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What is spectrum?

The spectrum is a continuous range of electromagnetic radiation waves. It extends from the longest radio waves to the shortest X-rays and gamma rays. The radiofrequency spectrum sits in the lower part of the spectrum.

On this page:

  • Frequency bands
  • Radio waves and antennas
  • Where services sit in the radiofrequency spectrum

The radiofrequency spectrum is where radio waves are transmitted.

You 'use' spectrum when you use any radiocommunications device. This includes:

  • marine radio on a boat
  • CB radio
  • body scanning machine in an airport
  • garage door opener

Frequency bands

Several frequency bands make up the radiofrequency spectrum.

Acronym

Meaning

Frequency band

VLF

Very low frequency

3 to 30 kHz

LF

Low frequency

30 to 300 kHz

MF

Medium frequency

300 to 3000 kHz

HF

High frequency

3 to 30 MHz

VHF

Very high frequency

30 to 300 MHz

UHF

Ultra high frequency

300 to 3000 MHz

SHF

Super high frequency

3 to 30 GHz

EHF

Extremely high frequency

30 to 300 GHz

Each band also has multiple sub-bands for certain services.

Radio waves and antennas

The frequency of a radio wave determines its characteristics, such as:

  • the distance the radio wave it can travel
  • whether it can penetrate through trees or into buildings
  • the cost of equipment, which generally increases as the frequency increases

Different services need frequencies (wavelengths) with different characteristics. Longer wavelengths need larger antennas but can travel longer distances than short wavelengths.

We match the needs of a service with the right characteristics. This makes the best use of spectrum. The result is that some bands are more valuable and in much higher demand than others.

Where services sit in the radiofrequency spectrum 

2 diagrams show the major spectrum allocations in Australia.

Australian radiofrequency spectrum - allocations chart

Spectrum Illustrated - a guide to major spectrum allocations

These diagrams are for educational purposes only. They do not show all uses from the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan.

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