How often does rain fade happen to satellite receivers?

Rain fade. If you listen to cable company commercials, you would think this is a massive problem. They’ll tell you that every time the skies turn grey, the satellite reception will stop. They’ll make you feel like a sap for even considering satellite TV.

The problem is, they’re just flat out lying.

Rain fade happens when the weather is so bad that the satellite signals can’t penetrate the clouds. It’s not a problem with ground-based broadcasting which uses lower frequencies that can bounce off clouds easily. However, with satellite’s high frequencies, rain fade can be a problem. I’ll completely admit it. But there’s a big jump between “can be a problem” and “is always a problem.”

I did an informal survey to try to find out how much rain fade affects people across the country. In the sunny southwest, most people see 10-20 minutes of rain fade about once a year. In the rainy southeast, it can be as much as 10 minutes a month. I did get a few cases where people said that they got as much as 5 minutes of rain fade every few days.

Should you be worried? I say “no.” While there are a few pockets of the country where signal strength is strongly affected by rain, pretty much everyone I talked to said rain fade was a minor nuisance that fixed itself. See, the way I think about it, even 2 hours of rain fade a year (which is higher than average) is nothing compared to dealing with cable company outages. Sure, those “sort of” fix themselves, but if you have cable now you know you have to call them, sometimes it’s a system error, sometimes it’s a cut cable. When you lose cable TV, you lose it for DAYS. I personally have a neighbor who lost cable TV for 2 weeks because the cable company was slow to repair a problem. That’s an extreme case but when you look at the data you see that cable downtime is about double what satellite is, and cable problems don’t fix themselves. Rain fade goes away when the sun comes out.

A lot of times rain fade is just caused by a poorly aimed dish. A dish that is even 1/32″ off where it should be aimed can be looking at an area 700 miles away from where the satellite is. Getting a professional to re-aim the dish can often come close to eliminating rain fade altogether. If your dish hasn’t been re-aimed in 18 months or more and you’re seeing rain fade, it might be time for a tuneup.

No one likes rain fade, but at least in a pinch you can usually use an off-air antenna or streaming box to watch TV. The point is, satellite TV does get rain fade, very rarely, and it fixes itself. Cable TV gets broken lines that require a crew to come out. I don’t know about you but I’ll take a little rain fade instead of waiting for a repair crew anytime.

Face it… the only people who are really talking about rain fade are the cable companies, and they’re only doing it to try to distract you from the fact that their own systems break a lot more than the ones from DIRECTV or DISH.

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.