Radio Concepts

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Radio Concepts

Radio waves

Electromagnetic waves consist of periodic oscillations of electrical and magnetic fields generated by charged particles, and can therefore travel through a vacuum. These types of waves vary in wavelength, and include radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays, and gamma rays. Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light.

Radio waves have frequencies from 300 GHz to as low as 3 Hz, and corresponding wavelengths ranging from 1 millimeter (0.039 in) to 100 kilometers (62 mi). Like all other electromagnetic waves, they travel at the speed of light. Naturally occurring radio waves are made by lightning, or by astronomical objects. Artificially generated radio waves are used in a vast array of applications such as fixed and mobile radio communication, broadcasting, radar, communications satellites, computer networks.

Frequency and Spectrum


Frequency is the number of occurrences of a repeating event per unit time. Radio frequency (RF) is a rate of oscillation in the range of around 3 kHz to 300 GHz, which corresponds to the frequency of radio waves, and the alternating currents which carry radio signals.



Radio spectrum refers to the part of the electromagnetic spectrum corresponding to radio frequencies. Electromagnetic waves in this frequency range, called radio waves, are used for radio communication.


In electronics and telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a periodic waveform, called the carrier signal (high frequency signal), with a modulating signal that typically contains information to be transmitted.

In telecommunications, modulation is the process of conveying a message signal, for example a digital bit stream or an analog audio signal, inside another signal that can be physically transmitted. Modulation of a sine waveform transforms a baseband message signal into a passband signal.

A modulator is a device that performs modulation. A demodulator (sometimes detector or demod) is a device that performs demodulation, the inverse of modulation. A modem (from modulator–demodulator) can perform both operations.

In digital modulation, an analog carrier signal is modulated by a discrete signal. Digital modulation methods can be considered as digital-to-analog conversion, and the corresponding demodulation or detection as analog-to-digital conversion. The changes in the carrier signal are chosen from a finite number of M alternative symbols (the modulation alphabet).

Fundamental digital modulation methods

The most fundamental digital modulation techniques are based on keying:

- PSK (phase-shift keying): a finite number of phases are used.
- FSK (frequency-shift keying): a finite number of frequencies are used.
- ASK (amplitude-shift keying): a finite number of amplitudes are used.
- QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation): a finite number of at least two phases and at least two amplitudes are used.

The aim of digital modulation is to transfer a digital bit stream over an analog bandpass channel, for example over the public switched telephone network (where a bandpass filter limits the frequency range to 300–3400 Hz), or over a limited radio frequency band.


An antenna (or aerial) is an essential component of all equipment that uses radio an electrical device which emits and/or receives radio waves. A transceiver is a device comprising both a transmitter and a receiver which are combined and share common circuitry or a single housing. In transmission, a radio transmitter supplies an oscillating radio frequency electric current to the antenna's terminals, and the antenna radiates the energy from the current as radio waves. In reception, an antenna intercepts some of the power of an electromagnetic wave in order to produce a tiny voltage at its terminals, that is applied to a receiver to be amplified.