The radiofrequency is traditionally separated in separate “slices” or “bands” of frequencies that have all their own use. By convention, certain bands are reserve to certain uses, most of the time because of the physical properties of the frequency or the environment.
This page aims to provide a quick overview of the broad properties of each band. The Wikipedia article on bands has more extensive documentation about propagation characteristics.
Those are the bands of the radio spectrum relevant to amateur radio. Although ham radio operators have been very creative at exploring the full range of the radio spectrum, most operations hold in those areas.
- LF 30 – 300 kHz
- MF 300 kHz – 3 MHz
- HF 3 – 30 MHz (aka shortwave)
- VHF 30 – 300 MHz
- UHF 300 MHz – 3000 MHz (3 GHz)
- SHF 3,000 – 30,000 MHz (see also Microwave and other bands)
Band characteristics and usage
Each of those band have particular characteristics. Since the vast majority of operations (if we lump together the 160m band within HF) happens within HF, VHF and UHF, we’re going only to look at those here.
There are a number of amateur HF bands used worldwide, although the bands and frequencies legally available vary from country to country. HF is renowned for its capability of long-range communication, because of the way sky waves propagate.
HF bands used today include:
|160 meters||Night, DX|
|80 meters||Night and local day|
|40 meters||Night and local day, DX|
|30 meters||CW and digital|
|20 meters||Most popular DX, night and day|
|17 meters||DX, night and day|
|10 meters||Daytime during solar maximum|
Note: although 160m is a Medium Frequency/MF band, it is often lumped in with the HF bands for simplicity.
Related wiki pages:
VHF, UHF, and Microwave bands and frequencies available to amateurs vary more widely from country to country than HF bands do.
Amateur bands used today include:
- 6 meters
- 4 meters
- 2 meters
- 1.25 meters
- 70 meters
- 33 centimeters
- 23 centimeters
- 13 centimeters
- 9 centimeters
- 6 centimeters
- 3 centimeters
- 1.25 centimeters
- Bands above 24GHz
Most of those bands share similar propagation characteristic: we’re usually talking about line of sight (ground wave) communication, although it is often taken up as a challenge for ham operators to go beyond those pesky restrictions with various techniques like Tropospheric ducting, moon bounce and bouncing off meteor scatter and aurora borealis. Certain frequencies (mostly 70cm and 2m) are often used to communicate with space satellites.
What those band allocations mean in terms of frequencies that the ham operators are allowed to work with varies according from region to region. This is regulated by the ITU, or more precisely the IARU, which manages regulations for each of the 3 ITU regions. Countries then make up their own local allocation in accordance (generally) with the region they are in.
Regional Band Plans
Within three regions around the world, different “plans” are agreed upon by Amateur Radio Operators to divide up the authorized band into sections. Each section is targeted to a specific operating mode (e.g., SSB, FM, Digital, etc). The ITU separated the world in 3 separate regions:
- Region 1 encompasses Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe, and Asiatic Russia
- Region 2 encompasses North America, South America, and Greenland
- Region 3 encompasses India, Australia, Southeast Asia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and Pacific nations.
See also the IARU website for details of those allocations.
Country Band Plans
Each country has its own conventions that are an application of the general band plans.
- The Australian band plan (.pdf) from the Wireless Institute of Australia
- The Canadian band plan (.html) from Radio Amateurs Canada
- The Dutch band plan (.html) from VRZA
- The New Zealand Band Plan can be found at NZART
- The United Kingdom band plan (.pdf and .html) from the Radio Society of Great Britain
- The United States Band Plan
- Wikipedia: Waveguide
- ARRL band plan – includes diagrams and listings
- USA band plan – one band per page, notable frequencies, with space for notes (PDF)
- Amateur radio bands at eham.net – good simple overview for new hams
- US Frequency Allocation Chart – good chart of all radio allocations (MediaWiki, PDF, SVG, PNG)
- Canadian chart of radio allocations (PDF)
- Electromagnetic Radiation Spectrum Poster – very complete (PDF, PNG, mail order)