Finding the Best Position for MotoSAT Internet Access

BLM Boondocking HWY 50 Salida, COMotoSAT’s answer for any connectivity issues with our mobile satellite internet system always seems to be, “Upgrade your firmware.”

So, I always make it a point to make sure ours is current before calling for support. I also turn to others for help. Like Sean who had this advice regarding the best positioning for quick access…

“Try increasing the size of the search window, especially in azimuth. The internal compass, like all compasses, is prone to a lot of error, and sometimes even the declination table is off. So it is possible that the bird is sitting there a few degrees outside the window, and the mount will search the whole window first, before expanding to a broader search.

Calibrating the compass also helps – the real way, which involves turning the rig around an exact 180° – especially if it has not been done in a while.

Lastly, be aware that if you park such that the bird is nearly directly above the way the dish points when stowed (usually directly aft), then the dish will search all possible elevations at a few degrees azimuth before spinning all the way around to try all the elevations at ~360° azimuth. This can add significant time to the search. We try to avoid parking in this orientation, and, if we want to stop someplace just to put the dish up, I even try to park such that the bird will be found in the first ~90° of azimuth – saves time and wear on the drive motor.”

Well, it turns out that compass calibration isn’t even possible with our dish. One expert installer informed us that only older systems have a compass.

But we recently tested Sean’s parking position theory when it took forever for our system to identify any signal. We had inadvertently parked with 91W directly to the rear of our rig. Sure enough, when we relocated and parked pointing a little more West, we were online within a couple minutes. This position works best for us anyway, especially when boondocking. Doing so prevents the dish’s large shadow from covering our solar panel throughout the day.

6 thoughts on “Finding the Best Position for MotoSAT Internet Access”

  1. Sorry, guys, I forgot you had a D3, which does not use the compass input (even if available).

    As you discovered, though, you will still get on more quickly, on average, if you park such that the bird is a few degrees from the starting point of the azimuth swing, rather than a few degrees from the end point of the swing.

    I disagree with the advice about manual aiming. While someone who is well practiced at it, myself included, can usually acquire a signal as quickly or, frequently, more quickly than the automatic search, if you are regularly much faster at it, then there is something wrong with the calibration of the mount; the real solution to that is to fix the calibration.

    For our D2 based system, we usually hit the signal within 15-20 seconds from start of search, where by “start of search” I mean elevation and skew already set and azimuth position at the beginning of the window. The vast majority of the time spent getting on line is spent elevating, skewing, and rotating the mount, and “peaking” the signal, two activities that take the same amount of time no matter how the signal is first acquired.

    Admittedly, my system uses a compass, so it starts the azimuth sweep just 20° ahead of the bird, whereas a system without compass might sweep an average of 180° if no attention is paid to parking direction. But the difference in time it takes to cover that extra 160° sweeping, versus just rotating that far directly, amounts to perhaps half a minute or so.

    So, Mark, if you were still on the road I would suggest re-calibrating the mount and fine-tuning the window size to speed up acquisition time.

    I spend the time while the mount is doing its thing taking care of other tasks anyway — there’s usually at least four or five minutes of other site set-up to be done. Of course, I have a dog to walk…


    • Thanks for the feedback Sean! I agree about the manual pointing business, and that there is always plenty to do while the mount searches. We always try to posotion the rig foe quickest lock-on now. Especially when boondocking!

  2. I tried to make bread last year. It was my first try and that may be the reason I failed. We live at 5,000 foot elevation. The bread tasted good but was only about 2 to 3 inches high.

  3. After months of frustration with finding and locking on to our satellite 83w, I found a better way was to do it manually.

    Just get out a compass and find the general direction of your satellite… it changes as you move day to day, but not that much. Ours was generally in the south, south east.

    You know from the last time you locked on (always jot down the numbers) what height (azimith?) is… say 26 degrees. That changes too with movement, but again not much… and besides, when you flip it on to get set up to launch, if you wait a few minutes… that number is generated for you. So you then know the angle of aim.

    All that’s left is to use the compass and, depending on the direction you are parked ( we always tried to park pointing in the direction that we knew our sat. was in because it makes for a quick find as soon as it’s up) all you have to do is raise to the angle specified (again, the internal GPS gives you that number) and then rotate the dish manually to your compass south east point about 5 degrees at a time while watching signal strength on you laptop screen. As soon as you find the highest signal strength, change degrees of movement to 1 or 2 and fine tune the search till you get the highest reading possible… probably takes at least a signal strength reading of at least 34 or above to “lock on”

    you might need to fine tune elevation a half degree or so to get the best signal. As soon as your sig. strength goes over 34, communication, handshake and lock on proceeds automatically.

    I got to where I could achieve lock on manually way faster that letting the motosat find it for me… usually around 4 minutes.

    The funny thing was, was that the guys at motosat told me I would never be able to find it manually because it would want to lock on to another sat… the wrong one. and there was another sat that occasionally… when in some parts of the country fooled me… but you do it a while and find out that it doesn’t give you good signal strength and com. lights don’t chatter like they should… and you know to go a few degrees more in rotation.
    We traveled for over a year doing it manually. Once in a while, I would try auto find, and it would search and search… I’m too impatient for that.
    good luck guys. mark

  4. A very interesting post, and I learned something important. I keep telling myself I need to get satellite for internet, but after reading what you have to go through I’m sure I wouldn’t do it. You are fortunate that you understand it. Sounds like you have the key to getting quick reception – good job!


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