Can bad weather affect satellite TV and broadband?

neil hawkins
By Neil Hawkins

satellite tv

"I've heard that bad weather like heavy snow can affect satellite TV and broadband, is that true?"

It's true: bad weather such as strong winds, heavy rain and snow can affect TV and broadband services delivered through satellite.

Although it's rarely an issue for most people, if it does happen the disruption can be unexpected and seem out of your control.

We take a look at why it happens, whether it should put you off satellite altogether and some simple ways to ensure that bad weather problems are kept to an absolute minimum.

What's the problem?

There are two: bad weather can physically damage a satellite dish, temporarily or over the longer term, and some type of bad weather can disrupt the satellite signal.

A large snowfall is the most likely cause of disruption to satellite TV or broadband services, although heavy rain and winds can also have a detrimental effect.

Snow on the dish, in particular, is a headache because it can move the dish out of alignment with the satellite, resulting in interruption to TV services in the longer term.

It may be that only some TV channels are affected and you will typically experience that 'blocky' effect which mashes up the sound and picture.

If the weather is particularly severe you might also see the dreaded 'No satellite signal is being received' message.

Avanti, a provider of satellite broadband packages, explains that signal itself can also be affected in severe weather conditions.

It's all down to the weakening of the satellite signal, Avanti say "as it passes through raindrops, fog, heavy cloud cover or high winds".

In a nutshell, rain diffuses the transmission power and absorbs energy from the signal which in turn lowers the quality of the satellite service.

Should it put you off?

So should bad weather put you off satellite services?

In general, no.

Even in the wilds of Scotland, the UK climate is temperate enough for satellite dishes to survive most weather conditions thrown at them and satellite TV and broadband providers already take steps to combat the problem as much as possible.

For example, Sky satellite dishes come in two different sizes because some areas need a slightly bigger surface area to give the satellite signal the best chance at reaching its destination.

It's also worth noting that faults due to bad weather aren't limited to satellite services.

As we update this article in February 2014, parts of the UK are underwater.

In some places flooding has affected phone and broadband lines and it has certainly disrupted BT's repair work, potentially leaving some households without a landline service and, therefore, without their ADSL broadband service.

Flooding can have more serious consequences when it affects vital exchanges, as has happened in the past. In that case, whole areas lose their connections.

All in all, short of moving somewhere less wet, weather related disruptions seem fairly inevitable whichever type of telecoms you use.

Checking and fixing bad weather faults

So on to the practical stuff. Here are a few tips for checking and repairing your services if you think they've been affected by bad weather.

Sky box check

It is possible to check whether the weather is at fault or whether there is a technical fault on the broadcaster's side by checking the status of the signal via the settings menu on a Sky set top box.

If both the signal strength and quality indicators are showing then the fault is with the broadcaster.

If not, then unfortunately the problem is with the dish or box.

Realigning dishes

Those experiencing persistent problems may need to realign their satellite dishes.

This is particularly true if a dish has been placed on a high pole which can make it more susceptible to problems caused by bad weather or if the dish has been placed in a position which makes it particularly vulnerable.

If a dish is too close to trees or underneath the eaves of the roof, for example, snow and rain could collect more easily on the dish and around the connection to the home and disrupt signal.

Although it's possible to do this yourself, it's advisable to get a professional, either your satellite provider such as Sky or Avanti or an independent specialist to come and do it for you.

Another problem?

The BBC must look into persistent problems with television signal and they can give guidance on what could be causing the problem and how to fix it.

They can also get the communications regulator, Ofcom, involved if there's a really tricky problem.

To get started, fill out this diagnostic tool on their website.

They're unlikely to be able to help much with weather issues, aside from potentially diagnosing that as the cause, however.


22 March 2013
Terry Martin

I use a Freesat box and in tonight's snow the caption "bad or no signal received" comes up, and no channels are received at all. Another TV I have with an indoor aerial works fine. Thank you for your comments which have put my mind at rest, and I look forward to seeing if the signal returns when the 2ft of snow thaws...

15 December 2012

I have no aerial other than the Sky dish. If I get the blue screen, I switch to BBC and can always get a good picture and sound. Does this mean that Sky isn't providing a strong enough signal?