Installing a satellite dish using a TV spectrum analyzer

September 20, 2018.

In this article, we will go through the steps to align a satellite dish. It is very important to use an instrument that offers reliable measures to ensure optimum reception quality not only at the time of installation but also over the lifespan of the installation. Otherwise, weather conditions such as wind or rain may have an impact causing the antenna to lose the signal.

Therefore we are going to align a satellite dish using a RANGER Neo spectrum analyzer.

Aligning a satellite dish using a RANGER Neo TV spectrum analyzer

Find out our location and the satellite’s

The following website will help us to perform the required calculations for our installation:

  1. Provide the physical location of the antenna. Move the marker over the map up to the physical location, or type the postal address. Alternatively, you can type the latitude and longitude coordinates in the same text box (you can find them out using your mobile phone or GPS).
    In this example, we are going to install a satellite dish (in a location of Latitude 42.8806º and Longitude -8.5450º) to receive the ASTRA 19.2E satellite.
  2. Select which satellite the antenna will be pointed to. On the website you can choose a satellite from the list of active commercial telecommunication satellites.
  3. Get the orbital satellite position. After entering the data [1] and [2], the system tells us the Azimuth and Elevation that we have to apply to the satellite dish to properly receive the satellite:
    • Azimuth: 142.3°
    • Elevation: 33.2°
  4. Choose the optimum location. It is important to choose which wall the antenna is going to be installed in having into account the above data. We don't want to install the antenna turning it back to the satellite or behind an object that hides the satellite!

Which tools do we need to install the satellite dish?

  • Compass. To adjust the Azimuth. This item can be replaced by the mobile phone.
  • Inclinometer. To adjust the Elevation. This instrument is neither indispensable because many masts have an engraved angled guide (useful if it is mounted perpendicular to the ground), or again the cell phone can be used.
  • The satellite dish itself. This includes the dish, fastening items, LNB, etc.
  • TV spectrum analyzer. It allows performing the fine adjustments to maximize the signal power received from the satellite.

Align the satellite dish on a provisional basis

Once all the fastening items are installed, the antenna is set on the mounting and the LNB is in place, it is the moment to perform the...

  1. Approximate orientation adjustment. Set the antenna according to the data calculated in step [3].
Adjusting the Azimuth (142º) and the Elevation (33º)
Adjusting the Azimuth (142º) and the Elevation (33º)

Important! There are still fine adjustments to be made, therefore do not tight all the screws that would fix the antenna in its final position.

An installer moving a satellite dish

«Hunting» the satellite ASTRA 19.2 E

  1. Select the proper configuration for the satellite. Connect the RANGER Neo TV spectrum analyzer to the LNB and set it to supply the antenna with 13 VDC and VERTICAL polarization in LOW band. This configuration is not accidental, but it responds to the following table:
Polarization tables according LNB supply
  1. The analyzer identifies the satellite. Move the cursor over one of the digital transponders (moving the joystick or just pressing on it in the touch screen). The RANGER Neo will tell you what satellite and/or orbital position you are on in a matter of seconds!
The RANGER Neo will tell what satellite and/or orbital position you are on in a matter of seconds
The RANGER Neo will tell what satellite and/or orbital position you are on in a matter of seconds

If you cannot receive the satellite signal, please check that you have performed the above steps correctly, especially the Azimuth and Elevation calculations regarding the physical location of the antenna.

Fine tuning the dish

Now, once ASTRA 19.2E is locked (see the picture above) we can apply fine adjustments to get an optimum alignment.

Fine tuning is a very important step and this is why professional installers always use a TV analyzer instead of relying on the basic "quality measurement" offered by the satellite receiver. That is because the more robust signal is delivered from the antenna, the greater safety margin there will be for that signal to survive to elements that degrade it: Derivations, aged cables, interference sources, etc. In short, the installation will have fewer problems both during the installation and during its lifespan.

  1. Set up the analyzer to take measurements. If you have not done so, set the RANGER Neo analyzer in one of the split screen modes to view measurements and spectrum at once. Just like the screens in this article.
  2. Accurate antenna position. Apply small corrections to the position of the dish on all axes while observing the measurements. Without unlocking the transponder, try to achieve the maximum possible power value. At this point you will be able to tighten all the screws to ensure that the plate is firmly in its position.
Tilt adjustment to get as much Power value as possible
Tilt adjustment to get as much Power value as possible.

As the ASTRA 19.2E transmits in VERTICAL/LOW polarization, we must try to avoid the influence of the transponders at the opposite polarization (HORIZONTAL/HIGH). This is so called the Cross polarization adjustment. That is what we are going to do in the next step.

Cross-polarization is adjusted by rotating the LNB on its axis
Cross-polarization is adjusted by rotating the LNB on its axis.
  1. MER adjustment and polarization. Rotate the LNB on its axis and carefully observe the spectrum analyzer screen. The more defined the transponders lines are, the higher the quality of the reception and the higher the MER and LM will be. That is our goal: Defined transponders together with high values of MER and LM. At that time, you can also tighten the LNB clamp to keep it steady.

The LM (Link Margin) refers to how much the signal MER can fall before its reception is impossible. Therefore, the higher the better.

Testing signal quality

The RANGER Neo is the ideal instrument for quick and effective checks of signal quality not only because it shows all measurements in one single screen but also because the meter doesn't require bothering configuration processes.

DVB-S2 QPSK measurements

Look what we've got

The RANGER Neo can also display the free to air programs available in the satellite. That is very practical not so much for the picture itself but for amount of interesting data related to the transponders we can display as well.

Video, Audio and service related data information
Video, Audio and service related data information.

At any time it is possible to display the service list by using the analyzer menus and show all the programs and services available within the tuned channel. Selecting one particular channel or service becomes very intuitive using the joystick or just pressing on it in the touch screen.

VDisplaying ASTRA 19.2E service list
Displaying ASTRA 19.2E service list.

Interesting facts

Sputnik I

  • You can get the updated, accurate information about the satellites (orbital position, channel tables, etc) by browsing the websites
  • After just 60 years since our first artificial satellite (Sputnik 1), we have nowadays more than a hundred commercial telecommunication satellites in operation (apart from meteorological, GPS, military and other satellites).
  • The antenna used to receive the test transmission from the first telecommunications satellite (Telstar I) was a huge horn inside a bubble radome of 48 metres high. Today we need no more than a small dish of a few centimeters like the one we have installed.
  • We have pointed the antenna to the satellite ASTRA 19.2E which in fact is a non-existing satellite, but a constellation of satellites placed very close to each other that for practical purposes are received as a single one.
  • The same Li-ion battery technology you use in the RANGER Neo analyzer is also used in spacecraft because of its reliability and capacity/weight ratio.
  • High frequency switches are used in satellites because of its reliability compared to the mechanical types.