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HOME TECHNOLOGY : Satellite Dishes Offer Full Plate of Options

June 26, 1993|From Associated Press

Some video experts believe that satellite dishes, which have become a major part of the American landscape, are doomed to become extinct. They predict that Direct Broadcast Systems, such as the new DirecTV, will replace the big, concave antennas that capture signals from satellites orbiting in space. DirecTV is expected to be introduced by Hughes Communications in 1994.

The Hughes system, which will deliver more than 100 channels of digital TV, operates with a small, 18-inch dish that picks up signals transmitted from a new high-powered satellite.

However, don't hold your breath waiting for the big dishes to vanish, advises Video Magazine. In countries where direct broadcast systems have been introduced, they have not replaced the older satellite receivers.

One reason for this is that much more programming is becoming available over the older satellite dishes. The satellite industry has finally solved the signal-theft problem. This allows more programming to be put on the satellite without fear of having offerings pilfered. Last fall, a new scrambling system from General Instrument was put into service, cutting channel poaching from about 30% to virtually zero.

Another reason for the continuing popularity of the big dishes is that the manufacturers of dish receiver units have come up with new features that should keep their products in America's back yards and on its rooftops for some time.

For example, R.L. Drake is manufacturing a receiver that lets different family members program individual lists of favorite channels to pop up in separate on-screen windows. Drake's receivers offer on-screen menus in English and Spanish.

In addition, Toshiba's latest receivers allow viewers to order pay-per-view events without picking up the phone. The receivers incorporate a built-in modem, which, when commanded by the unit's remote control, dials a number and places the order. The Toshiba receivers also offer on-screen display menus and favorite-channel programming.

But perhaps the most important reason for the continuation of the satellite-based system with its huge antennas is that it is generally cheaper than cable-type TV. For about $40 a month, the owner of a dish can get every basic, premium and other service available.

That's a deal that will remain hard to beat.

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