What is an “IRD?”

Yes folks, there exists a nearly infinite number of different abbreviations that are used in the communications industry and it’s practically impossible to know all of them. I’m right there with you.

“IRD” is a term that dates back to the early days of DIRECTV, when your satellite box was the size of a pizza box. It actually dates back a little earlier, to the days when an a dish smaller than 40″ was just a pipe dream.

In the early days of satellite television, you had two boxes. One was the receiver, which pulled in the satellite signals. It was about the size of an old-school VCR. Then, there was the decoder, which was sometimes a bit smaller. The decoder would use decryption techniques so that you could get an encrypted signal, something that was still pretty new back then.

Remember, this was in those days when digital satellite signals were actually very new and you needed a lot of very advanced stuff to decode a digital picture and output it to your analog television set. The combination of the receiver and the decoder meant that you could watch TV from satellite signals, although you did need a really gigantic dish to do it.

Remember those?

One of the real innovations from DIRECTV and DISH in the 1990s was the “integrated receiver and decoder” which was one box that did all the work. Satellite signal came in, TV signal went out. I know that sounds like a no-brainer but you have to believe me in those days it was a massive improvement. It made home installation possible and remember too everything had to be simple in those days because people did all the installation themselves.

So, this “integrated receiver and decoder,” or “IRD,” (see what I did there?) was the key to the whole operation. Really, it still is. But no one uses the term “IRD” anymore because of course there’s one box that receives and decodes.

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.