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Making Sense of the Radio Spectrum

radiowave

Radio spectrum refers to the part of the electromagnetic spectrum corresponding to radio frequencies – that is, frequencies lower than around 300 GHz (or, equivalently, wavelengths longer than about 1 mm).

 

Different parts of the radio spectrum are used for different radio transmission technologies and applications. Radio spectrum is typically government regulated in developed countries and, in some cases, is sold or licensed to operators of private radio transmission systems (for example, cellular telephone operators or broadcast television stations). Ranges of allocated frequencies are often referred to by their provisioned use (for example, cellular spectrum or television spectrum).

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band is a small section of the spectrum of radio communication frequencies, in which channels are usually used or set aside for the same purpose.

Above 300 GHz, the absorption of electromagnetic radiation by Earth’s atmosphere is so great that the atmosphere is effectively opaque, until it becomes transparent again in the near-infrared and optical window frequency ranges.

To prevent interference and allow for efficient use of the radio spectrum, similar services are allocated in bands. For example, broadcasting, mobile radio, or navigation devices, will be allocated in non-overlapping ranges of frequencies.

Each of these bands has a basic bandplan which dictates how it is to be used and shared, to avoid interference and to set protocol for the compatibility of transmitters and receivers.

As a matter of convention, bands are divided at wavelengths of 10n metres, or frequencies of 3×10n hertz. For example, 30 MHz or 10 m divides shortwave (lower and longer) from VHF (shorter and higher). These are the parts of the radio spectrum, and not its frequency allocation.

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