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Radio waves Page 1 of 3

Radio waves
Parameters of alternating current
An alternating current is one which is constantly changing in magnitude and direction of
flow with the passage of time. The rise of a current from zero to a maximum, fall back to
zero and rise once again to its maximum in the reverse direction and back to zero over a
given time constitutes a cycle, or period.

The number of cycles of alternating current per second is called the frequency of alternating
current. The unit of frequency is the hertz (Hz). One hertz is one cycle per second. The
following units of frequency are used in the radio communication:
1 kHz (Kilo Hertz) = 1 000 Hz
1 MHz (Mega Hertz) = 1 000 kHz = 1 000 000 Hz
1 GHz (Giga Hertz) = 1 000 MHz = 1 000 000 000 Hz
Electromagnetic field
The alternating currents and voltages of high frequencies (more than 15 kHz) are used in
the radio communication. Such currents and voltages produced in the aerial of a radio
transmitter create radio waves. These radio waves radiate from the aerial.
Radio waves are electromagnetic waves which propagate through space with the velocity of
light, 300 x 10 meters per second. The distance from one wave top to another one is
known as the wavelength. The relationship between the velocity of light (c), frequency (f)
and wavelength ( ) is:

f = ----------

where: f is measured in Hz;

c = 300 x 10 m/s;

is measured in meters.
One can see that the longer wavelength corresponds to lower frequency and shorter

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wavelength to higher frequency.

Radio frequency spectrum
The radio frequency spectrum is divided into frequency bands. The major bands used in the
Maritime communications are:

Frequency band Symbols Frequency range Wavelength range

Low Frequencies LF 30 kHz to 300 kHz 10 km to 1 km

Medium MF 300 kHz to 3 MHz 1 km to 100 m


High frequencies HF 3 MHz to 30 MHz 100 m to 10 m

Very High VHF 30 MHz to 300 MHz 10 m to 1 m


Ultra High UHF 300 MHz to 3 GHz 1 m to 10 cm


Super High SHF 3 GHz to 30 GHz 10 cm to 1 cm

Only small sections of each band are allocated to maritime mobile users. The following
frequencies for terrestrial maritime communications are allocated in the MF, HF and VHF

435 kHz – 526.5 kHz. These frequencies are traditionally used for Morse code
communications (not applicable within the GMDSS excluding the spot frequencies 518 kHz
and 490 kHz).
1600 kHz – 3800 kHz.

4063 kHz - 4438 kHz (4 MHz band);
6200 kHz - 6525 kHz (6 MHz band);
8195 kHz - 8815 kHz (8 MHz band);
12230 kHz - 13200 kHz (12 MHz band);
16360 kHz - 17410 kHz (16 MHz band);
18780 kHz - 19800 kHz (18/19 MHz band);
22000 kHz - 22855 kHz (22 MHz band);
25070 kHz - 26175 kHz (25 MHz band).

156 – 174 MHz.

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Protection of frequencies
Any emission capable of causing harmful interference to distress, urgency and safety
communication on the international distress and safety frequencies established for these
purposes by the Radio Regulations is prohibited.
Except for authorized transmissions on the carrier frequency 2182 kHz and on the
frequencies 2174.5 kHz, 2177 kHz, 2187.5 kHz and 2189.5 kHz, all transmissions on the
frequencies between 2173.5 kHz and 2190.5 kHz are forbidden.
All emissions in the band 156.7625 – 156.8375 MHz capable of causing harmful
interference to the authorized transmissions of stations of the maritime mobile service on
156.8 MHz (channel 16) are forbidden.

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