What Is the Difference Between an SWM-3 and an SWM-5 Dish?


There are dozens of man-made satellites orbiting Earth's atmosphere along paths known as orbital slots. Uplink dishes on the Earths' surface feed orbiting satellites with information used for a variety of purposes such as Global Positioning Systems and television programming. SWM-3 and SWM-5 are proprietary satellite receivers used by DIRECTV customers to receive television programming. While the difference between the two systems is transparent to DIRECTV subscribers, it is indicative of how the company operates its satellite network.

Satellite Dish Operation

  • The part of a satellite dish that receives a signal is called a feed horn. The signal the feed horn receives is weaker than the original broadcast after traveling the distance from Earth's surface to orbit and back again. The feed horn sends the signal to another device called the low-noise block down converter (LNB). The LNB does three things to the signal: amplifies the signal, filters and separates it from other signals and converts the signals to a lower frequency. Together, the feed horn and LNB create an LNBF system.

Satellite Numbering

  • Satellites orbit the Earth's atmosphere and operate with virtually no maintenance, yet their position and functionality must be constantly monitored for efficiency. To keep track of satellites, they are given serial numbers and orbital slots that reflect their position around the globe. One of DIRECTV's satellites remains fixed at 102.8 degrees W longitude. For simplicity, the satellite is referred to by rounding its orbital slot to the nearest whole number, in this case, satellite 103 or simply 103.


  • SWM (SWiM) is an acronym for Single Wire Multiswitch and represents a technology used by DIRECTV. The technology was developed as an advancement to DIRECTV's LNBF satellite dishes that required multiple lines of transmission for the satellites they use to broadcast television. SWM dishes can transmit all of the signals through a single wire, resulting in easier installation, maintenance and upgrades.

SWM-3 and SWM-5

  • DIRECTV's standard television programming is transmitted by a total of five satellites. tHE 3 in "SWM-3" denotes the number of satellites the dish's LNBF is accepting a signal from. Newer DIRECTV satellites employ this device to accept information from Satellites 99, 101 and 103. Likewise, SWM-5 denotes a device that accepts a signal from two additional satellites, 110 and 119. Although DIRECTV uses the latter two satellites, they are not needed for consumers to receive DIRECTV service.

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  • Photo Credit satellite dish image by Freeze Frame Photography from Fotolia.com
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