Fact Checked

What is a Portable Satellite Radio?

Carol Francois
Carol Francois

A portable satellite radio uses a satellite connection to allow consumers to access radio stations. Satellite radio stations are available with a paid subscription to a satellite radio service. A portable satellite radio receives hundreds of radio stations that are not available without a subscription.

Satellite radio is a digital signal transmitted on specific radio frequencies, which can only be accessed from a satellite radio receiver. The signal itself is distributed from a communication satellite. There are several satellite radio companies available in Europe, Asia and North America.

Satellite radio is a digital signal that is distributed from a communication satellite.
Satellite radio is a digital signal that is distributed from a communication satellite.

A built-in automobile receiver, transferable tuner and a portable satellite radio receiver are all methods of accessing satellite radio service. In an automobile receiver, the receiver can be installed into the roof of the vehicle and the tuner is built into the dashboard stereo. With a transferable satellite receiver, a kit can be purchased at an electronics store for easy installation.

Portable satellite kits come with a tuner, receiver and car dash mount. Instructions are provided to allow consumers to install these units themselves. A home kit can also be purchased to allow the satellite receiver to be attached to your home stereo system.

For a home installation, the receiver provided in the satellite radio kit must be placed in a window. The radio tuner is connected to the stereo system with an auxiliary cable. Each kit comes with a separate receiver and radio tuner stand to allow users to transfer the same satellite radio tuner to multiple locations.

A portable satellite radio is a single unit with a built-in receiver and tuner and an improvement over the transferable satellite kit. These units can be used inside the home, in the car, or while exercising outside. The hand held units have a enhanced signal receiver to overcome the limitation of signal reception from a satellite.

There are two types of satellite services available: mobile and fixed location. Mobile systems, such as XM Satellite™ and Worldspace™ are designed for users who want to access the service while moving anywhere on the continent. Fixed location services, such as Music Choice™ or Muzak™ provide background music to retail stores, hotel lobbies and other fixed locations.

Satellite receivers are all issued an electronic serial number radio ID, which is used to validate the device against the service subscription database. This ID number ensures that only paid subscribers are able to access satellite radio programming. The radio ID number can be located within the satellite radio tuner as required.

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Discussion Comments


@Melonlity -- True, but things have gotten better of the years. My wife and I both have cars with satellite radios in them and do have to pay for two Sirius radio subscriptions to keep them running. However, there are now multiple subscription discounts, so adding devices isn't nearly as expensive as it used to be.

You might want to keep that in mind so you can purchase devices that are best suited for the area where you want to listen (the listening environment in a car is different than in your home so there are other things to keep in mind, see?)

But, there are clearly advantages to getting a mobile satellite radio and docking it at various places. The inexpensive multiple subscription model, tough, gives people some flexibility they maybe didn't have before.


From what I understand, these are ideal because you have a "one device, one subscription" policy for satellite radio. If you want to listen to satellite radio at home and in your car, you can either purchase two devices and two subscriptions or buy one portable device and pay for only one subscription.

You will be out some money in the beginning because portable satellite radios and docks for your home and car will cost a bit of money, but you can save a bundle in the end.

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    • Satellite radio is a digital signal that is distributed from a communication satellite.
      By: Wire_man
      Satellite radio is a digital signal that is distributed from a communication satellite.