Launched in 1996, Dish Network is a digital satellite provider by Echostar, a major supplier of satellite receiving equipment.
Dish Network broadcasts using the Digital Video broadcasting standard (DVB-S), the same as many providers in Europe use (Sky), however there are differences that prevent regular receivers from receiving Dish programming. By using an established standard, Dish network got to benefit from existing chipsets and solutions that could be integrated into their system (like OpenTV and Nagravision, discussed later). Alternative systems they could have used was the DigiCipher system (which was owned by General Instruments at the time, a competitor) or the Thomson/DSS, who had invested into. As Echostar were planning to produce and sell DVB receivers for the European market, it made sense to base their Dish Network receivers on DVB in order to benefit since many components and designs could be reused.
For the launch of HDTV, a new modulation standard was introduced, DVB-S TurboFEC which is a modification of the existing DVB-S standard by Broadcom which supports 8PSK modulation. This combined with MPEG4 AVC allows more channels to be carried on one transponder. The use of 8PSK increases the bandwidth available on a single transponder, at the expense of the signal being more prone to signal loss or rain fade. This can be compensated by increasing the size of the dish, the error correction used on the signal or a more powerful satellite. Meanwhile the use of MPeEG4 allows more detail to be carried in less bandwidth compared to MPEG2. All these enhancements require new receivers.
Dish uses Nagravision (like Virgin Media) which is a smartcard-based system to encrypting their channels. Like Direct this system has been compromised in the past. New smart cards were released in 2003 which were based on Nagravision 2 (Aladdin) which was also compromised shortly.
Dish would later switch to Nagravision 3, which has remained secure since its introduction in 2008.
Dish uses OpenTV middleware to deliver their interactive content, like Sky in the United Kingdom. This was used to provide games and information services that were delivered on dedicated channels, and also offered enhanced TV services that ran on existing channels to complement the program broadcast. These were launched in 2001 and required a supported receiver, of which some needed a software update before the service could be used. As interactive was not incorporated into the initial receiver design, not all customers were able to access the service.
The main interactive network was carried on channel 100 and was supported on the 3900, 4900, 301, 508, 510, 322, 522, 625, 721 and 811 model units. Channel 101 was to show DISH account information, billing and network status. Games were offered from Kidswise, Playjam and Playin’TV. Unlike the games offered on Sky, Dish network offered the games as part of their own subscription package and a separate monthly charge was required to access the games, whilst Sky operated on a pay per play basis.