A community dish with an 8 port LNB in Nairobi

The problem with Dstv community dishes and my solution


It’s not once or twice that I have been called to solve some community dish problems in a block of flats. In fact the last one I was to was the Uchumi building at Juja. Interestingly the person who calls me is the tenant and not the landlord or agent. Let us examine why landlords choose to install community dishes and what causes the community dish related problems.

Community dishes are installed for a variety of reasons, the major one being for aesthetic value. The second reason is for customer satisfaction and to help the tenant settle quickly without waiting for a Dstv installer to come.

The major problem with badly installed community dishes is that some channels work perfectly while others do not work at all. All you will see on the screen is the message “Searching for signal at ##### Mhz”. When I am called what I usually do is install another dish on the balcony to serve the tenants single decoder only. The customer usually pays the full amount for the package of his choice but only a fraction of the channels only work. At this point let me say that I am not behind that ugly wiring in the featured image above. Take a look at what else this guy did.

A televes amplifier used in a community dish set up

The other problem is if a tenant has a Zuku kit, then it will definitely not work with a dish pointed at Dstv’s satellite. There is no short cut here; the Zuku dish has to be installed on its own. The same also applies for Azam and Starsat.

What causes this problem?

The inline amplifier installed near the dish is usually the problem. Amplifiers like Televes can accept LNB as well as RF inputs for the Analogue/ Digital TV as well as FM radio reception. After amplification the Single output cable is passed through splitters. From these splitters for example 8X1 Splitter, 8 houses can be served without the need of having every single tenant with his/her own dish on the roof.

Clash of the titans H and V

Normal single view Dstv decoders can only accept one polarity at a time. So it’s either you are watching a TV station hosted on a Horizontally polarized transponder or a Vertically polarized transponder. When a single cable is fed though multiple decoders, the clash of the titans happens. Now it’s a first come first serve situation. If Omondi, tenant number 4 came home early at 4pm and tuned to his favourite Dstv channel hosted on V, the LNB will receive a signal to make it only receive channels on the V polarity. If no one else has arrived from work, then Omondi can enjoy all channels on the H and V polarity.

Now Kipn’geno has arrived from work and switched on his Dstv decoder and switches to a channel of his choice hosted on an H polarity. If Omondi’s decoder is still on a V polarity channel then Kipn’genos channel will not work. Now he has to stick to the V polarity channels.

If by 8pm all 8 tenants have arrived home, they will all be forced to watch channels hosted on a transponder the Omondi chose at 4pm.

Grace on the other hand is not satisfied with the situation and decides to call me and install her own dish on the balcony. In some situations the care taker will refuse another dish to be installed because of aesthetics. Too many dishes on the roof, balcony or on the walls are an eyesore according to some rich landlords. But at what expense: a beautiful building with dissatisfied tenants who will eventually move out to an apartment where they can have more freedom.

How to address the situation

The best way I would address this problem is to install only one dish without a Televes Amplifier. On the dish I would mount an 8X1 LNB. Now from each port I would draw a good quality coaxial cable to each house. The 8 port LNB acts like 8 different satellite dishes installed with a single LNB on each. On the LNB each port connected to a single decoder will have no problems at all.

If the apartments have a much bigger capacity than 8 tenants then a 16X1 LNB will definitely work. In case of more than 16 tenants, then two dishes with 16X1 LNBs will definitely satisfy everyone.

The second solution is using a single cable LNB. I have never seen one physically but I have seen and read about it in the Tele Audio vision magazine. It’s the Maxing MX-OCS12, perfect for using with existing TV Cabling. These guys are amazing they even have an LNB with an integrated DiSEqC switch.

The other method involves having a dedicated room with multiswitches that serve each and every house without any problems. This is the most expensive method.