PrimeStar was a U.S. direct broadcast satellite broadcasting company formed in 1991 by a consortium of cable television system operators. PrimeStar was the first medium-powered DBS system in the United States but slowly declined in popularity with the arrival of DirecTV in 1994 and Dish Network in 1996.


PrimeStar was a medium-powered DBS-style system utilizing FSS technology that used a larger 3-foot (91 cm) satellite dish to receive signals.

Broadcast using digital technology, the system used the DigiCipher 1 system for conditional access control and video compression. The video format was MPEG-2. [ PrimeStar digital video information]

PrimeStar was owned by a consortium of cable television companies who leased equipment to subscribers through the local cable company.

The company was in the process of converting to a high powered DBS platform when it was purchased and shut down by DirecTV. The Tempo-1 and Tempo-2 DBS satellites acquired by PrimeStar from the defunct ASkyB were renamed DirecTV-5 and DirecTV-6, respectively.


The system initially launched using medium-powered FSS satellites that were facing obsolescence with the onset of high-powered DBS and its much smaller, eighteen inch satellite dishes. In a move to convert the platform to DBS, PrimeStar bid for the 110-degree satellite location that was eventually awarded to a never-launched direct broadcast satellite service by MCI and News Corporation called ASkyB.

The ASkyB company sold the incomplete Tempo 1 and Tempo 2 DBS satellites to PrimeStar in the process of going out of business. [ ASkyB Sells Assets to PrimeStar] Primestar launched Tempo-2 in 1997 but it was not used for many years. PrimeStar stored the other satellite, Tempo-1, until the company and the two satellites were purchased by DirecTV. [ Tempo 1 and Tempo 2 satellite information] DirecTV eventually launched the Tempo 1 satellite after years of delays as the DirecTV-5 satellite in 2002. [ Launch of DirecTV-5 (former Tempo-1)]

PrimeStar Partners sold its assets to Hughes Network Systems (Now The DirecTV Group, parent company of DirecTV) in 1999 and all subscribers were converted to the DirecTV platform. The PrimeStar brand and its FSS broadcast platform was shut down. Meanwhile, Tempo 1 and Tempo 2 satellite remained, as yet unused.

The Tempo 1 and Tempo 2 satellites were renamed DirecTV-5 and DirecTV-6, respectively, and moved to several locations to serve DirecTV customers.

The company that was awarded the 110-degree slot, ASkyB, eventually became defunct and the license for the 110-degree satellite location was resold to EchoStar, the parent company of DISH Network.

Use of old equipment

Old PrimeStar satellite dishes are popular among hobbyists for free-to-air (FTA) satellite broadcasts on the Ku band transponders of FSS satellites.

The dishes are also popular for wireless computer networking as high-gain Wi-Fi antennas. The antennas are also used by amateur (ham) radio operators to transmit two-way amateur television.


External links

* [ Primestar official homepage via Internet Archive (5/12/1997)]

ee also

* AlphaStar, a defunct satellite broadcaster that also used medium-powered FSS satellites and larger dishes.
* DirecTV, a direct competitor using high-powered DBS satellites and smaller dishes.
* Dish Network, a direct competitor using high-powered DBS satellites and smaller dishes.
* Star Choice, a Canadian broadcaster using medium-powered FSS satellites and larger dishes.
* Bell TV, a Canadian broadcaster using high-powered DBS satellites and smaller dishes.
* Free to Air

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