How to upgrade a communal IRS TV satellite TV system for Sky Q
There is no doubt that Sky Q has come along and revolutionised the aerial and satellite sector, despite the groaning’s you hear from installers at trade counters the length and breadth of the country. It’s a great system, especially in communal environments like blocks of flats and apartments. One of the main reasons for this is that extra bedroom TV points can be run without the need for any new cabling which can solve many problems getting cables from one end of a flat to another. Of course, this can only work if the TV system is compatible and able to provide the Sky Q service.
How does Sky Q work?
If you haven’t already I recommend reading an older blog on ours on how the Sky Q LNB differs from the conventional universal Quad and Octo LNB’s. The blog can be found here:
Now I’m sure you can see one leaping out obvious reason why Sky Q cannot be used “out the box” with a communal IRS TV system – The frequencies it uses! It goes completely over the terrestrial TV band used for Freeview meaning if you were to put this on top neither of the services would work.
That was number 1.
Number 2 – We know from reading the above blog that the Sky Q LNB provides horizontal and vertically polarised bands separately, so what use would be using a Quattro LNB like is used for the vast majority of satellite systems? It wouldn’t work and if you were to change this standard Sky HD and Freesat would no longer work, never mind the multi-switch amplifiers.
Number 3 – I’m also sure that has guessed it already. The Quadplexed and Triplxed TV, Satellite and radio wall plates that are used in communal TV systems separate signals based on frequency. So it would literally deliver half the signals on the satellite side and the other half on the terrestrial TV side and even some on the radio side. So not possible!
How to install a system compatible with Sky Q, Sky HD, Freesat and Freeview
You will be glad to know it is possible! Here is how you do it.
Outside the flat / apartment
Nothing else changes from a standard communal IRS TV set up apart from upgrading the multi-switch amplifiers, albeit with some signal level and power adjustments possibly. You can install a system star configures or tree and branch doesn’t matter. Here is the basic process.
80cm dish (recommended)
4 or 5 cable backbone
Multi-switch amplifiers (dSCR compatible!)
Drop in cables
Quadplexed/ Triplexed wall-plates.
Doesn’t look unfamiliar does it?
The only part of the system that you would need to remove and replace is the multi-switch amplifier. You need to remove the old amplifier and install a ‘dSCR compatible’ multi-switch amplifier, probably best you sit down when you order as they are “bloomin’” expensive, about double of a standard multi-switch amplifier. They when you think about it there is a heck of a lot going on in there.
dSCR amplifiers can be purchased in 4, 8 and 16 way models with Vision, Triax, Johannson, Inverto, LEM and Televes each with makes/ models on the market.
The dSCR amplifiers are also very power hungry so chances are you will need to make alterations to the power supplies when installing multiple amplifiers, it is recommended that the 16 way models you install on their own 3 amp power supply.
You may also need to make signal level adjustments, the SCR and dSCR bands you will probably not need to worry about when making alterations to a system as the signal level calculations have already been made and the amplifiers come Automatic Gain Control (AGC) which means that adjustments to signal levels will be made within the amplifiers to see that the signal leaves the amplifier at around 70dB – so you will need a very, very long run for this not to work. You will need to pay attention to the standard switching satellite signal and terrestrial as the losses may be more than on the old amplifiers, you may need to adjust the signal level in or install line amplifiers on the very long cable runs after the dSCR amplifier.
It is also worth noting that for Sky Q to work in within an IRS environment you only need one cable per flat. If you know what cables going to which flat you can connect only per flat meaning that you can keep half of the old amplifiers. Saving the client a small fortune! Just bare in mind this should be the same in each flat so it doesn’t confuse the connecting Sky installer, he says through gritted teeth considering the bother they will probably cause you no end of bother when they don’t know how to connect the Sky Q box. If it’s already a non Sky+ single feed system then happy days just connect replace the amplifiers like for like.
Inside the apartment
This is the difficult bit, even though you will probably not be the one doing it as Sky have gone down the Virgin TV route where they retain ownership of the set top box and only supply and install it themselves. But assuming that you are going to install it.
Connect the box on a single feed, doesn’t matter which input.
Go into LNB settings and change to ‘dSCR’ mode, if the Sky Q box only has a ‘SCR’ mode, this is one of the earliest models and does not have the latest firmware. I recommend forgetting it and just telling Sky to supply and compatible box. You may be able to connect through a ‘Smart Splitter’ but I have yet to find one on the market that works, Sky for sure won’t be stocking one on the van.
Once changed, a hard REBOOT. Dis-connect power leave for a few mins and turn back on again. Volia Sky Q!
The terrestrial side of the wall plate will be unaffected by the changes as will the second satellite part of the wall-plate, so you can still use these.
If you just wanted Sky+ and where a single feed system has been installed, you could now also instead of connecting a Sky Q box install a standard Sky+ box with a Smart Splitter and set the box into ‘SCR’ mode so you have that option too. Just make sure that the Sky+ is compatible because they are not all compatible.
Things you should be prepared for
Sky just are not good enough at connecting the systems like this yet, I say this from personal experience and the bother they have caused us by this. We have had hours of calls and letters from angry tenants blaming us for something that Sky were 100% responsible for. But it also new for them too. It’s a funny scenario where their installers generally don’t understand the upgrades, nor can they do the work that you have done. But you also can’t install the Sky Q box for them, RAHH! Please also be aware they are a few good installers too so I’m not completely attacking every Sky installer.
I recommend that when you are quoting, doing you work. You make it crystal clear that if you have to get involved that a charge will be made to either the owner, managing agents, landlord or tenant etc.
I also strongly recommend that you leave a step by step guide for the connecting Sky installer. I have had instances where the box Sky were supplying was not compatible, where the installer was not rebooting the Sky Q box after changing the LNB settings everytime blaming the alterations that we had made. You should do your best to avoid come backs.
You will need to notify Sky that you have upgraded the system for Sky Q, first time ever we have been in this situation. You may need to set up an account with Sky. I recommend contacting them first.
The future of communal IRS TV systems
I think it fair to say without a doubt we are going back to single feed TV systems. Probably not completely for 5 to 10 years but it’s happening. With regard to this I think Sky Q has given the aerial and satellite sector a kick in the right direction. Freesat has announced that they are bringing out a dSCR compatible box and we have to wait some time before we can get rid of standard Sky+ but it’s definitely happening – Sky Q is now the standard Sky service.
For the meantime we will have to get used to installing hybrid TV systems where half the amplifiers are Sky Q dSCR compatible and the other half not just to keep the cost of the systems down but it’s also exciting times. There are a whole lot of systems that need upgrading!
Anyway I hope that this blog helps you out in the field, if it was of any use to you. Please leave a comment below. I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.
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