Will my boat get satellite reception in…

That’s one of the most common questions we get. Because we activate more marine satellite subscriptions than anyone else in the world, we’re often asked about reception patterns. After all, you’re spending a decent bit of money for a satellite system and you want to know that it works.

National channels

In general, you can expect to get national channels about 50 miles offshore. It’s possible to focus satellite beams, but they don’t abruptly “cut off.” Both DIRECTV and DISH use this technology and they make sure that their land-based customers have strong signals all the way to the coast. This means spilling signals about 50 miles beyond the shoreline, which is good for marine customers.

If you want to receive national channels at greater distances, you can put up a larger marine satellite antenna. There is an absolute cutoff of about 100-120 miles offshore where even the biggest antenna won’t get reception, though. Of course, these numbers are just general guides and your specific area may get better or worse reception.

Local channels

Local channels are a different story. With the exception of New York and Los Angeles channels, most local channels broadcast to a very small area. You may find that even 25-30 miles from the harbor, you’re running into reception trouble. Or you may find absolutely no problems at all. It all depends on where the center of the “spot beam” is.

Spot beams are highly focused satellite transmissions which serve local areas. In some parts of the country like the densely populated Northeast, the same spot beam serves multiple cities. For example, the Philadelphia spot beam, shown above, also serves cities in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

How can you know for sure?

The best news you’ll read today is that you have “a friend in the business.” The team at Signal Connect collects this data from hard-working volunteers, from satellite providers, and antenna makers. It’s all combined into one system that can tell you what you’re likely to get. And it’s all available to you with just a phone call.

Call the team at Signal Connect at 888-233-7563 with any concerns you have about satellite coverage. We’ll be happy to help. We can also help you with any other technical issues you have. We have real experts on the line, not just script readers. You’ll be glad you called.

If it’s after East Coast Business Hours, just fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you, usually within one business day.

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.