Difference Between Shortwave Vs Longwave Radio

Our childhood has a memory of sitting in front of the radio, transfixed by its chatter. Whether it was to keep us occupied during stormy weather or just to satisfy our grandparents’ need for company while they do their own things, radios had become a part of every home.

Today, we will be discussing the differences between shortwave Vs longwave radio. Let me assure you that you’ve come to the right place to learn more about this topic because our article goes into great detail on the distinctions between shortwave and longwave radios.

What Is Shortwave and Longwave Radio?


Shortwave radio waves are a category of frequency classification that was introduced in the early 1900s. The term “shortwave” is based on Wavelength, and at one point, there were three classifications: longwave, medium-wave, short wave.

At that time, it wasn’t just about receiving information from afar but also sharing knowledge to places close by for farmers or people living abroad and communicating with other countries via international broadcasts.

That became increasingly important during World War II because they provided essential communications between military allies. A person’s voice can be sent over these frequencies using the SSB modulation technique through an antenna system called Amateur Radio.

Today, there is no specific definition for “longwave“; it has different meanings. Radio waves all share one thing: They’re composed of electromagnetic radiation known as “radio frequency.” Radio waves are similar to light in that both travel at the same speed.

In the vacuum of space, the speed of a radio wave can remain the same. However, when it passes through rain or other objects, its speed changes. The interesting part is, on shorter distances, the speed doesn’t change dramatically; there will be a slight difference compared to the speed in a vacuum.

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Since shortwave and longwave are both radio frequencies, the radio spectrum ranges from 3 Hz to 300 GHz, with different bands housing their own range of frequencies for us to pick up on.

Difference Between Frequency and Wavelength

Frequencies and Wavelength are the yin to each other’s yang. For example, higher frequency waves produce shorter wavelengths which result in more energy. Conversely, lower frequency waves result in a longer Wavelength with less energy output.

The longwave frequency can be anywhere from 30KHz to 279 kHz, with a 150 meters wavelength. In comparison, the shortwave ranges from 1.5 MHz all the way up to 30MHz, which covers 10-85 meters on average near their peak frequencies.

Longwave travels in a linear line along the ground. In comparison, the Shortwaves are absorbed by our atmosphere and move like an echo of the Earth’s orbit.

Longwave and shortwave are two types of electromagnetic waves that can penetrate through the ionosphere. They come back to Earth after they get into the ionosphere, but shortwaves cover a larger distance because their wavelengths allow them to cut so deeply in.

Radio Antenna Types and Reception Quality


The size of the antenna can make a huge difference in signal reception. Longwave radios need a long antenna, but they’re not so great for portability. Shortwave uses shorter antennas, which is why they are more accessible and easier to operate than longwave.

Shortwave can’t bounce around in between different layers of air, so it is more susceptible to being blocked by buildings and other objects. Long waves can be easily diffused because they don’t get caught up on anything as much, making them better for detecting things behind or under a building.

Long waves might not always work well when something is blocking their path like a building, but shortwaves need free space above ground level before transmitting their signal correctly.

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Most people don’t know the difference between shortwave and shortwave bands. The two are often mixed up because they both belong to longwave frequencies, a band in the high-frequency region that encompasses shorter waves than lower ones but has longer waves.

Beginning at the lowest frequencies, we have very low frequency and low frequency. VLF is typically used for maritime navigation purposes, while LF is more commonly associated with radio broadcasting of music or news programming to receivers on land such as radios.

The upper ranges are reserved for an entirely different purpose: satellites in orbit around Earth can utilize high-frequency waves that transmit data back down to ground stations using a lower band like microwave radiation (MW).

New and improved deciphering methods such as Frequency Modulation (FM) and Amplitude moderation (AM) are the latest wireless communication.

Innovations like AM or FM, which can be considered a type of code-making for radio waves, have proven to offer new levels of encryption that significantly reduce interference from other sources.

Difference Between Shortwave Vs. Longwave


Shortwave transmissions were created to fill the gap between long-range and short-range radio. These waves can be received by cheap radios because they cover a large wavelength, reaching difficult or impossible places for other signals to reach.

Since shortwave signals cover such vast distances that may include even inaccessible regions like rugged mountainsides or deep forests, those who don’t otherwise have much exposure to mainstream media outlets also enjoy listening to the radio.

Audio content developed first locally then broadcast back into space where it returns for other country-dwellers to get their hands on it; they’re called “world band radios” because not just one nation enjoys them!

Shortwaves are popular because their transmissions have no geographical limit; listeners’ tunes might come from any corner or country without distortion due to water bodies like oceans, lakes, and mountain ranges.

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In the early days of longwave transmission, it was more popular as a form of maritime communication. This is because ships traveling via sea had to use this type of radio in order to send wave signals over greater distances with less power consumption. The result? Lesser power demands on the ship’s systems and increased safety.

Longwave reaches a larger area with the higher power. The typical range of long-range broadcasting can be from 500 kilowatts and up to 2 megawatts, which is enough for an entire town or city.

With longwave, you can use a much lower-powered transmitter to broadcast over wider terrain, which is more convenient because it means you’ll need less power than a medium band for the same coverage.

Longwave radio is making a comeback–and it’s all the rage in Europe. This frequency has been used less frequently over time, but there are plans to expand its usage thanks to broadcasts from North African and Middle Eastern countries.

Final Words


Shortwave radio may be the best option because it is less likely to get disrupted by storms and travels a larger area with reduced cost. For this reason, private broadcasting companies tend towards shortwave radio broadcasts in tropical countries.

The shortwave broadcast can be challenging as they get disrupted by wireless routers. So, it may not work well in big cities where lots of cyber activity is going on all around us!

Shortwave and longwave have substantial differences in the amount of energy they carry, their power to cover large distances, and what frequencies can be broadcast.