They’re really serious this time. DIRECTV has said unequivocally that they’re ending all standard definition broadcasts in 2019. That means the round dish will be unusable, and you’ll need an HD dish for everything.
Obviously this is going to be a big transition, especially for folks with older marine systems that are SD-only or single-satellite only. These domes will need to be upgraded somehow, and luckily the folks at Signal Connect are already on the job. If you have one of these older domes, you’re going to want to call them at 866.726.4182 to get the story.
But let’s get to a more technical discussion… what happens to the satellites in the 101 and 119 locations after SD service stops?
The answer is, we don’t know. Some of the satellites in DIRECTV’s fleet will go out of service. The original 1990s fleet is already out of service, and it’s a fair bet that we’ll see DIRECTV-4S and DIRECTV-7S, both launched before 2004, get decommissioned. This will put an end to DIRECTV’s use of the 119 satellite location, and since the 110 satellite location is only used for Puerto Rico, that means no more need for Slimline-5 dishes in the US… it will be Slimline-3 only.
There is sure to be some broadcasting on the 101 satellites that remain, however. There is some limited HD capacity there, not more than a few channels, but more importantly the 101 satellite is used for software downloads, guide data, and other information that’s critical to the way DIRECTV’s systems work. The oldest satellite at the 101 location was launched in late 2006, meaning it will probably stay in service until 2021 or so… enough time for DIRECTV to make plans for replacing it or moving critical operations to a new satellite.
2019 may seem like a long way off but if you’re still using non-HD equipment of any kind, this is the time to take action. DIRECTV has been aggressively planning for this move for about a decade already, and has been making it easier and easier for people to move to HD… but if you’re one of those last holdouts it’s time to make the switch. If you’re currently using a small mobile dish for tailgating… there will be a solution for you. I promise. It’s just not there yet but our partners at Winegard, King, and KVH tell us that it’s coming. They’re not going to give up on the mobile dish market, not by a long shot.
All of this adds up to a very exciting time to be a DIRECTV subscriber. Getting rid of that old SD content means that everything on DIRECTV will be a lot higher-quality. Even today, there are very few providers that still put out an SD-only signal and those who do will see their programming converted to the MPEG-4 system for much better picture quality if they’re still SD-only in 2019.
Taking the focus off SD will also give DIRECTV the ability to expand their 4K operations… assuming the content providers actually come up with more 4K channels. DIRECTV is the only provider of live 4K content… and no one else has any. Period. Let’s hope that changes.