Intellian D4 #2, the sat tv wars


I finally got the Intellian D4 HD sat TV system I’ve been testing to misbehave.  During Saturday’s heavy rains — when I was trying a lot of wet gizmos on Gizmo — the D4 had trouble tracking one of the three DirecTV satellites it tries to switch among as you change channels.  Whereas the system has previously worked fine with the boat laying at my float, despite the less-than-optimal antenna location, I’m guessing that the problem was signal interference from the water in the atmosphere.  Further proof: It only had trouble with 103 (aka Spaceway 1) which not only uses the harder-to-get KA frequency but also has the most distant geosynchronous orbit (at 103W longitude), and hence sits at the lowest elevation with the most atmosphere between it and Camden, Maine.  I still had a lot of channels available, though, and aside from the downpour the D4 has been pretty much flawless…

In fact, though the D4 comes with a PC control and diagnostics program that installed very easily and seems powerful (see below), I’ve only gazed at it so far.  The DirecTV receiver did once come back on after an accidental shutdown expecting a different satellite than the D4 was tracking; but when I realized what was going on, I just had select the right satellite on the ACU above (one button push), and the system stayed synchronized thereafter.  The TV has also shown warnings about not getting recent Guide downloads, but I haven’t had to do the whole two minute reset that’s purportedly possible if satellite 101 isn’t being tracked enough. And I’ve had the D4 on when Gizmo has been rolling and pitching a fair bit, and it could switch and track any of the three satellites fine.
    Which gets us to this question:  Just what does KVH mean with its “You’ll never watch TV the same way again” tease?  I’ll be in Fort Lauderdale for the grand intro of whatever it is on Thursday (and plan to post tweets about the show here).  While DirecTV’s change to Ka may have slowed down some marine sat tv system builders, the competition between Intellian and KVH seems fierce.  Earlier this year, for instance, KVH came out with its Tri-Americas LNB, which can save a lot of hassle on certain far ranging vessels, but darned if Intellian didn’t just introduce an All-Americas LNB.  Seems like a constructive war, doesn’t it?


Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now pleased to have Ben Stein as a very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Please don't regard him as an "expert"; he's getting quite old and thinks that "fadiddling fumble-putz" is a more accurate description.

17 Responses

  1. Chris Hallock says:

    I have problems with rain fade at the house with the much larger dish. Remember that the rain fade can be caused by rain in the distance as well, not just when its raining on you.
    Although for $5K you would have thought they could have fixed this as well.. (grin)
    With those costs I don’t think HD on the boat is in my future. I would be happy with just a small non-HD dish like the i1 or M1.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    KVH dropped another hint today. Apparently their solution lets a multi TV boat simultaneously tune in channels being transmitted from more than one satellite, which you can’t do with the Intellian D4.

  3. Jim Dodez says:

    Hi Ben,
    We’re really looking forward to seeing you and your fellow Panbo readers in Ft. Lauderdale at the boat show! We’ll have our friends on hand from Inmarsat and DIRECTV, who I’m sure will be happy to steer your readers towards the best technology! Best of all your readers will find hundreds and hundreds of KVH customers displaying their boats at the show. We all know the best way to judge the quality of company and or a product it to talk to people that own them.
    KVH is in the marine electronics tent, and will be showing some new products that will have our competitors sneaking by with their cameras to try and copy their next “innovations”. For a sneak preview, I encourage your readers to visit . I’ll have my hip waders on hand if any of your readers would like to borrow them and visitor the competition, because they’re going to realize what they’ve been wading through when they compare the claims of brand x to KVH’s TracVision and TracPhone products!
    As an added bonus for Panbo readers, KVH in cooperation with our partners Stratos and Inmarsat would be happy to buy them a beverage if visit our booth on Thursday afternoon from 5:30 to 6:30! Maybe you can stop buy and meet them in person.
    We’re looking forward to seeing you all in Ft. Lauderdale!
    Jim Dodez
    VP Marketing & Strategic Planning
    KVH Industries, Inc.

  4. Jim Dodez says:

    I’m not sure if you were aware of this, but the KVH TracVision M1 provides nationwide coverage. Our understanding from our dealers is that the competitors i1 product is has limited signal strength and only provides service in limited geographic areas. After getting their first units returned by unhappy customers, they now claim this limited preformance is a product “feature”. Curious. Now they like to compare our small TracVision M1 to their larger product while also claiming they have the smallest product on the market (the i1, which doesn’t work everywhere). Want to borrow my hip waders?
    In fairness to the other guys, it’s tough to design products for the US market from Gunpo, Korea with limited knowledge of how changes in DIRECTV’s satellite service will impact their product’s performance. KVH has the advantage not only of being a US manufacturer, but also of working directly with our service partners DIRECTV and Inmarsat. We’re the only people in the world DIRECTV has licensed to make a mobile version of their home receiver for the maritime market. This allows us to assure our products work well today — and tomorrow.
    Hope to see you in Ft. Lauderdale!
    Best regards,
    Jim Dodez
    VP Marketing & Strategic Planning
    KVH Industries, Inc.

  5. Auspicious says:

    I was on the verge of buying a KVH C3 system when I learned of the DirecTV transition to both Ka and Ku.
    Can you share your road-map to support the plans DirecTV is executing?
    sail fast, dave
    Dave Skolnick
    S/V Auspicious

  6. Jim Dodez says:

    Hi Dave,
    DirecTV has migrated most of their HD (high definition) service to their Ka band satellites. If HD is really important to you, then you need to buy two antennas (on Ka, one Ku) or an antenna that will receive both the Ka and Ku signals.
    The TracVision C3 is a Ku-band only system. It will provide you with ALL of DirecTV’s digital quality program, just not the HD versions of the program. Most boaters don’t have 40″+ screens onboard so DirecTV’s standard definition quality, which was considered astonishingly good prior to the introduction of HD and huge screens, more than satisfies them.
    If you want HD on a small system, we recommend you consider the DISH service which broadcasts HD on Ku band. DirecTV has advised us that anything smaller than a 24″ antenna (the size of our TracVision M7) will not work with the planned changes they are about to make with their Ka band network.
    Best regards,
    Jim Dodez
    VP Marketing & Strategic Planning
    KVH Industries, Inc.

  7. Auspicious says:

    Thanks for responding so promptly.
    Do I understand correctly that I could fit a C3 and get all standard definition DirecTV channels? Has DirecTV announced a sunset date for Ku programming, or will they support both indefinitely?
    I’d be happy to take this discussion off-line to avoid clogging up Ben’s forum. You can e-mail me directly at dave at my domain.
    regards, dave
    S/V Auspicious

  8. Up front, I have to repeat that I work for Intellian, but I also have to say that I grew up in Detroit, where we are sensitive to Asian engineering. Also that our CTO (Chief Technical Officer) works in our R&D center in Irvine and lives in California. After 35 years in the marine electronics business, I have a good sense for good technology. But with all that said, I am speechless as to how to respond to the sweeping racial slurs above about our business’ camera-snapping foreign ways.
    Except to say that you should come by our booth at Ft Lauderdale to see how we followed up the All-Americas LNB with an in-house designed/built WorldView LNB for the big boats that travel the world.
    Speaking of larger boats, we are showing a few new 3-axis antennas, which are putting Intellian further ahead in the “fierce competition.” They allow for lower-priced airtime in the internet-access world by using a standard modem that dominates the VSAT world.
    For Inmarsat product, we partner directly with them, and offer the full range of FBB antennas in matching domes to our TV antennas. Ask us where Inmarsat is based, where antennas and components are built, and we’ll fill you in on the international nature of a business based on floating around the world.
    Sometimes people do enjoy sailing off into the sunset to get away from bigotry, slander, paranoia, jealousy and megalomania.
    John Minetola
    VP Sales
    Intellian Technologies, USA

  9. Jim Dodez says:

    Hi again Dave,
    ALL KVH TracVision systems will bring you ALL of the Ku band programming available on DirecTV which includes all of their standard definition programming. Ku band is NOT going away. For DIRECTV, it’s extremely valuable spectrum that actually is considered more suited for TV distribution that Ka band because it is less impacted by “rain fade”, meaning the signals getting blocked by rain or moisture in the atmosphere. DIRECTV has the right to park Ku-band satellites over the equator in a line right in the middle of the country, at 101 degrees west longitude. These high powered satellites can cover the entire country with one broadcast, and right now no competitor can put a similar satellite within 9 degrees of the DirecTV birds. This right, granted by the FCC, is worth billions of dollars to DirecTV.
    Hope this answers the question. I also hope everybody pays particular attention to Panbo today as Ben will be covering all the new products from down here at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show, including KVH’s new TracVision HD-7!
    Best regards,
    Jim Dodez
    VP Marketing and Strategic Planning
    KVH Industries, Inc.

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Damn it! Looks like the first thing I have to do today is discipline the children. Jim, you did go a bit far criticizing your competition. John, you’re exaggerating how far Jim went. Now please STOP! Apologies are in order from both of you. I love having manufacturers comment on Panbo, but you’re showing how it can go wrong. Please fix this.

  11. Jim Dodez says:

    Good morning John!
    My comments on the origin of your product designs were not intend at all to be racist! I was simply pointing out that your products are in fact designed in Korea and that the characteristics of the very high powered television satellites in Korea are very different that those of DIRECTV. If anything I said was offensive to anybody from Korea because they felt it was racially oriented I sincerely apoligize. This was not my intent nor is it in my nature.
    My comments were simply intended to point out that Intellian products come from Korea. You seem to want to suggest that your products are not designed in Korea, but according to your own press releases your US-based position for your CTO is a very recent change. Your job listings on your web site have many new positions for engineers, all based in Korea. I don’t think it’s at all a stretch for me to conclude your products have a Korean origin. KVH considers “made in USA” to be tremendous strength of our product that allows us to better serve the consumer.
    The camera comment was over the top. I apoligize specifically for that as I can see now how it could be interpreted as a stereotype which was not my intention. I was simply trying to point out that Intellian spends a lot of time copying KVH’s materials. This is an issue that your lawyers in Korea have confirmed is a problem and have assured us Intellian would address internally. Since that time, one of our documents you copied and posted on your web site, you failed to remove “KVH terms and conditions” from the document. Hard to argue you’re not copying our stuff when you forget to remove our name! I’m sure you are well aware of the legal activity regarding these infingements of KVH’s intellectual property rights.
    Obviously there is a lot of underlying issues behind my comments about your company, which fairly should not be debated on Panbo so I’ll sign off from this discussion.
    Again, I apologize for anything that was taken as personally offense to anyone from Korea.
    Jim Dodez
    VP Marketing & Strategic Planning
    KVH Industries, Inc.

  12. HaveADay says:

    I’m just a consumer so I don’t have the same level of insight into several things you discuss above. But I don’t believe this is the forum to do it in and I think your attempt to air dirty laundry under the guise of an apology is pretty poor form.
    Regardless of how you see it I believe Intellian has done a very valuable thing for consumers in this marketplace by providing very credible competition. I’ve been baffled for quite a while at the cost of much of the in motion sat equipment and believe that the only way we’ll see that come down is by expanding the market, introducing competition and ultimately increasing units moved so that economies of scale are improved. The lack of Ka has been a significant impediment to that eventuality and one that I believe Intellian has been instrumental in pushing as an issue.
    I’m very glad to see multiple companies with product offerings in this space. I don’t believe the contention that very few boaters with televisions on board are likely to see the difference between HD and SD. I can tell you that with a mid 40’s vessel I have two TVs that can clearly show the difference.

  13. Jim Dodez says:

    You are absolutely correct. I took this conversation the wrong direct and dug a hole I had to try and explain my way out of, which was a mistake. There are a lot of underlying issues, as I’ve tried to explain.
    This is a great exchange for questions and answers relating to the relative performance of marine electronics, and I will try to limit my future comments to the attributes of our products. I’ve had a good conversation with Ben E. about the value of the discussion and the fact that manufacturers getting on public blogs to talk about the products, as well as where this particular thread when wrong.
    Best regards,
    Jim Dodez
    VP Marketing and Stategic Planning
    KVH Industries, Inc.

  14. I also want to apologize for using this forum improperly. We don’t want to offend anyone or distract readers either.
    Fall Boat Show season is a busy and stressful time for Jim and me, as well as everyone in the boating world, and we’re tired and distracted, I’m sure. However, it is a great time for boat owners to see all the great new products that competition and a tough economy can produce.
    I sincerely appreciate all the time that Ben dedicates to his uniquely detailed research into the marine electronics maze of new products, and I want to keep the fun spirit of boating at the middle of that.

  15. Jeff Harris says:

    Assuming a single Intellian D4 antenna as implemented on Gizmo, does the D4 satellite antenna and receiver occasionally need to switch satellites to update the satellite tuning guide? If so, how well does this work while watching TV and surfing channels hoping across the three source satellites?

  16. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Jeff, The D4 system doesn’t switch itself to 101 to get guide information; that would be disruptive. I did get a warning message from time to time on the TV saying that the Guide information was getting old, but apparently I subsequently used 101 enough to prevent any further problems. I understand that if you let the Guide get too old, the whole system resets, which takes a few minutes, including staying on 101 to download current Guide data. I’ve returned the test system now, but I don’t think this is a huge issue.

  17. Mike says:

    The D4 has been a super reliable system for years. Intellian just came out with a new system called the s6HD. Has anyone on here had a chance to perform any testing on this new antenna? Looks like it will receive all 3 DirecTV satellite simultaneously.

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