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Satellite Jargon Explained

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Satellite Jargon Explained

Post  Admin on Fri 21 May - 10:11

"The following information is for educational purposes only"


Television encryption, often referred to as "scrambling", is encryption used to control access to pay television services, usually cable or satellite television services.

Conditional Access (CA)

Conditional access (CA) is the protection of content by requiring certain criteria to be met before granting access to this content. The term is commonly used in relation to digital television systems, most notably satellite television.
Under the DVB, conditional access system standards are defined in the specification documents for DVB-CA (Conditional Access), DVB-CSA (the Common Scrambling Algorithm) and DVB-CI (the Common Interface). These standards define a method by which a digital television stream can be obfuscated, with access provided only to those with valid decryption smart cards.

Conditional Access Module (CAM)

A conditional access module (CAM) is an electronic device, usually incorporating a slot for a smart card, which equips a DVB television or set-top box with the appropriate hardware facility to view conditional access content that has been encrypted using a conditional access system. They are normally used with direct broadcast satellite services, although the UK digital terrestrial pay TV supplier Top Up TV also uses CAMs.
Some encryption systems for which CAMs are available are Nagravision, Viaccess, Mediaguard, Irdeto, Conax, PowerVu and KeyFly. NDS Videoguard encryption, the preferred choice of Sky Digital can only be externally emulated by a Dragon (T-Rex) brand cam. The NDS cam which the Sky viewing card ordinarily uses is built into the Sky Digibox thus not visible. Dragon and Matrix, two popular cams with satellite television enthusiasts are multicrypt meaning each is capable of handling more than one encryption system. Matrix is more likely to be used by a novice as it can be upgraded via the PC card port in a laptop personal computer whereas a Dragon cam update is done via separate programmer hardware.
The standard format for a CAM is a PC card which takes a smart card to authenticate, although CAMs with the 'smart card' burnt into memory can be found. In addition, CAM emulators exist for many systems, either providing an interface to allow the use of more than one type of card, or a card not designed for that receiver.
The most popular CAMS are the Diablo and T-Rex4.6 multiCAM's at this time.
Note: This does require a receiver with an available CI slot, such as 9300C and 9400 models.

Common Interface (CI)

The Common Interface (CI) is the slot on a digital television receiver into which a conditional access module (CAM) may be inserted for satellite television. Receivers normally have two common interfaces. A receiver with a common interface allows the user to access encrypted television broadcasts as opposed to free-to-air (FTA) channels. The NanoXX 9300c (Cable), and 9400 (Sat) models have 2 x CI slots.

Emulation (EMU)

Emulation refers to something slightly different in ISO 7816 than in other computer design applications; it is the connection of a personal computer in place of a smartcard using an ISO 7816-compatible "season interface" for test or development purposes. The PC is programmed to simulate the entire instruction set of the smartcard's microcontroller to allow smartcard code to be developed more readily. As some encryption systems require an application-specific IC (ASIC) on the card to perform decryption, a pirate would also use a card which had been "auxed" (reprogrammed to pass received computer data directly to the application-specific decryption chip) in order to employ such an emulation system.


A number of pairs of hexadecimal numbers that are needed in conjuction with the EMU for opening channels from specific providers. Sometimes the keys become public on the internet - but you will have to look elsewhere, as this forum does not permit keys being posted. The interval between key changes varies from provider to provider. Some don't change keys for months, while others like t#s change them every few minutes. When the next series of keys are known, it is possible to load them in software, this is called AutoRoll.

Sometimes it is possible to emulate the function of a CAM and smartcard, to automatically update the keys. This is called AutoUpdate or AU.

Card Sharing (C/S or CS)

Card sharing is a term used concerning Satellite television piracy. As technology has made the security of smartcards in conditional access systems increase, card sharing has become a more popular method of pirate decryption. Much of the development of card sharing hardware and software has taken place in Europe where national boundaries mean that home users are able to receive satellite television signals from many countries but are unable to legally subscribe to them due to licensing restrictions on broadcasters.
Card sharing is a method by which independent satellite receivers obtain simultaneous access to a pay television network, using one legitimate conditional access subscription card. Typically, the legitimate card is attached to a personal computer or set top box, which is connected to a computer network, including the internet, and is configured to provide the legitimately decrypted control word to other receivers who request the information. This decrypted control word is then used to decode an encrypted conditional access service, as though each other receiver were using its own subscription card.


A smart card, chip card, or integrated circuit(s) card (ICC), is defined as any pocket-sized card with embedded integrated circuits. Although there is a diverse range of applications, there are two broad categories of ICCs. Memory cards contain only non-volatile memory storage components, and perhaps some specific security logic. Microprocessor cards contain memory and microprocessor components.

Specifically to Pay TV applications, they are normally found as official subscription cards supplied by Pay TV providers following one off payment or signing a subscription agreement. There are also pirate applications, using programmable cards (Anaconda, Cerebro, OPOS, K3), or Modified Official Smartcards (MOSC), which may be expired official cards, that have had their subscription attributes modified.

Free-to-air (FTA)

Free-to-air (FTA) is a term used to describe television (TV) and radio broadcasts which are broadcast unencrypted and may therefore be picked up via any suitable receiver. The term should not be confused with free-to-view (FTV) which describes TV which is available without subscription but which is encoded and may therefore be restricted geographically. Neither of these options can be described as pay-TV which describes a subscription (or pay-per-view) service which is encrypted. The term usually refers to delivery by satellite television, but in various parts of the world where encrypted digital terrestrial television channels exist, broadcast on UHF or VHF bands, it can also be applied to those systems.

Free-to-view (FTV)

Free-to-view (FTV) is a term used in the United Kingdom for certain television channels on the Sky Digital satellite platform which require a working VideoGuard receiver and viewing card to decrypt the signals, but do not require any form of continual subscription.

Pay television

Pay television or pay-TV refers to subscription-based television services, usually provided by both analogue and digital cable and satellite, but also increasingly by digital terrestrial methods.
Pay per view (PPV) services are similar to subscription-based pay TV services in that you must pay to have the broadcast decrypted for viewing, but usually only entail a one-off payment for a single or time-limited viewing.
"Free" variants are free-to-air (FTA) and free-to-view (FTV), however FTV services are normally encrypted and decryption cards either come as part of an initial subscription to a pay TV bouquet or can be purchased for a one-off cost.

Satellite Dish

A satellite dish is a type of parabolic antenna designed with the specific purpose of transmitting signals to and/or receiving from satellites. A satellite dish is a particular type of microwave antenna. Satellite dishes come in varying sizes and designs, and are most commonly used to receive satellite television.

The parabolic shape of a dish reflects the signal to the dish’s focal point. Mounted on brackets at the dish's focal point is a device called a feedhorn. This feedhorn is essentially the front-end of a waveguide that gathers the signals at or near the focal point and 'conducts' them to a low-noise block downconverter or LNB. The LNB converts the signals from electromagnetic or radio waves to electrical signals and shifts the signals from the downlinked C-band and/or Ku-band to the L-band range. Direct
broadcast satellite dishes use an LNBF, which integrates the feedhorn with the LNB. (A new form of omnidirectional satellite antenna, which does not use a directed parabolic dish and can be used on a mobile platform such as a vehicle was announced by the University of Waterloo.)

Modern dishes intended for home television use are generally 43 cm (18") to 80 cm (31") in diameter, and are fixed in one position, for Ku-band reception from one orbital position. Prior to the existence of Direct broadcast satellite services, home users would generally have a motorised C-band satellite dish of up to 3 metres in diameter for reception of channels from different satellites. Overly small dishes can still cause problems, however, including rain fade and interference from adjacent satellites.

Motorised satellite dishes are still popular with enthusiasts, and three competing standards, which are often all supported by a set-top box, DiSEqC, USALS, and 36v Positioners.

A common misconception is that the LNBF (low-noise block/feedhorn), the device at the front of the dish, receives the signal directly from the atmosphere. See, for instance, this BBC News 24 countdown that shows a "red data stream" being received by the LNBF directly instead of being beamed to the dish, which because of its parabolic shape will collect the signal into a smaller area and deliver it to the LNBF.

In Europe the frequencies used by DBS services are 10.7 - 12.75 GHz on two polarizations H and V.

This represents a total of 4.1 GHz of spectral bandwidth which is split into 4 polarization/frequency bands. On the coaxial cable between the LNBF and the receiver frequencies 950 - 2150 MHz are allocated for the satellite service. Lower frequencies are allocated to Cable and Terrestrial TV, FM radio, etc. There are 4 bands - Vertical High, Vertical Low, Horizontal High and Horizontal Low, each of these bands needs a separate cable from the LNBF to the receiver or the receiver needs to select one of the 4 bands at a time.

In a single receiver residential installation there is a single cable and the receiver uses different power supply voltages and pilot tones to instruct the LNB to select one of the 4 bands. In a larger installation each band is given its own cable and there are 4 cables from the LNB to a switching matrix, which allows the connection of multiple receivers in a star topology using the same signalling method as in a single receiver installation.

The quality of a satellite dish is usually expressed as a G/T ratio. This is the "gain" (I.E.: signal amplification) of the dish divided by the amount of noise the LNB produces. The gain depends on many factors including surface finish, accuracy of shape, feedhorn masking, and size (the bigger the dish the better). The amount of noise an LNB produces depends on design, temperature, and losses in the cables.


DiSEqC (Digital Satellite Equipment Control) pronounced "Die-Sec" is a special communication protocol for use between a satellite receiver and a device such as a multi-dish switch or a small dish antenna rotor. It is compatible with the actuators used to rotate large C band dishes if used with a DiSEqC positioner. It relies only on the coaxial cable to transmit both bidirectional data/signals and power.

DiSEqC is commonly used to control multiswitches and claims to be more flexible than 13/18 volt and 22 kHz tone or ToneBurst/MiniDiSEqC techniques. Despite its name, it has been used on fully analogue or only partially digital-capable (Astra Digital Radio) satellite receivers.

A number of variations of DiSEqC exist:

DiSEqC 1.0, which allows switching between up to 4 satellite sources
DiSEqC 1.1, which allows switching between up to 16 sources
DiSEqC 1.2, which allows switching between up to 16 sources, and control of a simple horizontal-panning satellite motor
DiSEqC 2.0, which adds bi-directional communications to DiSEqC 1.2
All four variations were standardised by February 1998, prior to general use of digital satellite television. They are all back compatible - a DiSEqC 2.0 receiver can control a 1.0 switch; but a 1.0 receiver cannot control motorised features.

The terms DiSEqC 1.3 and 2.3 are often used by manufacturers and retailers to refer to other protocols (1.3 usually refers to USALS receivers), but these uses are not authorised by Eutelsat, the developers
of the system, who now act as the protocol standards agency.

Eutelsat apparently developed the system to allow satellite users in Continental Europe to switch between the more popular SES Astra 1 block of satellites and Eutelsat's own Hotbird system. As a result, the vast majority of European satellite receivers support at least DiSEqC 1.2, with the notable exception of all set top boxes manufactured under the Sky Digibox name. This is thought to be to protect Sky's monopoly of the UK satellite television market, and keep public awareness of other satellite systems low. All supporting receivers have received certification to carry a logo specifying which variation of DiSEqC they support.


Universal Satellites Automatic Location System (USALS), also known (unofficially) as DiSEqC 1.3, Go X or Go to XX is a satellite motor protocol that automatically creates a list of available satellite positions in a motorised satellite dish setup. It is used in conjunction with the DiSEqC 1.2 protocol. It was developed by STAB, an Italian motor manufacturer, who still make the majority of USALS compatible motors.

Software on the satellite receiver (or external positioner) calculates the position of all available satellites from an initial location (input by the user), which is the latitude and longitude relative to Earth.

Calculated positions can differ ±0.1 degrees from the offset. This is adjusted automatically and does not require previous technical knowledge.

Compared to DiSEqC 1.2, it is no longer necessary to manually search and store every known satellite position. Just by pointing to a known satellite position (for example 19.2ºE) is enough. This position will act as the central point. The USALS system will then calculate visible satellites position within the offset. It is advisable to align to the satellite most southerly to your position, although not essential.

As it is not an open standard, for a receiver to carry the USALS logo it must undergo a certification test STAB's laboratories. If successful the manufacturer can include an USALS settings entry in its own menu, as well as place the logo on the front of their unit. However, a large number of manufacturers of both receivers and motors provide compatible modes which have not received certification, leading to use of unofficial terms.


A low-noise block converter (LNB, for low-noise block, or sometimes LNC, for low-noise converter) is used in communications satellite (usually broadcast satellite) reception. The LNB is usually fixed on or in the satellite dish, for the reasons outlined below.

Satellites use comparatively high radio frequencies to transmit their signals.

Ku-band linear-polarised LNBAs microwave satellite signals do not easily pass through walls, roofs, or even glass windows, satellite antennas are required to be outdoors, and the signal needs to be passed indoors via cables. When radio signals are sent through coaxial cables, the higher the frequency, the more losses occur in the cable per unit of length. The signals used for satellite are of such high frequency (in the multiple gigahertz range) that special (costly) cable types or waveguide would be
required and any significant length of cable leaves very little signal left on the receiving end.

The job of the LNB is to use the superheterodyne principle to take a wide block (or band) of relatively high frequencies, amplify and convert them to similar signals carried at a much lower frequency (called intermediate frequency or IF). These lower frequencies travel through cables with much less attenuation of the signal, so there is much more signal left on the satellite receiver end of the cable. It is also much easier and cheaper to design electronic circuits to operate at these lower frequencies, rather than the very high frequencies of satellite transmission.

The “low-noise” part means that special electronic engineering techniques are used, that the amplification and mixing takes place before cable attenuation and that the block is free of additional electronics like a power supply or a digital receiver. This all leads to a signal, which has less noise
(unwanted signals) on the output than would be possible with less stringent engineering. Generally speaking, the higher the frequencies with which an electronic component has to operate, the more critical it is that noise be controlled. If low noise engineering techniques were not used, the sound and picture of satellite TV would be of very low quality, if it could even be received at all without a much larger dish reflector. The low-noise quality of an LNB is expressed as the noise figure or noise temperature.

For the reception of wideband satellite television carriers, typically 27 MHz wide, the accuracy of the frequency of the LNB local oscillator need only be in the order of ±500kHz, so low cost dielectric oscillators (DRO) may be used. For the reception of narrow bandwidth carriers or ones using advanced modulation techniques, such as 16-QAM, highly stable and low phase noise LNB local oscillators are required. These use an internal crystal oscillator or an external 10 MHz reference from the indoor unit and a phase-locked loop (PLL) oscillator.


Direct broadcast satellite (DBS) dishes use an LNBF (“LNB feedhorn”), which integrates the antenna’s feedhorn with the LNB. Small diplexers are often used to distribute the resulting IF signal (usually 950 to 1450 MHz) “piggybacked” in the same cable TV wire that carries lower-frequency terrestrial television from an outdoor antenna. Another diplexer then separates the signals to the receiver of the TV set, and the integrated receiver/decoder (IRD) of the DBS set-top box.

Newer Ka band systems use additional IF blocks from the LNBF, one of which will cause interference to UHF and cable TV frequencies above 250MHz, precluding the use of diplexers. The other block is higher than the original, up to 2.5GHz, requiring the LNB to be connected to high-quality all-copper RG-6/U cables. This is in addition to higher electrical power and electrical current requirements for multiple dual-band LNBFs.

For some satellite Internet and free-to-air (FTA) signals, a universal LNB (Ku band) is recommended.

Most North American DBS signals use circular (not linear) polarisation, therefore requiring a different LNB type for proper reception. In this case, the polarization must be adjusted between clockwise and counterclockwise, rather than horizontal and vertical.

In the case of DBS, the voltage supplied by the set-top box to the LNB determines the polarisation setting. With multi-TV systems, a dual LNB allows both to be selected at once by a switch, which acts as a distribution amplifier. The amplifier then passes the proper signal to each box according to what voltage each has selected. The newest systems may select polarization and which LNBF to use by sending codes instead. The oldest satellite systems actually powered a rotating antenna on the feedhorn, at a time when there was typically only one LNB or LNA on a very large TVRO dish.

Dual/Quad LNB's

Two or Four LNB's in one unit to enable use of multiple receivers on one Dish.

Monobloc LNB's

A unit consisting of two LNB's designed to receive satellites spaced close together. For example in parts of Europe Monobloc's designed to receive the Hotbird (13E) and Astra 1 (19E) satellites are popular because they enable reception of both satellites on a single dish without requiring an expensive and noisy rotator.

Coaxial cable (Coax / Co-ax)

Coaxial cable is an electrical cable consisting of a round conducting wire, surrounded by an insulating spacer, surrounded by a cylindrical conducting sheath, usually surrounded by a final insulating layer. It is used as a high-frequency transmission line to carry a high-frequency or broadband signal. Because the electromagnetic field carrying the signal exists (ideally) only in the space between the inner and outer conductors, it cannot interfere with or suffer interference from external electromagnetic fields.

Coaxial cables may be rigid or flexible. Rigid types have a solid sheath, while flexible types have a braided sheath, both usually of thin copper wire. The inner insulator, also called the dielectric, has a significant effect on the cable's properties, such as its characteristic impedance and its attenuation. The dielectric may be solid or perforated with air spaces. Connections to the ends of coaxial cables are usually made with RF connectors.


The F connector is a type of RF connector commonly used for Over The Air terrestrial television, cable television and universally for satellite television and cable modems, usually with RG-6/U cable or (in older installations) with RG-59/U cable.

The F connector is inexpensive, yet has good 75-ohm impedance match up to 1 GHz. One reason for its low cost is that it uses the center wire of the coaxial cable as the pin of the male connector. While lowering cost, this design drastically reduces the long-term reliability compared to other connectors, the copper wire being extremely prone to corrosion. The male connector body is typically crimped, or sometimes screwed, onto the exposed outer braid. Female connectors have a 3/8-32 thread. Most male connectors have a matching threaded connecting ring, though push-on versions are also available.

Push-on F connector ends provide poor shielding against airborne signals (for example, a nearby TV transmitter will interfere with a CATV station).


Joint Test Action Group (JTAG) is the usual name used for the IEEE 1149.1 standard entitled Standard Test Access Port and Boundary-Scan Architecture for test access ports used for testing printed circuit boards using boundary scan.

JTAG was standardized in 1990 as the IEEE Std. 1149.1-1990. In 1994, a supplement that contains a description of the boundary scan description language (BSDL) was added. Since then, this standard has been adopted by electronics companies all over the world. Boundary-scan is nowadays mostly synonymous with JTAG.

While designed for printed circuit boards, it is nowadays primarily used for testing sub-blocks of integrated circuits, and is also useful as a mechanism for debugging embedded systems, providing a convenient "back door" into the system. When used as a debugging tool, an in-circuit emulator which in turn uses JTAG as the transport mechanism enables a programmer to access an on-chip debug module which is integrated into the CPU via JTAG. The debug module enables the programmer to debug the software of an embedded system.

Bootloader or boot loader

This program's only job is to load other software for the operating system to start. Often, multiple-stage boot loaders are used, in which several small programs of increasing complexity summon each other, until the last of them loads the operating system. The name bootstrap loader comes from the image of one pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps (see bootstrapping). It derives from the very earliest days of computers and is possibly one of the oldest pieces of computer terminology in common use.

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