C-band has some great FTA channels to watch

1.2-meter dish with C-band LNB

My 1.2-meter dish with its C-/Ku-band LNB

I’ve been having a great time lately with my 1.2-meter dish. Smaller, normal-sized Ku-band dishes are easier to precisely aim, but that larger surface area prevents rain fade and enables some C-band fun. Let me explain.

Long ago, I bought this fine, huge dish, then had to spend a couple of weeks wrestling with motor mounts till I got it set up to scan the skies. Then I tried to attach a combination C- and Ku-band LNB, which required a lot of tweaking and eventually conical scalar rings, which helped quite a bit. You see, C-band dishes tend to be prime focus dishes, where the LNB is in line with the direction it’s pointing. Ku-band dishes tend to be offset, where the LNB is mounted to catch the signal’s reflection. Those rings help collect that reflection for a stronger, better-quality signal.

Anyway, I experimented a bit with C-band to see which channels I could pick up. Based on Global Communication’s fine FTA C-band list, I was getting about 30% of the channels a regular, full-sized C-band dish could receive. After awhile, I swapped my sensitive Ku-only LNB into place and put away my thoughts of C-band.

A few weeks ago, a kind soul pointed out that a couple of Ku-band news channels had appeared at 99W. After I’d pointed the dish and verified those, I remembered that 99W was the best place to find viewable C-band channels. So I took off the sensitive Ku-band LNB, reached for my C/Ku combo on the porch and, yick! The year or so of exposure to the elements had not been kind. The label was off. A little bit of plastic that had kept me from looking all the way inside the LNB was gone. It was dusty and a little cobwebby. I figured I was going to have to order a new one, but what the heck, I might as well try this one first. I cleaned out the LNB, used its same old mounting bracket, whipped out my SatHero signal meter, plugged it into the right C/Ku connector on the second try (you’d think that the C would be the one in back), and Beep, Beep, Beep. Galaxy 16 was coming in clear as a bell, and I soon verified that the dish was already in position for peak signal quality.

Here’s what’s available for me just from that position:

  • KRBK (Fox Osage Beach MO) and MeTV
  • KCWY (NBC Casper WY)
  • NBC, Fox, and This TV affiliates from the Virgin Islands
  • KNLC (independent St. Louis)
  • A cluster of channels, including Cozi, from LeSEA
  • Living Faith TV
  • GEB America and God’s Learning Channel (bleeding over from 101W)
  • Heroes & Icons, Movies!, and TouchVision (101)
  • AMG TV, and The Walk/Dr TV (97)

Those bleeding-over channels aren’t always available (more on that later), but I could still make a case that this little bunch of English-language, general-audience channels are more valuable to me than all current FTA Ku-band channels combined. (Especially if you don’t count the PBSs of 125W, where that dish in the background of my photo is always pointed.) I watched an out-of-market NFL game Sunday (even though I already subscribe to Dish Network’s NFL Red Zone) just like the good old days of Equity Broadcasting and Galaxy 10R.

I kept looking around, and it just got better. Over at 87W, I’m able to pick up the 30+ Luken Communications affiliates and channels, including Retro TV, Tuff TV, My Family TV, PBJ, Heartland, and Rev’n. At 91W, I see BYU TV, KLUZ (Univision, Albuquerque) and TV Montana. There are a few feed sources and other oddball channels, but this is nifty!

It’s all great stuff, but it’s erratic. Sometimes channels won’t come in for me, especially those bleed-over channels I mentioned, no matter where I point the dish. Other users tell me that similar setups pick up more or fewer C-band channels depending on latitude, satellite footprint, and who knows what. These are the reasons why I can’t easily add them to FTAList.com for folks who use a certain dish size. Maybe there’s a way to map who gets what where, but I can’t wrap my head around it yet. For now, I just wanted to share this with you. Maybe it will inspire your own mini-C-band experiments.