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An Overview of Frequency Bands and Their Applications

Key Takeaways

  • The ELF band is used for underwater communications, especially for pipeline transportation. 

  • The MF band covers AM broadcasting, coast-to-sea communication, emergency distress signals, etc.

  • THF is utilized as an alternative to X-ray and is used in TeraHertz frequency imaging.

 : Electromagnetic spectrum

The electromagnetic spectrum covers all the electromagnetic radiations arranged according to their frequency and wavelength

Have you ever wondered how it is possible to use a car radio and cellphone simultaneously? Both are some sort of wireless communication, but what allows their existence in one place without any interruption? This is all due to the electromagnetic spectrum.

Cellphones and car radios utilize different frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum for wireless signal transmission, which helps them to coexist without much chaos. The electromagnetic spectrum is the set of all frequencies and the energy transmitted over electromagnetic waves is highly regulated based on frequency bands.

A frequency band can be described as a collection of frequencies ranging from a lower frequency to a higher frequency. The different frequency bands of the electromagnetic spectrum are allocated for various applications. 

The Electromagnetic Spectrum 

Electromagnetic radiation is one of the forms in which energy travels through space. The electromagnetic energy spreads out in the form of visible light, radio waves, infrared rays, gamma rays, etc. The electromagnetic spectrum covers all the electromagnetic radiations arranged according to their frequency and wavelength. The frequency and wavelength are inversely proportional to each other. In the electromagnetic spectrum, the higher the frequency, the lower the wavelength.

Usually, the electromagnetic spectrum is described as the set of frequencies arranged in ascending order that comprises all the different forms of electromagnetic radiation present in the universe. The electromagnetic spectrum spans from very long radio waves to very short gamma rays. There are several subranges available in the electromagnetic spectrum, namely radio waves, microwaves, X-rays, infrared rays, and gamma rays. These subranges fall under specific frequency bands. 

Designating Frequency Bands

Frequency Band

ITU band number


Extremely low frequency (ELF)


3 Hz-30 Hz

Super low frequency (SLF)


30 Hz-300 Hz

Ultra low frequency (ULF)


300 Hz-3 kHz

Very low frequency (VLF)


3–30 kHz

Low frequency (LF)


30–300 kHz

Medium frequency (MF)


300–3,000 kHz

High frequency (HF)


3–30 MHz

Very high frequency (VHF)


30–300 MHz

Ultra high frequency (UHF)


300–3,000 MHz

Super high frequency (SHF)


3–30 GHz

Extremely high frequency (EHF)


30–300 GHz

Terahertz or tremendously high frequency (THF)


300–3,000 GHz

ITU classification of frequency bands

The frequency bands are designated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU frequency bands range from the lowest frequency to ten times the lowest frequency. The ITU coordinates the generation and transmission of these electromagnetic frequency bands along with the regulatory laws of the region where they are being used. They promote the global sharing of the electromagnetic spectrum and help to improve telecommunication infrastructure, thereby participating in global development. According to ITU, the electromagnetic spectrum is classified into various frequency bands with band numbers ranging from 1 to 12.  The table above presents the ITU classification of frequency bands.

The Role of IEEE in Frequency Band Designation


Band designation

3-30 MHz


30-300 MHz


300-1000 MHz


1-2 GHz


2-4 GHz


4-8 GHz


8-12 GHz


12-18 GHz


18-27 GHz


27–40 GHz


40-75 GHz


75-110 GHz


110 -300 GHz

mm or G

IEEE classifications of frequency bands

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has significantly contributed to the frequency band designation that is used in radar, terrestrial, and satellite applications. They subdivided the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum further and standardized the classification by designating each subband by a letter. The table above gives the IEEE classification of frequency bands. 

Frequency Bands and Applications

Here is an overview of the applications of frequency bands as per ITU classification.

  • ELF - This frequency band is used for underwater communication, especially for pipeline transportation.
  • SLF - Used for submarine communications and in the electric grid (not as a transmitted wave).
  • ULF - Used for mining communications and military applications.
  • VLF - As this band of frequency exhibits penetration properties through dirt and rock, it is used for geophysics applications, navigation, wireless heart monitoring, etc.
  • LF - In Europe and some parts of Asia, the LF band is used in AM broadcasting. Other LF band applications include RFID, amateur radio, and navigation.
  • MF - This frequency band covers AM broadcasting, coast-to-sea communication, emergency distress signals, etc.
  • HF - This band is also called the short wave band. It is most useful in aviation communication, amateur radio communication, and weather broadcasting applications.
  • VHF - This band is used for analog television broadcasting, FM radio broadcasting, medical equipment utilizing magnetic resonance imaging, mobile-land, and marine communication systems.
  • UHF - This frequency band is significant in modern wireless communication systems with applications in satellite television, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, television broadcasting, mobile communications such as GSM, CDMA, and LTE services.
  • SHF - Modern communications technologies, modern radars, DTH services, 5GHz Wi-Fi channel, radio astronomy, mobile networks, TV broadcasting satellites, microwave devices, broadcasting satellites, and amateur radio are some of the applications of SHF.
  • EHF - EHF is used in radio astronomy, amateur radio, remote sensing at microwave frequency, and high-frequency microwave relays.
  • THF - THF is utilized as an alternative to X-ray and is used in TeraHertz frequency imaging. Other applications include terahertz space-time spectroscopy, solid-state physics, and terahertz computability.

Among advanced technologies, the influence of electromagnetic frequency bands and their applications is increasing. Cadence can help you in developing systems that utilize electromagnetic frequency bands such as RF systems and microwave circuits.

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