER: More than 16 tuners in the home
  2. Connect lines from the SWM outputs to the SAT/DC input of each NAS-9501M diplexer.
  3. Connect one Cinema Connection Kit to your home internet.
  4. Connect the coaxial cable line from the Cinema Connection Kit to the 4-way splitter.
  5. Connect lines from the outputs of the 4-way splitter to the TV input of each NAS-9501M diplexer.
  6. Connect lines from the outputs of each diplexer into the appropriate splitter for your system.

If you have whole-home active, that should be all that is required.

The following diagram shows a typical installation for sharing whole-home service over multiple multiswitches using NAS-9501M diplexers.

Why use diplexers?

It’s true that you can connect multiswitches by using multiple Cinema Connection Kits and network switches. In fact, by adding four diplexers and one splitter there may not be a significant cost savings. However, look at these facts:

–Using diplexers instead of CCKs keeps all the traffic on the coaxial cable. This should result in smoother whole-home with fewer problems as the whole-home traffic never goes through your home network.

Using diplexers actually improves the quality of the signal. Compared to the crossovers within the multiswitches, you should experience 5dB less loss. This could allow for increased cable runs or a more stable signal.

Using diplexers should allow you to use Nomad throughout the system. If you use the DIRECTV Nomad to put programming on your device, using diplexers should help Nomad find all your DVRs.

Using diplexers may allow you to use a smaller splitter. Because the internet connection doesn’t take up an output port on your splitter, you may be able to use a smaller splitter. Oversized splitters are the #1 cause of excess signal loss. in fact, using an 8-way splitter cuts the power level to each output port by over 87%! If you need to connect four receivers to one splitter, using a diplexer will allow you to use a 4-way splitter, while connecting the CCK to a splitter would require an 8-way (because you have four lines for receivers and one for the CCK.)

All in all, the use of diplexers to provide whole-home service doesn’t really have a downside. We’ve shown in tests that performance is better, and signal loss is decreased, by using diplexers. In fact, even if you have only one multiswitch, you may wish to use diplexers to bypass the internal crossover, netting you a 5dB increase in signal strength.