Foxtel Multistacker – Top 7 Use Cases
1 September 2019
What Is the Foxtel Multistacker?
The Foxtel Satellite Multistacker (“Multistacker”) is a device that has been developed for Foxtel that enables Foxtel’s full services to be viewed using a ‘single cable solution’. In Foxtel’s language, the Multistacker “combines 2 horizontal and 2 vertical satellite services from 2 orbital locations and combines them on a single RF cable so that a single RF input port on an iQ3 or later set top box can receive the signals”. It does this by taking the vertical satellite services and ‘re-stacking’ them at higher frequencies as horizontal services. This means there is no need for different polarities to be in use at the same time and so no need for Foxtel’s set top boxes to require dedicated 13V and 18V lateral cables from a multiswitch. Refer to more information from Foxtel.
Well that was a mouthful! So, what does that really mean?
Practically, it means that you can design a much more efficient Foxtel system. The biggest efficiency gain (both labour and parts) will come from the reduction in lateral cables. The multistacker requires only a single lateral cable for each outlet. It also requires only a single backbone cable to be run from device to device in the risers, so there are gains to be had in the backbone installation as well. All in all, it could reduce your Foxtel installation cost on a new building by up to 50%!
Brands of the Foxtel Multistacker
The Multistacker that is approved for use in Foxtel’s systems in Australia are made by either Kingray or Jonsa. Both are highly reputable brands in the Australian MATV industry and Foxtel wouldn’t approve the product unless it was very happy with performance and reliability. The two brands of multistacker do differ a little in design, however, perform at very similar levels. Here is what they look like:
What Was Used Before the Multistacker?
Previously, the most common method to install a full service Foxtel system was using a ‘5 wire’ system. This system design requires 5 coaxial backbone cables (backbone cables are the cables from the dish to the first device in each riser, then to each riser device thereafter), and 2 lateral cables (lateral cables are the number of cables run from the riser to the TV point on your wall). The move away from 5 wire systems to Multistacker systems has resulted in significant cost savings for new installations and also presents numerous opportunities for system upgrades, as outlined below.
Other Single Cable Solutions (“TDT”)
There was previously a single cable solution available for watching Foxtel, called a “Transparent Digital Transmodulator” (or “TDT”) system. This design would take an incoming satellite feed, DVB-S, and transmodulate (or move) that feed to a cable frequency, DVB-C. However, the limitation of this is that at the lower frequencies of DVB-C, there is less bandwidth available and so it becomes more difficult to deliver multiple high quality content channels simultaneously (think HD, UHD and 4K channels!). In conjunction with Foxtel’s cable based set-top boxes not being design for 4K, new TDT systems are no longer approved for use by Foxtel.
Use Cases for the Foxtel Multistacker
So, why would you want to use the Multistacker? Here we outline 7 scenarios where you may want to consider using the Multistacker for either a new build or a building upgrade.
1. New Residential Apartment Building (MDU)
The most common use of the Multistacker will no doubt be for new residential apartment buildings. If you are a builder or electrician and your Electrical Specification includes provision for PayTV, then you will want to get a Multistacker installed. It will be much more cost effective than a TDT or 5 wire system and is the latest Foxtel technology – why wouldn’t you install it? It currently won’t be allowed for all new construction sites (in particular where there it is a site that has PayTV points allocated for retail, aged care, or other Foxtel Business customers). If you are looking to get a quote and/or design for your upcoming new build, feel free to email Install My Antenna for further details.
2. Building Upgrade – Foxtel Cable Site
If you are the strata manager, building manager or are otherwise on the Committee for a multi-dwelling building (‘MDU”) that has Foxtel Cable installed, you may want to get on the front foot to ensure your building still has Foxtel for the next few years. As flagged in our previous article on Foxtel Moving Customers from Cable to Satellite, the cabling infrastructure in your building (currently being leased by Foxtel), will soon be owned by the NBN. In fact, the NBN may already be looking to use that cabling to switch on internet services for your building. In this case, there is a chance they could be running Foxtel and internet services on the one cables, resulting in poor performance and interference for both services.
There is a horizon date for this switchover. Foxtel have negotiated with Telstra to be off the HFC network by 2023 when the NBN takes over for its own use. If a Foxtel Cable building has not upgraded its Foxtel infrastructure to be via satellite before then, there will be some very unhappy Foxtel subscribers in the building!
If you are looking to future-proof your building from potential issues or a complete drop-off of Foxtel services, Install My Antenna’s design experts are able to provide you with an option to upgrade our site to Foxtel satellite, using a Multistacker design.
3. Building Upgrade – Foxtel Lite or Foxtel Extra Lite Site
There are a number of apartment buildings or other MDU sites that are cabled as ‘Foxtel Lite’ or ‘Foxtel Extra Lite’ sites. What does that mean?
A ‘Foxtel Lite’ site is a building that has only a single lateral cable from a multiswitch to a TV point in each apartment. This practically results in Foxtel Lite subscribers only being able to receive either Horizontal or Vertical channels at any given time. This can cause issues when a subscriber wishes to record one channel, which is transported on a Horizontal polarity, whilst also watching another channel, which is transported on a Vertical polarity (or vice-versa). With only one lateral cable to each TV point, that is simply not possible.
A ‘Foxtel Extra Lite’ site is a building that has only a single lateral cable from a splitter (sending only a single polarity, either Horizontal or Vertical channels) to a TV point in each apartment. This results in subscribers only being able to receive Horizontal channels or Vertical channels. Typically, as there are currently more channels (and more popular channels) on the Horizontal polarity, it is normal Horizontal channels that are selected for distribution throughout the building. This typically means that subscribers simply don’t receive Vertical channels.
The multistacker allows for a simple retro-fit installation to upgrade ‘Foxtel Lite’ or ‘Foxtel Extra Lite’ buildings to offer full Foxtel channels without the need for any new cabling. This will improve the Foxtel experience for existing Foxtel subscribers in the building (by giving them additional channels and/or recording options) and may even encourage other building residents to subscribe to Foxtel.
4. Building Upgrade – Free To Air TV Only Site
So many buildings in Australia (in particular, older buildings) weren’t built with Foxtel in mind. They were most likely built before Foxtel even existed, or it may simply not have been a provision at the time it was built. As a result, these buildings only have a single coaxial lateral cable to provide residents with Free To Air TV antenna channels.
Until the multistacker was introduced, these type of buildings were faced with very expensive options to get Foxtel to the building. The main options were either: (i) install a new lateral cable to each TV point in the building, or (ii) install a TDT system. Now, with the multistacker, there is a much more affordable solution available, which can start at less than $5,000 (including design, supply, installation and commissioning). It really is a game-changer for these buildings and provides a cost-effective option to provide all residents with the full Foxtel services.
5. Building Upgrade – Foxtel TDT Site
For all TDT installations, Foxtel makes it compulsory for the TDT systems to be maintained by a skilled MATV service provider. These maintenance services are provided for under a Foxtel Maintenance Contract or Service Level Agreement (“SLA”). Depending on the size of the system, these agreements can cost anywhere from $2,000 per annum and we have heard of some buildings paying in excess of $10,000 per year!
Multistacker systems, on the other hand, do no require any ongoing maintenance contract. This can create a huge cost saving opportunity for buildings. There will be an upfront cost to convert the system over from TDT to multistacker, however, this can sometimes pay for itself after just 2-3 years, compared to paying unnecessary maintenance contract fees.
6. Building Upgrade – NBN Require Lateral Cables
So the NBN have approached your building and have said you are going to get HFC technology. HFC requires a coaxial cable (RG6 or RG11) for the NTD or modem to connect to inside your apartment. However, your building has set ceilings, no manholes and there is no way to hide any new lateral cables to each apartment. The NBN have told you that they can either install internal or external ducting, but the building owners and Committee don’t want ugly ducting installed across every floor of the building! To make things worse, there is a cut-off period when all residents will be required to sign-up to the NBN, or else be left with no internet or a fixed wireless service only.
If this is the case, and the building currently has a Foxtel 5 wire system in place, then you are in luck. It is possible to upgrade the Foxtel system in your building to a multistacker, which will make available one spare lateral cable. Remember, a 5 wire system has two lateral cables for each TV outlet. If we upgrade it to a multistacker, then that TV point only requires a single lateral, which means one RG6 coaxial cable has just been made redundant. This redundant RG6 coaxial cable can now be used for the NBN HFC installation.
7. Residential Building (SDU) – New or Existing Site
If you have an existing single dwelling unit (‘SDU’), or a building a new house or duplex, then you may want to consider installing a multistacker as an alternative to installing a 5wire system. If you want the building to have Foxtel services, this will definitely be the most affordable option.
That rounds out our list of top 7 use cases of the foxtel multistacker. If you have any further queries or questions, feel free to email or call Install My Antenna on 1300 800 123. We are happy to help with all Foxtel multistacker designs and/or installations.