Why are marine satellite domes so big?

Look at a luxury yacht and you’ll find one or two large white gumdrop shapes on the top. Those are satellite domes, and they’re a status symbol for a lot of people. “Look at me,” they say. “I have satellite TV on my boat.” I think that’s cool so I can understand why people brag.

These domes look like they’re pretty large and you would think with modern technology they could be smaller. Let’s dive in.

Are they really that big?


Your average home satellite dish is 39 inches wide. That’s no coincidence… there’s an FCC rule that says dishes smaller than one meter (39.37″) in any direction are ok on homes. Larger dishes could be excluded by an HOA.

Because we’re talking about marine satellite, let’s talk in metric. That dish is actually 98 centimeters wide. Now let’s compare.

This Intellian i3 system is only 44 centimeters wide. Still, this is a basic model so let’s look at something that pulls in all the same HD channels as that home-based DIRECTV dish.

The Intellian s6HD system is the closest in specs to the home DIRECTV dish. Yet, it’s only 70 centimeters wide. It may look bigger when you see it on a ship but it’s actually 30% smaller!

Yes, you can get much bigger dishes that will let you get further from shore but most ships don’t use them. So, in the end, the marine dishes aren’t bigger at all.

So why do they look bigger?

First of all the radome of the dish (the white outer shell) is going to make the dish look bigger because it’s going to be big enough for the dish inside to spin around 360 degrees. Also it’s bright white. I have to say I don’t quite understand why marine stuff is always bright white but there you go. It almost always is. Maybe it looks better after there’s been a lot of salt spray on it.

Get the best accessories for your boat

Whether it’s a satellite TV system or something as simple as a wire, you’ll find everything you need for fun on the water at Solid Signal. We may have started our site as a place for home theater, but we’re now one of the leading marine satellite TV dealers in the country. At our customers’ request we started adding general purpose marine gear. We’ve added gauges, wiring, anodes, sensors, nav systems… just about anything you need. If you’re looking for a specific part, we can get it. Just give us a call at 888-233-7563 and get started!

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.