What is Shortwave?
Shortwave Listening is an interesting hobby enjoyed by many radio enthusiasts. Even today with satellite and digital communications, HF radio is still very widely used in the world, meaning there is a lot of different broadcasts that you can listen to using a shortwave radio.
To listen to shortwave you will need a receiver capable of receiving frequencies between 3 MHz and 30 MHz. If you also want to listen to Amateur, Emergency Services and other commercial stations you will also need one that receives SSB. An antenna can be simply a long wire strung between two trees or from your house to a tree. Some of the things you can listen to include:
You are no doubt familiar with AM and FM radio stations. The shortwave bands also have broadcast stations, very different to the AM and FM stations you are used to listening to.
Most countries have an international broadcasting service. In addition a number of religious groups and commercial stations broadcast on the shortwave bands. The programmes and information these broadcast can be both interesting and informative, especially if you have an interest in overseas news.
International shortwave stations broadcast a range of information, from local and regional news, to religious programmes, to information about life in their country, to learning how to speak a new language. It can also be challenging to receive some of the lower power stations, or those that only broadcast on limited occassions.
Many international stations welcome reception reports from listeners, and will often respond to a correct report with a QSL card and possibly some promotional material, such as stickers, pennants, etc.
Amateur Radio and CB
Amateur Radio is a non-commercial hobbyist communications service enjoyed by many enthusiasts around the world (see my Ham Radio page). There are a number of Amateur Radio bands in the HF spectrum, and you will find many different forms of communications including voice, CW (Morse code), and data modes.
CB, or Citizen Band, is a short range hobby service found in a number of countries. It is usually very low power (12 Watts or less), so can be a challenge to listen to at any great distance. Most CB bands can be found in the 26MHz to 27MHz range (Australia and New Zealand also have a CB band in the 476-477MHz range, called the UHF CB band).
There are many Amateur Radio contests ran each year around the world, and in Australia. Many of these contests allow Shortwave Listeners to enter and not just Amateurs.
Amateur contests are aimed at encouraging communication between Amateur stations. Some contests are restricted to stations in Australia, the Oceania region, etc, whilst others are open to the whole world. You can find details of Australian contests on the WIA Contests page.
The HF band includes a few bands dedicated to international maritime operations. The primary frequencies of interest are:
- International Distress, Urgency & Safety: 2182.0, 4125.0, 6215.0, 8291.0, 12290.0, 16420.0 kHz.
- Digital Selective Calling (DSC) Distress: 4207.5, 6312, 8414.5, 12577, 16804.5 kHz.
- Maritime safety broadcasts: 8176.0 kHz.
- Simplex Working channel: 4146, 6227, 8294, 12353, 16534, 16537 kHz.
- Calling & Working: 1715, 1725, 1775, 2008, 2032, 2112, 2164, 2284, 2436, 2524, 26385, 4535, 4620 kHz.
In Australia there is also a low power inshore boating service between 27.620 and 27.980 MHz (main Distress & Calling is on 27.880 MHz. Safety and supplementary distress 27.860 MHz).
There are a number of commercial, volunteer and government services operating on the HF bands in Australia, and in other countries too. These include:
- Aircraft flying international routes.
- Royal Flying Doctor Service and School of the Air.
- Police and Emergency Services (especially SA, NT and WA).
- Australian 4WD Radio Network (VKS737 Network).
- Outback Mines and associated support services.
If you want to receive a QSL Card from an international broadcaster you will need to make sure your reception report contains some basic information. In general a reception report should include:
- Date and Time of the broadcast, using UTC.
- Frequency of the broadcast.
- Report on the received signal, using the SINPO scale (see below).
- Brief details of the contents of the broadcast. This is used to confirm that you were listening.
Universal Coordinated Time (UTC)
As broadcasters are all over the world and therefore in different time zones, UTC is used . This was known as Greenwich Mean Time or GMT, but is now universally known as UTC. If you aren’t sure how to convert from your timezone to UTC, use Google to search for “UTC”.
UTC is also sometimes referred to as ZULU (Z) and Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).
Whilst the RST scale is ideal for reporting the signal of an Amateur station, International shortwave broadcast stations often require more detailed information than the RST scale can provide. The SINPO scale provides a rating for Signal, Interference, Noise, Propagation and Overall merit. Note that the best report using the SINPO scale is 55555 with the worst being 11111. The SINFO scale is identical, except Propagation is replaced with Fading, which has the same meaning and values.
This does not necessarily refer to the signal displayed on a signal meter, as these can vary widely in calibration.
|5||Excellent signal||As strong as it gets.|
|4||Good signal||Everything is plainly audible with just a little less than the best quality.|
|3||Fair signal||Fair signal - Voices plainly audible and easily understood. Music plainly audible although lacking clarity.|
|2||Poor signal||Poor signal - Voices audible and sometimes understood. Most musical notes audible.|
|1||Terrible signal||Terrible signal - Barely detectable. Voices audible but not understood. Some musical notes audible.|
This refers to interference from nearby or adjacent stations.
|5||No interference||No nearby stations or signals.|
|4||Slight interference||It rarely prevents you from hearing the signal you want.|
|3||Moderate interference||The signal you want is audible around half the time.|
|2||Severe interference||Possible to hear the signal you want only some of the time.|
|1||Extreme interference||Impossible to tune off to the side to avoid it. You can't hear the signal you want.|
This refers to noise from atmospheric or man-made sources.
|4||Slight noise||The program is plainly audible.|
|3||Moderate noise||Some of the program audible or plainly audible with notable noise.|
|2||Severe noise||Ruins most of the reception.|
|1||Extreme noise||Hearing the program is impossible.|
(P) Propagation / (F) Fading
Propagation refers to the fading in and out of the signal.
|5||No fading||Signal strength steady.|
|4||Slight fading||Mostly steady signal. Minor fading, almost always audible.|
|3||Moderate fading||Shaky signal. Sometimes not audible, sometimes just weaker.|
|2||Severe fading||Fades a lot, but not always beyond audibility.|
|1||Extreme fading||Signal is faded out much more than it's faded in.|
(O) Overall merit
|5||Excellent||Enjoyable and useful reception free of trouble.|
|4||Good||Generally good. Occasional problem moments or a slight constant problem.|
|3||Fair||Useful or enjoyable much of the time but with something to be desired.|
|2||Poor||Occasional moments when the signal is useful but generally not of enjoyable quality.|
|1||Very Poor||Not enjoyable or useful.|
The following comes from Wikipedia:
|120 m||2300 - 2495 kHz||Tropical (regional) band|
|90 m||3200 - 3400 kHz||Tropical band|
|75 m||3900 - 4000 kHz||Shared with the North American amateur radio 80 m band|
|60 m||4750 - 5060 kHz||Tropical band|
|49 m||5900 - 6200 kHz|
|41 m||7200 - 7450 kHz||Shared with the amateur radio 40 m band|
|31 m||9400 - 9900 kHz||Most heavily used band|
|25 m||11,600 - 12,100 kHz|
|22 m||13,570 - 13,870 kHz||Substantially used in Eurasia|
|19 m||15,100 - 15,800 kHz|
|16 m||17,480 - 17,900 kHz|
|15 m||18,900 - 19,020 kHz||Lightly utilized; may become DRM band in future|
|13 m||21,450 - 21,850 kHz|
|11 m||25,600 - 26,100 kHz||May be used for local DRM broadcasting|
- 120 m band: Mostly used locally in tropical regions, with time stations at 2500 kHz. Although this is regarded as shortwave, it is in the MF band.
- 90 m band: Mostly used locally in tropical regions, with limited long-distance reception at night
- 75 m band: Mostly used in the Eastern Hemisphere; not widely received in North and South America
- 60 m band: Mostly used locally in tropical regions, although widely usable at night. Time stations use 5000 kHz.
- 49 m band: Good year-round night band; daytime reception poor
- 41 m band: Reception varies by region - reasonably good night reception, but few transmitters in this band target North America. According to the WRC-03 Decisions on HF broadcasting, in International Telecommunication Union regions 1 and 3, the segment 7100 - 7200 kHz is reserved for amateur radio use and there are no new broadcasting allocations in this portion of the band. 7350 - 7400 kHz is newly allocated; in Regions 1 and 3, 7400 - 7450 kHz was also allocated effective March 29, 2009.
- 31 m band: Good year-round night band; seasonal during the day, with best reception in winter. Time stations are clustered around 10 MHz.
- 25 m band: Generally best during summer and the period before and after sunset year-round
- 22 m band: Similar to the 19 m band; best in summer
- 19 m band: Day reception good, night reception variable; best during summer. Time stations such as WWV use 15 MHz.
- 16 m band: Day reception good; night reception varies seasonally, with summer best.
- 15 m band: Seldom used
- 13 m band: Erratic daytime reception, with very little night reception. Similar to 11 metres, but long-distance daytime broadcasting keeps this band active in the Asia-Pacific region.
- 11 m band: Seldom used. Daytime reception poor low in the solar cycle, but potentially excellent when the solar cycle (generally indicated by the number of sunspots) is high. Night time reception nonexistent, except for local groundwave propagation. Digital Radio Mondiale has proposed that this band be used for local digital shortwave broadcasts, testing the concept in Mexico City in 2005. The Citizens' Band allocation in most countries is within this band.
Below are links to the websites of popular shortwave broadcasters. Unless otherwise noted, links are to English language pages. Links marked with * are direct to the station frequency schedule, all others are links to the main website. If you know of a link not here, or find a link that needs changing, use my Contact form.