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

Meter
Band
Frequency
(kHz)
ConditionComments
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

TECSUN PL-990
(amzn)

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 ]

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16 Comments

  1. Yep,
    That chart was overwhelming when I started, not that long ago. I didn’t know ANYTHING. It’s no where near as difficult as it first seems. Take it on in small bites. Tons of people have purchased the cheap little baofengs. Most are still in the box on a shelf. For the price, a great investment. They will do the 2 meter band fm only and the 70cm band fm only. Not great, but waay better than nothing.

    The antenna is the most important part. Far more important than the radio, though the radio is important too. I can easily see a day when the grid goes down. Talk about a change of lifestyle. No internet, no cell phones. Maybe there will be broadcast radio and/or tv for a few days. Maybe not. Truly the sounds of silence. We are all spoiled by weather forecasts. Bring up more firewood before the snow, etc. There will be NO more of that.

    Many here are elderly. We haven’t challenged our brains for a while. There is trepidation in doing so. A risk of failure. It’s not about the license, it’s about garnering the knowledge. With the license, many hams will help you in ways I never imagined. People I didn’t know before hand. Next thing I knew, I was enjoying myself and learning. Now-a-days it’s just another prep. An important prep, in my view. BTW that chart, somehow without even trying, it makes sense.

    1. Plainsmedic,
      not many hams in my area for some reason. the little i have learned to start with was from websites like brushbeater and youtube. i purchased a book” ham radio for dummies” to get started. anyone new to ham it’s well worth the price. it was in plain language and to the point, it helped me to get started. it doesn’t get into the finer points, but it’s a great primer. i have my general licence and have met only 2 others in my area.
      their is an old man in our area that has tried to help me but honestly he talks so far over my head i don’t understand him most times. he was a radioman in Korea in the war and its just second nature to him. i think he gets aggravated with me sometimes. but you should see his set-up, it takes up an entire wall, i’ll bet that he could move the Mar’s rovers around if he wanted to. i cut his small yard in exchange and he is great company.
      ya just can’t beat old people for knowledge and good company.

  2. i have found this, what do you guys think? worth it?
    ICOM IC-718 – ICOM IC-718 HF All Band Transceivers.
    Receive Range 1:
    0.030-29.999 MHz
    SSB/CW Maximum Power:
    100 W
    SSB/CW Minimum Power:
    2 W

    Band Coverage Transmit Frequency Range
    160 meters 1.800-1.999 MHz
    80 meters 3.500-3.999 MHz
    40 meters 7.000-7.300 MHz
    30 meters 10.100-10.150 MHz
    20 meters 14.000-14.350 MHz
    17 meters 18.068-18.168 MHz
    15 meters 21.000-21.450 MHz
    12 meters 24.890-24.990 MHz
    10 meters 28.000-29.700 MHz
    AM Maximum Power:
    40 W
    AM Minimum Power:
    2 W
    $679.95 bucks
    it seems like a good deal but i would like your guys advice first before DW kicks my butt for buying it. it may be worth a butt kicking.
    thanks in advance.

    1. well i bought it, its on the way with a new tuner. now all i have to do is sneak it into the house without DW seeing it. more wire in the yard and from the trees. (i need to save up for a tower) , one day, if i live long enough.
      i wonder sometimes how much of a benefit CB would be worth in a SHTF situation. a 50 Watt linear will transmit a long way under the right conditions, skip. many people around here including myself still have them and use them for hunting. i guess it depends on your area.

  3. Scout,
    To me, it all depends on what ya want/need. For example: I have no need to tx. to foreign countries, though listening could be beneficial. A decent shortwave could save you some $$ if listening is all ya need. Asking questions over the air will get you answers much quicker. Each of us will have our own specific requirements of ham. I have a “shack-in-the-box” yaesu 857d. vhf and most hf bands. My VIPs are in the 75-150 mile range, so 2m ssb is the right choice for us. The VIPs have various 2m all-mode radios, some with amplifiers. We’re all technicians.

    I can legally listen to the hf bands, with my radio. After shtf, who knows. The nice part about ham, take from it what you want/need and ignore the rest, if you so choose. If this all goes bad, ham radio may be all there is????

    I believe most things will become very local. Having a base station and several handhelds (2m fm) might be used the most. So, I’ve built several small 2m fm 1/4 wave ground plane antennae. Listening to what’s going on in the world, is important too. I/we thought long and hard before buying radios. I made all the yagis. All the old 2m all-modes are used. No one makes a 2m all-mode any more. Good luck!

  4. So I have a Baofeng and just started sorta studying for the tech license. Trying to teach this old dog some new tricks but am not good with tech stuff at all. My CRS gets worse every year!!
    Do have a question…. The Baofeng can work just like a walkie talkie right?? I know only with a license right now but if tshtf then as long as we are all on the same channel it would work?? Have 4 kids in the area and would like to communicate them if it goes sideways as I’m thinking it will in the next 6 months to a year!!

    1. Sunstate Boy,
      Basically, it’s better than any walkie talkie you’ve ever used. You could make it work even better with a different antenna. Download an app on your phone, they’re free. Multiple choice questions and answers are on there. The test questions and answers will be the same questions on the app. If you WANT this, it’s doable for anyone. It’s easier than ya think. I used hamstudy dot org. I did it on a desk top computer.

      1. I read up in a manual , but I did those online practice tests until I consistently scored high enough to pass the test.

    2. Got my tech license back in nov 2019. Only transmitted a couple of times, and I need to get more into it. I got an HAM in case of emergencies, so maybe I could pick up info.

  5. https://www.arrl.org/ is a good site. They’ll try to get you to be a member, and there certainly are benefits. But you can see news and helpful links to licensing and clubs just by browsing. The magazine subscription is worth it for a few years anyway for new folks. They always have projects and How Too’s. Lots of member articles too. All this talk of Ham radio makes me want to go blow the dust off the old boat anchors. My Icom IC-706MKIIG is in deep faraday cage suspension ;-)

  6. JF62,
    Good job. Do yourself a favor, get on-the-air. The more ya use it the more comfortable/better you’ll be at using it. From this point on, it’s all fun. Well, until it’s the only comms you have. Again, good work.

  7. Imagine you awaken some morning. No power, no tv, no radio broadcasts, and best of all, your phone doesn’t work. You’ll have to make your coffee the old fashioned way. Not that big of a deal, as the propane cook stove still works.
    You go about your day. Maybe ya fire-up the generator or more likely, wait to see if the power comes back on. Hours pass and still nothing works.

    Eventually, you decide to drive over to the neighbor’s place. Your pick-up won’t start. What-the-hell? What’s your next step? For me, I’ll dig a ham radio out of faraday. Information will be VERY important, all of a sudden.

    Does this seem FAR-FETCHED? I don’t think it is. For the trouble of a little bit of effort, you have solutions available to you. It’s just another prep. Either you’re prepared or you’re not. Ask that guy in the mirror. It’s better to ask him now, than have to look at him later.

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