Some questions just keep popping up. And honestly, it’s because they are good questions. I am asked pretty regularly if there’s a way to include an antenna signal on the same wire as the DIRECTV signal. Unfortunately, there’s not. The reason behind it takes some explaining.
How DIRECTV SWM technology works
DIRECTV’s SWM technology lets you have one wire that feeds multiple receivers. It does this by reserving a small chunk of frequencies for each receiver and only providing the receiver with the signal it needs. That way you can fit up to 21 different signals in a space which originally held only one. There’s a lot more information available, more than you’d really ever need, here.
Today’s SWM multiswitches are the second generation. The first generation used an analog filtering system which only allowed 8 signals on the same line. The new generation allows up to 21, although most DIRECTV equipment can only work with 13.
Room to play nice
SWM technology allows room on the same cable for several other technologies. A large amount of space on the wire is left for cable-modem communications. This is done so DIRECTV systems can coexist with internet service providers in apartments. Another decent chunk of frequencies is dedicated to in-home network communication, and that’s what makes Genie clients possible.
Unfortunately during the development of SWM technology, it was decided that the best frequencies to use for in-home networking were 475-625 megahertz. This range is also used for UHF frequencies, making it impossible to combine the two. In fact, you really can’t combine any off-air channels with DIRECTV service as a result.
Why did they do this?
It seems like the most important decision was leaving plenty of room for internet service providers. The SWM system reserves the entire frequency range from 5-450MHz for internet/cable modem communication. No provider needs all this space, but every provider has their own system so it was important to make sure there was enough space that every internet service provider could coexist with DIRECTV. If they couldn’t, people in that complex probably wouldn’t be able to get DIRECTV satellite service.
Is this still true with the new SWM-30?
The SWM-30 multiswitch is smaller, more powerful, and uses less energy than the previous generation. However it doesn’t change the fact that it’s essentially impossible to diplex an off-air signal into a DIRECTV signal.
But… But… the SWM-8…
The old SWM-8 multiswitch literally has a port on it that says OFF-AIR. Yes, I know. And you still can’t use it in most cases. This represents the very first version of SWM Technology. The multiswitch went public in 2009 and it came before any whole-home service or sharing. Even if you’re not actively sharing programs between receivers, all current DIRECTV hardware sends information between all receivers. This is true even if you are using Ethernet. While it’s possible to filter out this information, it would mean that you lose out on a lot of advanced services. I don’t actually recommend connecting any of your receivers over Ethernet except a Genie DVR (which then sends the signal to all clients over the network frequencies.)
For now, it seems the dream of a single wire to feed satellite and antenna signals is still dead. I’ll let you know if that changes.