At Link Up Communications, we take our tools seriously. Categorized and inventoried after every install, our installation tools are carefully organized in our office on their own ridiculously expensive heavy-duty shelves.
Like you, we know that having the right tool – not just something that will “do” – saves you from a whole lot of angst and frustration. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of what we consider to be essential items and tools for constructing and maintaining satellite uplinks and downlinks.
You’ll want to keep these items in your tool box. Trust me.
Such a very cool website. Before we at Link Up Communications even arrive on site, we spend a few minutes on dishpointer.com because we know those few minutes will save us hours of hassle later.
Here’s how you use dishpointer.com. Go to the site, plug in your address – city, state and zip code – then choose the particular satellite you’d like to look at. Dish pointer will tell you the direction of the satellite. It will give you everything you need to locate the satellite you’re looking for – the latitude, longitude, elevation of my dish, azimuth (both true and magnetic) and also the LNB offset.
Dishpointer.com also helps identify any line-of-site issues before you even arrive on site. It has a small line-of-site checker which can assist you in determining whether or not the object that you think might be an issue actually IS a line-of-site conflict. dishpointer.com can determine how far away an object is from your potential uplink site and how high it would need to be to interfere with your look angle.
What’s more, dishpointer.com has a convenient APP for your smart phone that you can use on-site. Using a live shot from your camera, dishpointer.com can once again give you all pertinent information to locate the satellite you need. You can look through it and get a VERY good idea where your ideal satellite is located so you know where to plant your new uplink or downlink.
Channel your inner Boy Scout. Typically your IPhone or Android has a compass application, but it doesn’t hurt to have an old fashioned “analog” compass as a back up to your app.
You can find a magnetic Angle Finder at any major home improvement/hardware store. It has a magnetic base, so you can put it against the back of the dish or in the location recommended by the antenna manufacturer and you can read the actual angle of elevation. It can tell you specifically – and more accurately – the angle of elevation better than any graduated numbers on the azimuth and elevation mount. You can use this tool in concert with the dish pointer app to, again, narrow the search for “your” satellite.
BORROW OR BUY one, but this baby is essential. It’s usually a fairly small, hand-held device with a screen that provides essential data. There are all sorts of sat finders available. The less expensive Bird Dog, to the Super Buddy by Applied Instruments – their latest version is the VSAT XR-3, to the Schomandl SM120 (which not only has the sat finder app but also has an spectrum analyzer and video decoder built in.) The SM120 IS a bit complicated to use. So if you simply want something you can shoot, point and click, the Super Buddy VSAT XR-3 is our second fav.
A spectrum analyzer is on our must-have list of tools because it can tell you so much more than a satellite meter. A satellite meter will give you the basics – whether or not you have a good signal, if you’ve found the right satellite and if you are on the right polarity. The spectrum analyzer gives you this information, and MORE .Think of it as the difference between viewing a far-away object with magnification versus the naked eye. As you adjust your azimuth, polarity and elevation the spectrum analyzer reveals the information with real-time clarity.
Another plus. A spectrum analyzer can give you second-by-second readings regarding any type of noise level issues you are experiencing – even cross-pole noise. With a spectrum analyzer you can visibly “see” the signal and instantly view the impact of your adjustments with more detail.
There is no satellite tool as versatile as a spectrum analyzer. Not only can it be used for aligning uplinks and downlinks, but you can use it to locate any interference issues later on.
COMPRESSION CONNECTORS AND COMPRESSION TOOL
Always use compression connectors when you are putting together a satellite uplink or downlink. ALWAYS. Why? Because your F-connectors become much more reliable when a compression tool is used. You can use compression tools that are unique to the type of connectors used on a satellite dish. These compression connectors assist in making a more solid, reliable connection, less likely to introduce noise. Plus, as your antenna ages, the connections made with a compression tool will last longer than the old crimp-on connectors -saving you from future failures. When done correctly, connections made with a compression tool will literally last years.
Invest in a great socket set, which can be used on the majority of nuts and bolts on any dish between one meter and 4.5 meters in size. In addition, you may want to have some open-end racketed wrenches and box racketed wrenches – anything to move standard and metered bolts and connectors.
No matter what kind of antenna you have – C-Band or Ku-Band – you don’t want to inspect your satellite uplink or downlink without it.
As mentioned in one of our previous blogs wasps love to nest in compromised feed horns where the clear plastic cover is either cracked or gone. As the nest gets a little bigger and it’s residents gain in numbers (and in activity) your ebno losses begin a downhill spiral.
They can also bed down in the azimuth/elevation mechanical components on the back of the dish.
Our advice: make them regret squatting on your turf. “Kill zem. You must kill zem all, before it’s too late.” Sigmund Freud to Data, Star Trek TNG Phantasms.
Whether you are putting in a new site or maintaining a current site, tree fade happens. Given time, those inconsequential saplings become a problem. Keep a chain saw handy. (Added bonus: storing it in a place of prominence in your office may keep pesky co-workers at bay.)
A really cool, stretchy waterproof silicon tape that is typically used for plumbing, Tommy Tape is Link Up’s go-to tape for sealing up those outside connections on LNB’s, BUC’s, etc. It’s flexible, holds tight, and yet it’s not as “gunky” as some tapes can be. We use it on everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – located on your antenna that may be susceptible to the elements.
Does this list get you thinking about your own toolbox? We hope so. We think these 10 items make up a pretty comprehensive list of essential satellite tools, but if you think of something that is on your personal go-to list that we may have overlooked, let us know. With scheduled maintenance and the right tools, your satellite uplink and downlinks should continue to function for years.