NICE AND EASY: What is an ODU?

It’s this. It’s a satellite dish.

ODU is AT&T’s acronym for Outdoor Unit. They’ve been using this term for decades, long before AT&T took over DIRECTV. They’re not the only one. It’s a common enough term in the industry, so common that you don’t tend to think about why it’s ODU and not just OU which you sort of think it ought to be. I heard someone guess that the “D” originally stood for “Dish.” That would have made the acronym “Outdoor Dish Unit.” But I found no evidence of this other than someone’s fertile imagination.

What parts make up an ODU?

Specifically, an ODU consists of the following items, all assembled so that everything works:

  • Mast and Mount: something to put it all on
  • BAU (Back Adjustment Unit) Connects to the mast and lets you aim the dish)
  • Reflector: The “dishy” part of the dish
  • Arm: The part that sticks out from the reflector
  • LNB (Low Noise (amplifier)/Block (downconverter): The part that receives the signals, out in front.

Put them all together and you have a working ODU. An ODU can also contain a multiswitch, which lets more than one receiver share the signals.

The question you’re asking right now

I know you’re asking it, too. Why can’t they just call it a satellite dish? Why does it have to be this weird acronym? No it’s my time to imagine. What makes the most sense to me is that most aerospace engineers are former military. After all, the government was the only customer in the space business for a long time. The military has a habit of using acronyms far more than you would think they needed to.

Do you have to buy the whole ODU?

Solid Signal will sell you the parts you need. However, in most cases these parts only work with one particular dish. The only reason to replace anything but an LNB is that there was some sort of damage. If you damage the reflector, for example, it’s usually a good idea to replace the entire ODU just in case the rest of the parts were damages as well. Remember that a misalignment of only 1/32″ can create problems in dish aiming.

There’s nothing stopping you from creating your own “frankendish” if you wanted to, though. If you wanted to fit a modern LNB on an older dish, you could do it. You’d just need a bunch of tools to fabricate and modify the parts so everything fits right.

Get the equipment you need at Solid Signal is your source for all the satellite equipment you’ll need to create the system of your dreams. You’ll find the exact same parts used by professional installers, plus all the free tech support you’ll need as you set off on your DIY journey. Need help? Give us a call at 888-233-7563 and we’ll be happy to give you all the advice you need.

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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.