If you’re new to free-to-air and a little curious about what the satellite lingo you read or head about, then you are in luck.  Here are some FTA related definitions and explanation of terms you’ll hear as a free-to-air satellite hobbyist.

At the end of most of these definitions, there’s a w link to a Wikipedia entry for a more detailed explanation.

Analog: The old style of TV delivery, where the amplitude or frequency variations corresponded to the intensity of particular colors. w

Antenna: For most satellite TV signals, it’s a parabolic dish. For over-the-air TV reception, it’s wire shaped either pointy, bow-tied, or round. w

APID: Audio payload identifier. The number associated with a particular audio channel within a multiplexed stream. w

ATSC: The standard developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee for digital TV transmission. In the Americas, it replaced the NTSC analog system. w

Attenuation: The amount of strength that a signal loses as it travels through space. w

Azimuth: In pointing satellite dishes, it’s the compass direction of the satellite. w

Bandwidth: The range of frequencies used by a given signal. w

Bird: Slang for satellite.

Bit: The one-or-zero basic unit of digital communication. w

Bit Rate: The amount of information sent per unit of time, typically expressed in kilobits (kbps) or megabits (Mbps) per second. w

Broadcast: Distribution from one sender to many recipients. w

C Band: The range of frequencies used by large (six feet or wider) dishes. w

Carrier: An electromagnetic wave that carries program content in its signal. w

CATV: Originally Community Antenna Television, where a local system would put an antenna on a nearby hill to pick up regional over-the-air TV signals. Later used for all cable TV. w

Channel: Depending on how it’s used, a channel can be a specific frequency for a given information source, or it can be the information source itself. w

Circular Polarization: The polarization method in which the signal is transmitted in a clockwise or counter-clockwise sequence. Used by Dish Network and Bell TV. w

Clarke Belt: The only place where satellites can stay in geosynchronous orbit. It’s a narrow band about 22,000 miles above the equator. The idea of geostationary orbit was first widely popularized by Arthur C. Clarke in 1945. w

Coaxial Cable: The thick wires with (typically) screw-on connectors that link LNBs to switches and receivers. It’s also used by cable TV providers. For FTA, use RG-6 grade or better, not RG-59. w

Conus: Short for CONtinental United States. You could also say it means the contiguous 48 states. w

DBS: Direct broadcast satellite, or satellite programming intended for direct reception by home viewers. w

Declination (Magnetic): The difference between true north and magnetic north at a given point. w

Digital: Any technology expressed numerically, as opposed to analog. w

Down Converter: A device which converts the received signal to a frequency better able to travel to the receiver. Typically found in the antenna feedhorn. w

Downlink: The link from a satellite to a ground station. w

DTV: Digital TV. All HDTV is DTV, but some DTV is not HDTV. w

DVB: The digital video broadcasting standards maintained by an international consortium. Some of those standards of interest to FTA viewers are DVB-S, used in almost all FTA receivers, and DVB-S2, which is capable of HDTV. w

Earth Station: A place on the ground designed to communicate with satellites. Usually used to describe large teleports, but technically, any active satellite dish is part of an earth station. w

EIRP: Equivalent isotropically radiated power, or in small words, the strength of a signal at a particular spot. w

Elevation: How far up a dish needs to point to a given satellite. w

FCC: The Federal Communications Commission, the independent government agency in charge of regulating all radio-wave signals. w

Feed: Any digital stream. Typically used to describe temporary streams on satellite.

Feedhorn: The part of a satellite antenna positioned at the focal point of the dish’s parabola. w

Footprint: The area of the earth’s surface from which a particular satellite’s signals can be received. w

FEC: Forward error correction, or added bits used to compensate for reception errors. w

Frequency: The measurement of how often a cycle repeats. w

FTA: Free-to-air, meaning unencrypted. FTA TV channels can be viewed without a subscription by anyone with a matching FTA receiver. w

Geosynchronous: The kind of orbit where the satellite stays in the same position relative to earth. While the earth spins, a geosynchronous satellite has travel almost 2 miles per second to keep up. w

IRD: An integrated receiver and decoder. Y’know, a typical satellite receiver. w

Ka Band: Called K-above, it’s covers the microwave frequencies of 26.5 to 40 GHz. w

Ku Band: Refers to K-under and pronounced kay-you. It’s the set of frequencies used by relatively small dish antennas. w

Linear Polarization: The polarization method in which the signal is transmitted in a vertical or horizontal sequence. Used by most FTA Ku-band and C-band channels. w

LNB(F): Low-noise block converter, sometimes including the feedhorn. Converts satellites’ high frequencies to lower frequencies better suited to traveling through coax to a receiver. w

MPEG: A set of audio and video compression standards set by the Motion Picture Experts Group. w

Mux: Short for multiplexing, the way of sandwiching multiple channels into one stream. Sometimes used to describe the channels within one stream. w

NAB: The National Association of Broadcasters, the trade organization for over-the-air radio and TV stations. w

NTSC: The analog TV system previously common in the Americas, named for the National Television System Committee. w

OTA: Over-the-air, or terrestrial broadcasting. In other words, an earth-only signal that you get directly from a station a few miles away. w

PAL: Phase alternating line, the analog TV format used in most of Europe and elsewhere. w

Signal Rate: The rate of raw data flow in bits or kilobits per second.

SNG: Satellite news gathering. Typically a temporary feed, it can be fun to watch reporters prepare themselves. w

Solar Outage: When the sun lines up with a particular satellite for a few minutes near midday around the equinoxes. Helpful in showing where you can find line-of-sight to that satellite. w

Spot Beam: A satellite signal with a small footprint. Often used to send a local OTA station’s signal to satellite viewers near that station. w

Station-keeping: The adjustment a satellite makes to stay in the same apparent position. w

TLA: Three-letter acronym, or three-letter abbreviation. TLA is a TLA. w

Transponder: Short for transmitter-responder, it’s a device that receives a signal and sends it back out using a different frequency. w

TVRO: Television receive-only. An old term used to distinguish typical home viewer setups from more elaborate earth stations that both send and receive signals. w

Uplink: The link from a ground station to a satellite. w

VPID: Video payload identifier. The number associated with a particular video channel within a multiplexed stream.