Radio Waves


How they're made

Radio waves are made by various types of transmitter, depending on the wavelength. They are also given off by stars, sparks and lightning, which is why you hear interference on your radio in a thunderstorm.

BBC Radio 5 Transmitter, near Clevedon, UK


Radio waves are all around you

Radio waves are the lowest frequencies in the electromagnetic spectrum, and are used mainly for communications.

Radio waves are divided into:

Long Wave:

Around 1~2 km in wavelength.

Medium Wave:

Around 100m in wavelength, used by BBC Radio 5 and other "AM" stations.


This stands for "Very High Frequency" and has wavelengths of around 2m.

This is where you find stereo "FM" radio stations, such as BBC Radio 1and Further up the VHF band are civilian aircraft and taxis.


This stands for "Ultra High Frequency", and has wavelengths of less than a metre.

It's used for Police radio communications, television transmissions and military aircraft radios - although military communications are now mostly digital and encrypted.



Large doses of radio waves are believed to cause cancer, leukaemia and other disorders.

Some people claim that the very low frequency field from overhead power cables near their homes has affected their health, although this has not been reliably proven.