Throughout most of the country, new DIRECTV customers get the Slimline-3 dish. This dish picks up programming from the three major satellite locations used by DIRECTV. In some pockets of the country, though, you’ll still see the Slimline-5 dish, which is pictured at the top of the article. Shrewd observers will realize that the “LNB”, which is the front part of the dish, is smaller on the Slimline-3 and wider on the Slimline-5.
Since the Slimline-5 dish can pick up programming from five locations as opposed to (wait for it) three for the Slimline-3, you’d be tempted to pick up the Slimline-5 thinking that if you don’t have it, you’re missing something. The truth is actually the exact opposite.
The Slimline-5 dish was designed in the mid-2000s before DIRECTV launched its four latest satellites. It was designed to pick up signals from satellites in the 110 and 119 degree locations, which are used by other providers as well as DIRECTV. When DIRECTV leased the 99 and 103 degree locations, it leased all the available space meaning no one else can coexist there. This allows for massive satellites that take up tons of space to beam hundreds of HD and 4K channels down to earth without any interference. The plan was to make those 110 and 119 satellites obsolete.
The plan is slowly but surely coming true. DIRECTV no longer uses the 110 satellite for US broadcasts; all the content on that satellite location is used for Puerto Rico. As for the 119 satellite location, it’s used for some SD international programs, some music channels, and SD local channels for some smaller cities. If you’re interested in a current list, check it out here. The list of cities that use that satellite location is getting smaller and smaller, too.
DIRECTV will be phasing out all SD service in the next two years as it moves to consolidate its fleet of satellites around the 99, 101, and 103 degree locations. The satellites at 119 will be retired as planned at that time. At that point, it’s likely that no one will need the Slimline-5 dish and it’s possible that the dish may not work at all unless there is a firmware update to DIRECTV receivers telling them that there is no signal on the 119 satellite.
Of course, we’re getting ahead of ourselves here because that’s still a few years away.
Why would you need to look for programming on the 119 satellite?
Many older portable satellite systems do look for programming on the 119 satellite, and they get guide data and time information from it as well. These dishes imitate the old Phase III dish which was designed before DIRECTV’s HD satellites launched. If you have such a system like the original Tailgater, King, KVH or Intellian systems, it may lose guide data if not occasionally tuned to the 119 satellite. This means that you need to actually have a channel in your programming package that’s on that satellite, and those are getting rare. Another option with some dishes is to set them to think they are the “18 inch Round” type instead of the Phase III type so that they don’t try to look at the 119 satellite at all. This workaround works with some systems not all.
If you’re having problems with guide data or any other issue with your older satellite system, it’s a red flag. You probably need to start to budget for a new system instead of trying to nurse an older one back to health. Newer mobile systems don’t have this problem and of course, they’re available at SolidSignal.com. Shop with us or give us a call at 888-233-7563 and we’ll help you figure out the best choice!