Shortwave radio

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Grundig Satellit 400 solid-state, digital shortwave receiver, c. 1986 Grundig Satellit Professional 400.JPG
Grundig Satellit 400 solid-state, digital shortwave receiver, c. 1986

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.

Radio technology of using radio waves to carry information

Radio is the technology of using radio waves to carry information, such as sound and images, by systematically modulating properties of electromagnetic energy waves transmitted through space, such as their amplitude, frequency, phase, or pulse width. When radio waves strike an electrical conductor, the oscillating fields induce an alternating current in the conductor. The information in the waves can be extracted and transformed back into its original form.

High frequency frequencies between 3-30MHz

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.

Medium frequency Frequencies between 300 kHz to 3 MHz

Medium frequency (MF) is the ITU designation 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. 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.

Contents

Radio waves in the shortwave band can be reflected or refracted from a layer of electrically charged atoms in the atmosphere called the ionosphere. Therefore, short waves directed at an angle into the sky can be reflected back to Earth at great distances, beyond the horizon. This is called skywave or "skip" propagation. Thus shortwave radio can be used for very long distance communication, in contrast to radio waves of higher frequency which travel in straight lines (line-of-sight propagation) and are limited by the visual horizon, about 64 km (40 miles). Shortwave radio is used for broadcasting of voice and music to shortwave listeners over very large areas; sometimes entire continents or beyond. It is also used for military over-the-horizon radar, diplomatic communication, and two-way international communication by amateur radio enthusiasts for hobby, educational and emergency purposes, as well as for long distance aviation and marine communications.

Ionosphere The ionized part of Earths upper atmosphere

The ionosphere is the ionized part of Earth's upper atmosphere, from about 60 km (37 mi) to 1,000 km (620 mi) altitude, a region that includes the thermosphere and parts of the mesosphere and exosphere. The ionosphere is ionized by solar radiation. It plays an important role in atmospheric electricity and forms the inner edge of the magnetosphere. It has practical importance because, among other functions, it influences radio propagation to distant places on the Earth.

Skywave an electrically charged layer of the upper atmosphere

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.

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.

Frequency classifications

The widest popular definition of the shortwave frequency interval is the ITU Region 1 (EU+Africa+Russia...) definition, and is the span 1.6–30  MHz, just above the medium wave band, which ends approximately at 1.6 MHz.

Medium wave

Medium wave (MW) is the part of the medium frequency (MF) radio band used mainly for AM radio broadcasting. For Europe the MW band ranges from 526.5 kHz to 1606.5 kHz, using channels spaced every 9 kHz, and in North America an extended MW broadcast band ranges from 525 kHz to 1705 kHz, using 10 kHz spaced channels. The term is a historic one, dating from the early 20th century, when the radio spectrum was divided on the basis of the wavelength of the waves into long wave (LW), medium wave, and short wave (SW) radio bands.

There are also other definitions of the shortwave frequency interval:

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

History

Development

Radio amateurs carried out the first shortwave transmissions over a long distance before Guglielmo Marconi Guglielmo Marconi 1901 wireless signal.jpg
Radio amateurs carried out the first shortwave transmissions over a long distance before Guglielmo Marconi

The name "shortwave" originated during the early days of radio in the early 20th century, when the radio spectrum was considered divided into long wave (LW), medium wave (MW) and short wave bands based on the wavelength of the radio waves. Shortwave radio received its name because the wavelengths in this band are relatively shorter than 200 m (1,500 kHz) which marked the original upper limit of the medium frequency band first used for radio communications. The broadcast medium wave band now extends above the 200 m/1,500 kHz limit, and the amateur radio 1.8 MHz – 2.0 MHz band (known as the "top band") is the lowest-frequency band considered to be 'shortwave'.

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 extremely 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).

Wavelength spatial period of the wave—the distance over which the waves shape repeats, and thus the inverse of the spatial frequency

In physics, the wavelength is the spatial period of a periodic wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats. It is thus the inverse of the spatial frequency. Wavelength is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings and is a characteristic of both traveling waves and standing waves, as well as other spatial wave patterns. Wavelength is commonly designated by the Greek letter lambda (λ). The term wavelength is also sometimes applied to modulated waves, and to the sinusoidal envelopes of modulated waves or waves formed by interference of several sinusoids.

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.

Early long distance radio telegraphy used long waves, below 300  kilohertz (kHz). The drawbacks to this system included a very limited spectrum available for long distance communication, and the very expensive transmitters, receivers and gigantic antennas that were required. It was also difficult to beam the radio wave directionally with long wave, resulting in a major loss of power over long distances. Prior to the 1920s, the shortwave frequencies above 1.5 MHz were regarded as useless for long distance communication and were designated in many countries for amateur use. [6]

Transmitter Electronic device that emits radio waves

In electronics and telecommunications, a transmitter or radio transmitter is an electronic device which produces radio waves with an antenna. The transmitter itself generates a radio frequency alternating current, which is applied to the antenna. When excited by this alternating current, the antenna radiates radio waves.

Guglielmo Marconi, pioneer of radio, commissioned his assistant Charles Samuel Franklin to carry out a large scale study into the transmission characteristics of short wavelength waves and to determine their suitability for long distance transmissions. Franklin rigged up a large antenna at Poldhu Wireless Station, Cornwall, running on 25 kW of power. In June and July 1923, wireless transmissions were completed during nights on 97 meters from Poldhu to Marconi's yacht Elettra in the Cape Verde Islands. [7]

In September 1924, Marconi transmitted daytime and nighttime on 32 meters from Poldhu to his yacht in Beirut. Franklin went on to refine the directional transmission, by inventing the curtain array aerial system. [8] [9] In July 1924, Marconi entered into contracts with the British General Post Office (GPO) to install high speed shortwave telegraphy circuits from London to Australia, India, South Africa and Canada as the main element of the Imperial Wireless Chain. The UK-to-Canada shortwave "Beam Wireless Service" went into commercial operation on 25 October 1926. Beam Wireless Services from the UK to Australia, South Africa and India went into service in 1927. [7]

Shortwave communications began to grow rapidly in the 1920s, [10] similar to the internet in the late 20th century. By 1928, more than half of long distance communications had moved from transoceanic cables and longwave wireless services to shortwave and the overall volume of transoceanic shortwave communications had vastly increased. Shortwave stations had cost and efficiency advantages over massive longwave wireless installations, [11] however some commercial longwave communications stations remained in use until the 1960s. Long distance radio circuits also reduced the load on the existing transoceanic telegraph cables and hence the need for new cables, although the cables maintained their advantages of high security and a much more reliable and better quality signal than shortwave.

The cable companies began to lose large sums of money in 1927, and a serious financial crisis threatened the viability of cable companies that were vital to strategic British interests. The British government convened the Imperial Wireless and Cable Conference [12] in 1928 "to examine the situation that had arisen as a result of the competition of Beam Wireless with the Cable Services". It recommended and received Government approval for all overseas cable and wireless resources of the Empire to be merged into one system controlled by a newly formed company in 1929, Imperial and International Communications Ltd. The name of the company was changed to Cable and Wireless Ltd. in 1934.

Long-distance cables had a resurgence beginning in 1956 with the laying of TAT-1 across the Atlantic Ocean, the first voice frequency cable on this route. This provided 36 high quality telephone channels and was soon followed by even higher capacity cables all around the world. These sounded the death knell of shortwave radio for commercial communications.

Amateur use of shortwave propagation

Hallicrafters SX-28 shortwave receiver analog tuning dial, circa 1944 Dial.png
Hallicrafters SX-28 shortwave receiver analog tuning dial, circa 1944

Amateur radio operators also discovered that long-distance communication was possible on shortwave bands. Early long-distance services used surface wave propagation at very low frequencies, [13] which are attenuated along the path at wavelengths shorter than 1,000 meters. Longer distances and higher frequencies using this method meant more signal loss. This, and the difficulties of generating and detecting higher frequencies, made discovery of shortwave propagation difficult for commercial services.

Radio amateurs may have conducted the first successful transatlantic tests in December 1921, [14] operating in the 200 meter mediumwave band (near 1,500 kHz in the modern AM broadcast band) – the shortest wavelength then available to amateurs. In 1922 hundreds of North American amateurs were heard in Europe on 200 meters and at least 20 North American amateurs heard amateur signals from Europe. The first two-way communications between North American and Hawaiian amateurs began in 1922 at 200 meters. Although operation on wavelengths shorter than 200 meters was technically illegal (but tolerated as the authorities mistakenly believed at first that such frequencies were useless for commercial or military use), amateurs began to experiment with those wavelengths using newly available vacuum tubes shortly after World War I.

Extreme interference at the longer edge of the 150–200 meter band – the official wavelengths allocated to amateurs by the Second National Radio Conference [15] in 1923 – forced amateurs to shift to shorter and shorter wavelengths; however, amateurs were limited by regulation to wavelengths longer than 150 meters (2 MHz). A few fortunate amateurs who obtained special permission for experimental communications at wavelengths shorter than 150 meters completed hundreds of long distance two way contacts on 100 meters (3 MHz) in 1923 including the first transatlantic two way contacts. [16]

By 1924 many additional specially licensed amateurs were routinely making transoceanic contacts at distances of 6,000 miles (9,600 km) and more. On 21 September 1924 several amateurs in California completed two-way contacts with an amateur in New Zealand. On 19 October amateurs in New Zealand and England completed a 90 minute two-way contact nearly halfway around the world. On 10 October the Third National Radio Conference made three shortwave bands available to U.S. amateurs [17] at 80 meters (3.75 MHz), 40 meters (7 MHz) and 20 meters (14 MHz). These were allocated worldwide, while the 10 meter band (28 MHz) was created by the Washington International Radiotelegraph Conference [18] on 25 November 1927. The 15 meter band (21 MHz) was opened to amateurs in the United States on 1 May 1952.

Propagation characteristics

Formation of a skip zone Skip Zone Example.gif
Formation of a skip zone

Shortwave radio frequency energy is capable of reaching any location on the Earth as it is influenced by ionospheric reflection back to the earth by the ionosphere, (a phenomenon known as "skywave propagation"). A typical phenomenon of shortwave propagation is the occurrence of a skip zone where reception fails. With a fixed working frequency, large changes in ionospheric conditions may create skip zones at night.

As a result of the multi-layer structure of the ionosphere, propagation often simultaneously occurs on different paths, scattered by the E or F region and with different numbers of hops, a phenomenon that may be disturbed for certain techniques. Particularly for lower frequencies of the shortwave band, absorption of radio frequency energy in the lowest ionospheric layer, the D layer, may impose a serious limit. This is due to collisions of electrons with neutral molecules, absorbing some of a radio frequency's energy and converting it to heat. [19] Predictions of skywave propagation depend on:

Types of modulation

National Panasonic R3000 analog shortwave receiver, circa 1965 Shortwave Radio.jpg
National Panasonic R3000 analog shortwave receiver, circa 1965

Several different types of modulation are used to incorporate information in a short-wave signal.

Audio modes

AM

Amplitude modulation is the simplest type and the most commonly used for shortwave broadcasting. The instantaneous amplitude of the carrier is controlled by the amplitude of the signal (speech, or music, for example). At the receiver, a simple detector recovers the desired modulation signal from the carrier.

SSB

Single sideband transmission is a form of amplitude modulation but in effect filters the result of modulation. An amplitude-modulated signal has frequency components both above and below the carrier frequency. If one set of these components is eliminated as well as the residual carrier, only the remaining set is transmitted. This reduces power in the transmission, as roughly 23 of the energy sent by an AM signal is in the “carrier”, which is not needed to recover the information contained in the signal. It also reduces signal bandwidth, enabling less than one-half the AM signal bandwidth to be used.

The drawback is the receiver is more complicated, since it must re-create the carrier to recover the signal. Small errors in the detection process greatly affect the pitch of the received signal. As a result, single sideband is not used for music or general broadcast. Single sideband is used for long-range voice communications by ships and aircraft, Citizen's Band, and amateur radio operators. Lower sideband (LSB) is customarilly used below 9 MHz and USB (upper sideband) above 9 MHz.

VSB

Vestigal sideband transmits the carrier and one complete sideband, but filters out the other sideband. It is a compromise between AM and SSB, enabing simple receivers to be used, but requires almost as much transmitter power as AM. One advantage is only half the bandwidth of an AM signal is used. It can be heard in the transmission of certain radio time signal stations. Vestigial sideband is used for over the air Television Broadcasts both analog and digital.

NFM

Narrow-band frequency modulation (NBFM or NFM) is used typically above 20 MHz. Because of the larger bandwidth required, NBFM is commonly used for VHF communication. Regulations limit the bandwidth of a signal transmitted in the HF bands, and the advantages of frequency modulation are greatest if the FM signal has a wide bandwidth. NBFM is limited to short-range transmissions due to the multiphasic distortions created by the ionosphere. [21]

DRM

Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) is a digital modulation for use on bands below 30 MHz. It is a digital signal, like the data modes, below, but is for transmitting audio, like the analog modes above.

Data modes

CW

Continuous wave (CW) is on-and-off keying of a carrier, used for Morse code communications and Hellschreiber facsimile-based teleprinter transmissions. It is a data mode, although often listed separately. [22]

RTTY, FAX, SSTV

Radioteletype, fax, digital, slow-scan television, and other systems use forms of frequency-shift keying or audio subcarriers on a shortwave carrier. These generally require special equipment to decode, such as software on a computer equipped with a sound card.

Note that on modern computer-driven systems, digital modes are typically sent by coupling a computer's sound output to the SSB input of a radio.

Users

Portable shortwave receiver's digital display tuned to the 75 meter band Shortwave Radio Dial.jpg
Portable shortwave receiver's digital display tuned to the 75 meter band

Some established users of the shortwave radio bands may include:

Sporadic or non-traditional users of the shortwave bands may include:

Shortwave broadcasting

See International broadcasting for details on the history and practice of broadcasting to foreign audiences.

See Shortwave relay station for the actual kinds of integrated technologies used to bring high power signals to listeners.

Frequency allocations

The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), organized under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union, allocates bands for various services in conferences every few years. The last WRC took place in 2007.

At WRC-97 in 1997, the following bands were allocated for international broadcasting. AM shortwave broadcasting channels are allocated with a 5 kHz separation for traditional analog audio broadcasting.

Metre BandFrequency RangeRemarks
120 m2.3–2.495 MHztropical band
90 m3.2–3.4 MHztropical band
75 m3.9–4 MHzshared with the North American amateur radio 80m band
60 m4.75–5.06 MHztropical band
49 m5.9–6.2 MHz 
41 m7.2–7.6 MHzshared with the amateur radio 40m band
31 m9.4–9.9 MHzcurrently the most heavily used band
25 m11.6–12.2 MHz 
22 m13.57–13.87 MHz
19 m15.1–15.8 MHz 
16 m17.48–17.9 MHz 
15 m18.9–19.02 MHzalmost unused, could become a DRM band
13 m21.45–21.85 MHz 
11 m25.6–26.1 MHzmay be used for local DRM broadcasting

Although countries generally follow the table above, there may be small differences between countries or regions. For example, in the official bandplan of the Netherlands, [28] the 49 m band starts at 5.95 MHz, the 41 m band ends at 7.45 MHz, the 11 m band starts at 25.67 MHz, and the 120, 90 and 60 m bands are absent altogether. Additionally, international broadcasters sometimes operate outside the normal WRC-allocated bands or use off-channel frequencies. This is done for practical reasons, or to attract attention in crowded bands (60m, 49m, 40m, 41m, 31m, 25m).

The new digital audio broadcasting format for shortwave DRM operates 10 kHz or 20 kHz channels. There are some ongoing discussions with respect to specific band allocation for DRM, as it mainly transmitted in 10 kHz format.

The power used by shortwave transmitters ranges from less than one watt for some experimental and amateur radio transmissions to 500 kilowatts and higher for intercontinental broadcasters and over-the-horizon radar. Shortwave transmitting centers often use specialized antenna designs (like the ALLISS antenna technology) to concentrate radio energy at the target area.

Advantages

Soviet shortwave listener in Borisoglebsk, 1941 Soviet SWL URS3-108-B.jpeg
Soviet shortwave listener in Borisoglebsk, 1941

Shortwave does possess a number of advantages over newer technologies, including the following:

Disadvantages

Shortwave radio's benefits are sometimes regarded as being outweighed by its drawbacks, including:

Shortwave listening

A pennant sent to overseas listeners by Radio Budapest in the late 1980s RADIOBUDAPESTPENNANTLATE80s.JPG
A pennant sent to overseas listeners by Radio Budapest in the late 1980s

The Asia-Pacific Telecommunity estimates that there are approximately 600 million shortwave broadcast-radio receivers in use in 2002. [31] WWCR claims that there are 1.5 billion shortwave receivers worldwide. [32]

Many hobbyists listen to shortwave broadcasters. In some cases, the goal is to hear as many stations from as many countries as possible (DXing); others listen to specialized shortwave utility, or "ute", transmissions such as maritime, naval, aviation, or military signals. Others focus on intelligence signals from numbers stations, stations which transmit strange broadcast usually for intelligence operations, or the two way communications by amateur radio operators. Some short wave listeners behave analogously to "lurkers" on the Internet, in that they listen only and never make any attempt to send out their own signals. Other listeners participate in clubs, or actively send and receive QSL cards, or become involved with amateur radio and start transmitting on their own.

Many listeners tune the shortwave bands for the programmes of stations broadcasting to a general audience (such as Radio Taiwan International, China Radio International, Voice of America, Radio France Internationale, BBC World Service, Voice of Korea, Radio Free Sarawak etc.). Today, through the evolution of the Internet, the hobbyist can listen to shortwave signals via remotely controlled or web controlled shortwave receivers around the world, even without owning a shortwave radio. [33] Many international broadcasters offer live streaming audio on their websites and a number have closed their shortwave service entirely, or severely curtailed it, in favour of internet transmission.

Shortwave listeners, or SWLs, can obtain QSL cards from broadcasters, utility stations or amateur radio operators as trophies of the hobby. Some stations even give out special certificates, pennants, stickers and other tokens and promotional materials to shortwave listeners.

Shortwave broadcasts and music

Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen Stockhausen 1994 WDR.jpg
Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen

Some musicians have been attracted to the unique aural characteristics of shortwave radio which—due to the nature of amplitude modulation, varying propagation conditions, and the presence of interference—generally has lower fidelity than local broadcasts (particularly via FM stations). Shortwave transmissions often have bursts of distortion, and "hollow" sounding loss of clarity at certain aural frequencies, altering the harmonics of natural sound and creating at times a strange "spacey" quality due to echoes and phase distortion. Evocations of shortwave reception distortions have been incorporated into rock and classical compositions, by means of delays or feedback loops, equalizers, or even playing shortwave radios as live instruments. Snippets of broadcasts have been mixed into electronic sound collages and live musical instruments, by means of analogue tape loops or digital samples. Sometimes the sounds of instruments and existing musical recordings are altered by remixing or equalizing, with various distortions added, to replicate the garbled effects of shortwave radio reception. [34] [35] [36]

The first attempts by serious composers to incorporate radio effects into music may be those of the Russian physicist and musician Léon Theremin, [36] who perfected a form of radio oscillator as a musical instrument in 1928 (regenerative circuits in radios of the time were prone to breaking into oscillation, adding various tonal harmonics to music and speech); and in the same year, the development of a French instrument called the Ondes Martenot by its inventor Maurice Martenot, a French cellist and former wireless telegrapher. Karlheinz Stockhausen used shortwave radio and effects in works including Hymnen (1966–67), Kurzwellen (1968)—adapted for the Beethoven Bicentennial in Opus 1970 with filtered and distorted snippets of Beethoven pieces— Spiral (1968), Pole , Expo (both 1969–70), and Michaelion (1997). [34]

Cypriot composer Yannis Kyriakides incorporated shortwave numbers station transmissions in his 1999 ConSPIracy cantata. [37]

Holger Czukay, a student of Stockhausen, was one of the first to use shortwave in a rock music context. [35] In 1975, German electronic music band Kraftwerk recorded a full length concept album around simulated radiowave and shortwave sounds, entitled Radio-Activity . [38] The The's Radio Cineola monthly broadcasts drew heavily on shortwave radio sound. [39]

Shortwave's future

PC spectrum display of a modern software defined shortwave receiver Penny Mercury.jpg
PC spectrum display of a modern software defined shortwave receiver

The development of direct broadcasts from satellites has reduced the demand for shortwave receiver hardware, but there are still a great number of shortwave broadcasters. A new digital radio technology, Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM), is expected to improve the quality of shortwave audio from very poor to standards comparable to the FM broadcast band. [40] The future of shortwave radio is threatened by the rise of power line communication (PLC), also known as Broadband over Power Lines (BPL), which uses a data stream transmitted over unshielded power lines. As the BPL frequencies used overlap with shortwave bands, severe distortions can make listening to analog shortwave radio signals near power lines difficult or impossible. [41]

Experts disagree on the future of shortwave. According to Andy Sennitt, former editor of the World Radio TV Handbook, “shortwave is a legacy technology, which is expensive and environmentally unfriendly. A few countries are hanging on to it, but most have faced up to the fact that the glory days of shortwave have gone. Religious broadcasters will still use it because they are not too concerned with listening figures". [40]

However Thomas Witherspoon, editor of shortwave news site SWLingPost.com wrote that “shortwave remains the most accessible international communications medium that still provides listeners with the protection of complete anonymity". According to Nigel Fry, head of Distribution for the BBC World Service Group, “I still see a place for shortwave in the 21st century, especially for reaching areas of the world that are prone to natural disasters that destroy local broadcasting and Internet infrastructure". [40]

See also

Related Research Articles

Sideband

In radio communications, a sideband is a band of frequencies higher than or lower than the carrier frequency, containing power as a result of the modulation process. The sidebands carry the information (modulation) transmitted by the signal. The sidebands consist of all the Fourier components of the modulated signal except the carrier. All forms of modulation produce sidebands.

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.

Very low frequency radio waves

Very low frequency or VLF is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range of 3 to 30 kilohertz (kHz), corresponding to wavelengths from 100 to 10 kilometers, 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 or LF is the ITU designation for radio frequencies (RF) in the range of 30 kilohertz (kHz) to 300 kHz. As its wavelengths range from ten kilometres to one kilometre, 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'.

Radiotelephone communications system for transmission of speech over radio

A radiotelephone is a communications system for transmission of speech over radio. Radiotelephone systems are very rarely interconnected with the public switched telephone network, and in some radio services, including GMRS, such interconnection is prohibited. "Radiotelephony" means transmission of sound (audio) by radio, in contrast to radiotelegraphy or video transmission. Where a two-way radio system is arranged for speaking and listening at a mobile station, and where it can be interconnected to the public switched telephone system, the system can provide mobile telephone service.

Digital Radio Mondiale Digital radio broadcasting standard

Digital Radio Mondiale is a set of digital audio broadcasting technologies designed to work over the bands currently used for analogue radio broadcasting including AM broadcasting, particularly shortwave, and FM broadcasting. DRM is more spectrally efficient than AM and FM, allowing more stations, at higher quality, into a given amount of bandwidth, using various MPEG-4 audio coding formats.

Amateur television

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. 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. 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.

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.

DXing is the hobby of receiving and identifying distant radio or television signals, or making two-way radio contact with distant stations in amateur radio, citizens' band radio or other two-way radio communications. Many DXers also attempt to obtain written verifications of reception or contact, sometimes referred to as "QSLs" or "veries". The name of the hobby comes from DX, telegraphic shorthand for "distance" or "distant".

Near vertical incidence skywave, or NVIS, is a skywave radio-wave propagation path that provides usable signals in the range between groundwave and conventional skywave distances—usually 30–400 miles (50–650 km). 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.

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.

An amateur radio propagation beacon is a radio beacon, whose purpose is the investigation of the propagation of radio signals. Most radio propagation beacons use amateur radio frequencies. They can be found on LF, MF, HF, VHF, UHF, and microwave frequencies. Microwave beacons are also used as signal sources to test and calibrate antennas and receivers.

References

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  2. Inconsistent article: itwissen.info: KW (Kurzwelle) SW (short wave) Quote: "... Der KW-Frequenzbereich (SW) liegt zwischen 3 MHz und 30 MHz [<-1. definition] ... Kurzwelle ist auch eine sendetechnische Bezeichnung für Rundfunk im Frequenzbereich zwischen 2,3 MHz und 26,1 MHz [<-2. definition] ..."
  3. oldtimeradio.de: Kleines Radio-Lexikon Quote: "... Kurzwellen, Kurzwellenbereich ... Wellenbereich, der von den Rundfunksendern (je nach geographischer Lage) von 11 bis 120 m = 26.100 bis 2.300 kHz ..."
  4. darc.de: Amateurfunk Frequenzen Quote: "... Grenzwelle (Kurzwelle) ...", de:Grenzwelle Quote: "... Als Grenzwelle wird der Frequenzbereich zwischen 1605 kHz und 3800 kHz bezeichnet, weil er auf der „Grenze" zwischen Mittelwelle und Kurzwelle liegt ..."
  5. Grundig Satellit 1000 TR6002, schematic See at the bottom of the schematic, just below the transformer. In the schematic it is written that the first shortwave band starts at 1.6 MHz (just after the band end of MW/AM): "KW1-SW1-OC1 1,6 .... 5,0 MHz"
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