Shortwave Vs Longwave Radio

What Is The Difference Between Shortwave Vs. Longwave Radio

​Radio has been an influential feature in our childhood for as long as we can remember.

Be it being stuck indoors during a snowstorm or your grandparents knitting or reading the newspaper while the radio chatters away in the background. In one way or another, radios had weaved their way into our lives.

But today we are here to talk about the differences between shortwave and a longwave radio. Let me assure you that you have found the right article because it will provide you with an in-depth discussion of the two.

What Is Shortwave and Longwave Radio?

The term “shortwave” was introduced in the early 20th century. During this time the radio spectrum was known to have three band branches; longwave, medium wave, and shortwave. It was based on the wavelength of the radio waves.

In the present-day “longwave” does not have a specific definition and has varied meanings.

All radio waves are similar to light, meaning that they are a form of electromagnetic radiation. Hence, they travel in the same speed as light.

It undergoes alternations when it passes through rain, air or other objects. The speed only maintains stability and remains constant in the vacuum of space. Nonetheless, the characteristics aren’t all that different notably when it’s used in comparably shorter distances.

To begin with, you can detect that when we’re talking about shortwave or longwave, we are basically discussing wavelength and frequency. In the radio spectrum, you will find different bands which have their own range of frequencies.

Ordinarily, the radio spectrum ranges from 3 Hertz (Hz) to approximately 300 Gigahertz (GHz).

Wavelength and Frequency Differences

Wavelength and frequencies share a contrasting relationship with one another.

For example, higher frequencies mean shorter wavelength and higher energy. It’s the other way around for lower frequencies.

The frequency for longwave range from 30KHz to 279 KHz , covering a median wavelength of 150 meters. On the other hand, the frequency of shortwave varies between 1.5 MHz to 30 MHz which covers around 10 to 85 meters.

Longwave moves along the ground at a certain power and moves across in a linear line.

In contrast, shortwave link with the atmosphere and reflects the earth’s path to move in a curve. Longwave comes back to the earth after it gets into the ionosphere.

Shortwave too interrelates with the ionosphere. They can cover a larger distance through the horizon because they are able to penetrate through the atmosphere and ionosphere.

Types of Antenna and Quality of Reception

As the names suggest, longwave requires longer antenna and shortwave requires a shorter antenna.

The size of the longer antennas can cause a disruption in operation. Shortwave calls for shorter antenna hence, making it more preferable.

However, shortwave gets obstructed more easily because it does not bounce in the atmosphere. In the case of Longwave. it is difficult for buildings and other things to block their path.

More often than not, most individuals mix up shortwave and shortwave band. The reason for this confusion is that the band consists of longwave frequencies. These frequencies are shorter than lower bands of the high-frequency region but with a longer wave.

Along with longwave (LW), medium wave (MW) and shortwave (SW), the FCC was also categorized into a different band, hence the confusion.

These bands range from very low frequency (VLF) to extremely high frequency (EHF). Very low frequency (VLF) and low frequency (LF) are usually used for maritime and navigation purposes. The highest bands are used for radio astronomy and satellite.

Moreover, Amplitude moderation (AM) and Frequency Modulation (FM) are some of the ways to cipher into a base wave or carrier. 

Shortwave Vs. Longwave: The Difference

Shortwave transmissions are used more often because they cover a large wave range. They are also received easily by small and cheaper radios. Shortwave is so effective that it can reach rural or inaccessible regions gaining more audiences.

It is very important to include and unite the marginalized population.

Since shortwave signals cover a huge range, people who so not have any access to radio networks are also able to access these signals.

The locals develop some audio content first. After that, the content is sent back out of the country from where it’s transmitted back. They are sometimes called world band radio because other countries can access these broadcasts too.

In Yemen and other similar countries, radio broadcasting is done in this way. It can be listened to in private or anonymously.  

Shortwave radio signals possess the ability to weave across countries, continents, water bodies, and mountain ranges. And that is why they are the most popular radio choice.

Longwave radios are more popular in maritime communication. In the early day's longwave radio transmission were used frequently since they had the ability to send wave signals over greater distance using less power.

In return, this resulted in lesser power consumption. Furthermore, ships travelling via sea have to use this.  

Longwave covers a greater area employing higher power than FM. The common power level may begin from 500 KW and climb up to 2 MW.

It’s more convenient and appropriate for wider terrain coverage. That’s because its broadcasting capability per kilowatt is more than an MW band powered by a similar transmitter.

Although there is a lesser number of usages of longwave than shortwave, LW is quite popular in Europe. It can also be traced to North African and Middle Eastern countries. There are plans being made to increase the number of LW radio stations.

Wrapping Up

If you’re from a tropical country, shortwave is the better option. It is less likely to face disruption from storms. Also, it travels along a larger extent of geographical area with less power resulting in reduced cost. For this reason, it is the popular choice for private broadcasting.

However, in developed countries shortwave for radio broadcasting can be challenging due to radio interference from wi-fi and routers. To summarize, shortwave and longwave have their difference in energy, power, and capability to cover large distances.

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