Can someone with the time explain all these satellite terms to me? (1 Viewer)

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Tyler G.

Thread Starter
New Member
Nov 7, 2015
Dunkirk, NY
Okay, so let me brief everyone first ; I've had cable TV for as long as I can possibly imagine, years and years on end. All the way back to when Cable TV first came on the market and you could only get maybe 5 channels. For the first time ever, I ditched my cable bill and got on a 2 year contract with Dish Network, my first ever experience with satellite TV.

Me being a geek, I've been messing around with things on my receiver, trying to understand it all.. something that's become clear to me is with satellite TV, whatever the "arc" is seems to be a huge deal. On almost every satellite forum I see people talking about Arcs... Eastern & Western... & a bunch of different numbers... 119, 62.. etc.. I don't understand it at all, but I do understand from research that my satellite runs on the Eastern Arc... Apparently it's inferior to the Western Arc.. anyways... before I bore someone, can someone please explain all of this stuff to me? What does all of this stuff mean and why is it so important?
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Mister B

SatelliteGuys Pro
Jun 3, 2008
El Paso County Texas
Here is a brief explanation of the arcs. When DISH first came out in the mid-1990's all programming came from one satellite at the 119 longitude position. This is above the equator and roughly southwest of the US. As they added more programming and especially local channels they had to use more than one satellite in more than one location. It became difficult for customers to pick up all of the satellites especially from the fringes of this large country. So, they duplicated the service to serve those in the eastern part of the US from several satellites in eastern longitudes (61.5, 72,77, even more if specialty programming is desired) and the same set up over further western satellites. Your local channels only come from one satellite so you can not switch to the other arc without losing them.
I am sure a little discovery with Google and Wikipedia can shed a lot more light on the subject. It has become much more complicated over the years but I sympathize with your desire to understand your new service.
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SatelliteGuys Pro
Pub Member / Supporter
Dec 28, 2013
Where our wheels go
Mister B is correct for the most part, but there are many locals that are carried on both arcs, albeit often in SD only on one of the arcs.


SatelliteGuys Pro
Apr 4, 2015
Southern PA
Yes he is correct for the most part..
Locals not much of a Factor.
But Eastern Arc was actually started because once the Demand for HD increased they Needed to add an addtional orbital location, so the 129 was added to the equation.
Only issue with that is any customer in the Northeast could not Tune to this satellite because of its low elevation on the horizon. And extremely poor operation of Echostar 5 was no help.

That is what really brought on the Eastern arc.

Sure it helps not having all the locals on 3 Orbital locations, But incase we all for get Directv has been using a single arc for Years, and provides more Full time HD channels then Dish.

They use KA band for their HD.
DISH uses KU.

Mr Tony

SatelliteGuys Pro
Supporting Founder
Nov 17, 2003
Mankato, MN
It's probably not as important as you think it is. Unless there is an issue with stuff blocking the line-of-sight to those satellites, there's no concern about having one or the other.
unless your locals are only on the other arc ;)


SatelliteGuys Pro
Aug 23, 2010
northern WEST new york
I'm in the Watertown NY DMA,SD locals are western arc,when they finally put up the HD locals they're on eastern.I use a 1000.2 for the WA and put up an old D500 quad wing dish for 62.5.Everything is owned and self installed.


SatelliteGuys Master
Lifetime Supporter
Dec 8, 2007
Where it's Warm
It all started way back when FCC engineers set up the original DBS plan. US coverage started at 61.5E and ran over to 148W with another stray way out in the Pacific. FCC anticipated that there would be a need for 2 arcs (one east and one west) for complete continental land mass coverage. You can see their maps in their original DBS technical publications. Dish is basically following the original plan. Directv started out in that direction. But, then they acquired the Spaceway KA band satellites which dramatically increased their capacity at a single (or near single) longitude by adding a second frequency band. And now Directv is adding BSS 17/24 capacity which adds even more capacity (3 different frequency bands at one general location).

And, Directv was able to provide total land mass coverage because they control the coveted 101W slot which is optimally located for the entire continent.

So, today we see Dish sticking with 100 percent DBS frequencies with two arcs and Directv, more or less, settling into one slot with DBS, KA, and BSS 17/24 frequencies.


SatelliteGuys Pro
Pub Member / Supporter
Lifetime Supporter
Feb 27, 2006
Rome, Georgia, United States
And BTW, when you get to the transponder signal strength: It's normal to have some really high reception and some really low signal strength... and also some that have no reception whatsoever. I've seen post in the past where people want to set their receiver to get the channels from a specific transponder but that's not how it works. Different channels are on different transponders. And if you see some transponder(s) that's registering 0 (and all your channels are visible/no problems) then that's just because of your location.. those transponders are just "aimed" at another part of the country.

And if you want to learn more about Eastern Arc / Western Arc, you can go the channel chart link on the main page of this forum and get the 'master list' of every channel, every satellite. It's a techno geek-out paradise.


Supporting Founder
Pub Member / Supporter
Lifetime Supporter
Sep 8, 2003
Tampa/Eastern Ct
For a DISH subscription the most basic answer is the ARC does not matter to the consumer if DISH does the install. They will use whichever ARC is being determined by DISH particularly depending on where your locals in HD are located, OR - if there is a choice based possibly on the better location on your property. Some locals are being taken of one ARC if they are on two.

If given a choice, meaning if your locals in HD are on both ARCs and you can see all the satellites, I would go with the Western Arc as there is less rain fade, though overall rain fade for most of the Country isn't a big issue. (In Florida there is a difference for me, in Ct there is much not by much)
One other thing with DISH. If you were to want international channels, they are only on the Western Arc on a fourth satellite. (118) So if you want only one DISH, you would want the Western Arc for your service if possible. If you have the Eastern Arc you would need two Dishes to get international channels. Programming otherwise is virtually the same for either ARC.

I agree with others who say ARC's are not a big deal, it's more of a way for DISH to get a line of site to their satellites in more locations.
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Tyler G.

Thread Starter
New Member
Nov 7, 2015
Dunkirk, NY
Ahhh thank you all for your answers! This explains so much and helps me understand more lol. I live in WNY so I'm assuming the eastern arc is the norm for where I live and why I can't even get transponder 119 and the other western satellites to work. However.. ( I was messing around in the "Point Dish" settings ) I notice that for every Eastern Satellite ( 61.5, 71, 72 ) I'm only getting between 50-60 signal strength every time. & I read that anything above 60 is what you should be getting. However all my channels come in perfectly and I've never once had an issue yet. But I've had it for less than a week and haven't had a major storm yet so I can't really say much right now. & I live in WNY so I will definitely be getting one soon with our bipolar weather... Do you think I'll have a problem with my signal strength? Or is that just maybe the norm for my specific location?
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SatelliteGuys Pro
May 12, 2012
Central NJ
Tyler G.,

Welcome to the forum!

Some good reference books might be at your local library. Yes some might be dated but the basics are there.

Here in NJ and 72W Ku (AMC6) is the most Southern satellite, probably is for you also. There are 4 NBC MUX channels there, which are on most of the time, and over here the signal quality's about 70% with a clear path to the satellite using a 39 inch dish and an Amiko STB. If you are getting 50 - 60% signal quality but your picture is in the clear don't worry that much about the % quality. Here some stations come in with 45% quality but they are fine.

Signal quality is affected by a myriad of factors such as dish size, obstructions to the path of the satellite, geographical location, length of the coax run, dish quality, the satellite's footprint, rain. Some of these factors you can control, others not. Also, on the same satellite you'll notice that some transponders have a better % signal quality than others. Moving the dish to different locations on the property can have an effect too. That is something you can control.

In my experience not all FTA receivers are the same in measuring signal quality. Oh, and when heavy rains occur you might experience rain fade, it happens to all of us.

Have fun with FTA.


SatelliteGuys Pro
May 21, 2009
Lexington, ky
However all my channels come in perfectly
Unlike analog signals, where a minor loss of signal will cause degradation to the picture, digital will be perfect until it isn't. :) If you picture a scale from 1-10 of signal strength... if an analog signal was giving you a 9, you probably wouldn't notice anything. But you'll start seeing static at an '8', and it keeps getting worse, so at a '5', it's a snowy picture, and a 1 is all snow. On digital though, even a '5' will show you a perfect picture, a 4 probably will too. A 3 might give you some freezes and macro blocking, and when you get to a 1 or 2, you get nothing.

It's commonly called the "cliff" effect. If you picture yourself on a mountain... in the analog world, you go down a slope. In a digital world, it's a cliff. Everything is fine until it's not. :)

BTW, this applies to anything analog vs. digital... DBS, cable, and OTA.


SatelliteGuys Master
Feb 14, 2004
Germantown OH
I live in WNY so I'm assuming the eastern arc is the norm for where I live
Contrary to what you might think, your location has little relevance as to what arc you use. I'm not too far west of you and am on the western arc. Cincinnati, which is straight south of me, about 45 miles, is on eastern arc. Believe it or not, many years ago when VOOM was in existence, they used a satellite on the eastern arc for customers across the entire United States. Granted, people on the west coast seemed to be borderline for good reception.

I'm only getting between 50-60 signal strength every time
Dish has changed the scale so those may be acceptable numbers. I don't even check what numbers I get anymore....


Pub Member / Supporter
Apr 20, 2014
Mesa, Az
It's not percentage. Those are points on the point dish screen. Anything above 30 is a viewable picture. The higher the points, the less affected by wind, cloud coverage, and rain fade it is. 45 is a good average number.
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