Shortwave And Ham Radio Bands

‘Shortwave Radio’ (and Ham Radio) listening can be an enjoyable hobby – even while just simply listening to communications from near and afar over the airwaves. Not only is shortwave radio listening a hobby for some, it can also provide information input during a time of disaster. While transmitting requires a license, listening is free. Here’s some information about Ham radio bands (and shortwave bands).

The span of frequencies which are used for shortwave broadcasts and for Ham radio are split into ‘bands’. They’re sometimes referred to as ‘meter bands’, as in the 40 meter band, the 31 meter band, the 20 meter band, and so on…

The following is a list of the various ‘x’ meter bands, their associated frequencies, and a general description of what you might hear.

Depending on your specific shortwave radio, you will be able to receive local and international broadcasts as well as some (or all) of the amateur radio (HF Ham radio) bands. The allocated frequency bands generally have their own characteristics regarding the best time of day for reception (day or night).

Your shortwave radio might already list some of these bands on the front or rear panel for reference, or listed in it’s manual. The information is also readily available on the internet from many sources.

By the way, the bands themselves (usually represented in meters) is the result of the (crest to crest) signal wavelength. Picture a sine wave. For example, the 31 meter band (popular for international broadcasts) is actually getting to your radio antenna by way of an ‘invisible’ wavelength of about 31 meters from one crest to another of its sinusoidal wave (that’s about 100 feet!).

31 meter band wavelength

Meter Bands (Shortwave and HF Ham Radio)

Download and/or print your own copy:
Shortwave and Amateur (Ham) Radio METER BANDS

1202300 – 2495NightMainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Also used by government in North America
903200 – 3400NightMainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Used by various agencies of U.S. government
803500 – 4000NightAmateur (Ham radio) band
LSB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
753900 – 4000NightMainly used in Eastern Hemisphere
Mainly Europe, Africa
604750 – 5060NightMainly used ‘locally’ in tropical regions
Best reception during Fall and Winter
495900 – 6200NightPopular band for nighttime broadcasting
The best overall nighttime band for Int’l broadcasting
417100 – 7350Night / DayInt’l Broadcast, except North-South America
which is reserved for Amateur radio
407000 – 7300Night / DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
LSB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
319400 – 9990Night / DayMost Popular Int’l broadcasting band
Best mid-afternoon to mid-morning
2511600 – 12100Mostly DayPopular Int’l band for daytime broadcasting
Good any time of day
2213570 – 13870Mostly DayInt’l broadcasting
Not heavily used
2014000 – 14350Mostly DayAmateur (Ham radio) band (Popular long-distance DX)
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
1915030 – 15800Mostly DayInt’l broadcasting
The best overall daytime band for Int’l broadcasting
1718068 – 18168DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
1617480 – 17900DayInt’l broadcasting
1521000 – 21450DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode
1321450 – 21850DayInt’l broadcasting
Seldom used
1224890 – 24990DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode, Best during sunspots
1125670 – 26100DayInt’l broadcasting
Seldom used
1028000 – 29700DayAmateur (Ham radio) band
USB (voice) and CW (Morse code) mode, Best during sunspots
Best portable shortwave radio


SSB – Single Side Band

Note: If you want to get a shortwave radio (one with the HF Ham radio bands too) so that you can also listen to the amateur radio Ham bands, most all operators transmit on what is called USB (Upper Side Band) or LSB (Lower Side Band), depending on the specific band. If you want to listen to these transmissions, your radio also needs to have SSB (Single Side Band) capabilities. Look for it in the specificatoins before choosing a specific ‘shortwave radio’. Most lesser expensive shortwave radios don’t have this feature.

US Amateur Radio Bands

Here’s a nice chart from the ARRL just of the Ham Radio (Amateur Radio) bands:

view / download full resolution:

ARRL US Amateur Radio Bands (PDF)

[ Read: Top Choice Shortwave Radios For Preparedness ]