What Should I Consider When Buying a Portable Satellite Dish?

John Lister

A portable satellite dish is a simple way to receive satellite TV signals anywhere. It is most commonly used in camper vans, caravans and other recreational vehicles. However, it can also be used in permanent buildings, for example a holiday home.

A portable satellite dish can receive television signals from satellites.
A portable satellite dish can receive television signals from satellites.

Arguably the most important feature of any portable satellite equipment is the speed and ease with which it can be assembled or disassembled. After all, while some users are happy to spend a couple of hours setting up a dish at home, that's really not an option if you want to make the most of a vacation or other getaway break. Thanks to some specialist features in portable equipment, the process can be much quicker.

Portable satellite dishes allow people to receive satellite TV signals almost anywhere.
Portable satellite dishes allow people to receive satellite TV signals almost anywhere.

Look for portable satellite equipment which includes indicators to show when you have the dish level. An off-kilter dish makes alignment with satellites difficult if not impossible. Some dishes have electronic readings to solve this problem, though you can also get models with built-in spirit levels.

You'll also have to set the dish at the correct angle, sometimes referred to as the elevation. This is because you will be in a different position relative to the satellite's location. Some systems can automate this process, particularly if you have a mechanized model. With other systems you'll need to consult a chart to find the appropriate elevation for your location.

Consider your options for mounting the dish on a vehicle. Some forms of set-up involve attaching a pole to the side of your vehicle to hold the dish in place and at a suitable elevation. Others use suction pads to hold it directly on the vehicle. If choosing the latter, make sure not to cut costs as it will be a false economy if the suction pads are not of a high enough quality.

You may need to check whether portable dishes are usable with your satellite provider. For example, some providers require the dish to be connected to a telephone line for a certain period after signing up to a service. If this is the case, take into account the possible legal and practical consequences of breaking this requirement. If you are crossing international borders, check whether your subscription to any premium channels is still valid.

You will also need to check what reception is available for portable satellite equipment in the areas you are planning to visit. Because of the way satellite channels are broadcast at different frequencies, you may find that in some areas you do not have all your usual channels available. If you are planning to watch your own country's programming abroad, be particularly careful to check this point as major networks are often the hardest stations to pick up outside of their intended broadcast area.

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Discussion Comments


I have a friend who uses a portable satellite dish when he goes camping and sometimes at home. I don't know whether the problem is his lack of knowledge regarding setting the dish up or the quality of portable dishes in general, but he has had nothing but problems with the device.

Seldom is he able to get decent reception on more than a couple channels, and when there is any type of interference in the air, he gets nothing. When a storm is anywhere in the vicinity it is a waste of time to try to watch anything.


My wife is not a TV watcher, so she was not very enthusiastic when I told her I wanted to get satellite TV so I could view more of the programs I wanted to see. One of her main concerns was how the satellite dish would look in the yard or on the house. To make her happy, I told her that I would get a portable satellite dish so it would not be a permanent fixture, or eyesore as she would say.

I guess I didn't really think this through. If you are planning to get a portable dish then you should know that while setting it up may be relatively simple, there is still some work involved in the process, and you are not going to want to take it down unless it is absolutely necessary to do so.

I have to move my dish around manually to get it set in the right direction and at the right angle, so it is more trouble than some of the ones described in the article. As you might have guessed, the portable dish has not been down since I set it up the first time. However, on the positive side, it is stationed on the back side of the house and it is small, so it is somewhat hidden from view.

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