On Twitter, Dr. Jason Malinowski asks: “Why do we spend so much time aiming our home satellite dish, when the car satellite radio works irrespective of direction?” Globe Technology editor Shane Dingman says the answer is all about bandwidth. “Have you ever tried to watch a YouTube video on your phone on a really old and slow wireless network? Like, an Edge 2G network?” It’s a fairly unbearable experience, he says, because of the bandwidth issue. “It takes forever, constantly buffering. The picture is often pixelated worse than normal and it could drop out altogether. The reason for that? Video signals are huge.”
Dingman says the same could be said for a satellite signal on an ill-adjusted TV:
The reason a satellite radio provider can put an omni-directional antenna in your car and send you signals from space while you race down the highway is all about bandwidth. SiriusXM, for instance broadcasts at about of 64 kilobytes/second, which is more than enough for you to receive a fairly consistent audio signal (weather can impact signal strength, as can a range of other factors).
By contrast, an HD video signal from your typical satellite TV provider needs about 25 megabytes per second: That’s about 400 times the data being transferred compared to radio. That’s why your satellite TV antenna needs to be fixed and directional: to ensure the strongest possible signal. Viewers expect a clear, constant stream of video from their service, and that means optimizing the connection between your house and the satellite.
Disclosure: BCE operates a satellite TV system, and also owns 15 per cent of The Globe and Mail.