Frequencies and Transmitting Modes

Hams use a variety of frequencies for communications. Non-hams can "listen in" via their own receivers or radio scanners. Hams are able to use many frequency bands across the radio spectrum -- these frequencies are allocated by the FCC for amateur use. Hams may operate from just above the AM broadcast band to the microwave region, in the gigahertz range. Many ham bands are found in the frequency range that goes from above the AM radio band (1.6 MHz) to just above the citizens band (27 MHz). During daylight, 15 to 27 MHz is a good band for long-distance communications. At night, the band from 1.6 to 15 MHz is good for long-distance communications. These bands are often referred to historically as short-wave bands (as in "short-wave radio"). Unlike frequencies used by FM radio stations and TV stations, which are line-of-sight and therefore limited to 40 or 50 miles, short-waves "bounce" off the ionosphere from the transmitter to the receiver's antenna. The higher the frequency is, the "shorter" the wavelength is.

Some ham radio operators use the very reliable Morse code, while others use voice. Morse code signals (beeps) often get through when voice transmissions cannot. There are also very many digital modes as well, and hams use radio modems to communicate in various networks.