How long should a satellite receiver last?

It’s a sad fact today that a lot of electronic devices become obsolete before they break. I can’t even remember how many perfectly good components have ended up in the recycle bin because they simply didn’t work the way I wanted them to. They were too slow, had the wrong kind of plugs, or just didn’t have some capability I needed. This is unfortunately a very common situation.

Yet, a lot of people have this strange desire to hold onto old satellite TV equipment forever. Maybe it’s because back in the 1990s and 2000s, these boxes cost upwards of $1,000. Maybe it’s just because there’s “nothing wrong” with the thing, or maybe it’s the perfect size for a niche shelf you have. Perhaps you bought the receiver as part of an RV or marine satellite system before the last recession kicked in and you thought it would last forever.

Sad news, though, nothing lasts forever.

Both DIRECTV and DISH have gone through multiple generations of their technology and that’s meant moving away from the oldest receivers to something more modern. A few years ago, DIRECTV stopped providing guide data to the pre-2003 boxes, making them useless. Last year, DISH upgraded its encoding technologies to make anything made before about 2008 obsolete. Between 2016 and 2019, DIRECTV aggressively moved away from standard definition, replacing close to 100% of standard-definition receivers. This move will also allow them to use more advanced encoding on the standard-definition channels that remain. However, it means that any receiver that isn’t HD ready is now obsolete.

How fair is that?

Personally I think it’s really fair to have a piece of equipment last 5 years. Beyond that you’re on borrowed time. That may not seem like a lot but in technology years it is. Certainly there comes a point with every technology where it’s stable enough that older stuff will work for a long time. Look at PCs. Even though they’re really inexpensive, you could easily make one last 7 years or more because things just aren’t changing in the PC world as much as they used to. If you’re willing to forego some of the fanciest new stuff, you can say the same about audio equipment. Sure that 2005-era audio receiver may not do Dolby Atmos, but it still works the same as it ever did and it will probably keep going for another 11 years if you let it.

DISH’s last receiver to lack the ability to decode today’s signals was sold about eight years ago. By the time DIRECTV stops using its pre-2009 MPEG2 technology, it will have been close to 10 years since the last residential customer got a new SD receiver. Both companies have aggressive upgrade programs for customers with older equipment, reducing the cost to near-nothing.

What about RV and marine customers?

Of course, if you’re using an RV or marine system you may have your equipment in a custom cabinet and yeah, I get it… that’s a pain. But it happens all the time. If you think about it, plenty of sports bars that were built at the same time as your RV or boat had big custom spaces for big tube TVs. The world changes. Here’s the important thing to know. If you really want to be futureproof, be prepared to be proactive. Take a good look at your satellite equipment every 5 years or even less. You’ll be glad you did.

If you’re looking to upgrade, be sure to call Solid Signal at 888-233-7563/  We’ll take care of you from beginning to end!

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.