Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dishes and Modems and Feed Arms, Oh, My!

Both StarBand and HughesNet improved their hardware and software. Life kept getting easier for the mobile users.

I should probably mention that all of the equipment discussed is Ku-band satellite equipment. Ku-band services have huge coverage areas, which is why you can move the equipment around (be mobile) and still get online. The newer Ka-band services will not be discussed, since they are spot-beamed and the equipment cannot be moved. For more details, see Ku- or Ka-band Services?

Early StarBand Equipment

I mentioned that StarBand went from the StarBand 360 to the self-hosted StarBand 481/484 modems. The biggest and most welcome change was getting away from the need to install software on a PC. Not only did the communications software tend to cause problems on the PC, but it was also more difficult to network, especially for Macintosh or Linux computers. The modems all had ON/OFF switches.

All three of the modems used the same outdoor equipment, called Phase II. Note in the photo that the StarBand 481 modem has only one Ethernet port, whereas the 484 has four. The 484 had a built-in switch and the service it came with included four public IP addresses. (There were actually six IP addresses, but they only told you about four of them.) The earlier Starband equipment is shown below.

Early StarBand equipment

Current StarBand Equipment

The current equipment includes Phase III outdoor components and a StarBand Nova SkyEdge modem. There are two versions of the modem and neither has an ON/OFF switch. The newer version is slightly smaller and the serial port is an RJ-45 plug, like the LAN port. The older version had a standard DB-9 serial port (shown below). 

The arm is longer than the Phase II arm and is square-shaped, rather than rounded. The longer arm resulted in a signal with lower cross-pol interference, but a weaker signal. The dish is slightly more elongated and also contributed to the weaker signal. The equipment is shown below.
Current StarBand equipment

Early HughesNet Equipment

HughesNet went from the DW4000 to the DW6000, and then the DW7000. Like the StarBand 360, the DW4000 needed software installed on the PC; like the StarBand 481/484, the DW6000 and DW7000 did not. Once wireless routers became available and affordable, you could hook a router up directly to the modem.

There was a version of the DW4000, the DW4020, which included a router, so you could plug in multiple devices. 

The tripod setup in the middle shows the white fiberglass dish and feed arm that came with the DW4000. Note that the transmitter is permanently connected to the feed arm. 

The DW6000 and DW7000 came with a  gray Gen V fiberglass dish ... and, the radio assembly on the Gen V feed arm could be changed. The fiberglass dishes are still used by mobile HughesNet users, because they are practically indestructible, as long as they don't blow over in the wind! The newer metal dishes can become bent or warped and they will no longer function.
Early HughesNet equipment

Current HughesNet Equipment

The current HughesNet equipment uses the HNS7000S modem. Previous equipment all carried the name DirecWay, as the service was called, but with the last generation of the modem, HughesNet dropped the DirecWay designation and used the "HN" for HughesNet in the modem name. There were different metal dishes used, each with a unique feed arm. On the left is the Raven outdoor equipment, which was replaced by the Prodelin outdoor equipment. There have been more than one model of Prodelin equipment.
Current HughesNet equipment

The HN7000S modem will be the last one that HughesNet sells. They have launched two of their own satellites, which use the newer Ka-band frequencies and they have outsourced the remaining Ku-band services to several VARs. Little by little, HughesNet is completely phasing out Ku-band services as the transponder leases HughesNet has on satellites owned by other companies expire.

That's all for this week. Next week, I'll talk about the Satellite Rallies we held from 2003 through 2007.

1 comment:

  1. I just realized that I forgot to mention the REALLY first satellite Internet modem!

    Anyone hear of the DW3000?

    This was our first encounter with satellite Internet during the first year we were full-time RVers: 1999

    We were spending our first winter at the Newport Dunes RV Park. At that time, the park was still owned by the original owners and it was affordable then.

    While we were staying there and suffering a very slow dial-up connection, we heard about DirecPC. For only $39.95 per month, you could have "up to" 500 Kbps down!
    The modem used was the DW3000 ... as usual, the "DW" stood for DirecWay in this two-way satellite service for consumers.

    The uplink for DirecPC was a dial-up connection, but since most of the data was heading down, it seemed like it would be a vast improvement. And, it was!

    Using a dialup connection to go back to the Internet is called "dial return".