UPDATED FOR ’22: Do you need a Slimline-5 Dish or Slimline-3 Dish?

DIRECTV holds leases for several satellite locations.There is so much programming available that doing with one satellite, or even a cluster of satellites in one location, wouldn’t work. So, DIRECTV uses a fleet of satellites in five locations for US English programming, plus several others for global, non-English programming. Each satellite location is identified by its position in the sky. All communications satellites sit in orbit approximately 22,500 miles above earth. This is due to the mathematics of orbiting objects.

It’s really just falling

Orbiting is really just falling. Gravity always pulls things down, but something that already moves in a direction of its own will not fall straight down. instead, its path of movement will bend toward whatever is pulling it down. In order to avoid falling down completely, an object must move more quickly as it gets closer to the source of gravity. In this way it will keep moving away at the same time it is falling, thereby staying at the same distance. It’s easy to see this work in a draining tub or toilet; things spin faster as they move closer to the center.

It was Arthur C. Clarke, the great science fiction writer, who first posed this question: If everything in a stable orbit moves at a speed defined by its distance from the earth, where is the point where a satellite will orbit the earth in exactly one day? If you could do this, then you could put a radio transmitter in a permanent orbit over one spot on earth, and a radio antenna wouldn’t have to move to find its signal.

Mr. Clarke found his answer and we’re glad he did, since it’s what makes all satellite communications possible. So, since DIRECTV (and everyone else) can put a satellite exactly where they want, we can use dishes to get signals from those satellites. We refer to the satellites by their position in longitude, rounded up to a whole number. DIRECTV operates satellites at the 99, 101, 103, and 119 degree locations for its US English programming.

That’s a lot of sky to cover with one antenna.

101 degrees west longitude is a little bit west of Dallas, while 119 degrees is over California. You need not only a wide dish but a lot of clear sky for one antenna to see all five locations. DIRECTV knows this and while their Slimline-5 series dish does the trick nicely, they have concentrated on moving as much programming as possible to satellites in the 99, 101, and 103 locations so that dishes are easier to aim. The Slimline-3 dish reads only these three locations and is recommended for most markets. If you’re in a market where your local channels are on satellites in the 99, 101, or 103 locations only, you can save money with a Slimline-3 dish and save time aiming.

Big changes ahead

DIRECTV announced the retirement of its satellite at the 119 location several years ago. Realistically there is no reason for US residential customers to use any dish that picks up 119. In fact, I recommend all customers use the Reverse Band Slimline-3 dish at this point unless they have a specific need for a different dish.

Here are the HD channels that need the Slimline-5 dish

It’s an easy list: none.  All the HD channels, both national and local, have been moved off the 119 satellite.

Local Channels aren’t a problem

There are still a number of channels that broadcast their SD signals on the 119 satellite, but there are no local HD channels on the 119 satellite. If you give up the 119 satellite you are only giving up standard definition duplicates of the channels you can get on another satellite. Still, if you have an older receiver and need an SD signal, customers in these markets should use a Slimline-5 until those channels are turned off.

  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Charleston, WV
  • Fresno, CA
  • Greensboro, NC
  • Knoxville, TN
  • Louisville, KY
  • Mobile, AL
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Norfolk, VA
  • Oklahoma City, OK
  • Paducah, KY
  • Parkersburg, WV
  • Raleigh-Durham, NV
  • Richmond, VA
  • Roanoke, VA
  • Shreveport, LA
  • Tulsa, OK
  • Wilkes-Barre, PA

This list shrinks more and more all the time, and there’s every reason to believe that by the end of 2022, there won’t be any channels left on the 119 satellite.

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.