Amateur television

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Amateur television (ATV) is the transmission of broadcast quality video and audio over the wide range of frequencies of radio waves allocated for radio amateur (Ham) use. [1] ATV is used for non-commercial experimentation, pleasure, and public service events. Ham TV stations were on the air in many cities before commercial television stations came on the air. [2] Various transmission standards are used, these include the broadcast transmission standards of NTSC in North America and Japan, and PAL or SECAM elsewhere, utilizing the full refresh rates of those standards. ATV includes the study of building of such transmitters and receivers, and the study of radio propagation of signals travelling between transmitting and receiving stations. [3]

Broadcast quality is a term stemming from quad videotape to denote the quality achieved by professional video cameras and time base correctors (TBC) used for broadcast television, usually in standard definition. As the standards for commercial television broadcasts have changed from analog television using analog video to digital television using digital video, the term has generally fallen out of use.

Video electronic medium for the recording, copying and broadcasting of moving visual images

Video is an electronic medium for the recording, copying, playback, broadcasting, and display of moving visual media.

Radio wave type of electromagnetic radiation

Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies as high as 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 30 hertz (Hz). At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm, and at 30 Hz is 10,000 km. Like all other electromagnetic waves, radio waves travel at the speed of light. They are generated by electric charges undergoing acceleration, such as time varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.


ATV is an extension of amateur radio. It is also called HAM TV or fast-scan TV (FSTV), as opposed to slow-scan television (SSTV). SSTV is a method of transmitting still images over radio, when it is not possible to send video.

Amateur radio use of designated radio frequency spectra for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages

Amateur radio, also known as ham radio, describes the use of radio frequency spectrum for purposes of non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, private recreation, radiosport, contesting, and emergency communication. The term "amateur" is used to specify "a duly authorised person interested in radioelectric practice with a purely personal aim and without pecuniary interest;" and to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety, or professional two-way radio services.

Slow-scan television picture transmission method used mainly by amateur radio operators

Slow Scan television (SSTV) is a picture transmission method used mainly by amateur radio operators, to transmit and receive static pictures via radio in monochrome or color.

Signal circuit performance checks made when using a typical test card. Philips Pattern PM5544 description.png
Signal circuit performance checks made when using a typical test card.

North American context

In North America, amateur radio bands that are suitable for a television signal (wide enough to fit such a signal) are higher in frequency than VHF broadcast TV. The lowest frequency ham band suitable for television transmission is 70 centimeters, which is between broadcast channels 13 and 14. While outside of broadcast television channels, this frequency falls into CATV frequencies, on channels 57 to 61 (IRC) (420–450  MHz). [4] As such, ATV transmissions can be viewed by setting a television or analog cable-box to cable input and attaching an outdoor antenna. For more sensitive reception, some users may use a purposely-built ATV down-converter, which is a kind of set-top-box. Other bands are also used for ATV, most of them in the UHF region on frequencies higher than UHF broadcast TV. 33 centimeters and 23 centimeters are two other commonly used bands for ATV, but reception of these higher bands requires the use of a down-converter.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Amateur radio frequency allocation is done by national telecommunication authorities. Globally, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) oversees how much radio spectrum is set aside for amateur radio transmissions. Individual amateur stations are free to use any frequency within authorized frequency ranges; authorized bands may vary by the class of the station license.

In communications, a system is wideband when the message bandwidth significantly exceeds the coherence bandwidth of the channel. Some communication links have such a high data rate that they are forced to use a wide bandwidth; other links may have relatively low data rates, but deliberately use a wider bandwidth than "necessary" for that data rate in order to gain other advantages; see spread spectrum.

Most ATV signals are transmitted in either amplitude modulation (AM) or vestigial sideband (VSB) NTSC (North American analog TV broadcast modulation standard)[ citation needed ]. DSB AM and VSB AM signals are inherently compatible with each other, and most televisions can receive either. DSB-AM signals consists of the carrier and both upper and lower sidebands. VSB-AM is where DSB-AM is filtered and the lower sideband is highly attenuated at frequencies more than 1.25 MHz from the carrier signal. A VSB filter can be added to a DSB-AM transmitter to make it a VSB signal. The filters, depending on power usage, will cost anywhere from US$100–1,000. For practical reasons, most individual ATV users transmit in DSB-AM, and VSB is transmitted by repeater stations. On the 33 cm and higher bands, frequency modulation (FM) ATV may be used, and on the SHF and EHF ham bands, FM is more commonly used than VSB or AM. FM ATV is incompatible with AM/VSB ATV, and a separate demodulator is necessary to receive signals.

Amplitude modulation in amplitude modulation, the amplitude (signal strength) of the carrier wave is varied in proportion to the waveform being transmitted

Amplitude modulation (AM) is a modulation technique used in electronic communication, most commonly for transmitting information via a radio carrier wave. In amplitude modulation, the amplitude of the carrier wave is varied in proportion to that of the message signal being transmitted. The message signal is, for example, a function of the sound to be reproduced by a loudspeaker, or the light intensity of pixels of a television screen. This technique contrasts with frequency modulation, in which the frequency of the carrier signal is varied, and phase modulation, in which its phase is varied.

NTSC analog television system

NTSC, named after the National Television System Committee, is the analog television color system that was used in North America from 1954 and until digital conversion, was used in most of the Americas ; Myanmar; South Korea; Taiwan; Philippines; Japan; and some Pacific island nations and territories.

2 m band

The 2-meter band (144-148 MHz) lies within cable channel 18, but at 4 MHz wide, it is too narrow to fit the full 6 MHz bandwidth of an NTSC analog channel (the audio carrier of cable channel 18, for example, lies outside the band, although the SAP carrier does not).

The 2-meter amateur radio band is a portion of the VHF radio spectrum, comprising frequencies stretching from 144 MHz to 148 MHz in International Telecommunication Union region (ITU) Regions 2 and 3 and from 144 MHz to 146 MHz in ITU Region 1. The license privileges of amateur radio operators include the use of frequencies within this band for telecommunication, usually conducted locally within a range of about 100 miles (160 km).

The 2-meter band is often used by ATV operators for coordination with each other via FM voice transmissions. Operators seeking an ATV contact might first attempt calling on a regionally recognized ATV liaison-frequency, commonly 144.34 MHz, then agree to an ATV frequency to use for the video transmissions. The 2 meter frequency may be used throughout the contact to talk back to the current station transmitting video. The receiving station(s) may suggest adjustments the sending station can make, such as antenna direction, to improve the quality of the video received.

70 cm band

The 70-centimeter band (420-450 MHz) is the most commonly used ham band for ATV. Signals transmitted on this band usually propagate longer distances than on higher frequency bands, for a given transmitter power and antenna gain. The band falls between broadcast TV channels 13 and 14, which are 210–216 MHz and 470–476 MHz respectively. Propagation is similar to the lowest UHF TV Broadcast channels.

The 70-centimeter or 440 MHz band is a portion of the UHF radio spectrum internationally allocated to amateur radio and amateur satellite use. The ITU amateur radio allocation is from 430 to 440 MHz; however, some countries, such as the United States, allocate hams 420 to 450 MHz. Amateur satellites are only allocated a small portion of the band, 435 to 438 MHz, on a non-interference basis. The band is usually shared with other radio services, most commonly government radar systems, such as PAVE PAWS.

Additionally, this band can be easily received by simply tuning any cable-ready analog television or cable-box to the cable TV channels below and connecting an outdoor TV antenna. Amateur TV signals are much weaker than broadcast TV, so a preamplifier is often used to improve reception.

Analog CATV (IRC) channelChannel Bandwidth (MHz)Video Freq (MHz)Audio Freq (MHz)Notes

Usage notes:

  1. In Canada and areas of the US north of a designated "Line A" boundary, amateurs are not allowed to transmit on these channels. [5] [6]
  2. Usually used as an ATV repeater output. VSB filters must be used on this channel to keep the signal inside the ham band.
  3. Channels 58 and 59 are often offset in frequency to limit interference to the weak-signal and amateur radio satellite sub-bands (431–433 & 435–438 MHz respectively). Many modern CATV receivers can still lock-on to frequencies offset as much as 1 MHz.
  4. Rarely used today due to heavy FM repeater use in this range.
  5. For technical reasons, a maximum of two channels may be simultaneously used within a given geographic area, and the video carrier frequencies must be at least 12 MHz apart for the signals not to interfere with each other.

33 cm band

The 33-centimeter band (902-928 MHz) is next highest frequency ham band available for ATV in North America. This ham band is unique to ITU Region 2, and it is rarely available for amateur use in ITU Regions 1 or 3. [7] This band is also shared with many users, including ISM devices and unlicensed Part 15 users, so interference issues are more likely than on other bands.

These channels can be received by many newer analog cable-boxes and televisions, which can tune to channels above 125.

Analog CATV (IRC) channelChannel Bandwidth (MHz)Video Freq (MHz)Audio Freq (MHz)Notes

Usage notes:

  1. Available, but no known usage.
  2. In portions of Colorado and Wyoming, amateurs are not allowed to transmit ATV on this channel. [8]
  3. May interfere with growing FM use on the 927–928 MHz sub-band.
  4. For technical reasons, a maximum of two channels may be simultaneously used within a given geographic area, and the video carrier frequencies must be at least 12 MHz apart for the signals not to interfere with each other.

Additionally 33 cm is the lowest frequency band on which higher-quality frequency modulated amateur TV occurs. This format gives better picture quality than standard AM television. The FM television format used is identical to big dish analog satellite television and can be received by some tuners which can tune this low in frequency. [9] Otherwise a specialized FM amateur TV receiver is needed.

23 cm band

The 23-centimeter band (1240-1300 MHz) is the third highest frequency band available for ATV. Analog big-dish satellite television (TVRO) receivers may be re-purposed for inexpensively receiving ATV in this band. Such receivers can decode FM television when an outdoor antenna is connected to the LNB input. Due to the low cost and ease of repurposing old analog satellite receivers, this is the most popular band for FM amateur TV.

Commonly used 23 cm FM channels:

This band is also used for AM/VSB television, although this requires a specialized receiver.

Channel Bandwidth (MHz)Video Freq (MHz)Audio Freq (MHz)Notes
1,240 – 1,2461,241.251,245.751
1,252 – 1,2581,253.251,257.75
1,264 – 1,2701,265.251,269.75
1,276 – 1,2821,277.251,281.75
1,288 – 1,2941,289.251,293.75

Usage notes:

  1. Expensive VSB filters must be used on this channel to keep the signal inside the ham band.
  2. All of the video carrier frequencies are 12 MHz apart to allow for each channel to be used simultaneously in a given geographic area without causing interference to each other.

Other amateur radio bands

In addition to the above, there are other ham bands which are less commonly used for ATV:

Other information

The distance record for ATV is between Hawaii and California (2,518 miles) on 434 MHz. [10]

Experiments with digital modes have lagged somewhat behind those in Europe, but have taken on some new urgency given the transition of broadcast television. WR8ATV currently has an output using DVB-S, which is believed to be the first DATV repeater in the US. [11]

There is now a DATV downlink on the ISS operating in the amateur 2.4 GHz band.

European context

In Europe, which generally has a narrower 70 cm allocation than the USA, the majority of amateur television operation is currently frequency modulated on 1.2 GHz and above. The frequencies in use depend on national permissions. In most of mainland Europe, the most common frequency is 1255 MHz. Other bands commonly used for ATV are the 13cm (~2.3–2.45 GHz) and 3-cm (~10 GHz) bands, although ATV is used on most of the microwave bands.

In several countries cross-band repeaters are used, with AM inputs on 430 MHz and FM outputs on 1255 MHz, others have FM-ATV inputs on 13 cm and outputs on 3 cm.

In the United Kingdom, much activity occurs using in-band repeaters. These generally have an input of 1248, 1249 or 1255 MHz and typically output at 1308, 1312 or 1316 MHz, although other frequencies are also used. Simplex operation occurs on these or other frequencies chosen to avoid interference with other users of the band, e.g. 1285 MHz. Recent experiments have been done with digital modes following widely adopted DVB-S and DVB-T standards. These new DATV transmissions need less spectrum bandwidth than FM-ATV and offer superior picture quality. However, the unavoidable processing delays caused by the temporal compression mean that DATV signals have a second or more of time lag, which can make real-time video conversations feel much less natural than the 'instantaneous' analogue system.

Transmission characteristics

Typical fast scan test card showing "Hanover bars" (colour banding) effect in Pal S (simple) signal mode of transmission. Hanoverbars without PAL delay.png
Typical fast scan test card showing "Hanover bars" (colour banding) effect in Pal S (simple) signal mode of transmission.

Typically frequency modulated TV is used on frequencies above 1,240 MHz (1.24  GHz), where there is enough bandwidth for such wideband transmissions. This is often used as a repeater's input frequency, with output being standard VSB on the four channels listed above.

In a nutshell

The quality of transmission is expressed as a "p level"; "p" standing for "picture". P levels range from zero to five, increasing as the picture becomes more viewable. P-0 signifies a state in which sync bars are visible, but the picture is too snowy to be seen; this occurs at a minimum signal strength of 3 dB. Each level represents an increase of 6 dB over the previous; P-5 is 30 dB above P-0 and represents a perfectly clear picture. [12]


As transmission frequency increases, atmospheric path losses become greater, particularly at frequencies above 10 GHz. Additionally, long-distance propagation by F-layer ionospheric skip over the horizon does not typically occur at higher frequencies, and terrain and man-made structures can affect propagation of signals, blocking or redirecting signals. Factors such as E-layer skip propagation, tropospheric enhancement, and knife-edge diffraction can extend the useful range of signals. [13]


Test transmission signal for chrominance and luminance signals check using Pal D (delay line) encoding - colour "hanover Bars" effect no longer visible. Hanover bars with PAL delay.png
Test transmission signal for chrominance and luminance signals check using Pal D (delay line) encoding - colour "hanover Bars" effect no longer visible.

Content produced by ATV has included:

See also

Related Research Articles

Shortwave radio radio frequencies in the range of 1.6-30 megahertz (ITU region 1) or 1.7-30 megahertz (ITU region 2)

Shortwave radio is radio transmission using shortwave radio frequencies. There is no official definition of the band, but the range always includes all of the high frequency band (HF), and generally extends from 1.7–30 MHz (176.3–10.0 m); from the high end of the medium frequency band (MF) just above the mediumwave AM broadcast band, to the end of the HF band.

Very high frequency class of radio waves

Very high frequency (VHF) is the ITU designation for the range of radio frequency electromagnetic waves from 30 to 300 megahertz (MHz), with corresponding wavelengths of ten meters to one meter. Frequencies immediately below VHF are denoted high frequency (HF), and the next higher frequencies are known as ultra high frequency (UHF).

Communication channel refers either to a physical transmission medium such as a wire, or to a logical connection

A communication channel or simply channel refers either to a physical transmission medium such as a wire, or to a logical connection over a multiplexed medium such as a radio channel in telecommunications and computer networking. A channel is used to convey an information signal, for example a digital bit stream, from one or several senders to one or several receivers. A channel has a certain capacity for transmitting information, often measured by its bandwidth in Hz or its data rate in bits per second.

Ultra high frequency radio waves

Ultra high frequency (UHF) is the ITU designation for radio frequencies in the range between 300 megahertz (MHz) and 3 gigahertz (GHz), also known as the decimetre band as the wavelengths range from one meter to one tenth of a meter. Radio waves with frequencies above the UHF band fall into the super-high frequency (SHF) or microwave frequency range. Lower frequency signals fall into the VHF or lower bands. UHF radio waves propagate mainly by line of sight; they are blocked by hills and large buildings although the transmission through building walls is strong enough for indoor reception. They are used for television broadcasting, cell phones, satellite communication including GPS, personal radio services including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, walkie-talkies, cordless phones, and numerous other applications.

Terrestrial television television content transmitted via signals in the air

Terrestrial television is a type of television broadcasting in which the television signal is transmitted by radio waves from the terrestrial (Earth-based) transmitter of a television station to a TV receiver having an antenna. The term terrestrial is more common in Europe and Latin America, while in the United States it is called broadcast or over-the-air television (OTA). The term "terrestrial" is used to distinguish this type from the newer technologies of satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted to the receiver from an overhead satellite, and cable television, in which the signal is carried to the receiver through a cable.

Tuner (radio) frequency selection subsystem for a radio receiver

A tuner is a subsystem that receives radio frequency (RF) transmissions like radio broadcasts and converts the selected carrier frequency and its associated bandwidth into a fixed frequency that is suitable for further processing, usually because a lower frequency is used on the output. Broadcast FM/AM transmissions usually feed this intermediate frequency (IF) directly into a demodulator that convert the radio signal into audio-frequency signals that can be fed into an amplifier to drive a loudspeaker.

The 33-centimeter or 900 MHz band is a portion of the UHF radio spectrum internationally allocated to amateur radio on a secondary basis. It ranges from 902 to 928 MHz and is unique to ITU Region 2. It is primarily used for very local communications as opposed to bands lower in frequency. However, very high antennas with high gain have shown 33 centimeters can provide good long range communications almost equal to systems on lower frequencies such as the 70 centimeter band. The band is also used by industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) equipment, as well as low powered unlicensed devices. Amateur stations must accept harmful interference caused by ISM users but may receive protection from unlicensed devices.

Single-frequency network

A single-frequency network or SFN is a broadcast network where several transmitters simultaneously send the same signal over the same frequency channel.

6-meter band amateur radio frequency allocations

The 6-meter band is the lowest portion of the very high frequency (VHF) radio spectrum allocated to amateur radio use. The term refers to the average signal wavelength of 6 meters.

A television transmitter is a transmitter that is used for terrestrial (over-the-air) television broadcasting. It is an electronic device that radiates radio waves that carry a video signal representing moving images, along with a synchronized audio channel, which is received by television receivers belonging to a public audience, which display the image on a screen. A television transmitter, together with the broadcast studio which originates the content, is called a television station. Television transmitters must be licensed by governments, and are restricted to a certain frequency channel and power level. They transmit on frequency channels in the VHF and UHF bands.

The 10-meter band is a portion of the shortwave radio spectrum internationally allocated to amateur radio and amateur satellite use on a primary basis. The band consists of frequencies stretching from 28.000 to 29.700 MHz.

Ghosting (television)

In television, a ghost is a replica of the transmitted image, offset in position, that is super-imposed on top of the main image. It is often caused when a TV signal travels by two different paths to a receiving antenna, with a slight difference in timing.

Amateur radio repeater

An amateur radio repeater is an electronic device that receives a weak or low-level amateur radio signal and retransmits it at a higher level or higher power, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. Many repeaters are located on hilltops or on tall buildings as the higher location increases their coverage area, sometimes referred to as the radio horizon, or "footprint". Amateur radio repeaters are similar in concept to those used by public safety entities, businesses, government, military, and more. Amateur radio repeaters may even use commercially packaged repeater systems that have been adjusted to operate within amateur radio frequency bands, but more often amateur repeaters are assembled from receivers, transmitters, controllers, power supplies, antennas, and other components, from various sources.

Radio repeater

A radio repeater is a combination of a radio receiver and a radio transmitter that receives a signal and retransmits it, so that two-way radio signals can cover longer distances. A repeater sited at a high elevation can allow two mobile stations, otherwise out of line-of-sight propagation range of each other, to communicate. Repeaters are found in professional, commercial, and government mobile radio systems and also in amateur radio.

Cable-ready is a designation which indicates that a TV set or other television-receiving device is capable of receiving cable TV without a set-top box.

Broadcast relay station

A broadcast relay station, also known as a satellite station, relay transmitter, broadcast translator (U.S.), re-broadcaster (Canada), repeater or complementary station (Mexico), is a broadcast transmitter which repeats the signal of a radio or television station to an area not covered by the originating station. It expands the broadcast range of a television or radio station beyond the primary signal's original coverage or improves service in the original coverage area. The stations may be used to create a single-frequency network. They may also be used by an FM or AM radio station to establish a presence on the other band.

VK3RTV is an amateur television station based in Melbourne, Australia. The station's repeater is located on Mount Dandenong and is one of a number of audio and video repeaters licensed to Amateur Radio Victoria. The output of this repeater can be received by many but not all standard digital television receivers at the start of the UHF TV band, roughly where UHF Channel 16 would be if there was such a channel. The output of the repeater is only 30 watts and is at a much lower signal level than commercial, community and government TV broadcasters. A masthead amplifier would be of assistance in receiving the station but is not a necessity. An up-to-date list of Amateur TV capable Set Top Boxes or Digital TV receivers can be found at VK3KHB or the VK3RTV web page.


  1. "United Kingdom Frequency allocation table" (PDF). Publication date 2008 (Issue No. 15). Ofcom. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  2. Kowalewski, Anthony, "An Amateur's Television Transmitter" Archived 2011-09-24 at the Wayback Machine , Radio News, April 1938. Early Television Museum and Foundation Website. Retrieved 19 July 2009.
  3. "HF - Propagation Predictions from the United Kingdom". Publication date November 2010. Radio Society of Great Britain. Archived from the original on 24 October 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2010.
  4. Neuhaus, John (2005-10-19). "Cable TV Channel Frequencies". John Neuhaus. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
  5. Line A is defined in the US Federal Code of Regulations Part 47, and runs from Aberdeen, Washington to Searsport, Maine , roughly parallel to the Canada–US border in several segments.
  6. ITU Radio Regulations, Volume 1 (PDF) (2012, Volume 1 ed.). International Telecommunications Union. 2012. p. 38. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  7. ITU Radio Regulations, Volume 1 (PDF) (2012, Volume 1 ed.). International Telecommunications Union. 2012. pp. 96–98. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  8. 47 C.F.R. §97.303(n)3 as of 14 Feb 2011
  11. "Amateur Television in Central Ohio". ATCO. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-06.
  12. "ATV P level illustration". Archived from the original on 2009-06-17. Retrieved 2009-06-14.
  13. "Propagation of RF Signals". The ARRL Handbook For Radio Communications (82nd ed.). American Radio Relay League. 2005. pp. 20.3, 20.6. ISBN   0-87259-928-0.