4 mission-critical factors you need to consider before installing an antenna

downlink install

Looking for a site to install a new uplink or one of your downlinks? Sometimes your “ideal” site is not the best placement. When looking for a site to install a satellite downlink,  consider these four critical factors.


Choose a spot where you can see the entire arc.

Can you readily see sky from 74 to 139 degrees? That’s the big question.

And when you’re looking for answers, here’s where the website dishpointer.com comes in handy. This really popular tool will assist you in finding the specific satellite your antenna needs to look at.

It’s simple: go to the site, plug in your address – city, state and zip code – then choose the satellite. dishpointer.com Will then give you everything you need to locate the satellite you’re looking for – the latitude, longitude, elevation of the dish, azimuth (both true and magnetic) —  even the LNB offset.

Once you’ve found your orbiting satellite, use dishpointer.com to identify possible line-of-site issues. Though not quite as accurate as a site survey, it does have a nifty line-of-site checker which can assist you in determining whether or not the object that you think might be an issue actually IS a line-of-site conflict. With dishpointer.com, you can determine how far away an object is from your potential uplink site, and how high it would need to be to interfere with your look angle.


Take a closer look at the soil.

You know the saying, “Appearances can be deceiving?” This definitely applies to potential sites for installing an antenna.

Over the years we’ve been at sites that at first glance looked okay, only for us to discover problems when we broke ground.

Solid rock in Tennessee, shifting clay in Georgia, water table issues in Florida; all difficult in their own unique way when one is installing the pedestal mount for the antenna.

Whatever curiosities you know about your site, you should research or, better yet, share your suspicions with your installer, before deciding on a location and type of foundation.


Observe Your Surroundings.

This goes beyond the visibility of the arc; this is about figuring out potential environmental pitfalls, like extreme weather events, that may affect your antenna’s performance – and positioning your dish accordingly.

Is your site often subjected to harsh winter weather? Then placing your antenna under a tower, where melting snow and ice can fall and damage, may not be a good idea.

A few years ago we were called to replace two downlinks in South Florida — different sites in different cities — damaged beyond repair in the aftermath of the same Cat 4 hurricane. In both instances, both antennas were placed a bit too close to nearby buildings. Flying rooftop debris left the dishes inoperable.

But really – who can anticipate Mother Nature? Even when you take great care to strategically locate your antenna in an optimum locale, stuff happens.

A year after replacing the hurricane-damaged antennas, we were called to another site a few hundred miles away — a small picturesque college campus on North Florida’s gulf coast.

To protect their downlinks from wind damage, the radio stations’s engineering staff had strategically placed their antennas on a small knoll, protected on three sides by buildings. A strategically smart decision, but it ended up being the antennas’ unprotected side that carried the the full impact of the storm; rotating wind gusts clocking over 165 miles per hour. The antennas didn’t stand a chance.


Choose a backup site.

When we send someone to conduct a site survey for an existing or potential customer, we choose at least two possible places to break ground – then discuss the pros and cons of each with the customer. That way — if for some reason the primary locale doesn’t work out — we can shift gears quickly and install at the secondary site with our client’s full knowledge and approval.

There is no “perfect” place for you to erect your satellite antenna. There will always be less-than-ideal conditions which, if not further explored, will cause you headaches.

Here’s our best advice:  Take the time to really explore all the potential pitfalls your site may have. Perhaps even visit the site periodically — in different seasons, and before and after weather events — so you have a better picture of what your site offers before groundbreaking begins. Your timeline, budget, and on air product will thank you.