The first thing to note in this article is that satellite technology and satellite channels all change at a fast pace and some of the information within this article will most likely become redundant over time, for up to date information when choosing a motorhome or caravan satellite system you should give us a call on 0845 8698940 or 01395 830230
The first misconception we can clear up is that Motorhome Satellite Systems are the same as used in Caravans. Some customers think there are different caravan satellite systems to motorhome satellite systems.
The first questions we ask customers when they phone enquiring about motorhome satellite systems are as follows:-
1. What is your budget ?
2. Where do you intend to use the system i.e. UK Only / Europe wide, Northern Europe etc ? This governs the size / type of system we would recommend.
3. Do you require an Automatic system i.e. the Horizontal and Vertical alignment is performed for you Vs a Manual system (You align yourself using satellite meter)
4. Do you need a Twin LNB System ? If for instance you want a system to allow you to watch one channel on a TV in the lounge area of your van whilst your spouse / children could watch another channel in the bedroom.
5. Do you require an "In Motion" or "Static" Dome if a dome system is on your shortlist ? In Motion refers to the ability of a satellite dome system to be able to track satellite signals as you drive along (Line of sight to satellite notwithstanding) this allows you on nice clear roads A la Motorways / Autoroutes to be able to watch TV on the move Vs Static systems which are only able to receive TV When the vehicle is stopped.
6. Are there any height considerations ? Do you have a carport or garage that the motorhome is stored in ? Does your ferry company have a maximum height that fitting a non low profile satellite system would prevent you travelling with them ? All of these questions may have a huge bearing on which satellite system you could buy for your motorhome / caravan.
One of the more important aspects of satellite reception is the footprint of the satellite broadcasts you wish to receive. The footprint is the theoretical area covered by each satellite broadcast on the earth. Reception within this footprint will depend on dish size / LNB specs / receiver used also.
The channels we watch here in the UK are broadcast from a cluster of satellites positioned at 28.2 degrees known as Astra 2. These satellites broadcast a number of beams that illuminate the ground and these beams aka footprints allow us to watch channels if we are positioned within them.
Astra 28.2 has at present two main satellites, Astra 2E and Astra 2F, with another Astra 2G being launched in the future, the channels transmitted on them can be seen here: http://en.kingofsat.net/pos-28.2E.php
Below are some footprint diagrams taken from the Broadcasters SES Astra themselves, take the results with a pinch of salt, some websites have sprung up which allow users to report in their location and what channels / satellite they were able to receive such as Astra 2F Reception Map and Astra 2E Reception Map :-
Astra 2E Satellite footprint map above
Astra 2F Satellite Footprint Map
Updated Satellite Footprint Information
NOTE: We put our money where our mouth is and in April 2014 we travelled all the way down through France, into Spain as far South as Alicante then across to Madrid and on to San Sebastian and then finally up through France again albeit on the West coast and back to UK. Our journey was 2,700 miles in total. The reasoning behind the trip was that we as satellite systems retailers should know how far the systems work away from the UK as the footprint had changed dramatically in February and we didn't want to sell systems based on hypothetical / third hand knowledge.
We took the following satellite systems with us to test the impact of the satellite changes in February to the overall reception footprint for Astra 2 throughout this part of Europe:-
The crux of the results is the major channels transmitted on the UK Spot beam i.e. BBC/ITV etc channels broke up on the sub 65cm systems around the same latitude as Bordeaux and the 85cm system broke up around the border with Spain.
The Pan European beam which features such channels as Sky News, True Movies, Challenge TV and a miscellaneous few others are watchable all the way down throughout our trip.
Note the above results were performed alongside an Avtex DRS satellite TV / Maxview FTA receiver. If you have a Sky receiver and a current subscription / Sky card then Sky Encrypted channels can be received down through Spain as Sky transmits some of their encrypted channels on the Pan European Beam still.
Fringe reception is the term used to describe the edge of a satellites reception footprint. Some factors that govern how deep into a fringe area you can penetrate and still receive the channels you want are most importantly Dish size followed by LNB Specifications (higher gain and lower noise figures), skew angle correctly configured and the receiver performance. The now discontinued Pace Javelin Digibox is considered by many to be ideally suited for motorhome and caravan satellite reception due to its small form factor, 12v / mains inputs and excellent fringe reception qualities. As these are no longer made they can be hard to get hold of, but there are usually a quantity of these floating around as refurbished units on Ebay and similar sites.
Automatic satellite systems have circuitry and motors to automatically raise the dish to the correct elevation and then turn the dish around to point to the satellite automatically. Most automatic systems have an ignition feed so that if you forget your satellite system is in the raised position and start the engine to drive away then the dish will automatically fold down to prevent any damage being incurred.
Satellite Dome Systems
Satellite Dome systems have a few advantages over their dish relatives. They do not suffer from issues caused by wind as they are protected from the elements by their dome covers. This allows dome systems users to be able to continue watching satelite television in situations where dish based users have to give in and put their dishes down.
Satellite domes are however by their very nature smaller dish sizes and so are not ideally suited for use in the South of France and further afield for instance.
Satellite Domes seem to be the fastest growing arena of Motorhome and Caravan Satellite systems.
Some example of satellite dome systems for motorhomes and caravans are as follows:-
Freeview is the easiest and as the name implies the cheapest way to enjoy digital TV. There are up to 50 digital TV channels, no subscription and no contract and no fee.
There are up to 50 digital TV channels and 24 digital radio stations available on Freeview.
Freeview is received via a tv aerial and does not require a satellite dish although you will need to check if you have good reception coverage in your area, the Freeview site has a coverage checker available where you simply enter in postcode and house number.
The only special equipment required is a Freeview receiver which can be obtained for as little as £20 nowadays.
More programmes plus Sky Sports 1 & 2 or ESPN are available in addition to the Freeview channels from BT Vision and Top Up TV.
Free Sat From Sky
Freesat from Sky is a non subscription offering giving you access to over 240 digital TV channels, including terrestrial channels like BBC1, ITV and More4 and Sky3 (4 X more channels than available on Freeview) for a simple one-off payment of £175 (Price included Mini Dish, Receiver, Viewing Card and Installation).
If you already have Sky Satellite equipment then this price drops to just £25.
You'll get all the equipment you need to watch Freesat from Sky - all of which will be professionally installed - and it's yours to keep.
There's no annual contract and it's easy to ugrade to any Sky digital package once you have Freesat from Sky
More information on Skys dedicated page for Free sat from Sky HERE
Twin LNB Systems
A Twin LNB Satellite system has as the name suggests two LNBs for satellite reception, each LNB is aligned the same and point to the same signal but allow you to utilise each for a different purpose, whether this be to watch different channels on different TVs or to record one channel whilst watching another to a PVR Such as a SKY+ receiver.
Auto Skew Systems
Auto Skew satellite systems have circuitry and motors to ascertain the correct skew angle to use and align it automatically for you, this only really becomes a benefit if you head over the channel and then East or West.
Why automatic satellite system Vs Manual
The main difference between manual and automatic satellite systems is ease of use.
A manual satellite system may be as cumbersome as a tripod, coax, receiver and a sat finding meter. All of these need to be unpacked, assembled and then someone needs to step outside and stand fiddling around with a meter and manually moving the dish around whilst checking signal strength and looking at tv screen to see if a signal can be obtained, initially this can be very frustrating as satellite beams are very narrow and so a few degrees can be the difference between no picture and crystal clear (unlike old fashioned analogue tv aerials), but after a few attempts and a practiced eye you will soon be up and running within 5-10 mins, this may be 5-10 mins stood outside in inclement weather conditions though !.
There are however some advantages with manual systems,firstly price is paramount, manual systems are a fraction of the cost of an automatic systems so if budget is a major consideration then manual is the way to go. Manual satellite systems also allow flexibility with location in that you can (coax length permitting) move the dish around to prevent line of sight to the satellite being obscured by trees etc whereas this may not be possible with a roof mounted automatic (or manual roof mounted system) on a campsite due to pitch size constraints.
Satellite Internet Systems
With internet technology being commonplace nowadays it is very useful to have internet connectivity whilst away from home in your motorhome / caravan. Solutions have been developed to give you the means to do so. These satellite internet systems allow you to use the same dish to watch television as you would to connect to the internet. They do have associated ongoing costs for the internet access. The choice is fairly limited for motorhome satellite internet systems with three systems being the main available as follows:- Oyster Satellite Internet System Teleco Internet System Crystop Internet System
More information on satellite internet systems for motorhomes and caravans is available in our dedicated Satellite Internet section