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What is Radio Spectrum?

A band is a small section of the spectrum of radio communication frequencies, in which channels are usually used or set aside for the same purpose.

Above 300 GHz, the absorption of electromagnetic radiation by Earth's atmosphere is so great that the atmosphere is effectively opaque, until it becomes transparent again in the near-infrared and optical window frequency ranges.

To prevent interference and allow for efficient use of the radio spectrum, similar services are allocated in bands. For example, broadcasting, mobile radio, or navigation devices, will be allocated in non-overlapping ranges of frequencies.

Each of these bands has a basic bandplan which dictates how it is to be used and shared, to avoid interference and to set protocol for the compatibility of transmitters and receivers.

As a matter of convention, bands are divided at wavelengths of 10n metres, or frequencies of 3×10n hertz. For example, 30 MHz or 10 m divides shortwave (lower and longer) from VHF (shorter and higher). These are the parts of the radio spectrum, and not its frequency allocation.

ITU

The ITU radio bands are designations defined in the ITU Radio Regulations. Article 2, provision No. 2.1 states that "the radio spectrum shall be subdivided into nine frequency bands, which shall be designated by progressive whole numbers in accordance with the following table".

The table originated with a recommendation of the IVth CCIR meeting, held in Bucharest in 1937, and was approved by the International Radio Conference held at Atlantic City in 1947. The idea to give each band a number, in which the number is the logarithm of the approximate geometric mean of the upper and lower band limits in Hz, originated with B.C. Fleming-Williams, who suggested it in a letter to the editor of Wireless Engineer in 1942. (For example, the approximate geometric mean of Band 7 is 10 MHz, or 107 Hz.)

By application

Broadcasting

Broadcast frequencies:

Designations for television and FM radio broadcast frequencies vary between countries, see Television channel frequencies and FM broadcast band. Since VHF and UHF frequencies are desirable for many uses in urban areas, in North America some parts of the former television broadcasting band have been reassigned to cellular phone and various land mobile communications systems. Even within the allocation still dedicated to television, TV-band devices use channels without local broadcasters.

The Apex band in the United States was a pre-WWII allocation for VHF audio broadcasting; it was made obsolete after the introduction of FM broadcasting.

Air band

Airband refers to VHF frequencies used for navigation and voice communication with aircraft. Trans-oceanic aircraft also carry HF radio and satellite transceivers.

Marine band

The greatest incentive for development of radio was the need to communicate with ships out of visual range of shore. From the very early days of radio, large oceangoing vessels carried powerful long-wave and medium-wave transmitters. High-frequency allocations are still designated for ships, although satellite systems have taken over some of the safety applications previously served by 500 kHz and other frequencies. 2182 kHz is a medium-wave frequency still used for marine emergency communication.

Marine VHF radio is used in coastal waters and relatively short-range communication between vessels and to shore stations. Radios are channelized, with different channels used for different purposes; marine Channel 16 is used for calling and emergencies.

Amateur radio frequencies

Amateur radio frequency allocations vary around the world. Several bands are common for amateurs world-wide, usually in the shortwave part of the spectrum. Other bands are national or regional allocations only due to differing allocations for other services, especially in the VHF and UHF parts of the radio spectrum.

Citizens' band and personal radio services

Citizens' band radio is allocated in many countries, using channelized radios in the upper HF part of the spectrum (around 27 MHz). It used for personal, small business and hobby purposes. Other frequency allocations are used for similar services in different jurisdictions, for example UHF CB is allocated in Australia. A wide range of personal radio services exist around the world, usually emphasizing short-range communication between individuals or for small businesses, simplified or no license requirements, and usually FM transceivers using around 1 watt or less.

Industrial, scientific, medical

The ISM bands were initially reserved for non-communications uses of RF energy, such as microwave ovens, radio-frequency heating, and similar purposes. However in recent years the largest use of these bands has been by short-range low-power communications systems, since users do not have to hold a radio operator's license. Cordless telephones, wireless computer networks, Bluetooth devices, and garage door openers all use the ISM bands. ISM devices do not have regulatory protection against interference from other users of the band.

Land mobile bands

Bands of frequencies, especially in the VHF and UHF parts of the spectrum, are allocated for communication between fixed base stations and land mobile vehicle-mounted or portable transceivers. In the United States these services are informally known as business band radio. See also Professional mobile radio.

Police radio and other public safety services such as fire departments and ambulances are generally found in the VHF and UHF parts of the spectrum. Trunking systems are often used to make most efficient use of the limited number of frequencies available.

The demand for mobile telephone service has led to large blocks of radio spectrum allocated to cellular frequencies.

Radio control

Reliable radio control uses bands dedicated to the purpose. Radio-controlled toys may use portions of unlicensed spectrum in the 27 MHz or 49 MHz bands, but more costly aircraft, boat, or land vehicle models use dedicated remote control frequencies near 72 MHz to avoid interference by unlicensed uses. Licensed amateur radio operators use portions of the 6-meter band in North America. Industrial remote control of cranes or railway locomotives use assigned frequencies that vary by area.

Radar

Radar applications use relatively high power pulse transmitters and sensitive receivers, so radar is operated on bands not used for other purposes. Most radar bands are in the microwave part of the spectrum, although certain important applications for meteorology make use of powerful transmitters in the UHF band.

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