ISM band

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The industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands are radio bands (portions of the radio spectrum) reserved internationally for the use of radio frequency (RF) energy for industrial, scientific and medical purposes other than telecommunications. [1] Examples of applications in these bands include radio-frequency process heating, microwave ovens, and medical diathermy machines. The powerful emissions of these devices can create electromagnetic interference and disrupt radio communication using the same frequency, so these devices are limited to certain bands of frequencies. In general, communications equipment operating in these bands must tolerate any interference generated by ISM applications, and users have no regulatory protection from ISM device operation.

Radio spectrum part of the electromagnetic spectrum from 3 Hz to 3000 GHz (3 THz)

The radio spectrum is the part of the electromagnetic spectrum with frequencies from 30 Hertz to 300 GHz. Electromagnetic waves in this frequency range, called radio waves, are widely used in modern technology, particularly in telecommunication. To prevent interference between different users, the generation and transmission of radio waves is strictly regulated by national laws, coordinated by an international body, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Radio frequency (RF) is the oscillation rate of an alternating electric current or voltage or of a magnetic, electric or electromagnetic field or mechanical system in the frequency range from around twenty thousand times per second to around three hundred billion times per second. This is roughly between the upper limit of audio frequencies and the lower limit of infrared frequencies; these are the frequencies at which energy from an oscillating current can radiate off a conductor into space as radio waves. Different sources specify different upper and lower bounds for the frequency range.

Microwave oven kitchen appliance

A microwave oven is an electric oven that heats and cooks food by exposing it to electromagnetic radiation in the microwave frequency range. This induces polar molecules in the food to rotate and produce thermal energy in a process known as dielectric heating. Microwave ovens heat foods quickly and efficiently because excitation is fairly uniform in the outer 25–38 mm(1–1.5 inches) of a homogeneous, high water content food item.


Despite the intent of the original allocations, in recent years the fastest-growing use of these bands has been for short-range, low power wireless communications systems, since these bands are often approved for such devices and can be used without a government license, as would otherwise be required for transmitters; ISM frequencies are often chosen for this purpose as they already have interference issues. Cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, near field communication (NFC) devices, garage door openers, baby monitors and wireless computer networks (WiFi) may all use the ISM frequencies, although these low power transmitters are not considered to be ISM devices.

Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices over short distances using short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the industrial, scientific and medical radio bands, from 2.400 to 2.485 GHz, and building personal area networks (PANs). It was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS-232 data cables.

Garage door opener motorized device that opens and closes garage doors

A garage door opener is a motorized device that opens and closes garage doors controlled by switches on the garage wall. Most also include a handheld radio remote control carried by the owner, which can be used to open and close the door from a short distance.

Baby monitor electronic system to watch children

A baby monitor, also known as a baby alarm, is a radio system used to remotely listen to sounds made by an infant. An audio monitor consists of a transmitter unit, equipped with a microphone, placed near to the child. It transmits the sounds by radio waves to a receiver unit with a speaker carried by, or near to, the person caring for the infant. Some baby monitors provide two-way communication which allows the parent to speak back to the baby. Some allow music to be played to the child. A monitor with a video camera and receiver is often called a baby cam.


The ISM bands are defined by the ITU Radio Regulations (article 5) in footnotes 5.138, 5.150, and 5.280 of the Radio Regulations. Individual countries' use of the bands designated in these sections may differ due to variations in national radio regulations. Because communication devices using the ISM bands must tolerate any interference from ISM equipment, unlicensed operations are typically permitted to use these bands, since unlicensed operation typically needs to be tolerant of interference from other devices anyway. The ISM bands share allocations with unlicensed and licensed operations; however, due to the high likelihood of harmful interference, licensed use of the bands is typically low. In the United States, uses of the ISM bands are governed by Part 18 of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules, while Part 15 contains the rules for unlicensed communication devices, even those that share ISM frequencies. In Europe, the ETSI is responsible for regulating the use of Short Range Devices, some of which operate in ISM bands.

The ITU Radio Regulations regulates on law of nations scale radiocommunication services and the utilisation of radio frequencies. It is the supplementation to the Constitution and Convention of the International Telecommunication Union. In line to the ITU Constitution and Convention and the ITU International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR), this ITU Radio Regulations belong to the basic documents of the International Telecommunication Union. The ITU Radio Regulations comprise and regulate the part of the allocated electromagnetic spectrum from 9 kHz to 275 GHz.

Federal Communications Commission Independent agency of the U.S. Government

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government created by statute to regulate interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. The FCC maintains jurisdiction over the areas of broadband access, fair competition, radio frequency use, media responsibility, public safety, and homeland security.

ETSI nonprofit european standards organization

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) is an independent, not-for-profit, standardization organization in the telecommunications industry in Europe, headquartered in Sophia-Antipolis, France, with worldwide projection. ETSI produces globally-applicable standards for Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), including fixed, mobile, radio, converged, broadcast and internet technologies.

Frequency allocation

The allocation of radio frequencies is provided according to Article 5 of the ITU Radio Regulations (edition 2012). [2]

In order to improve harmonisation in spectrum utilisation, the majority of service-allocations stipulated in this document were incorporated in national Tables of Frequency Allocations and Utilisations which is within the responsibility of the appropriate national administration. The allocation might be primary, secondary, exclusive, and shared.

Example of frequency allocation
Frequency rangeCenter frequencyBandwidthTypeAvailabilityLicensed users
6.765 MHz6.795 MHz6.78 MHz30 kHzASubject to local acceptance FIXED SERVICE & Mobile service
13.553 MHz13.567 MHz13.56 MHz14 kHzBWorldwideFIXED & Mobile services except Aeronautical mobile (R) service
26.957 MHz27.283 MHz27.12 MHz326 kHzBWorldwideFIXED & MOBILE SERVICE except Aeronautical mobile service, CB Radio
40.66 MHz40.7 MHz40.68 MHz40 kHzBWorldwideFixed, Mobile services & Earth exploration-satellite service
433.05 MHz434.79 MHz433.92 MHz1.74 MHzAonly in Region 1, subject to local acceptance AMATEUR SERVICE & RADIOLOCATION SERVICE, additional apply the provisions of footnote 5.280. For Australia see footnote AU.
902 MHz928 MHz915 MHz26 MHzB Region 2 only (with some exceptions)FIXED, Mobile except aeronautical mobile & Radiolocation service; in Region 2 additional Amateur service
2.4 GHz2.5 GHz2.45 GHz100 MHzBWorldwideFIXED, MOBILE, RADIOLOCATION, Amateur & Amateur-satellite service
5.725 GHz5.875 GHz5.8 GHz150 MHzBWorldwide FIXED-SATELLITE, RADIOLOCATION, MOBILE, Amateur & Amateur-satellite service
24 GHz24.25 GHz24.125 GHz250 MHzBWorldwideAMATEUR, AMATEUR-SATELLITE, RADIOLOCATION & Earth exploration-satellite service (active)
61 GHz61.5 GHz61.25 GHz500 MHzASubject to local acceptanceFIXED, INTER-SATELLITE, MOBILE & RADIOLOCATION SERVICE
122 GHz123 GHz122.5 GHz1 GHzASubject to local acceptanceEARTH EXPLORATION-SATELLITE (passive), FIXED, INTER-SATELLITE, MOBILE, SPACE RESEARCH (passive) & Amateur service
244 GHz246 GHz245 GHz2 GHzASubject to local acceptanceRADIOLOCATION, RADIO ASTRONOMY, Amateur & Amateur-satellite service

Type A (footnote 5.138) = frequency bands are designated for ISM applications. The use of these frequency bands for ISM applications shall be subject to special authorization by the administration concerned, in agreement with other administrations whose radiocommunication services might be affected. In applying this provision, administrations shall have due regard to the latest relevant ITU-R Recommendations.

Type B (footnote 5.150) = frequency bands are also designated for ISM applications. Radiocommunication services operating within these bands must accept harmful interference which may be caused by these applications.

ITU RR, (Footnote 5.280) = In Germany, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and Switzerland, the band 433.05-434.79 MHz (center frequency 433.92 MHz) is designated for ISM applications. Radio communication services of these countries operating within this band must accept harmful interference which may be caused by these applications.

Footnote AU = Australia is part of ITU Region 3. The band 433.05 to 434.79 MHz is not a designated ISM band in Australia, however the operation of low powered devices in the radio frequency band 433.05 to 434.79 MHz is supported through Radio communications class licence for low interference potential devices (LIPDs) [3] .


The ISM bands were first established at the International Telecommunications Conference of the ITU in Atlantic City, 1947. The American delegation specifically proposed several bands, including the now commonplace 2.4 GHz band, to accommodate the then nascent process of microwave heating; [4] however, FCC annual reports of that time suggest that much preparation was done ahead of these presentations. [5]

From the proceedings: "The delegate of the United States, referring to his request that the frequency 2450 Mc/s be allocated for I.S.M., indicated that there was in existence in the United States, and working on this frequency a diathermy machine and an electronic cooker, and that the latter might eventually be installed in transatlantic ships and airplanes. There was therefore some point in attempting to reach world agreement on this subject."

Radio frequencies in the ISM bands have been used for communication purposes, although such devices may experience interference from non-communication sources. In the United States, as early as 1958 Class D Citizens Band, a Part 95 service, was allocated to frequencies that are also allocated to ISM. [1]

In the U.S., the FCC first made unlicensed spread spectrum available in the ISM bands in rules adopted on May 9, 1985. [6]

Many other countries later developed similar regulations, enabling use of this technology. [ citation needed ] The FCC action was proposed by Michael Marcus of the FCC staff in 1980 and the subsequent regulatory action took five more years. It was part of a broader proposal to allow civil use of spread spectrum technology and was opposed at the time by mainstream equipment manufacturers and many radio system operators. [7]


Industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) applications (of radio frequency energy) (short: ISM applications) are – according to article 1.15 of the International Telecommunication Union´s (ITU) ITU Radio Regulations (RR) [8] – defined as «Operation of equipment or appliances designed to generate and use locally radio frequency energy for industrial, scientific, medical, domestic or similar purposes, excluding applications in the field of telecommunications

The original ISM specifications envisioned that the bands would be used primarily for noncommunication purposes, such as heating. The bands are still widely used for these purposes. For many people, the most commonly encountered ISM device is the home microwave oven operating at 2.45 GHz which uses microwaves to cook food. Industrial heating is another big application area; such as induction heating, microwave heat treating, plastic softening, and plastic welding processes. In medical settings, shortwave and microwave diathermy machines use radio waves in the ISM bands to apply deep heating to the body for relaxation and healing. More recently hyperthermia therapy uses microwaves to heat tissue to kill cancer cells.

However, as detailed below, the increasing congestion of the radio spectrum, the increasing sophistication of microelectronics, and the attraction of unlicensed use, has in recent decades led to an explosion of uses of these bands for short range communication systems for wireless devices, which are now by far the largest uses of these bands. These are sometimes called "non ISM" uses since they do not fall under the originally envisioned "industrial", "scientific", and "medical" application areas. One of the largest applications has been wireless networking (WiFi). The IEEE 802.11 wireless networking protocols, the standards on which almost all wireless systems are based, use the ISM bands. Virtually all laptops, tablet computers, computer printers and cellphones now have 802.11 wireless modems using the 2.4 and 5.7 GHz ISM bands. Bluetooth is another networking technology using the 2.4 GHz band, which can be problematic given the probability of interference. [9] Near field communication devices such as proximity cards and contactless smart cards use the lower frequency 13 and 27 MHz ISM bands. Other short range devices using the ISM bands are: wireless microphones, baby monitors, garage door openers, wireless doorbells, keyless entry systems for vehicles, radio control channels for UAVs (drones), wireless surveillance systems, RFID systems for merchandise, and wild animal tracking systems.

Some electrodeless lamp designs are ISM devices, which use RF emissions to excite fluorescent tubes. Sulfur lamps are commercially available plasma lamps, which use a 2.45 GHz magnetron to heat sulfur into a brightly glowing plasma.

Long-distance wireless power systems have been proposed and experimented with which would use high-power transmitters and rectennas, in lieu of overhead transmission lines and underground cables, to send power to remote locations. NASA has studied using microwave power transmission on 2.45 GHz to send energy collected by solar power satellites back to the ground.

Also in space applications, a Helicon Double Layer ion thruster is a prototype spacecraft propulsion engine which uses a 13.56 MHz transmission to break down and heat gas into plasma.

Non-ISM uses

In recent years ISM bands have also been shared with (non-ISM) license-free error-tolerant communications applications such as wireless sensor networks in the 915 MHz and 2.450 GHz bands, as well as wireless LANs and cordless phones in the 915 MHz, 2.450 GHz, and 5.800 GHz bands. Because unlicensed devices are required to be tolerant of ISM emissions in these bands, unlicensed low power users are generally able to operate in these bands without causing problems for ISM users. ISM equipment does not necessarily include a radio receiver in the ISM band (e.g. a microwave oven does not have a receiver).

In the United States, according to 47 CFR Part 15.5, low power communication devices must accept interference from licensed users of that frequency band, and the Part 15 device must not cause interference to licensed users. Note that the 915 MHz band should not be used in countries outside Region 2, except those that specifically allow it, such as Australia and Israel, especially those that use the GSM-900 band for cellphones. The ISM bands are also widely used for Radio-frequency identification (RFID) applications with the most commonly used band being the 13.56 MHz band used by systems compliant with ISO/IEC 14443 including those used by biometric passports and contactless smart cards.

In Europe, the use of the ISM band is covered by Short Range Device regulations issued by European Commission, based on technical recommendations by CEPT and standards by ETSI. In most of Europe, LPD433 band is allowed for license-free voice communication in addition to PMR446.

Wireless LAN devices use wavebands as follows:

IEEE 802.15.4, ZigBee and other personal area networks may use the 915 MHz and 2450 MHz ISM bands because of frequency sharing between different allocations.

Wireless LANs and cordless phones can also use bands other than those shared with ISM, but such uses require approval on a country by country basis. DECT phones use allocated spectrum outside the ISM bands that differs in Europe and North America. Ultra-wideband LANs require more spectrum than the ISM bands can provide, so the relevant standards such as IEEE 802.15.4a are designed to make use of spectrum outside the ISM bands. Despite the fact that these additional bands are outside the official ITU-R ISM bands, because they are used for the same types of low power personal communications, they are sometimes incorrectly referred to as ISM bands as well.

Also note that several brands of radio control equipment use the 2.4 GHz band range for low power remote control of toys, from gas powered cars to miniature aircraft.

Worldwide Digital Cordless Telecommunications or WDCT is a technology that uses the 2.4 GHz radio spectrum.

Google's Project Loon uses ISM bands (specifically 2.4 and 5.8 GHz bands) for balloon-to-balloon and balloon-to-ground communications.

Pursuant to 47 CFR Part 97 some ISM bands are used by licensed amateur radio operators for communication - including amateur television.

See also


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    1. "ARTICLE 1 - Terms and Definitions" (PDF). International Telecommunication Union. 19 October 2009. 1.15. industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) applications (of radio frequency energy): Operation of equipment or appliances designed to generate and use locally radio frequency energy for industrial, scientific, medical, domestic or similar purposes, excluding applications in the field of telecommunications.
    2. ITU Radio Regulations, CHAPTER II – Frequencies, ARTICLE 5 Frequency allocations, Section IV – Table of Frequency Allocations
    3. ACMA (April 1999). "Spectrum at 434 MHz for low powered devices". Australian Communications and Media Authority. Australian Communications and Media Authority. Retrieved 28 June 2017.
    4. "Documents of the International Radio Conference (Atlantic City, 1947) - Doc. No. 1-100" (PDF). p. 464.
    5. Thirteenth Annual Report of the FCC, June 30, 1947 (PDF) (Report). pp. 8, 50–51.
    6. "Authorization of Spread Spectrum Systems Under Parts 15 and 90 of the FCC Rules and Regulations". Federal Communications Commission. June 18, 1985. Archived from the original (TXT) on March 14, 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
    7. "The Genesis of Unlicensed Wireless Policy". George Mason University. April 4, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
    8. ITU Radio Regulations, Section IV. Radio Stations and Systems – Article 1.15, definition: Industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) applications (of radio frequency energy) / ISM application
    9. Eizikowitz, Grant (2018-03-05). "Why does Bluetooth still suck?". Business Insider. Retrieved 2018-07-15.
    10. Chakrabarti, P. (2009). International Conference on Emerging Trends in Electronic and Photonic Devices and Systems (ELECTRO-2009), December 22-24, 2009. Macmillan Publishers India. ISBN   9780230328518.