Distributing FREESAT around the home, LOFTBOXES and MULTISWITCHES

Discussion in 'Satellite TV, Sky TV & FreeSat' started by braychurchmouse, Jan 13, 2008.

  1. braychurchmouse

    braychurchmouse
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    Sorry this is a ridiculously long post but I've invested many hours of my life trying to fathom this out and hopefully it will help some folk with the same dilemma :D. Can I just say that I'm an absolute beginner on this and if there are any errors or inaccuracies in what I say, then I am very happy to be corrected.

    I have been looking at a couple of threads recently http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=410987 and http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=679441 and wondering how to make a strategic decision on which digital system to adopt and what to consider in anticipation of a viable non-subscription satellite service (ie nonSky Freesat).

    There doesn’t seem anywhere to be a very clear explanation of techniques for distribution of satellite signals around the house, and how you go about providing facilities for different rooms to watch different programs. After all, that is the facility we get on analog with EACH tv in the house capable of receiving ANY programme. And with terrestrial digital Freeview you get that too if you have a separate Freeview receiver with each TV or recorder. (or built-in of course).

    But what about satellite and in particular the so-called “LOFT BOXES” like the Labgear HDU681, HDU681S and similar? (the subject of one of the threads I mentioned above) ?

    The first downer is that with the Loftbox "downlink-uplink" system used by a lot of these loftboxes just gives you an RF signal from your sat box to the rest of the house and, as this is a simple RF signal (NOT Nicam), the sound you get is MONO. Quite handy of course for the kitchen and kids bedroom but not exactly hifi sound to watch a film in the parents bedroom.

    The second downer is that the system only supports ONE satellite receiver in the main room. OK, that receiver can be Sky Plus with input from two lnbs, but what you can't do is put another satellite receiver in the other rooms. Although the product description for many of these loft boxes implies exactly that by saying "distribute satellite signal to every room" ...what they actually mean is distribute a signal (RF) from the ONE satellite receiver you have in your main room. They do NOT distribute the LNB IF signal.

    The Labgear documentation is one of the worst in that respect. I was about to buy a Labgear HDU681S after reading their product documentation, but was a bit curious when I noticed Satcure didn't stock it! (Anyway that's another story - do a search on the Satcure forum for comments about Labgear service, spares availability etc etc). The Labgear documentation is even more confusing about their unique switch to convert from satellite to non-satellite distribution. In the absence of any easily available documentation this appears to be just a switch to bypass the downlink-uplink loop. Quite useful I suppose, but then you'd probably make a link cable between the two anyway for testing purposes.

    The third downer to the downlink/uplink approach is that your main UHF/RF signal around the house (ie your aerial UHF signal probably used for terrestrial Freeview) has to go into the loftbox, down the downlink to the main room, then back up again into the loftbox before it is distributed to the rest of the house. If you use the recommended triplexor and diplexor sockets your UHF signal goes through 9 plug/socket combinations before it finally gets to the TVs in the other rooms. (read what Satcure says about minimising plug/socket combinations to avoid interference and loss of signal.).
    Ok, so why would you want a good UHF RF aerial signal in your other rooms when you have a satellite program availability? Well quite a few reasons - 1. You want decent high quality NICAM stereo sound …or 2. You want to watch a different channel to what the folk in the lounge are watching…. or 3. You have a Sky box in the main room with no subscription or Freesat-from-Sky card so you can't get Channel 5 or the History channel on satellite so you need terrestrial Freeview to watch those.. ...oh yes and you probably just paid good money for a brand new LCD telly with Freeview built in!

    My temporary solution to distributing a Sky box signal is to forget about the downlink/uplink approach entirely. Tried a couple of Video sender solutions but not very satisfactory unless the sending and receiving rooms are pretty close. So we put in a three phono cable solution from the scart output at the back of the skybox giving us composite video and STEREO sound (left and right). Seems to work fine over 20 meters of cable. If you want to serve multiple rooms put in a video distribution amp (cheap one in Maplin handles stereo sound and video composite for £25), but you can get more expensive ones if quality and distance becomes an issue. We haven't had a problem. You can use the now redundant videosender to relay back the remote control signals to the Sky box. Or you could get a dedicated remote control transmitter like the Powermid. Or (and this is really cunning and I havent tried it...you could use a dedicated coax wire for the Skylink system plugged into the RF2 port on the Skybox!!!! - any comments).

    Or you could go for the CAT5 wiring solution like Milestone, but a quick costing shows that even a simple system would cost £200 GBP or more.

    So next stage is how do I distribute the LNB IF signal around the house to several independent Freesat (or even Sky) receivers?
    OK there are good reasons why the LNB signal from ONE lnb can't easily be distributed to MANY satellite receivers. I guess the main one is that there is a need for voltage switching of the polarisation from horizontal to vertical, and the conflicts this would cause.

    One partial solution is the next up on the cost ladder - a Loft Box which DOES distribute (in a limited way) lnb IF signals. One such is the Triax 333112 Loft box. From my reading of the specs this allows you to take in a two lnb feed for your Sky+ box in the main room (which can then be distributed to the rest of the house from the Sky box RF2 output in MONO sound as above using the downlink/uplink system). HOWEVER this Triax Loft Box ALSO has inputs for two additional lnb dish inputs which can be directed to two other rooms which have their own satellite receivers. Of course you can have other rooms in the house which can receive the satellite signal from the main receiver via the MONO RF2 outut. Indeed (oh boy this is confusing!) those two other privileged rooms with their own satellite receivers (stereo sound) can ALSO receive the satellite signal from the lounge via the RF2 output!!!!

    This could be quite useful if your main box had a Sky subscription and/or was Sky plus so you could watch a paid movie or recorded program from that box in ANY room (but in MONO sound.) The two privileged rooms with their own satellite receivers would of course be able to watch any stations they were subscribed to in STEREO sound. The two privileged rooms have triplexed output wall plates for LNB, UHF (tv) and FM/DAB. The other rooms just have diplexed output plates for UHF and FM/DAB. In your main room though if you need the downlink/uplink facility you have Triplexed decombiner plate with 5 sockets.

    I think this could be useful in a situation where you had a full Sky subscription for the lounge but had FreesatfromSky or later this year just Freesat receivers in the two other rooms.

    You might say if the lnbs are dedicated to specific satellite receivers in specific rooms, why bother cabling them into the loftbox. My understanding of the Triax system is that it does mean that you only have to run one coax cable to each room instead of a separate UHF and LNB cable. Though running through the loft box and a wall plate would introduce 3 additional plug/socket connections, each reducing the signal potentially by 10% or so. A dedicated cable from the lnb though to the back of the receiver without a wall plate connection would be a better solution if the signal was weak. So why bother with the loftbox? except for UHF and FM/DAB distribution.
    By the way this solution seems to require a dish/dishes with 4 completely independently switchable lnbs ie QUAD lnb which is the sort you can easily attach or replace on a Sky dish.

    So lets now crank up the costs. The next stage up is a MULTISWITCH in its various forms.
    see http://www.satcure.co.uk/accs/page1b.htm
    These distribute multiple lnb inputs to multiple locations. It seems that most suppliers assume that these are facilities only required in blocks of flats or large hotels, but I believe that when Freesat comes along it will be a common requirement for many people. If people choose the Freesat option to go digital (as opposed to Terrestrial Freeview) there will be many homes with a typical requirement for at least 4 independently operating satellite receivers. Yes 4!!! That’s the main lounge, the kitchen, parents bedroom, kid1's bedroom, kid2's bedroom. Oh sorry that's 5. Will we all want to watch Holyoaks? or Match of the day? or Jamie Oliver.
    My understanding is that Multiswitches require a QUATRO lnb (4 fixed outputs) and, THIS IS INTERESTING, this type of lnb apparently does not fit easily into a Sky dish, and you probably need one of the old style 60cm dishes. Glad you didn’t throw away that old analog dish eh? (Oh you did?, well maybe do a bit of skip searching J.)

    We don’t of course yet know how much Freesat boxes will cost, but apart from the EPG circuitry they must be about as cheap to manufacture as current FreetoAir boxes (£50 from Maplin?)…so we can presumably expect to see them bought in significant numbers for additional room use.

    One consequence of all this is that if you are making a strategic decision to “Go Satellite” for your digital switchover, and you want the same sort of flexibility that you currently get with multiple TVs around the home that you get with analog or terrestrial Freeview, then maybe you should be thinking of swatting up on multiswitches and install an old 60cm or 80 cm style dish instead of a Skydish.

    So enough of my rambling, I would welcome comments and a discussion of these issues, from the experts on this forum. I have found Davemurgatroyd2’s comments extremely interesting and I think his skills will be very valuable in the coming months as nonSky Freesat gets nearer and is the option taken by many people in the digital switchover.
     
  2. davemurgatroyd2

    davemurgatroyd2
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    There is also the alternative on freesat of using an octo lnb (eight totally seperate outputs and they fit Sky minidishes) - then one or two lnb cables to every required room. The eight outputs can be used in any combination of ways from eight rooms each with a single tuner receiver to four rooms with twin tuner satellite PVRs. This could be similar in cost to piping an aerial feed to each room with its own set top box for DTT (Freeview) depending on the spec of boxes chosen.
     
  3. braychurchmouse

    braychurchmouse
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    Ah, thats a good tip. Seems to be about £60-70 GBP for an Octo lnb and would give enough I think for most houses. I like that solution. Assuming that there's also a UHF combined with FM/DAB circuit from a basic distribution amp it means that there's a couple of cables to each room (or three if twin tuners à la Sky Plus). But at least the uninterupted cable from the lnb to satellite receiver would give lower losses.

    Would the performance/sensitivity of an lnb in an Octo be the same as an individual lnb? or is there some compromise to cram them all in? :eek: Also any recomended brands of Octo lnb? Thanks Dave.
     
  4. davemurgatroyd2

    davemurgatroyd2
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    Try ebay - Sky minidish fitting octos are around £25 inc p&p and non Sky ones around £40. For use in the UK on an adequate sized dish aligned only on Astra 2/Eurobird there is very little perceptible difference for any modern lnb.

    My Wistron octo lnb (on a Sky minidish feeding two Sky+, one FTA PVR and two other non Sky receivers - the non Sky boxes are also connected to two other dishes for multisatellite reception) has a slightly higher signal level than the Wistron quad it replaced - but this may be down to realigning the dish for the extra weight - lnb arms do sag when replacing lnbs with heavier lnbs and more cabling than originally fitted.

    You can also successfully feed both satellite and DTT (and even FM on some) down one cable to each room using appropriate diplexers and splitters So really only a maximum of two satellite quality double screened cables to each room - use seperately if only a standard box in room or diplex/triplex if twin tuner PVR in room - will give a reasonably future proof solution.
     
  5. FeiJi Fancier

    FeiJi Fancier
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    Hi,

    I'd like to ask a similar question about Freesat distribution systems.

    Our housing management service have stated that they intend installing a Freesat service to our flats.

    I spoke to one of our representatives, and she advised that we would not require our own Freesat boxes.

    From this minimal amount of information, is it possible to infer that we will not only not be able to received the BBC HD service, but that we won't even be able to get anything other than analogue mono sound?

    Or am I being paranoid, and flat/property distribution systems take this into account?

    I am particularly interested, because I'm disabled, with very limited income, and cannot afford to subscribe to the alternative Virgin Cable service - in particular the Virgin HD service.

    But equally, if I brought the technical limitations to the attention of other residents it would probably be possible to make a representation to the management company to bring such limitations to their attention, and to register our discord.
     
  6. pjclark1

    pjclark1
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    I have a sky dish on both sides of my house.
    I just upgraded both LNBs with Quads from ebay for £9.95 each delivered.

    I can now feed sat to every room in my house via fairly short runs of cable.
    I'm using old Tv aerial lead for my cabling and it's fine.

    PS
    Tried this with freeview, signal was never good enough, more expensive cable required, never got a satisfactory result.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2008
  7. Ben

    Ben
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    I'm not sure what made you think this from what they said, but if they implied they'd only be running one coax feed into each property - then the good news is you won't be without BBC HD or stereo sound (or even DD 5.1 where applicable). It just means you can't effectively use a twin-tuner PVR or operate two seperate receivers at the same time. Any receiver or single tuner PVR, HD or otherwise, will work fine :)
     
  8. FeiJi Fancier

    FeiJi Fancier
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    How will we be able to change channels then? If there's no "receiver" for the TV?

    If it is merely dropped as a standard terrestrial signal via coax, how will a TV be plugged into it?

    I ask because surely TV manufacturers will be abandoning the standard analogue receiver in TVs before long? It is likely that new televisions will only have a built in digital Freeview receiver and the analogue receiver will be dropped eventually. How will the coax service "interface" with modern TVs?

    Remember they are saying that we won't be able to use a Freesat set top box at all. Or are you saying that we will still need an STB, just not a multi-channel receiver.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2008
  9. Ben

    Ben
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    I apologise, I think I misread your original post. I thought the fact that they told you wouldn't "require your own box" meant that they would supply one for you. Perhaps that is what they meant? ;)

    Anyway, I can't seeing them installing a modern system that requires no receiver at all. Like you said, they'd probably have to modulate each Freesat channel so you could tune them in on an analogue TV - which would result in a poor composite picture & mono sound :thumbsdow
     
  10. FeiJi Fancier

    FeiJi Fancier
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    :mad::(:mad::(:rolleyes:

    That sounds even worse than I anticipated!

    But, does a satellite channel to RF channel modulator exist? Would there be sufficient bandwidth within the TV spectrum to cope with so many channels?

    Oh, and would that even be their cheapest option?
     
  11. iancalderbank

    iancalderbank
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    Such things must exist, although I'm not sure where you'd get one. Have you ever stayed in a uk hotel that had sky sports in the rooms? you are watching an RF modulation (done centrally in the hotel somewhere) of the sky channel , on an analogue TV - you are certainly not watching it on a sat tuner in your room. The picture quality is usually crap. maybe your people got one from a hotel upgrading their system :(

    As per the rest of the thread, better to push them towards a multiswitch solution (nice with a DTT aerial feed as well) then everyone can have their own STB, freeview and/or sat (of whatever flavour, sky, freesat, etc). 2 runs of coax to each apt if poss then you can run a sat pvr.

    personally I will be doing this for freesat, currently already have DTT aerial distributed to all rooms via loft amp, (2x co-ax to each room from loft) need to change this amp to a sat multiswitch and get a dish installed with 4 coax runs to the multiswitch. I think thats a tidier solution than direct cabling from the dish to each room, especially where co-ax to rooms already exists. It also means that a 4x run from the dish to the switch will serve as many rooms as you like (subject to the capability of the multiswitch, have a look on satcure or similar).

    Ian
     

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