What’s the best place in the sky to put a satellite?

Abraham Lincoln, tall for his time, was supposedly asked how long he thought a man’s legs should be. He’s said to have replied, “I would say, long enough to touch the ground.” Personally I doubt he ever said that. However, the saying came to mind when someone asked me where the best satellite slot was.

Somewhere that everyone can see it

That’s the answer. The best satellite slot is one where your customers can see the satellite. Although, different companies interpret this differently. When it comes to US satellite TV, DIRECTV and DISH have different philosophies.

DIRECTV

AT&T, and DIRECTV before it, put their satellites smack dab in the middle of the US. The three satellite locations used by US DIRECTV are at 99, 101, and 103 degrees west longitude. This allows for coverage throughout all of the continental US, Alaska, and Hawaii. The beams are very carefully tailored so they cover only those areas.

DIRECTV used to operate satellites at 72, 95, 110, and 119 but no longer uses those locations for US television.

DISH

DISH has always looked at things a little differently. They maintain two fleets, one for the western half of the country and one for the eastern half. This has allowed them to cover the entire country. DISH’s signal tends to go out further into the ocean as well.

In areas in the middle of the country, users often have a choice of either dish depending on the obstructions in their areas.

Why satellites aren’t directly over the US

This question comes up a lot. Why are the satellites over the equator? Why can’t they hover over the United States?

The answer is kind of complex. First you need to understand that satellites don’t actually “hover.” They are in geostationary orbit. You can learn a lot more about that but it boils down to, they go around the earth precisely once a day. Since the earth itself revolves at that same speed, the effect is as if the satellite were hovering.

Geostationary satellites all orbit the equator. That way, their orbital path is the same as the orbital path of the earth. It wouldn’t be technically impossible for a satellite to orbit right over the United States, it’s just that we don’t do that. The math involved is more complex, sure, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is making sure that there’s some order to the way things work up in space. You can’t just go up there and move a satellite if you need to. So, having a plan you can stick to is the best move.

Looking for the best value in satellite TV?

If so, check out Solid Signal. They’re the folks who sponsored this article. They’re DIRECTV and DISH dealers and can help you find the right service for you, no matter where in the United States you are. You can get the parts you need and do it yourself, or let one of our expert technicians build the system of your dreams. We even have professional installation available. Call us during East Coast business hours at 888-233-7563!

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.