Here’s all you need to know about installing a satellite socket in your home. It’s most likely that you’ll be doing this if you are installing a Freesat system (the satellite version of Freeview, which uses a conventional aerial). If you’re having Sky satellite installed, their engineers will probably install the sockets.
What’s the difference between a satellite socket and an aerial socket?
The basic difference lies in the signals they carry and how they’re transmitted. Satellite wall sockets are part of a satellite television system that receives signals via a satellite dish. On the other hand, traditional TV aerial sockets, also known as coaxial or RF sockets, receive terrestrial television signals over the air via a traditional TV aerial or antenna.
Physically, these sockets are usually different too. A satellite socket often has an ‘F’ type screw-on connector which provides a very secure connection, ideal for the high frequencies used by satellite transmissions. Regular TV aerial sockets commonly use a ‘Belling-Lee’ type connector, a standard push-in male and female plug and socket.
Therefore, you cannot directly interchange a satellite cable with a cable from a TV aerial, as they are designed for different types of broadcasting signals and use different connectors. You would need a suitable adapter or converter to make them work with one another, but this doesn’t guarantee that the devices at each end can interpret the signals they’re receiving, as satellite and terrestrial systems use fundamentally different types of signal modulation and encoding.
Do satellite sockets need a power source?
Satellite wall sockets themselves do not need a direct power source as they merely act as a conduit for the signal from your satellite dish to your satellite receiver (like a Sky box or Freesat TV).
However, the satellite receiver and the low noise block (LNB) downconverter mounted on the satellite dish need a power source. The LNB receives the signal from the satellite, amplifies it, and sends it down the cable to the receiver. The LNB is typically powered by a small amount of electricity sent up the coaxial cable from the satellite receiver. This is why even though your satellite dish is outside, it does not need to have a separate power supply; it gets its power from the receiver.
Some satellite dishes do have their own power source, however. Motorised dishes can be electronically repositioned to pick up signals from different satellites, but that has nothing to do with the socket.
So while power is a necessary part of the overall system, the satellite wall socket itself does not require a separate power source.
Fitting the socket
Replacing a socket is relatively straightforward. You might want to do this if you want to swap, say, a plastic faceplate for a black nickel satellite socket. Unscrew the faceplate from the old socket, and pull it free enough to access the terminal screws on the back of the faceplate. Now you can loosen the screws to free the cable, and undo any gripping mechanism that’s holding the cable in place.
Now, examine the back of the new faceplate to see if there are any differences to the way it fits into the terminals and is held in place. They are all pretty similar, so you should simply be able to reverse the procedure for removing the old faceplate. If it looks different, consult the documentation that came with the new socket.
If it’s a completely fresh install, you’ll need to run a cable from the back of the LNB on the satellite dish. You’ll probably need a ladder to access the dish, so if you can’t do it safely, call the professionals.
You’ll find that these cables are attached by Type ‘F’ screw-on connectors, just like the one that runs from the set-top box to the wall socket. You’ll need a separate RG6 cable for each application you have, such as extra boxes in different rooms, or the facility to record an extra channel while you’re watching another. That’s why the LNB has multiple sockets. Make sure you have enough length of cable – you can easily get through 10 metres running from a rooftop or high up a wall.
How you run the cable from the outside to the socket is a matter of aesthetics, budget and physical factors that can allow or prohibit certain routes. The neatest way to do it is to run the cable down the wall, then through the masonry and into a plug socket box that’s sunk into the plaster and masonry on the inside. That is, however, quite a lot of work. At the other end of the scale, the cable is run through a window frame and goes along the surface of the wall, floor and skirting boards, meeting a pattress box mounted on the surface of the wall. In between those extremes, you can compromise – it all depends where you are happy with the cable or box being visible, both inside and outside.
Once you’ve installed all the necessary back boxes, conduit and such like, make sure you’ve got enough spare cable to attach to the faceplate terminals – you’ll need about 7–10cm of play. Then:
- Examine the way the terminals are laid out to gauge how long the cut needs to be from the end. Strip the outer sheath (being careful not to cut the braided screen) of the RG6 cable so that the sheath and braided screen can be gripped by the cable clamp.
- Now, pull the braided screen back and twist it round itself. If you see a second aluminium screen, you can cut that off.
- The inner wire will have its own sheathing. Cut off just enough so that the exposed wire inside it can be gripped by the terminal, but the rest should remain insulated.
- Attach the centre wire to the terminal by tightening the screw.
- Tighten the grip around the cable and the loose braided screen, making sure the screen is in contact with the metal gripping device.
- Test your installation by turning on the TV and/or set top box.
- If all is working well, attach the faceplate to the back box.