Thursday, June 26, 2014

Satellite Meters

Now that we've finished discussing the history and development of mobile satellite Internet, it's time to start talking about things that are relevant today ... things that might help you if you currently use mobile satellite Internet or things that might help you decide if you will use it!

Why a Satellite Meter?

When you are setting up a satellite dish, you absolutely must have some way to observe the received signal. There are several reasons for this:
  • A meter allows you to recognize when you have "found" the satellite in the sky.
  • A meter makes it easy to peak the received signal, once you locate it. 
  • When you adjust the dish for the strongest possible received signal, MOST of the time you have adjusted for minimum interference and the strongest transmitted signal, too!

Types of Satellite Meters

Consumer satellite meters or signal displays fall into about three categories:
  • Built-in signal display
  • External meter used in-line with modem and dish
  • Self-powered external meter
Let's take a look at each of these signal meters.

SkyManage Built-in Signal Display

The best thing about the StarBand SkyManage built-in signal display is that it is free! You automatically get it, when you get a StarBand SkyEdge satellite modem.

It is a web-based interface that responds to the IP address It will also respond to the unique public IP address that it is assigned when the modem is activated for service (commissioned).

On the SkyManage Telemetry page, the EbN0 scale shows the signal being received currently. Eb/N0  is the ratio of energy per bit to noise power spectral density. It is a normalized signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) measure, also known as the "SNR per bit".

Until you actually point at the correct satellite, the scale will be blank.
SkyManage signal display
SkyManage Telemetry Signal Display

An EbN0 value of 5.0 is considered marginal. It is likely that the connection will go off and online periodically and will probably be offline when it is extremely cloudy.  Shown above is a very good signal with plenty of room for "rain fade".

Clearly, the cables must be connected from the transmitter and LNB to the modem, and the modem must be powered on, before you can point the dish and optimize the received signal. 

With this approach, it is helpful to have two people: one to watch the computer monitor showing the signal and relay what they see to the other one, who is adjusting the dish. Some users have used their smartphone to connect to their wireless router and modem, so they can view the display out at the dish. Still others take their laptop and modem outside for pointing.

External Meter In-line With LNB and Modem - The SatHero Satellite Meter

The nice thing about an external meter is that if gives you the ability to observe the received signal at the dish, without the need to take another device outside for pointing. And, because it is designed for outside use, it is much more visible outside than either a smartphone or a laptop. It's also a fairly small device.

Mobile Internet Satellite recommends the SatHero meter for anyone who needs to minimize expenses and who doesn't mind the extra hassle of hooking up the cables and powering on the modem, to provide power to the meter. Once you have done that, this small device will make the job of pointing the dish and optimizing the received signal almost simple.

This meter comes pre-programmed for StarBand's satellites. When you are pointed at  the correct satellite, the tone changes and the LOCK LED lights.
SatHero satellite meter
SatHero Satellite Meter

Self-powered External Meter - The First Strike Satellite Meter

Self-powered meters go one step further in convenience, thereby making the job of pointing dish even easier. You set up the tripod, dish, and arm ... then you make the initial settings for elevation and skew and point in approximately the right direction. Now, you just connect the meter, power it on, and start looking for the satellite!

The First Strike meter says “Locked” when you are pointed at the satellite. Then, you peak the signal. It can be used to peak TV signals too, but it will not say “Locked”.

First Strike satellite meter
First Strike Satellite Meter

Self-powered External Meter - The BirDog Satellite Meter

The BirDog satellite meter is the cadillac of satellite meters. The newer models even have a spectrum analyzer function built-in.  When you point at the selected satellite, the tone will change and it will say “Found”. This is true for  both StarBand and TV satellites.

BirDog satellite meter
BirDog Satellite Meter


  1. Great synopsis, Barb! You've done an excellent job of explaining the methods available and I'm learning about new hardware from you.

    1. I'm glad you like it ... thanx for following! :-)