Effective radiated power

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Illustration of definition of equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP). The axes have units of signal strength in decibels.
{\displaystyle R_{\text{a}}}
is the radiation pattern of a given transmitter driving a directional antenna. It radiates a far field signal strength of
{\displaystyle S}
in its direction of maximum radiation (main lobe) along the z-axis. The green sphere
{\displaystyle R_{\text{iso}}}
is the radiation pattern of an ideal isotropic antenna that radiates the same maximum signal strength as the directive antenna does. The transmitter power that would have to be applied to the isotropic antenna to radiate this much power is the EIRP. Effective isotropic radiated power illustration.svg
Illustration of definition of equivalent isotropically radiated power (EIRP). The axes have units of signal strength in decibels. is the radiation pattern of a given transmitter driving a directional antenna. It radiates a far field signal strength of in its direction of maximum radiation (main lobe) along the z-axis. The green sphere is the radiation pattern of an ideal isotropic antenna that radiates the same maximum signal strength as the directive antenna does. The transmitter power that would have to be applied to the isotropic antenna to radiate this much power is the EIRP.

Effective radiated power (ERP), synonymous with equivalent radiated power, is an IEEE standardized definition of directional radio frequency (RF) power, such as that emitted by a radio transmitter. It is the total power in watts that would have to be radiated by a half-wave dipole antenna to give the same radiation intensity (signal strength or power flux density in watts per square meter) as the actual source antenna at a distant receiver located in the direction of the antenna's strongest beam (main lobe). ERP measures the combination of the power emitted by the transmitter and the ability of the antenna to direct that power in a given direction. It is equal to the input power to the antenna multiplied by the gain of the antenna. It is used in electronics and telecommunications, particularly in broadcasting to quantify the apparent power of a broadcasting station experienced by listeners in its reception area.


An alternate parameter that measures the same thing is effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP). Effective isotropic radiated power is the hypothetical power that would have to be radiated by an isotropic antenna to give the same ("equivalent") signal strength as the actual source antenna in the direction of the antenna's strongest beam. The difference between EIRP and ERP is that ERP compares the actual antenna to a half-wave dipole antenna, while EIRP compares it to a theoretical isotropic antenna. Since a half-wave dipole antenna has a gain of 1.64 (or 2.15 dB) compared to an isotropic radiator, if ERP and EIRP are expressed in watts their relation is

If they are expressed in decibels


Effective radiated power and effective isotropic radiated power both measure the power density a radio transmitter and antenna (or other source of electromagnetic waves) radiates in a specific direction: in the direction of maximum signal strength (the "main lobe") of its radiation pattern. [1] [2] [3] [4] This apparent power is dependent on two factors: the total power output and the radiation pattern of the antenna – how much of that power is radiated in the desired direction. The latter factor is quantified by the antenna gain, which is the ratio of the signal strength radiated by an antenna in its direction of maximum radiation to that radiated by a standard antenna. For example, a 1,000-watt transmitter feeding an antenna with a gain of 4 (6 dBi) will have the same signal strength in the direction of its main lobe, and thus the same ERP and EIRP, as a 4,000-watt transmitter feeding an antenna with a gain of 1 (0 dBi). So ERP and EIRP are measures of radiated power that can compare different combinations of transmitters and antennas on an equal basis.

In spite of the names, ERP and EIRP do not measure transmitter power, or total power radiated by the antenna, they are just a measure of signal strength along the main lobe. They give no information about power radiated in other directions, or total power. ERP and EIRP are always greater than the actual total power radiated by the antenna.

The difference between ERP and EIRP is that antenna gain has traditionally been measured in two different units, comparing the antenna to two different standard antennas; an isotropic antenna and a half-wave dipole antenna:

Gain is often expressed in logarithmic units of decibels (dB). The decibel gain relative to an isotropic antenna (dBi) is given by
The decibel gain relative to a dipole (dBd) is given by

In contrast to an isotropic antenna, the dipole has a "donut-shaped" radiation pattern, its radiated power is maximum in directions perpendicular to the antenna, declining to zero on the antenna axis. Since the radiation of the dipole is concentrated in horizontal directions, the gain of a half-wave dipole is greater than that of an isotropic antenna. The isotropic gain of a half-wave dipole is 1.64, or in decibels 10 log 1.64 = 2.15 dBi, so

In decibels

The two measures EIRP and ERP are based on the two different standard antennas above: [1] [3] [2] [4]

The ERP and EIRP are also often expressed in decibels (dB). The input power in decibels is usually calculated with comparison to a reference level of one watt (W): . Since multiplication of two factors is equivalent to addition of their decibel values
In decibels

Since the two definitions of gain only differ by a constant factor, so do ERP and EIRP

In decibels

Relation to transmitter output power

The transmitter is usually connected to the antenna through a transmission line. Since the transmission line may have significant losses , the power applied to the antenna is usually less than the output power of the transmitter . The relation of ERP and EIRP to transmitter output power is

Losses in the antenna itself are included in the gain.

Relation to signal strength

If the signal path is in free space (line-of-sight propagation with no multipath) the signal strength (power flux density in watts per square meter) of the radio signal on the main lobe axis at any particular distance from the antenna can be calculated from the EIRP or ERP. Since an isotropic antenna radiates equal power flux density over a sphere centered on the antenna, and the area of a sphere with radius is then

Since ,

However if the radio waves travel by ground wave as is typical for medium or longwave broadcasting, skywave, or indirect paths play a part in transmission, the waves will suffer additional attenuation which depends on the terrain between the antennas, so these formulas are not valid.

Dipole vs. isotropic radiators

Because ERP is calculated as antenna gain (in a given direction) as compared with the maximum directivity of a half-wave dipole antenna, it creates a mathematically virtual effective dipole antenna oriented in the direction of the receiver. In other words, a notional receiver in a given direction from the transmitter would receive the same power if the source were replaced with an ideal dipole oriented with maximum directivity and matched polarization towards the receiver and with an antenna input power equal to the ERP. The receiver would not be able to determine a difference. Maximum directivity of an ideal half-wave dipole is a constant, i.e., 0 dBd = 2.15 dBi. Therefore, ERP is always 2.15 dB less than EIRP. The ideal dipole antenna could be further replaced by an isotropic radiator (a purely mathematical device which cannot exist in the real world), and the receiver cannot know the difference so long as the input power is increased by 2.15 dB.

Unfortunately, the distinction between dBd and dBi is often left unstated and the reader is sometimes forced to infer which was used. For example, a Yagi–Uda antenna is constructed from several dipoles arranged at precise intervals to create better energy focusing (directivity) than a simple dipole. Since it is constructed from dipoles, often its antenna gain is expressed in dBd, but listed only as dB. Obviously this ambiguity is undesirable with respect to engineering specifications. A Yagi–Uda antenna's maximum directivity is 8.77 dBd = 10.92 dBi. Its gain necessarily must be less than this by the factor η, which must be negative in units of dB. Neither ERP nor EIRP can be calculated without knowledge of the power accepted by the antenna, i.e., it is not correct to use units of dBd or dBi with ERP and EIRP. Let us assume a 100-watt (20 dBW) transmitter with losses of 6 dB prior to the antenna. ERP < 22.77dBW and EIRP < 24.92dBW, both less than ideal by η in dB. Assuming that the receiver is in the first side-lobe of the transmitting antenna, and each value is further reduced by 7.2 dB, which is the decrease in directivity from the main to side-lobe of a Yagi-Uda. Therefore, anywhere along the side-lobe direction from this transmitter, a blind receiver could not tell the difference if a Yagi-Uda was replaced with either an ideal dipole (oriented towards the receiver) or an isotropic radiator with antenna input power increased by 1.57 dB. [5]


Polarization has not been taken into account so far, but it must be properly clarified. When considering the dipole radiator previously we assumed that it was perfectly aligned with the receiver. Now assume, however, that the receiving antenna is circularly polarized, and there will be a minimum 3 dB polarization loss regardless of antenna orientation. If the receiver is also a dipole, it is possible to align it orthogonally to the transmitter such that theoretically zero energy is received. However, this polarization loss is not accounted for in the calculation of ERP or EIRP. Rather, the receiving system designer must account for this loss as appropriate. For example, a cellular telephone tower has a fixed linear polarization, but the mobile handset must function well at any arbitrary orientation. Therefore, a handset design might provide dual polarization receive on the handset so that captured energy is maximized regardless of orientation, or the designer might use a circularly polarized antenna and account for the extra 3 dB of loss with amplification.

FM example

Four bay crossed-dipole antenna of an FM broadcasting station. FM broadcasting antenna Willans Hill.jpg
Four bay crossed-dipole antenna of an FM broadcasting station.

For example, an FM radio station which advertises that it has 100,000 watts of power actually has 100,000 watts ERP, and not an actual 100,000-watt transmitter. The transmitter power output (TPO) of such a station typically may be 10,000 to 20,000 watts, with a gain factor of 5 to 10 (5× to 10×, or 7 to 10 dB). In most antenna designs, gain is realized primarily by concentrating power toward the horizontal plane and suppressing it at upward and downward angles, through the use of phased arrays of antenna elements. The distribution of power versus elevation angle is known as the vertical pattern. When an antenna is also directional horizontally, gain and ERP will vary with azimuth (compass direction). Rather than the average power over all directions, it is the apparent power in the direction of the antenna's main lobe that is quoted as a station's ERP (this statement is just another way of stating the definition of ERP). This is particularly applicable to the huge ERPs reported for shortwave broadcasting stations, which use very narrow beam widths to get their signals across continents and oceans.

United States regulatory usage

ERP for FM radio in the United States is always relative to a theoretical reference half-wave dipole antenna. (That is, when calculating ERP, the most direct approach is to work with antenna gain in dBd). To deal with antenna polarization, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lists ERP in both the horizontal and vertical measurements for FM and TV. Horizontal is the standard for both, but if the vertical ERP is larger it will be used instead.

The maximum ERP for US FM broadcasting is usually 100,000 watts (FM Zone II) or 50,000 watts (in the generally more densely populated Zones I and I-A), though exact restrictions vary depending on the class of license and the antenna height above average terrain (HAAT). [6] Some stations have been grandfathered in or, very infrequently, been given a waiver, and can exceed normal restrictions.

Microwave band issues

For most microwave systems, a completely non-directional isotropic antenna (one which radiates equally and perfectly well in every direction a physical impossibility) is used as a reference antenna, and then one speaks of EIRP (effective isotropic radiated power) rather than ERP. This includes satellite transponders, radar, and other systems which use microwave dishes and reflectors rather than dipole-style antennas.

Lower-frequency issues

In the case of medium wave (AM) stations in the United States, power limits are set to the actual transmitter power output, and ERP is not used in normal calculations. Omnidirectional antennas used by a number of stations radiate the signal equally in all directions. Directional arrays are used to protect co- or adjacent channel stations, usually at night, but some run directionally 24 hours. While antenna efficiency and ground conductivity are taken into account when designing such an array, the FCC database shows the station's transmitter power output, not ERP.

According to the Institution of Electrical Engineers (UK), ERP is often used as a general reference term for radiated power, but strictly speaking should only used when the antenna is a half-wave dipole, [7] and is used when referring to FM transmission. [8]


Effective monopole radiated power (EMRP) may be used in Europe, particularly in relation to medium wave broadcasting antennas. This is the same as ERP, except that a short vertical antenna (i.e. a short monopole) is used as the reference antenna instead of a half-wave dipole. [7]


Cymomotive force (CMF) is an alternative term used for expressing radiation intensity in volts, particularly at the lower frequencies. [7] It is used in Australian legislation regulating AM broadcasting services, which describes it as: "for a transmitter, [it] means the product, expressed in volts, of: (a) the electric field strength at a given point in space, due to the operation of the transmitter; and (b) the distance of that point from the transmitter’s antenna". [9]

It relates to AM broadcasting only, and expresses the field strength in "microvolts per metre at a distance of 1 kilometre from the transmitting antenna". [8]


The height above average terrain for VHF and higher frequencies is extremely important when considering ERP, as the signal coverage (broadcast range) produced by a given ERP dramatically increases with antenna height. Because of this, it is possible for a station of only a few hundred watts ERP to cover more area than a station of a few thousand watts ERP, if its signal travels above obstructions on the ground.

See also

Related Research Articles

The decibel is a relative unit of measurement equal to one tenth of a bel (B). It expresses the ratio of two values of a power or root-power quantity on a logarithmic scale. Two signals whose levels differ by one decibel have a power ratio of 101/10 or root-power ratio of 10120.

Radiation pattern

In the field of antenna design the term radiation pattern refers to the directional (angular) dependence of the strength of the radio waves from the antenna or other source.

In electromagnetics, an antenna's power gain or simply gain is a key performance number which combines the antenna's directivity and electrical efficiency. In a transmitting antenna, the gain describes how well the antenna converts input power into radio waves headed in a specified direction. In a receiving antenna, the gain describes how well the antenna converts radio waves arriving from a specified direction into electrical power. When no direction is specified, gain is understood to refer to the peak value of the gain, the gain in the direction of the antenna's main lobe. A plot of the gain as a function of direction is called the gain pattern or radiation pattern.

Antenna (radio) Electrical device

In radio engineering, an antenna or aerial is the interface between radio waves propagating through space and electric currents moving in metal conductors, used with a transmitter or receiver. In transmission, a radio transmitter supplies an electric current to the antenna's terminals, and the antenna radiates the energy from the current as electromagnetic waves. In reception, an antenna intercepts some of the power of a radio wave in order to produce an electric current at its terminals, that is applied to a receiver to be amplified. Antennas are essential components of all radio equipment.

Parabolic antenna

A parabolic antenna is an antenna that uses a parabolic reflector, a curved surface with the cross-sectional shape of a parabola, to direct the radio waves. The most common form is shaped like a dish and is popularly called a dish antenna or parabolic dish. The main advantage of a parabolic antenna is that it has high directivity. It functions similarly to a searchlight or flashlight reflector to direct the radio waves in a narrow beam, or receive radio waves from one particular direction only. Parabolic antennas have some of the highest gains, meaning that they can produce the narrowest beamwidths, of any antenna type. In order to achieve narrow beamwidths, the parabolic reflector must be much larger than the wavelength of the radio waves used, so parabolic antennas are used in the high frequency part of the radio spectrum, at UHF and microwave (SHF) frequencies, at which the wavelengths are small enough that conveniently-sized reflectors can be used.

In radio transmission, transmitter power output (TPO) is the actual amount of power of radio frequency (RF) energy that a transmitter produces at its output.

Directional antenna

A directional antenna or beam antenna is an antenna which radiates or receives greater power in specific directions allowing increased performance and reduced interference from unwanted sources. Directional antennas provide increased performance over dipole antennas—or omnidirectional antennas in general—when greater concentration of radiation in a certain direction is desired.

Omnidirectional antenna radio antenna that sends signals in every direction

In radio communication, an omnidirectional antenna is a class of antenna which radiates equal radio power in all directions perpendicular to an axis, with power varying with angle to the axis, declining to zero on the axis. When graphed in three dimensions (see graph) this radiation pattern is often described as doughnut-shaped. Note that this is different from an isotropic antenna, which radiates equal power in all directions, having a spherical radiation pattern. Omnidirectional antennas oriented vertically are widely used for nondirectional antennas on the surface of the Earth because they radiate equally in all horizontal directions, while the power radiated drops off with elevation angle so little radio energy is aimed into the sky or down toward the earth and wasted. Omnidirectional antennas are widely used for radio broadcasting antennas, and in mobile devices that use radio such as cell phones, FM radios, walkie-talkies, wireless computer networks, cordless phones, GPS, as well as for base stations that communicate with mobile radios, such as police and taxi dispatchers and aircraft communications.

Dipole antenna Antenna consisting of two rod shaped conductors

In radio and telecommunications a dipole antenna or doublet is the simplest and most widely used class of antenna. The dipole is any one of a class of antennas producing a radiation pattern approximating that of an elementary electric dipole with a radiating structure supporting a line current so energized that the current has only one node at each end. A dipole antenna commonly consists of two identical conductive elements such as metal wires or rods. The driving current from the transmitter is applied, or for receiving antennas the output signal to the receiver is taken, between the two halves of the antenna. Each side of the feedline to the transmitter or receiver is connected to one of the conductors. This contrasts with a monopole antenna, which consists of a single rod or conductor with one side of the feedline connected to it, and the other side connected to some type of ground. A common example of a dipole is the "rabbit ears" television antenna found on broadcast television sets.

In electromagnetics and antenna theory, antenna aperture, effective area, or receiving cross section, is a measure of how effective an antenna is at receiving the power of electromagnetic radiation. The aperture is defined as the area, oriented perpendicular to the direction of an incoming electromagnetic wave, which would intercept the same amount of power from that wave as is produced by the antenna receiving it. Assume a plane wave in a particular direction has an irradiance or power flux density; this is the amount of power passing through a unit area of one square meter. Then if an antenna delivers watts to the load connected to its output terminals when irradiated by a uniform field of power density watts per square meter, the antenna's aperture for the direction of that plane wave is in square meters, given by:

A link budget is an accounting of all of the power gains and losses that a communication signal experiences in a telecommunication system; from a transmitter, through a communication medium such as radio waves, cable, waveguide, or optical fiber, to the receiver. It is an equation giving the received power from the transmitter power, after the attenuation of the transmitted signal due to propagation, as well as the antenna gains and feedline and other losses, and amplification of the signal in the receiver or any repeaters it passes through. A link budget is a design aid, calculated during the design of a communication system to determine the received power, to ensure that the information is received intelligibly with an adequate signal-to-noise ratio. Randomly varying channel gains such as fading are taken into account by adding some margin depending on the anticipated severity of its effects. The amount of margin required can be reduced by the use of mitigating techniques such as antenna diversity or frequency hopping.

The air interface, or access mode, is the communication link between the two stations in mobile or wireless communication. The air interface involves both the physical and data link layers of the OSI model for a connection.

The Friis transmission formula is used in telecommunications engineering, equating the power at the terminals of a receive antenna as the product of power density of the incident wave and the effective aperture of the receiving antenna under idealized conditions given another antenna some distance away transmitting a known amount of power. The formula was presented first by Danish-American radio engineer Harald T. Friis in 1946. The formula is sometimes referenced as the Friis transmission equation.

Isotropic radiator

An isotropic radiator is a theoretical point source of electromagnetic or sound waves which radiates the same intensity of radiation in all directions. It has no preferred direction of radiation. It radiates uniformly in all directions over a sphere centred on the source. Isotropic radiators are used as reference radiators with which other sources are compared, for example in determining the gain of antennas. A coherent isotropic radiator of electromagnetic waves is theoretically impossible, but incoherent radiators can be built. An isotropic sound radiator is possible because sound is a longitudinal wave.

Monopole antenna type of radio antenna

A monopole antenna is a class of radio antenna consisting of a straight rod-shaped conductor, often mounted perpendicularly over some type of conductive surface, called a ground plane. The driving signal from the transmitter is applied, or for receiving antennas the output signal to the receiver is taken, between the lower end of the monopole and the ground plane. One side of the antenna feedline is attached to the lower end of the monopole, and the other side is attached to the ground plane, which is often the Earth. This contrasts with a dipole antenna which consists of two identical rod conductors, with the signal from the transmitter applied between the two halves of the antenna.

Antenna measurement techniques refers to the testing of antennas to ensure that the antenna meets specifications or simply to characterize it. Typical parameters of antennas are gain, bandwidth, radiation pattern, beamwidth, polarization, and impedance.

Directivity Measure of how much of an antennas signal is transmitted in one direction

In electromagnetics, directivity is a parameter of an antenna or optical system which measures the degree to which the radiation emitted is concentrated in a single direction. It measures the power density the antenna radiates in the direction of its strongest emission, versus the power density radiated by an ideal isotropic radiator radiating the same total power.

The Lee model for area-to-area mode is a radio propagation model that operates around 900 MHz. Built as two different modes, this model includes an adjustment factor that can be adjusted to make the model more flexible to different regions of propagation.

The Lee model for point-to-point mode is a radio propagation model that operates around 900 MHz. Built as two different modes, this model includes an adjustment factor that can be adjusted to make the model more flexible to different regions of propagation.

In radio systems, many different antenna types are used with specialized properties for particular applications. Antennas can be classified in various ways. The list below groups together antennas under common operating principles, following the way antennas are classified in many engineering textbooks.


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  6. 47 CFR 73.211
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