Ask LH: Can I Use The Satellite Dish That Came With My House For TV?

Ask LH: Can I Use The Satellite Dish That Came With My House For TV?

Hi Lifehacker, We recently purchased a house that came with a dish antenna on the roof. What are my options with this antenna? If I buy a receiver, is it illegal to access a network without payment? My parents love watching some overseas shows, is it possible to somehow access those channels? Thanks, Satellite Star

Picture: kevinzim

Dear SS,

There are three likely reasons for the satellite dish. It might have been used for receiving “conventional” pay TV services from Foxtel/Austar in an area where there was no cable available. It might have been installed to access an international pay TV service, though the two most visible providers of those in Australia (SelecTV and Ubi World TV) are no longer functioning. Or it might have been installed to try and access free channels available off global TV satellites.

The easiest way to check is to look at the model number on the satellite dish (grab that ladder!) and then Google it. If it’s a Foxtel receiver, you’ll need to pony up. If it’s a general purpose satellite, you may be able to use it to grab overseas channels from satellite receivers, though availability varies widely. (It’s hard to offer more specific advice without knowing exactly what’s installed and where you live.)

Finally, it’s illegal to access a pay satellite TV network (Foxtel or otherwise) without payment. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s a clear and unequivocal case of breaking the law. You want those extra specific channels with a certain guarantee of quality, you have to pay for them. They’re not being produced for nothing.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • That’s just a sat dish with an LNB, there shouldn’t be any reason you can’t hook up a DVB-S decoder to decode the signals and power the LNB. I assume it’s a Foxtel dish and pointing at the C1 sat, which I think has everything encrypted, but there is nothing to stop you from finding out the locations of other satellites and tuning into their transmissions with your decoder.

    And as for checking the model number on the satellite… that’s going to be a MASSIVE ladder.

  • SS is going to need a very long ladder or very good eyesight in order to “look at the model number on the satellite.”

  • If it’s a Foxtel receiver, you’ll need to pony upWhy..? How would they know you were using it..? As for using it to access Foxtel, you’d need the code/card which means you’d need an account. I don’t see why it would be illegal to use the dish to access other satellites that broadcast video. After all if you wanted, you could just take it to the tip and they wouldn’t even know. If they couldn’t be bothered to remove it when the contract was finished it’s not the responsibility of the next tenant/owner to look after it..!

    • My gut feel is that the Foxtel dish wouldn’t serve for non-Foxtel content particularly well.

      • That’s definitely an issue. I once asked an Austar tech about it, and he pretty much confirmed it. Plus you’d need something to find the broadcast with too. I was just making the point that if you wanted to, and were able to, you could without too much fear of prosecution..!

        • A satellite dish is a sattelite dish, regardless of which sat its pointing at. The LNB can be different, a different frequency for example so you need to match the LNB with the receiver & sat frequency, and know where to point the dish to access different satellites. Some sats need a bigger dish (higher gain) as they have a weaker signal, and in some parts of Australia even Foxtel/Austar use a 1.2m dish rather than a 90cm one to give a better signal. The dish is not the antenna, it only reflects the signal onto the antenna – the LNB (Low Noise Block downconverter – which converts the satellite frequency down to the frequency accepted by the satellite receiver).

          Under Australian law it is illegal to decode a scrambled/encoded signal, such as Foxtel/Austar. But the satellites also carry free-to-air signals such as ABC, SBS, etc. You can decode these legally without an issue. There are other sats that carry other overseas signals un-encoded (so legal and free to watch), you just need to know which sat covers your location, and where in the sky to point the dish. You can buy a very cheap satellite finder on ebay that will help you fine-tune the disk location, but you will likely need a compass to initially point it in the general direction.

      • this isn’t true.
        i have a vast box that is meant for rural and regional australia (but there are ways around this) that i have hooked up to an old foxtel outlet in Brisbane that i use to receive TV on. it’s the same SAT as foxtel, so i have FTA via this box in my office (as i have no antenna socket) and my wife has foxtel in the lounge no worries.

        the dish can also be re-pointed and with a cheap box starting at about $120 brand new and even less son ebay you can get all sorts of FTA channels. everything from Christian TV to foreign language.

        foxtel gear, whilst optimised for foxtel will work fine for most FTA Ku band channels. you will not get C band as these require the larger dishes – normally in excess of 2 meters.

        Angus, i normally respect your reporting but you are so far off the mark it shows here that you have had a guess and failed.

          • travellers rego. it needs renewal every 6 months but if they ask just say you have a caravan and do a lot of camping and have a portable sat setup

          • nope. not at all. as a matter of fact the whole thing can be done online and you don’t even need to speak to anyone. i have my box set to vic which means during daylight saving it’s an hour ahead and gives me shows live (and during the summer imparja broadcast all the cricket matches)

          • Thanks for all the info!

            I am in exactly the same situation as the O.P.

            I moved into a house and it has satellite dish on the roof. There are no branding or model number on the dish so I cannot tell if it was used for Foxtel or sat.
            The previous tennants, which lived there for a few years, did not use it.

            The cables coming out of it are 2 x coax. They are terminated inside the house into 2 x coax outlets, side by side (I think they are called F type??? Same as my Optus cable coax outlet). No marking on them either.

            I am in a cable area in Sydney (north shore) and cannot think of a reason why someone will install a dish for Foxtel, but I could be wrong.

            I am very curious about this and want to experiment (NOT to “steal” broadcasts…).

            If I buy el-cheapo receiver, will I be able to experiment? Watch sat channels? How will I connect it, as most receivers I see use either component input or antenna input (none use coax “F type”)

            The dish is pointing in the general direction of Gore Hill, but a bit upwards, so again, I cannot determine just by looking at it if it’s for Foxtel or sat.

            Will appreciate any advice.


    • And to be clear: I said it was illegal to access pay content without paying, not that it was definitively illegal to use it.

      • Under the circumstances I pointed out earlier, I don’t see how they would have a leg to stand on..!

    • it;s not illegal to repoint or reuse it. the contract says they own the dish but the law of abandoned property would apply, especially after disconneciton

  • Probably better off setting up a media box with streaming to all the free online TV channels etc..

  • Find a mate with a satellite foxtel account.
    Tell him to order a second receiver for another room in his house.
    Pay him the setup cost.
    Split bills.
    Hope no-one finds out.

  • I run two foxtel accounts at two places. One runs on a landline the other is off a satelite dish. Would the receivers be inter changeable or are they different. Would just like to have the one account and take the box with me to each location. Some Foxtell staff say it would work, others say it won’t. Any advice much appreciated

    • You’ll need 2 boxes. One for Sat. and one for cable.Cable uses a DVB-C tuner where as a Satellite box uses a DVB-S tuner.

  • Which department in Sydney to report my neighbour installed a TV satellite dish receiver which close to boundary and my bedroom.

  • i have disconnected my satellite service with Foxtel, can I reconnect another satellite receiver to the dish which has 2 coax cables coming in .Is it possible to pick up free to air channels from this existing dish.

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