INSTALLATION

Overview

'Installation'- this includes not only the provision of satellite signals but also includes Digital Terrestrial TV (ie 'Freeview') & digital radio ('DAB') & analogue FM radio. The term 'Integrated Reception System' ('IRS') is used to to describe this type of installation. All these services are carried by each cable feed into an apartment.

'New Build'- it is desirable that the design has conduits which are both of sufficient diameter with gentle bends to enable future re-cabling; also there should be a logical point-to-point layout to allow for current & future satellite & other data sources to be fed to convenient access points in the apartments from the services risers. Further these risers should allow easy vertical cable runs to head-ends and dish/antenna roof sites. Care is needed to ensure that the main conduit feeds from the flat's TV points are 'star-wired' to the headend or multiswitch points in the local riser; ie not the 'tree & branch' configuration of the past.

Fibre is playing an increasing role in 'new build' IRS systems. See Global Invacom

'Existing Build'- see below.

The ultimate performance of an IRS or satellite installation is dependent on:

  1. Design
  2. Equipment Choice
  3. Installer Skill Level

Design. Exact plans are required for the larger systems (ie 50+ flats per buiding).

Equipment. Following are suggested component makes that are known to give good performance.eg Fracarro or Spaun for switches, Cabelcon for connectors, Gibertini or Triax are two options for dishes, Belden for cable, Inverto, MTI or Invacom for dish electronics (ie LNB's).

The correct cable choice in terms of quality, longevity & suitability for application is important as its installation represents most of the labour costs. The termination of cable, that is fixing connectors at each end of the correct type & in the recommended manner, is often done poorly by all but the top installers.

NB:The installation industry's trade association ('CAI') & other industry bodies have developed a benchmarking system to both rate & match components by type/manufacturer. To date cable & terrestrial aerials have been tested. See CAI

Cabling from the head-end to the flats ('drop-feeds') usually represents the bulk of the labour cost in an installation. See Switches to Flats below.

Conventional analogue TV* & FM Radio together with the two other digital terrestrial platforms, 'Freeview' & 'Digital Audio Broadcasting' (DAB) can be incorporated into an apartment block system.

*ceased in UK & most of EU in mid-2012.

Dishes to Head-end.

The dishes are best situated on the roof, attached if possible to a South facing wall of, say, a plant room etc. Visual impact from ground level is lessened if dish brackets are near to roof's floor. Apartment blocks over 15 meters high; not in a designated conservation area are exempt from planning permission for upto 4 dishes of upto 1.2 meters width*. Please refer to the revised: Installation of satellite television dishes: householder's planning guide

*more than sufficient to access the three main orbital positions- Sky, Hotbird & Astra 1. Other orbital positions maybe 'spliced-in' to a flat feed using DiSEqC 1.1 switches. eg BADR 4, Eurobird 9A, Hispasat, Turksat etc. Dishes can be aligned seperately or share a multi-feed lnb holder, depending on a satellite's orbital position.

The Head-End for small/medium sized apartment blocks is an equipment board to which are attached amplifiers, combiners, switches etc.; it is often situated in a convenient roof building or upper riser cupboard at which there is both mains power and a 'clean' earth point.

NB: Fibre-optic cabling with associated components is becoming the viable alternative to co-axial cable in large IRS systems, especially where the cable lengths from dish to main head-end are over 30 meters. Currently economics may limit its application to Sky-only systems where fibre is a substitute for cable beyond the main head-end- see next paragraph. Signals carried by fibre are less deformed & attenuation is extremely low compared with even heavy (ie WF165) co-axial cable.

Head-end to Switches.

In larger blocks where the flats are more than 70 meters by cable run, the switches are often situated in riser cupboards near to the apartments. 

Switches to Flats.

Pre-war mansion-type blocks usually have drains fixed to the outside walls; it is usually acceptable to run cables neatly on the outside from the head-end with a convenient entry point to the flat. This is less costly than internal wiring through conduits, found in later construction. It is unusual to find, in all but the most recently built blocks, 'aerial' conduits of sufficient diameter to allow re-wiring with Sky approved double-screened cable. In that case, the conduits need evaluating & surface wiring that complies with BS 7671 2001 maybe the only option. As common parts & flats are refurbished over time it is usually possible to hide cables in trays, plastic conduits within plaster etc., again complying with BS 7671 2001.

Decor

The above paragraph outlines the decor considerations with the common parts. Within the apartments, it is not unusual for 'TV wiring' to be left to the electrician with dire results or, even worse, to 'seal up' expensive decor without taking advice on the cabling needed for telecoms, satellite & terrestrial TV/Radio/Data systems.

Architects & others involved in major refurbishment of apartments (or new build of apartment blocks) should keep abreast of the changes in AV & multi-media technology to ensure that unseen cabling is in place whilst the decor is 'open'. High Definition TV has complicated the distribution as it is or will be desirable to carry HDMI (with HDCP) to slave TV points with no degradation of image or sound quality/capability. Future-proofing is a worthwhile aim, as over time, flat buyers will appreciate the advantages of correctly embedded cables for their technology needs.

The TV Master Point ('MP') is usually in the main living room. The following is illustrative with current technology:

- 2, preferably 3, TV/Sat/Radio feeds of Sky-approved co-axial cable from a multi-switch at the block's head-end to the MP.

- star-wire with one line of same co-axial cable to slave TV/Radio points to other rooms from the MP. A 2nd line of co-axial from MP to main bedroom is an option.

- star-wire with unscreened 2x Cat5e cable to all possible PC points from the MP. Broadband wireless often has marginal reception in some rooms due to steel girders or interference from nearby flats (eg from 'dect phone' base stations- Ofcom are aware of this problem.) Also AV products like Blu-Ray players, PS3 etc need an internet connection for upgrades, media downloads etc. A 10/100Mbps multi-outlet switch allows a two-way path between the various devices & the router.

- star-wire with Cat6a & another line of Cat5e, perhaps screened, to other main TV points for HDMI devices upto 1080p; perhaps,within 5 years, Ultra High Definition TV, using Cat6a. NB: The latest HDMI extenders work best on Cat6a which has 10x bandwidth of Cat5e cable.

- telephone. BT Openreach should check internal wiring to ensure that the Telephone Master Socket- "TMS" is at the MP & also that all internal telephone wiring uses Cat5e (4 twisted pairs) & that the 3rd orange ringing wire is disconnected to avoid lowering the ASDL connection's downlink speed. Preferably the TMS should have a wall plate called an Openreach NT5e. This enables easy isolation of the internal network- the owner's responsibility- from BT's network. ADSL speeds should be similar. BT's network is optimum. The telephone extensions may produce noise due to poor connections.

- audio. High quality audio cable from MP to support surround sound in main living room & also audio throughout home as required. Surround sound is rarely upto upper-end 'audiophile' quality. NB: iPhone/iPads can be programmed to link both audio files with Sonos type equipment & to TV kit including DVD recorders, SkyHD boxes, general satellite receivers etc. See Sonos & Bowers & Wilkins.

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