When will there be a self-aiming DIRECTV 4K dish?

Tailgating season is here and there are two bits of slightly depressing news. The first is that you’re not likely to see a lot of 4K on DIRECTV NFL Sunday Ticket this year. In fact you might not see any. The other is that if you’re tailgating, it’s going to be pretty hard to get that 4K programming anyway.

No self-aiming dishes, not this year anyway

If you want 4K programming, you’ll need your own dish, plus a compatible DVR and client. You’ll need to put it up on a tripod and aim it yourself. Yeah, the 4K picture is amazing, but I understand that’s a lot of work. What you really want is one of those gumdrop type things where you set it on the ground and it finds the satellites for you. Unfortunately if there is something like that, it’s not going to be available this year.

Why is this so hard?

DIRECTV’s 4K system uses three primary satellite locations with three different frequency ranges. This makes things a little more complicated than just using standard definition. Standard definition uses one satellite and one frequency range. That makes it perfect for those self-aiming dishes.

It would be possible to have a self-aiming dish of some sort for DIRECTV 4K but manufacturers haven’t got there yet unfortunately. There are two obstacles that would need to be worked out.

First problem: you might need a bigger, custom LNB

The LNB is the front part of the dish that actually has the receiving elements and electronics for the satellite system. Because those “gumdrop” type systems only get standard definition on DIRECTV, they can use off-the-shelf LNBs which pick up satellite signals all over the world. On the other hand, getting HD and 4K for DIRECTV would take a customized LNB. You probably couldn’t use the standard one that we sell because it’s too big and it’s designed for a very specific dish shape. It’s designed to look at all three locations at once and it does that with a special oval dish.

Second problem: the frequency ranges

DIRECTV’s HD and 4K signals travel over what we call the “Ka band” while standard definition signals travel over what we call the “Ku band.” Every satellite service in the world uses the Ku band but DIRECTV also uses the Ka band. They do this because of the virtually unlimited capacity those Ka band frequencies give them.

This isn’t a problem for dishes at home. In fact it makes HD and 4K possible. However there are some technical limitations to the Ka band which make it a little less desirable for mobile dishes.

Ka band signals have a harder time penetrating through rain. With most dishes that isn’t a problem. HOAs are required to let you use a dish up to 39″ in size and that’s big enough for the Ka band signals. However the smaller gumdrop dishes just won’t cut it for those signals and that’s a problem. It may be possible with advanced electronics and such, but those things cost money and the dish has to be affordable

Will these problems be solved?

I say yes, eventually. I think that you’ll start seeing 4K-capable mobile products soon, but not this year. There’s still a lot of engineering challenges and the technology has to be affordable. I know that’s a frustrating answer, but hopefully it won’t be much longer. In the meantime, shop at Solid Signal for the best electronics you can get today!

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.