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The Radio Spectrum

By Tim Hunter

The radio spectrum covers a wide range of frequencies and is important for our every day lives as well as being very important for astronomical observations. I became frustrated in my reading about the radio spectrum, because there were no good charts or tables explaining the spectrum and explaining what frequencies radio astronomers used versus frequencies for commercial television, AM radio, FM radio, cell phones, Amateur radio, and other types of communications. This information is available in thousands of pieces, but the radio astronomy, amateur radio, and other references I checked did not do a very good job of correlating this information.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is the world’s oldest international organization, established in 1865 to manage the first international telegraph networks. It is a specialized agency of the United Nations, and its membership includes almost all the world’s countries and over 500 private members (ITU, 2004). ITU’s purpose is to develop and manage the world’s telecommunications resources. The ITU is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, and “ITU's continuing role in managing the radio-frequency spectrum ensures that radio-based systems like cellular phones and pagers, aircraft and maritime navigation systems, scientific research stations, satellite communication systems and radio and television broadcasting all continue to function smoothly and provide reliable wireless services to the world's inhabitants” (ITU,2004).

Under the auspices of the ITU, World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC) are held every two to three years to review, and, if necessary, revise the Radio Regulations, which is the international treaty governing the use of the radio frequency spectrum, and satellite orbits and communications (ITU, 2004). The Unites States Communications Act of 1934 (as revised) authorizes the United States Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to manage the use within the United States of the radio frequency spectrum. Some portions of the spectrum are managed jointly by NTIA and the FCC and some are managed exclusively by either one or the other (Schroeder, 2004).

Management of the radio spectrum will vary from country to country. As shown by the Table below, this management is a very complex issue. Most countries of the world adhere to the International Telecommunication Union (ICU) treaty which obligates them to comply with spectrum allocations specified in the ITU Radio Regulations’ Article 5 (International Table of Frequency Allocations). US domestic spectrum use may differ from the international allocations provided domestic users do not conflict with the radio spectrum in other countries and otherwise comply with international regulations or bilateral treaty agreements (Schroeder, 2004). In the US thirty different radio services are allocated portions of the radio spectrum over 450 separate frequency bands.

The following information was gathered and posted January 22, 2005 and has not been updated, though it is probably accurate for the most part. For the latest information on radio frequency allocations, please see the references.

tbh June 17, 2014; tbh 4 July 2021


Table of Frequencies*

* Adapted from: http://www.jneuhaus.com/fccindex/10_khz.html#10_KHz ; http://www.jneuhaus.com/fccindex/index.html#Freq_chart; http://www.ntia.doc.gov/;


Very Low Frequency (VLF) 9-30 KHz {33 km-10 km }

  • Power line carrier systems operated by power utility for supervision of the power system
  • Cable locating equipment

Low Frequency (LF) 30-325 KHz {10 km-923 meters}

  • Power line carrier systems operated by power utility for supervision of the power system
  • Cable locating equipment
  • 60 KHz – Radio station WWV
  • Radiolocation, land or mobile
  • International fixed service
  • Maritime Mobile Service
  • LORAN-C Navigation System 90-110 KHz
  • 101.4 KHz – Transmitters used to detect buried electronic markers used by telephone companies
  • Experimentation on 1750 meter band
  • Radio Beacons for Aircraft Navigation 190-200 KHz
  • Air Traffic Control 200-285 KHz

Medium Frequency (MF) 325-2851 KHz {923-105 meters}

  • Radio Beacons for Aircraft Navigation 325-405 KHz
  • Air Traffic Control 200-285 KHz
  • Power line carrier systems operated by power utility for supervision of the power system
  • Cable locating equipment
  • Working frequency for aircraft on over water flights
  • Avalanche Transceivers 435-490 KHz
  • International calling and distress frequency for ships and aircraft over the seas 500 KHz
  • Travelers’ Information Stations 530-1700 KHz in 10 KHz increments
  • AM Broadcast Band 530-1700 KHz
  • Various Public Safety, Police, Fire, Base or Mobile Bands
  • Amateur 160 Meter Band 1800-2000 KHz
  • Maritime SSB Radiotelephone 2003 KHz and up
  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)
  • WWV and WWVH 2500 KHz
  • Flight Test Stations, Land and Aircraft 2851 KHz

High Frequency (HF) 3.004-29.7 MHz {100 meters-10meters}

  • Flight test stations – land and aircraft
  • Maritime SSB Radiotelephone
  • Amateur 80 Meter Band 3.5-3.75 MHz
  • Amateur 75 Meter Band 3.75-4 MHz
  • WWV and WWVH 5.000, 10.000, 15.000, 20.000, 25.000 MHz
  • Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS)
  • Industrial, Scientific, Medical 6.765-6.795 MHz
  • Amateur 40 Meter Band 7-7.3 MHz
  • Amateur 30 Meter Band 10.1-10.15 MHz
  • Radio Astronomy 13.36-13.41 MHz
  • Amateur 20 Meter Band 14-14.35 MHz
  • Amateur 17 Meter Band 18.068-18.17 MHz
  • Amateur 15 Meter Band 21-21.45 MHz
  • Amateur 12 Meter Band 24.89-24.99 MHz
  • Radio Astronomy 25.55-25.67 MHz
  • Civil Air Patrol 26.617 MHz
  • Citizens Band (CB) 26.96-27.41 MHz
  • US Navy – MARS
  • Amateur 10 Meter Band 28-29.7 MHz
  • Shortwave (SW) Broadcast Bands 3-30 MHz

Very High Frequency (VHF) 30-328.6 MHz {10- 0.9 meters}

  • Radio Astronomy 38.0-38.25 MHz
  • Alarm Systems, Door Openers, Remote Switches 40.66-40.70 MHz
  • Wildlife and Ocean Buoying Tracking and Telemetry
  • Industrial, Scientific, and Medical
  • Cordless Telephone Base Transmitter 43.71-44.9, 46.60-46.98, 48.75-49.51, 49.66-50.0 MHz
  • Amateur 6 Meter Band 50-54 MHz
  • Television Channel 2 54-60 MHz
  • Television Channel 3 60-66 MHz
  • Television Channel 4 66-72 MHz
  • Private land mobile fixed operation
  • Repeater Stations
  • Radio Control Model Aircraft
  • Auditory Assistance Devices
  • Radio Astronomy 73-74.6 MHz
  • 75.0 MHz Marker Beacon
  • Television Channel 5 76-82 MHz
  • Television Channel 6 82-88 MHz
  • 88-108 MHz FM Radio Broadcasting
  • Aviation; 136-137 MHz Space Operations (Space to Earth), Meteorological Satellite Service
  • Space Operation
  • NOAA Meteorological Satellite (Space to Earth) 137-138 MHz
  • Military 138-144 MHz
  • Amateur 2 Meter Band 144-148 MHz
  • Military
  • Mobile Satellite (Earth to Space)
  • Automotive Emergency Radio Service
  • Petroleum Radio Service – Oil Spill Cleanup
  • Highway Maintenance
  • Park Service, State and Local Forestry Service
  • Public Land Mobile Paging
  • Fire Department Allocations 154.130-154.4525 MHz
  • Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS)
  • Maritime Ship Stations 156.0125-157.4375 MHz
  • Motor Carrier (Trucking)
  • Railroad Communications
  • Maritime Coast
  • Television Channel 7 174-180 MHz
  • Television Channel 8 180-186 MHz
  • Television Channel 9 186-192 MHz
  • Television Channel 10 192-198 MHz
  • Television Channel 11 198-204 MHz
  • Television Channel 12 204-210 MHz
  • Television Channel 13 210-216 MHz
  • Auditory Assistance Devices
  • Law Enforcement Tracking Systems
  • Amateur 1.25 Meter Band 222-225 MHz


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