Th= e Future of C-Band
We are on the brink of the 21st Century, where every= technological dream will come true, even the "Hang-on- your-wall flat= TV" that I first saw in a GE commercial back about 1955. The flat TV= took much longer to get here than folks expected, and with a $5000 price= tag, it may be a while before most of us dish owners own one, but Phillips= says you will be able to buy their Plasma Display Flat TV some time this= year if you want to spend the money. The new screen looks wider than our TV= sets today. This is one of the futuristic changes on the way, as the old= analogue standard NTSC video system, which was developed in the early =9140= s finally, gets replaced. When Color came in the early 50=92s, many= competing companies came out with their own ideas of how it could be done. = CBS even dreamed up a Rube Goldberg system that used a mechanical spinning= wheel in front of a black and white 17-inch picture tube to produce a full= color image. The FCC rejected the CBS system because it was incompatible= with the existing way of doing things. Enter RCA with "Compatible= Color" and the full NTSC standard was born. Often called "Never= Twice the Same Color" because of the difficulties in the early system= in holding color tones (remember the purple and green faces), after ten= years of refinement, the round tube color TV=92s finally started selling. = The set you use today to watch your subscription satellite programming,= backhauls and wild feeds is evidence of refinement of an old standard. BUT= like it or not TV is going to change in a big way -- and soon.
See it on= C-Band
We as owners of the BIG C-Band dish will get some of the first= chances to witness the technical changes coming to the world of= television... Or we can be among the last to still have access to high= quality analogue video. That=92s the nice thing about C-Band. It=92s the= place where EVERYTHING HAPPENS.
Isn=92t that= old C-Band stuff just old junk?
Have you felt the pressure lately? For a few years now, certain factions= have been calling us Dinosaurs. Do friends and relatives call you= "the guy with the Big Ugly Dish" (BUD)? With so many of the= little 18-inch systems out there, a few C-Band owners have given in to the= simplicity and ease of operation afforded by mini dishes. Don=92t get me= wrong, the 18-inch wonder is fine for someone who just wants to watch cable= "Tee-Vee" type programming, and they produce a viewable picture. = BUD purists argue that the video seen on the Big Dish is far superior. And= we BUD guys will happily show you the one thing that the Big Dish will= always have, and that is something called "Bandwidth", which is= the total amount of information a given system can process. Simply put,= because we are not limited to one satellite, we will always have access to= more programming, more variety and more CHOICE. Whether you are a movie= fan, sports nut, or news junkie, your best bet will always be C-Band. So= don=92t go taking down that big dish yet, not =91til you have the FULL= story on what our crystal ball tells us about where C-Band is going.
One thing for sure. It is NOT going away. Every few months, ANOTHER= C-BAND satellite is launched. Does anyone think that major communications= giants would spend money to put up more C-Band satellites if this was a= dying technology? No indeed, the spectrum space used by C-Band is valuable= real estate. Any engineer will tell you that when it comes to reliability,= better performance in bad weather, and rock-solid video, C-Band is the= place. The broadcast networks won=92t give up C-Band. The cable companies= won=92t give up C-Band. Specialty programmers and many others know that= C-Band will never die.
But C-Band is changing. When it comes to technology nothing= stands still. The computer you bought last year is already a slug compared= to the new stuff. And the new whiz-bang will be obsolete before you figure= out the "operating system", which by then will change to a new= version. Some folks still have TRS-80=92s and Commodore 64=92s, and I know= some dish heads who still use Birdviews and Sky Eyes. But most of us want= the improved reception and ease of use of a modern system, and have= upgraded over the years.
Time Has= Come Today
Now=97today--is the time for you to decide how you are= going to enter the next century, and get the most of your C-Band system. = There are at least three million of us out there, and I personally believe= that if you factor in the die-hard dish heads, who don=92t get counted in= the list of program subscribers, that number is more like 5 million. Most= of the time when someone parts with a C-Band dish, they sell or give it= away to a hobby type user. And the dish lives on. You, dear reader, may= have inherited such a system because you wanted more than just cable from= the sky. You enjoy watching Newsfeeds, you like being able to time shift= by tuning into another time zone feed. And you like watching things on= your dish that cable folks and mini dish owners will never see. You live= with the fear that some day it is all going to go dark.
I have been hearing that since about 1984, and I will tell you that there= are more fun and free things in the sky NOW than there were THEN. No, you= won=92t find the latest PPV events free (well not usually) but there is= more to life than ultimate boxing and movies. Most dish owners have a VCII= box so they CAN get movies and sports. So long as the programmers continue= to make money, the analogue services will survive, so there is plenty of= life left in that old system.
But there is a whole new world out there! It is there now, and a growing= group of dish owners tune in nightly, often to be greeted by new channels,= with a wider variety programming than ever before. AND there are lots of= channels that are free, but you can=92t see them with your present system= until you make the move to digital technology.
The Future= is Digital
It=92s locked in stone and you can=92t change it. By= 2005 all TV is supposed to be digital. Realistically that is unlikely, but= that is the way things are moving, and if you want it all, you should be= making the move soon. Save those pennies, and start making budget plans to= upgrade your C-Band system. In the long run you will thank me, and= yourself for sticking with the reliable C-Band delivery system. Big Dish= owners will ALWAYS have the best selection. This is because we ride along= on top of the commercial distribution system. At first we were considered= unwanted pirates, but after conditional access was worked out) (scrambling)= dish owners and programmers came to a mutual peace. Now understand, C-Band= is where all the origination is, and it will continue to be this way. The= 18-inch guys get THEIR signals from a Big Dish. Wouldn=92t the original= signal always look better than a copy? With all the compression needed to= get a reasonable amount of channels out of one location in the sky, the= mini-dish will never have the quality of C-Band.
However, you will need a new receiver, and maybe a= better LNB to get all of the new stuff that is up there.
What system do I buy and how much will I pay?
There are basically two digital systems in use today,= and depending on what type of viewer you are, one or the other or both may= be what you want.
4DTV =96 Digicipher 2
The 4D, as many of us call it, is the system developed= by General Instruments (Briefly known as Next Level). GI. You know who= they are, the same folks that brought you Videocipher. They have developed= their system based upon the MPEG (Motion Picture Engineering Group)= Standard, but throwing in a few tricks of their own. Some of us own= Commercial Units like the 4200V, but I would recommend the consumer version= (4DTV) for most folks because it is so much easier to use. The 4DTV has= some real consumer advantages. Right on top is the fact that this receiver= "Gets it all" Analogue, Videocipher (if you add a module) and the= new Digicipher mode. It also gets analogue and digital audio channels. = Priced around $700, 4DTV will do it for most viewers. That is the price= that a top of the line analogue only receiver will run, and while it is not= as hot a performer on analogue as the Drake 1824 or a Monterrey 140, it= does a decent job on analogue. Plus you get these advantages: (1)= Digicipher Video, which will bring you many new channels and channel= variations. (2) An integrated program guide, which shows you what is on= and what will be on to help you prepare your TV viewing schedule. The= interactive program guide lets you scroll through a list of ALL the= available channels whether they are digital or analogue. Also, the guide= lists radio stations and audio services, analogue and digital. Unlike your= old receiver, when a new channel comes on, GI will update your receiver= automatically so you will know when the new signals come up. For the= consumer, the 4DTV is a well thought out and constantly improved system. = It is also claimed that when the new wide-screen HDTV comes out, the 4DTV= will provide access to the signals. Since C-Band owners ride above the= commercial stream, WE will have the first access to HDTV wide screen HBO,= as cable companies won=92t offer wide screen TV right away. 4DTV comes= highly recommended, as a good way to get into Digital C-Band, especially= for those whose favorite programming is cable type fare.
But wait, there=92s more up there.
MPEG2 World Standard Digital Video
Virtually unknown to the general public, and even a bit= of a mystery to most dish owners is the World Standard MPEG-2 system. This= is what is being used in Europe and Asia as THEIR digital TV system. What= is exciting is that there are so many of these channels available in the= USA. You will find specialty and foreign programming that you can=92t get= with your regular analogue C-Band system. For the true Dish Head, an= MPEG-2 receiver is a worthy consideration, especially because they are less= expensive than 4DTV and give you the most wide selection of free= programming. This receiver is especially valuable if you like foreign= language programming, either to brush up on your Spanish, Greek, French or= Portuguese. If you are new to the USA, the MPEG-2 will give you a touch of= home. And even if you don=92t speak a word of anything but English, some= of the variety and music shows are much more entertaining than anything on= an American screen.
To take full advantage of the MPEG-2 receiver we= recommend a Horizon to Horizon mount (so you can see satellites over the= ocean) and that you live in the eastern third or western third of the USA. = While there is some programming using the MPEG-2 standard in the US= Domestic Arc, the best stuff is out over the ponds. Receiver cost is= around $450, quite a bit less than 4DTV. You use your analogue receiver to= move the dish, and run the digital receiver through a splitter from your= LNB. There are several brands available. We have found the Hyundai= 100C/Pansat 100 to be the best value for performance and price. Noikia and= a few others are also available. Not all satellite dealers know about= these units, but they are readily available. If you search any of the= popular satellite sites on the Internet, you will find a lot of places that= sell MPEG-2 receivers. Since this receiver has the ability to bring in 200= more channels that you can=92t see on Analogue or 4DTV, it is a real value= to the specialist who wants more signals. These receivers DO require= programming each service in manually, and they are not as simple to run as= a 4DTV, but such things never bothered the high technology savvy dish= heads.
We predict that both standards will be around for a= while since each has it=92s firmly entrenched niche. Which is for you? = Depends on what you want to see on YOUR C-Band System. If you want USA= programming, cable style premium stuff, networks, and the new Digicipher= channels, then you want 4DTV. If you want the weird stuff, you want= MPEG-2. And if you want it all.... Get both. The only problem with that= is finding the time to enjoy the hundreds of channels available to you on= your "ready-for-the-future" C-Band System!
Mr. Bourgois may be reached on the Internet at:=flash@iceware
You may= also write him by postal mail at:
429 Spring Street
Marquette, MI 49855
All Internet mail is answered. All postal mail is= answered if you write your question on the back of a Stamped self-addressed= Envelope.
Mr. Bourgois is also host of FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE heard on= the W0KIE Satellite Network on SBS-6/13U (KU-Band) audio 6.2 Friday Nights= from 9 to 10 Eastern Time.