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C.19: What are the differences between DSS/P /E/A/BUD systems?


This article is from the Digital Broadcast Satellites FAQ, by Brian Trosko btrosko@primenet.com with numerous contributions by others.

C.19: What are the differences between DSS/P /E/A/BUD systems?

This is a complicated issue, and while this FAQ will present
a basic overview, the reader is encouraged to do additional research
for a more complete answer.

DSS systems are by far the most popular home satellite system.
The chief program provider, DirecTV, claims about 2.5 million
subscribers at this point in time. DSS systems are sold under
the following brand names: Sony, Toshiba, RCA, GE, Panasonic,
Magnavox, and Uniden. These receivers differ in features, but
all provide the same high-quality video and sound. Programming
costs for a DSS subscription typically range from 30 to 60 dollars a
month, but there are individual packages running from 7 dollars to
45 dollars a month. With DSS, there are *two* program providers,
DirecTV, and their smaller partner, USSB. DirecTV is responsible
for most general interest programming (CNN, Discovery, E!, etc.) but
does offer a few premium movie services, like Starz!. DirecTV also offers
the pay-per-view movie channels, regional sports networks, and seasonal
sports packages. USSB offers most of the premium movie channels
(Multichannel HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc.), major pay-per-view
sporting events, and the Viacom networks (MTV, Nickelodeon, Lifetime).

Dish Network is a competing 18" dish system commonly referred to
by the name of the parent company, Echostar, or E* for short. Its
principal advantage is that the programming costs are slightly cheaper,
and the hardware can be significantly cheaper, especially when additional
receivers are required. Programming costs for Dish Network typically range
from 25 to 35 dollars a month, but the least expensive package is 10
dollars a month. Dish Network offers several general interest channels
that DSS does not, primarily superstations like WGN, and also offers more
foreign-channel programming, and religious programming. An additional
advantage is that there is only one program provider to pay, which
simplifies selection and billing. However, many people have reported that
the picture has more visible digital artifacts than DSS, and also that
the sound, particularly on the music channels, sounds flat and lifeless,
or contains annoying high-pitched interference of some sort. Additionally,
E* does not offer as many sports or movies as DSS, due to a lower amount
of PPV stations (12 v. 60+) and lack of seasonal sports packages. Current
Dish Network receiver interfaces are also a bit clunky, lacking many of
the features present on the current DSS receivers. For example, Dish
receivers give you the ability to search for only a type of program in the
program guide, like "Movies," or "Sports." By contrast, DSS receivers
allow you to search for "Comedies," or "Basketball." Dish receivers also
currently lack timer controls; they will be available shortly in a
downloadable software patch, but not on all models. Dish Network
receivers do offer a "Browse" feature, which DSS receivers do not; this
feature allows you to flip through an abbreviated on-screen guide without
interrupting the viewing of the currently selected program. Despite any
disadvantages, Dish Network is a very fast-growing product, and it is
definitely worth a look.

Primestar is not, strictly speaking, a DBS service. It is an operation
of several of the major cable companies (TCI, Cox, etc.) and was
originally intended as a means to deliver cable programming to people who
lived in the boonies and did not have landline cable yet. Perhaps the
most significant difference of P* is that you do not own it; you rent it,
just like you rent a cable box. Costs for P* typically consist of at
least a $200 installation, and then at least a $35 monthly fee for both
programming and hardware. Primestar works off of a lower-powered
satellite, and so the dish is around 36" in diameter, instead of
18" like DSS or E*.

Alphastar (A*) is a system that has had major problems getting
off the ground (no pun intended). They use a larger dish (Roughly
40") to provide programming, and are nowhere near as popular as the
other systems described here. At this date, A* claims roughly
27,000 subscribers, as compared to DirecTVs 2+ million, or E*'s
roughly 300,000+. Plans were being made by A* and Amway to
provide the system door-to-door and through MLM schemes, but
those plans have apparently fallen though. At this point,
it seems that the primary advantage of A* is the availabilty of
hardcore pornography, which isn't available on any other
small-dish system. A* is also harder to install than other systems,
since its use of linear polarity, rather than circular polarity, means
that one must align the LNB separately from the dish itself.

BUD is an acronym for Big, Ugly Dish, and refers to large-dish,
conventional C-band or Ku-band satellite systems. Such systems
are much more expensive than DBS hardware, but due to the wide
variety of program providers and program packages, can be much
less expensive on a yearly basis. BUDs also give access to various
'wildfeeds,' as well as a few channels, like NASA, that aren't offered
over any DBS system. BUD systems are definitely beyond the scope of
this FAQ, and there is another newsgroup, rec.video.satellite.tvro, which
is devoted to them.


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