Medium frequency

Last updated
Medium frequency
Frequency range
0.3 to 3 MHz
Wavelength range
1000 to 100 m
MF's position in the electromagnetic spectrum. Medium frequency.png
MF's position in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Medium frequency (MF) is the ITU designation [1] for radio frequencies (RF) in the range of 300  kilohertz (kHz) to 3  megahertz (MHz). Part of this band is the medium wave  (MW) AM broadcast band. The MF band is also known as the hectometer band as the wavelengths range from ten to one hectometer (1000 to 100 m). Frequencies immediately below MF are denoted low frequency (LF), while the first band of higher frequencies is known as high frequency (HF). MF is mostly used for AM radio broadcasting, navigational radio beacons, maritime ship-to-shore communication, and transoceanic air traffic control.



Radio waves at MF wavelengths propagate via ground waves and reflection from the ionosphere (called skywaves). [2] Ground waves follow the contour of the Earth. At these wavelengths they can bend (diffract) over hills, and travel beyond the visual horizon, although they may be blocked by mountain ranges. Typical MF radio stations can cover a radius of several hundred miles from the transmitter, with longer distances over water and damp earth. [3] MF broadcasting stations use ground waves to cover their listening areas.

MF waves can also travel longer distances via skywave propagation, in which radio waves radiated at an angle into the sky are reflected (actually refracted) back to Earth by layers of charged particles (ions) in the ionosphere, the E and F layers. However, at certain times the D layer (at a lower altitude than the refractive E and F layers) can be electronically noisy and absorb MF radio waves, interfering with skywave propagation. This happens when the ionosphere is heavily ionised, such as during the day, in summer and especially at times of high solar activity,

At night, especially in winter months and at times of low solar activity, the ionospheric D layer can virtually disappear. When this happens, MF radio waves can easily be received hundreds or even thousands of miles away as the signal will be refracted by the remaining F layer. This can be very useful for long-distance communication, but can also interfere with local stations. Due to the limited number of available channels in the MW broadcast band, the same frequencies are re-allocated to different broadcasting stations several hundred miles apart. On nights of good skywave propagation, the signals of distant stations may reflect off the ionosphere and interfere with the signals of local stations on the same frequency. The North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement (NARBA) sets aside certain channels for nighttime use over extended service areas via skywave by a few specially licensed AM broadcasting stations. These channels are called clear channels, and the stations, called clear-channel stations , are required to broadcast at higher powers of 10 to 50 kW.

Uses and applications

Mast radiator of a commercial MF AM broadcasting station, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA 2008-07-28 Mast radiator.jpg
Mast radiator of a commercial MF AM broadcasting station, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

A major use of these frequencies is AM broadcasting; AM radio stations are allocated frequencies in the medium wave broadcast band from 526.5 kHz to 1606.5 kHz [4] in Europe; in North America this extends from 525 kHz to 1705 kHz [5] Some countries also allow broadcasting in the 120-meter band from 2300 to 2495 kHz; these frequencies are mostly used in tropical areas. Although these are medium frequencies, 120 meters is generally treated as one of the shortwave bands.

There are a number of coast guard and other ship-to-shore frequencies in use between 1600 and 2850 kHz. These include, as examples, the French MRCC on 1696 kHz and 2677 kHz, Stornoway Coastguard on 1743 kHz, the US Coastguard on 2670 kHz and Madeira on 2843 kHz. [6] RN Northwood in England broadcasts Weather Fax data on 2618.5 kHz. [7] Non-directional navigational radio beacons (NDBs) for maritime and aircraft navigation occupy a band from 190 to 435 kHz, which overlaps from the LF into the bottom part of the MF band.

2182 kHz is the international calling and distress frequency for SSB maritime voice communication (radiotelephony). It is analogous to Channel 16 on the marine VHF band. 500 kHz was for many years the maritime distress and emergency frequency, and there are more NDBs between 510 and 530 kHz. Navtex, which is part of the current Global Maritime Distress Safety System occupies 518 kHz and 490 kHz for important digital text broadcasts. Lastly, there are aeronautical and other mobile SSB bands from 2850 kHz to 3500 kHz, crossing the boundary from the MF band into the HF radio band. [8]

An amateur radio band known as 160 meters or 'top-band' is between 1800 and 2000 kHz (allocation depends on country and starts at 1810 kHz outside the Americas). Amateur operators transmit CW morse code, digital signals and SSB voice signals on this band. Following World Radiocommunication Conference 2012 (WRC-2012), the amateur service received a new allocation between 472 and 479 kHz for narrow band modes and secondary service, after extensive propagation and compatibility studies made by the ARRL 600 meters Experiment Group and their partners around the world. In recent years, some limited amateur radio operation has also been allowed in the region of 500 kHz in the US, UK, Germany and Sweden. [9]

Many home-portable or cordless telephones, especially those that were designed in the 1980s, transmit low power FM audio signals between the table-top base unit and the handset on frequencies in the range 1600 to 1800 kHz. [10]


Ferrite loopstick receiving antenna used in AM radios Ferritantenne 2.jpg
Ferrite loopstick receiving antenna used in AM radios
Cage T antenna used by amateur radio transmitter on 1.5 MHz. Amateur T cage antenna 2BML 1922.jpg
Cage T antenna used by amateur radio transmitter on 1.5 MHz.

Transmitting antennas commonly used on this band include monopole mast radiators, top-loaded wire monopole antennas such as the inverted-L and T antennas, and wire dipole antennas. Ground wave propagation, the most widely used type at these frequencies, requires vertically polarized antennas like monopoles.

The most common transmitting antenna, the quarter wave monopole, is physically large at these frequencies, 25 to 250 metres (82 to 820 ft) requiring a tall radio mast. Usually the metal mast itself is used as the antenna, and is mounted on a large porcelain insulator to isolate it from the ground; this is called a mast radiator . The monopole antenna, particularly if electrically short requires a good, low resistance Earth ground connection for efficiency, since the ground resistance is in series with the antenna and consumes transmitter power. Commercial radio stations use a ground system consisting of many heavy copper cables, buried a few feet in the earth, radiating from the base of the antenna to a distance of about a quarter wavelength. In areas of rocky or sandy soil where the ground conductivity is poor, above ground counterpoises are used.

Lower power transmitters often use electrically short quarter wave monopoles such as inverted-L or T antennas, which are brought into resonance with a loading coil at their base.

Receiving antennas do not have to be as efficient as transmitting antennas since in this band the signal to noise ratio is determined by atmospheric noise. The noise floor in the receiver is far below the noise in the signal, so antennas small in comparison to the wavelength, which are inefficient and produce low signal strength, can be used. The most common receiving antenna is the ferrite loopstick antenna (also known as a ferrite rod aerial), made from a ferrite rod with a coil of fine wire wound around it. This antenna is small enough that it is usually enclosed inside the radio case. In addition to their use in AM radios, ferrite antennas are also used in portable radio direction finder (RDF) receivers. The ferrite rod antenna has a dipole reception pattern with sharp nulls along the axis of the rod, so that reception is at its best when the rod is at right angles to the transmitter, but fades to nothing when the rod points exactly at the transmitter. Other types of loop antennas and random wire antennas are also used.

See also

Related Research Articles

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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 3–30 MHz ; above the medium frequency band (MF), to the end of the HF band.

Very high frequency The range 30-300 MHz of the electromagnetic spectrum

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).

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 in vacuum. 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.

Medium wave Part of the medium frequency radio band

Medium wave (MW) is the part of the medium frequency (MF) radio band used mainly for AM radio broadcasting. The spectrum provides about 120 channels with limited sound quality. During daytime, only local stations can be received. Propagation in the night allows strong signals within a range of about 2000 km. This can cause massive interference because on most channels, about 20 to 50 transmitters operate simultaneously worldwide. In addition to that, amplitude modulation (AM) is prone to interference by all sorts of electronic devices, especially power supplies and computers. Strong transmitters cover larger areas than on the FM broadcast band but require more energy. Digital modes are possible but have not reached the momentum yet.

Very low frequency The range 3-30 kHz of the electromagnetic spectrum

Very low frequency or VLF is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range of 3–30 kHz, corresponding to wavelengths from 100 to 10 km, respectively. The band is also known as the myriameter band or myriameter wave as the wavelengths range from one to ten myriameters. Due to its limited bandwidth, audio (voice) transmission is highly impractical in this band, and therefore only low data rate coded signals are used. The VLF band is used for a few radio navigation services, government time radio stations and for secure military communication. Since VLF waves can penetrate at least 40 meters (120 ft) into saltwater, they are used for military communication with submarines.

Low frequency (LF) is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range of 30–300 kHz. Since its wavelengths range from 10–1 km, respectively, it is also known as the kilometre band or kilometre wave.

Longwave radio broadcast band

In radio, longwave, long wave or long-wave, and commonly abbreviated LW, refers to parts of the radio spectrum with wavelengths longer than what was originally called the medium-wave broadcasting band. The term is historic, dating from the early 20th century, when the radio spectrum was considered to consist of longwave (LW), medium-wave (MW), and short-wave (SW) radio bands. Most modern radio systems and devices use wavelengths which would then have been considered 'ultra-short'.

High frequency The range 3-30 MHz of the electromagnetic spectrum

High frequency (HF) is the ITU designation for the range of radio frequency electromagnetic waves between 3 and 30 megahertz (MHz). It is also known as the decameter band or decameter wave as its wavelengths range from one to ten decameters. Frequencies immediately below HF are denoted medium frequency (MF), while the next band of higher frequencies is known as the very high frequency (VHF) band. The HF band is a major part of the shortwave band of frequencies, so communication at these frequencies is often called shortwave radio. Because radio waves in this band can be reflected back to Earth by the ionosphere layer in the atmosphere – a method known as "skip" or "skywave" propagation – these frequencies are suitable for long-distance communication across intercontinental distances and for mountainous terrains which prevent line-of-sight communications. The band is used by international shortwave broadcasting stations (2.31–25.82 MHz), aviation communication, government time stations, weather stations, amateur radio and citizens band services, among other uses.

Radio propagation behavior of radio waves as they travel, or are propagated, from one point to another, or into various parts of the atmosphere

Radio propagation is the behavior of radio waves as they travel, or are propagated, from one point to another, or into various parts of the atmosphere. As a form of electromagnetic radiation, like light waves, radio waves are affected by the phenomena of reflection, refraction, diffraction, absorption, polarization, and scattering. Understanding the effects of varying conditions on radio propagation has many practical applications, from choosing frequencies for international shortwave broadcasters, to designing reliable mobile telephone systems, to radio navigation, to operation of radar systems.

Skywave propagation of radio waves via the ionosphere

In radio communication, skywave or skip refers to the propagation of radio waves reflected or refracted back toward Earth from the ionosphere, an electrically charged layer of the upper atmosphere. Since it is not limited by the curvature of the Earth, skywave propagation can be used to communicate beyond the horizon, at intercontinental distances. It is mostly used in the shortwave frequency bands.

160 meters refers to the band of radio frequencies between 1,800 and 2,000 kHz, just above the mediumwave broadcast band. For many decades the lowest radio frequency band allocated for use by amateur radio, before the adoption, at the beginning of the 21st century in most countries, of the 630 and 2200 meter bands. Older amateur operators often refer to 160 meters as the Top Band It is also sometimes referred to as the "Gentleman's Band" in contrast to the often-freewheeling activity in the 80 and 20 meter bands.

The 80 meter or 3.5 MHz band is a band of radio frequencies allocated for amateur radio use, from 3.5 to 4.0 MHz in IARU Region 2, and generally 3.5 to 3.8 or 3.9 MHz in Regions 1 and 3 respectively. The upper portion of the band, which is usually used for phone (voice), is sometimes referred to as 75 meters. In Europe, 75m is a shortwave broadcast band, with a number of national radio services operating between 3.9 & 4.0 MHz.

Shortwave bands are frequency allocations for use within the shortwave radio spectrum. They are the primary medium for applications such as maritime communications, international broadcasting and worldwide amateur radio activity because they take advantage of ionospheric skip propagation to send data around the world. The bands are conventionally stated in wavelength, measured in metres. Propagation behavior on the shortwave bands depends on the time of day, the season and the level of solar activity.

Near vertical incidence skywave, or NVIS, is a skywave radio-wave propagation path that provides usable signals in the distances range — usually 0–650 km (0–400 miles). It is used for military and paramilitary communications, broadcasting, especially in the tropics, and by radio amateurs for nearby contacts circumventing line-of-sight barriers. The radio waves travel near-vertically upwards into the ionosphere, where they are refracted back down and can be received within a circular region up to 650 km from the transmitter. If the frequency is too high, refraction fails to occur and if it is too low, absorption in the ionospheric D layer may reduce the signal strength.

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.

MW DX, short for mediumwave DXing, is the hobby of receiving distant mediumwave radio stations. MW DX is similar to TV and FM DX in that broadcast band (BCB) stations are the reception targets. However, the nature of the lower frequencies used by mediumwave radio stations is very much different from that of the VHF and UHF bands used by FM and TV broadcast stations, and therefore involves different receiving equipment, signal propagation, and reception techniques.

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.

Apex radio stations was the name commonly given to a short-lived group of United States broadcasting stations, which were used to evaluate transmitting on frequencies that were much higher than the ones used by standard amplitude modulation (AM) and shortwave stations. Their name came from the tall height of their transmitter antennas, which were needed because coverage was primarily limited to local line-of-sight distances. These stations were assigned to what at the time were described as "ultra-high" frequencies, between roughly 25 and 44 MHz. They employed AM transmissions, although in most cases using a wider bandwidth than standard broadcast band AM stations, in order to provide high fidelity sound with less static and distortion.

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.


  1. "Rec. ITU-R V.431-7, Nomenclature of the frequency and wavelength bands used in telecommunications" (PDF). ITU. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 October 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
  2. Seybold, John S. (2005). Introduction to RF Propagation. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 55–58. ISBN   0471743682.
  3. "Ground wave MF and HF propagation" (PDF). Introduction to HF Propagation. IPS Radio and Space Services, Sydney Australia. Retrieved 27 September 2010.
  4. "United Kingdom Frequency Allocation Table 2008" (PDF). Ofcom. p. 21. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
  5. "U.S. Frequency Allocation Chart" (PDF). National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. October 2003. Retrieved 11 August 2009.
  6. MF/HF SSB Frequencies Archived 6 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  8. U.S. Government Frequency Allocation Chart
  9. "The 500 KC Amateur Radio Experimental Group". Retrieved 5 April 2018.
  10. " - How to listen to cordless telephone conversations". 6 January 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2018.

Further reading