Product Guides > TV on the move

Mon, Feb 11th 2013

While you are arranging your trips away, there is one more thing to plan for; your favourite television programmes. Are you going to be able to watch that crucial game when you're not sure where exactly you are going to be? Do you want to make sure you watch all of the World Cup next time around? Is your resident 'Coronation Street' fan desperate to see the latest episode?

If you are staying in the UK using an aerial on your TV can do the job quite nicely, however as you may have discovered, that is not always the case. It's even worse if you are trying to use a Freeview box and watch digital channels; the coverage is rather patchy when you are out in the sticks.

With a very limited amount of extra equipment you could avoid these problems and, if you want, you could be watching the football or any of your favourite programmes on the BBC or ITV, from just about anywhere in Western Europe.

Satellite TV

To the layman satellite TV seems to be a bit of a mine field, this article is designed to dispel that myth and impart a little knowledge to make it more available without paying more than you need.

To watch satellite TV you will need a satellite dish, with an LNB, some way of mounting the dish (tripod, pole or self seeking mechanism), a digibox and of course a television. You can use any modern TV as long as you have the correct cables to connect it to the digibox.
Satellite Dish

Which dish should I buy?

The larger the satellite dish the further from the UK you can receive satellite TV signal. A satellite signal is beamed from a base station to the particular satellite in question (there are many different satellites depending on the country of broadcast and the channel). The pictures are then sent towards the earth where they are picked up by individual satellite dishes. When the signal is sent from the satellite they form what we call a footprint, which covers a certain area. Inside this area you can receive signal on a small sized dish, on the edge of this area the signal is more spread out and you must use a larger dish to receive the signal.

If you are staying in the UK you can use a 40cm dish, this is the same size as the mini ski digital dishes that you see on houses. In the North of Scotland, West of Ireland or Southern France you will require a 65cm dish. For Eastern Europe to Poland and parts of Ukraine and Spain & Portugal you will need an 85cm dish. Any larger than this and the dish becomes a little too large to mount on or store in a motorhome.

The satellite dish requires a clear line of sight to the satellite in the earth's atmosphere, so heavy tree coverage or a building will prevent the signal from reaching the satellite dish; even bad weather can affect the picture on your television. The same, perhaps obviously is true for mountains; if you are on the wrong side of them you can be out of reach and therefore miss that vital game.

Digiboxes and Viewing Cards

To decode the signal received from a satellite a digibox is required. You can either use a sky digibox, the one from home will work if you have 240V AC power available, or a freesat box. Using a Sky digibox you must have a sky viewing card, again you can use the one from home, or you can buy a 'Freesat From Sky' viewing card which will give you all the available free Sky channels. If you use a freesat box you can receive all the BBC + ITV Channels, Sky News, CNN and a list of digital Radio Stations - about 100 channels in total. Do not confuse this with Freeview, which is a terrestrial TV equivalent received through an aerial, requiring a Freeview box to receive about 30 channels.
Semitronic - Fully Automatic Satellite TV

Self Searching Systems Vs
Manual Searching Systems

The next choice you have is which system you go for; a self searching system will find the satellite and be ready to watch within a minute of switching on. A manual search system requires you to search for the satellite by moving the dish until the signal strength and quality reach a suitable level. This can take a while but, as in all things, practise makes perfect.

The self searchers are only available as a rooftop mounted unit and, as you might expect, more expensive than the manual search units. However they do take out the furcle factor of setting up, enabling you to get straight on to watching the match.

The manual searching devices are available as rooftop mounted or as floor mounted units (on a tripod). The rooftop mounted unit allows you to stay inside your van when finding the satellite, whereas the tripod mounted unit means that you have to go outside to set it up; obviously not great if the weather is a little iffy.

For this article the German manufactured Oyster system is the self searching option, which requires enough space on top of the van for it to be stored; an area of 1500mm x 800mm with the height when stored being 200mm. On the inside of the van the control panel can be located on any wall or bulkhead provided you can run cables to the back of it.

The manual search rooftop mounted option is the Maxview Manual Crank-Up system. This requires slightly less room on the roof than the Oyster; however it also requires room on the ceiling below it for the crank-up handle and control mechanism.

If you don't want to have to hard wire your motorhome with a satellite dish you can go for a satellite kit in a bag with a tripod for floor mounting. This requires setting up the system whenever you want to watch, which involves attaching the arm and the LNB to the dish and connecting it to the tripod before finding the satellite. You also need to think about where it is going to be stored - an 80cm dish is a large piece of kit in an already fully ladened motorhome.

All of the systems explained above work only when the vehicle is stationary, if you require a system to work while in motion the Tracvision R5 or R5sl Sat Dome is the way to go. This is a rooftop mounted, self-seeking device designed to track the satellite while in motion.

General fitting

Once you have found a place with enough space to put the rooftop mounted unit it is fairly straight forward to fit, requiring one cable bundle running through the roof. The Oyster is supplied with its own mounting plate which is sealed with Sikaflex and fastened using self tapping screws; the unit is then fixed to the mounting plate. The manual crank-up requires the same, one hole for the crank shaft with the coax aerial cable running through the middle.

The positioning of the Semitronic system is a little more complex than the other options. It has a digital control box and a 'through the roof' mast to be mounted on a wall or bulkhead; the control box is for the elevation and the mast is to turn the dish to the correct bearing. This system requires a live feed from the leisure battery and an earth.

The Oyster units require a 12V DC power supply which can be taken from a number of places depending on your vehicle; the best source is usually straight from the leisure batteries. Also a switched live from the ignition is required so that the dish retracts when the ignition is turned on. This is a safety feature to prevent you driving away with the dish up.

The Digibox can be mounted anywhere as long as you can run the cable to it, this can even be in a cupboard using a 'magic eye' to enable the remote control to work.

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