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Medium wave

Medium wave or mediumwave (MW) is a part of the Medium frequency (MF) radio band used for AM broadcasting. For most of the world the frequencies used for broadcasting are from 520 kHz up to 1611 kHz, and in North America an extended AM broadcast band goes up to 1710 kHz. The band is sometimes referred to as the AM band, even though it is not the only frequency range to use amplitude modulation.


Medium wave propagation characteristics

Medium wave signals have the property of following the curvature of the earth (the groundwave) at all times, and also reflecting off the ionosphere at night (skywave). This makes this frequency band ideal for both local and continent-wide service, depending on the time of day. For example, during the day a radio receiver in the state of Maryland is able to receive reliable but weak signals from high-power stations WFAN/660 kHz, and WOR/710 kHz, 250 miles (400 km) away in New York City, due to groundwave propagation. The effectiveness of groundwave signals largely depends on ground conductivity—higher conductivity results in better propagation. At night, the same receiver picks up signals as far away as Mexico City and Chicago reliably, assuming that there is no atmospheric noise or man-made interference.

Medium wave in the Americas

In most of the Americas, mediumwave stations are separated by 10 kHz and have two sidebands of ±5 kHz. In the rest of the world, the separation is 9 kHz, with sidebands of ±4.5 kHz. Both provide adequate audio quality for voice, but are insufficient for high-fidelity broadcasting, which is common on the VHF FM bands. In the US the maximum transmitter power is restricted to 50 kilowatts, while in Europe there are medium wave stations with transmitter power up to 2.5 megawatts.

Many United States stations are required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to shut down or reduce power at night in order to make way for clear channel stations that can then be received over a wider range. These stations are often known as "daytimers"

Medium wave in Europe

In Europe, each country is allocated a number of frequencies on which high power (up to 2.5 MW) can be used; the maximum power is also subject to international agreement. In most cases there are two power limits: a lower one for omnidirectional and a higher one with directional radiation with minimums showing toward certain directions. The power limit can also be depending on daytime and it is possible, that a station may not work at nighttime, because it would then produce too much interference. Other countries may only operate low-powered transmitters on the same frequency, again subject to agreement. For example, Russia operates a high-powered transmitter, located in its Kaliningrad exclave and used for external broadcasting, on 1386 kHz. The same frequency is also used by low-powered local radio stations in the United Kingdom; other parts of the United Kingdom can still receive the Russian broadcast. International mediumwave broadcasting in Europe has decreased markedly with the end of the Cold War and the increased availability of satellite and Internet TV and radio, although the cross-border reception of neighboring countries' broadcasts by expatriates and other interested listeners still takes place.

Due to the high demand for frequencies in Europe, many countries operate single frequency networks; in Britain, BBC Radio Five Live broadcasts from various transmitters on either 693 or 909 kHz. These transmitters are carefully synchronized to minimize interference from more distant transmitters on the same frequency.

Stereo and digital radio transmissions on medium wave

See also: AM stereo

Stereo transmission is possible and offered by some stations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Australia, The Philippines, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, and France. However, there are multiple standards for AM stereo with C-QUAM being the most common in the United States as well as other countries, and receivers that implement the technologies are relatively rare.

In September 2002, the United States Federal Communications Commission approved the proprietary iBiquity in-band on-channel (IBOC) HD Radio system of digital audio broadcasting, which is meant to improve the audio quality of signals. The Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) IBOC system has been approved by the ITU for use outside North America and U.S. territories.


As aerials mostly mast radiators are used. Stations broadcasting with low power commonly use masts with heights of a quarter wavelength, while high power stations mostly use half wavelength. The usage of masts longer than 5/8 of radiated wavelength gives a bad radiation pattern. Usually mast antennas are insulated against ground and show a high voltage against ground during transmission, which complicates maintenance, installation of air safety warning lights or using the mast as a tower for UHF/VHF-radio, but there are several ways to use grounded masts or towers.

If grounded masts or towers are required, then cage aerials or longwire aerials are used. Another possibility consists of feeding the mast or the tower by cables running from the tuning unit to the guys or crossbars in a certain height. Directional aerials consist of multiple masts, which need not to be from the same height. It is also possible to realize directional aerials for mediumwave with cage aerials where some parts of the cage are fed with a certain phase difference.

Other type of aerials sometimes used for medium wave are T- and L-aerials. The kind used depends on the need for grounded or insulated towers.

In some cases dipole aerials are used, which are spun between two masts or towers. Such aerials radiate toward the sky. The mediumwave transmitter at Berlin-Britz for transmitting RIAS used a cross dipole mounted on five 30.5 meter high guyed masts to transmit the skywave up to the ionosphere at nighttime.

Europe's largest antenna park DX 183 is placed in Northern Jutland, Denmark. The well-known German DX'er Wilhelm Herbst has constructed and built the antennas. DXers are welcome to use the facilities.

Non-broadcast use

For most of the 20th century, the radio frequency 500 kHz was reserved world wide as the Morse code international calling and distress frequency for ships on the high seas. The frequency 2182 kHz is still used for this purpose, but employing voice transmission.

Other services that operate in medium wave include Navtex and the amateur radio 160-meter band. The obsolete LORAN-A system used medium wave.

See also

Radio spectrum
3 Hz 30 Hz 300 Hz 3 kHz 30 kHz 300 kHz 3 MHz 30 MHz 300 MHz 3 GHz 30 GHz
30 Hz 300 Hz 3 kHz 30 kHz 300 kHz 3 MHz 30 MHz 300 MHz 3 GHz 30 GHz 300 GHz

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Medium_wave". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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