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Rain fade: satellite TV signal and adverse weather

It is known that adverse weather can affect quality of the satellite TV signal reception. Just how much of a problem it can really be? Typically, this occurs rarely, and lasts only a short period of time. For the majority of users, it is heavy rains that can attenuate signal enough to result in noticeable degradation of image quality. In extreme cases, the reception can be effectively disrupted. How concerned one should be about the possibility of signal degradation/loss depends on: (1) regional yearly rainfall figure, (2) location in the satellite footprint and (3) height of the satellite above horizon.

Rain...

It takes very heavy rain to affect signal reception of a properly aimed and wired satellite home system. Still, it can and will happen, once in a while. It normally last for only a short period of time, during the worst downpour. It is likely to occur more often in the regions with significant annual rainfall. This puts Eastern US in the most favorable position. Somewhat less so the Central and North-East US, with the South-East being the region where this kind of occasional service interference or interruption is more likely.

What causes signal attenuation is mainly wave absorption by the rain drops. There is also some signal scattering, due to refraction and diffraction of electromagnetic waves in and around rain drops. Very heavy snow can also affect signal quality, but it is generally less likely to interfere. Satellite mini-dishes are designed to minimize the effects of adverse weather. Still, it does make sense to consider somewhat larger dish in areas where heavy rains or snow are relatively frequent, to compensate for signal attenuation.

Signal strength factors

Both, DirecTV and Dish Network, emit their core programming from satellite locations between 100W and 120W western longitude, which makes TV satellites nearly as high as they can be in the continental US; also, it ensures generally good footprint coverage.  In general, TV satellites are highest in the sky for the southernmost states, and somewhat lower for the mid- and northern states. That alone is of no consequence in the normal weather, but does put southernmost locations in somewhat better position when it comes to the effect of adverse weather.

It is the locations farther east, west, or north from the continental US - as well continental US areas receiving signal from special programming satellites farther west, or east than the "core satellites" - that are more likely to experience rain fade, due to weakened signal. A simple solution is somewhat larger dish antenna.

The wavelength...

Not all satellite signals are affected equally. In general, the longer radio wave, the less affected it is by the "rain fade". Programming emitted in the longer C-band wavelength is significantly less subject to this kind of interference than programming in shorter Ku-band and, especially, Ka-band. Also, the farther off central receiving area location, the more pronounced rain-fade effect. Rain fade "over-sensitivity" indicates less than optimally aimed dish.

Snow, ice, water accumulation...

Reception quality also can be affected by water or snow/ice accumulating over the surface of a dish receptor. This can cause scatter and less efficient focusing of the satellite signal after its reflection from  the dish surface. The result can be poor reception. Most often, simply spraying dish surface over with a non-stick spray, such as King's Rain Shield will do the trick. In very cold regions, a special dish with built-in heater, such as DirecTV's "Hot Shot", may be needed to prevent ice build-up. 

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