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Types of Frequencies and Wavelengths in the Radio Frequency Spectrum

Jul 10, 2019

Types of Frequencies and Wavelengths in the Radio Frequency Spectrum

Radio wave frequencies range from Extremely Low Frequencies (ELF) 3 kilohertz (kHz) to Extremely High Frequencies (EHF) 300 gigahertz (GHz) as shown in infographic above (larger version at bottom). EHF are often called the millimeter band because its wavelengths range from 1 to 10 mm. Wavelengths in and around this band are called millimeter waves (mmW).

Worldwide, 5G will use spectrum in the existing 4G LTE frequency range 600 MHz to 3 GHz (Ultra High Frequency, UHF) and even up to 6 GHz, as well as millimeter wave bands 24 to 86 GHz (Super High Frequency to Extremely High Frequency). UHF spectrum is also being used by some Carriers for 5G. Ultra High Frequency (UHF) band has a frequency range of 300 MHz to 3 GHz. It is already being used since years in many other applications such as TV broadcasting, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, GPS, and Bluetooth.

5G Frequency Spectrum Usage by 4 major USA Carriers:

The following are preliminary disclosed 5G frequencies and subject to change in future:

  • T-Mobile: 600 MHz low-band spectrum as well as mid-band spectrum. T-Mobile's 28 Ghz mmWave frequency network will be combined into a wider 5G setup with a lower-band 600 Mhz spectrum it aims to launch in 30 cities later in 2019.
  • Verizon: 5G Ultra Wideband network uses Super High Frequency (SHF) at 28 GHz and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) at 39 GHz. Both are high-band millimeter wave (mmWave) frequencies.
  • AT&T: Plans to use millimeter wave spectrum (Extremely High Frequencies, EHF) for densely populated areas like downtown core of major cities and mid to low-spectrum for suburban and rural areas. Its current 5G-E frequencies are same as its 4G LTE frequencies. Its 5GE is not AT&T's real 5G network. It serves as a foundation for the AT&T's true 5G service, which will arrive later. 
  • Sprint: 800 MHz, 1.9 GHz and 2.5 GHz. It is using mid-frequency band 41 for its 5G service. It is the only US carrier that does not use a high-frequency band. Its 2.5 GHz frequency provides ultra-fast transfer speeds characteristic of 5G.


The word, "wavelengths" stated in table below may seem intriguing so let us give you a brief overview of what it means. Wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency. Therefore, higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths. For example, 15 Hz (low frequency) has a wavelength of over 3,000 miles, while 300 GHz (high frequency) is only 1 mm. Therefore, high frequencies can travel at faster speeds but can go only short distances. On other hand, low frequencies travel at slower speeds and can go longer distances.

This is why a lower number 3G frequency example 800 MHz UHF band network phone (providing slower downloads, higher latency) would require a cell transmitter or cell tower within 2 miles to connect whereas a higher number 5G frequency example 39 GHz EHF band network phone (providing faster downloads, lower latency) would require a cell transmitter within each block or roughly between every six houses. Both types will require a cell phone signal booster for cell phones to connect to network, if those signals are too weak to penetrate the house or building walls when located inside.

Frequency: 3 KHz to 30 KHz
Wavelength: 100 km to 10 km
Frequency: 30 KHz to 300 KHz
Wavelength: 10 km to 1 km
Frequency: 300 KHz to 30 MHz
Wavelength: 100 km to 10 km
Frequency: 3 MHz to 30 MHz
Wavelength: 100 m to 10 m
Frequency: 30 MHz to 300 MHz
Wavelength: 10 m to 1 m
Frequency: 300 MHz to 3 GHz
Wavelength: 1 m to 100 mm
Frequency: 3 GHz to 30 GHz
Wavelength: 100 mm to 10 mm
Frequency: 30 GHz to 300 GHz
Wavelength: 10 mm to 1 mm


Types of Frequencies and Wavelengths in the Radio Frequency Spectrum

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  • actually the wavelength mistake is in MF – 100m

    radiant on
  • also in the HF part should be 100km

    radiant on
  • There is a misprint in the MF pie section – should be 3MHz.

    radiant on
  • is LTE the same for all cell phone carriers.

    Frank j Joseph on
  • I know some people might wonder why there’s a humongous article on frequencies and wavelengths here. It’s too much information for me and probably for many other people. At the same time, it does bring up an important point—cell phone signals are radio waves so it’s good to have a basic understanding of how space is made for them in the broadcast spectrum and why some older generations like 2G and 3G have made way for 4G and 5G.

    Shandi B. on
  • Regarding electromagnetic waves (low or high frequencies), regardless of the speed of the CARRIER WAVE FREQUENCY, they all travel through free space near the speed of light. So if the carrier wave was not MODULATED by an external input (voice, data, video, etc) than the only “intelligence” is like a flashlight that is either turned on or off – in fact light is also a electromagnetic frequency – just one that our eyes can magically detect! So the reason higher frequencies can CARRY a more voices, data, video is because there is so many possible MODULATING frequencies of intelligent signal between them. For instance, look at poor EXTREMELY LOW FREQUENCY with a carrier wave frequency: 3 KHz to 30 KHz – you couldn’t modulate that signal hardly at all – one single human voice takes 3,000 Hz so you certainly couldn’t pass thousand of cell calls, each wanting 10,000,000 MHz!

    Michael Nistler on
  • @Marc
    You’re right, high and low frequencies both travel at about the speed of light. I guess what they mean is the speed of transferring data. Shorter wavelengths mean higher data rates but they don’t travel as far as the lower frequencies.

    Peter on
  • You totally forgot about VLF which is a designation that has been around since the end of WWII.

    Laurin Cavender on
  • “Therefore, high frequencies can travel at faster speeds (…) low frequencies travel at slower speeds (…).”

    Is this true?

    Wikipedia says:
    “In the case of electromagnetic radiation—such as light—in free space, the phase speed is the speed of light, about 3×108 m/s. Thus the wavelength of a 100 MHz electromagnetic (radio) wave is about: 3×108 m/s divided by 108 Hz = 3 metres”,

    and also mentions:
    “Radio waves in a vacuum travel at the speed of light”. Which is about 300,000,000 m/s.

    Marc on
  • Good Info. Been looking for concise frequency/wavelenth spectrum info for a bit. Great image! Thanks!

    William A. Burden on

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