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An electromagnetic wave propagating through space consists of electric and

magnetic fields, perpendicular both to each other and to the direction of travel of
the wave
The simplest source of electromagnetic waves would be a point in space, with
waves radiating equally in all directions. This is called an isotropic radiator
A wavefront that has a surface on which all the waves are the same phase
would be a sphere
The polarization of an antenna is the orientation of the electric field with respect
to the Earth's surface and is determined by the physical structure of the antenna
and by its orientation
Radio waves from a vertical antenna will usually be vertically polarized.
Radio waves from a horizontal antenna are usually horizontally polarized.
PROPAGATION: How radio waves get from point A to point B. The events
occurring in the transmission path between two stations that effect the
communications between stations.
When the electrons in a conductor, (antenna wire) are made to oscillate back
and forth, Electromagnetic Waves (EM waves) are produced. These waves radiate
outwards from the source at the speed of light, 300 million meters per second.
Light waves and radio waves are both EM waves, differing only in frequency and
EM waves travel in straight lines, unless acted upon by some outside force.
They travel faster through a vacuum than through any other medium.
Principal Propagation Effects
Basic energy spreading
Effects of obstructions (indoor, outdoor)
Effects of the ground
Tropospheric effects (outdoor)
clear air
non-clear air
Ionospheric effects (outdoor)
Generally, dependence on
Wavelength (frequency) & polarization
Environment/ climate/ weather
A simplest case of wave propagation is in free space. A free space is one
which does not have magnetic fields, gravitational fields and there are no solid
bodies or ionized particles to interfere with normal propagation of radio waves. In
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practice these conditions are not met since the transmitters are usually located
near the earths surface and the space surrounding the transmitting antenna is
never a free space. However this free space concept is useful as a reference with
which the actual fields can be compared.
Reflection is the abrupt reversal in direction
Caused by any conductive medium such as
Metal surfaces or
Earths surface
There will normally be a shift in phase
Coefficient of reflection is less than 1
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Complete reflection will occur only in perfect conductors and when the
electric field is perpendicular to the reflecting element or medium
Coefficient of Reflection will be 1
Coefficient of Reflection is the ratio of the reflected wave intensity to the
incident wave intensity
Occurs when the waves pass from one medium to another whose densities
are different
Coefficient of reflection is less than 1
The angle of incidence and the angle of refraction is related by Snells Law
Waves traveling in straight lines bend around obstacles
Concepts explains why radio waves can be heard behind tall mountains or
buildings that are normally considered to block line of sight transmissions
Assume that each point on a wavefront presents itself as an isotropic source.
Some wavefronts pass beside or above the obstruction and radiate in the
area beyond.
As a result of diffraction, electromagnetic waves can appear to go around
Diffraction is more apparent when the object has sharp edges, that is when
the dimensions are small in comparison to the wavelength
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Balaji Institute of Engineering & Sciences
Electrical nature of earth:
Earth behaves like a leaky capacitance. The equivalent diagram fir earth is a
resistance R shunted by capacitance C. as frequency increases; the capacitive
reactance reduces and is the lowest for higher frequencies. Therefore,
electromagnetic waves of higher frequency are practically short circuited to earth
through the capacitance. We may therefore expect only a limited range of
frequencies to pass over the surface of earth, without being absorbed by earth.
Although space is the medium through which EM wave propagated, but
depending upon the wavelength of the electromagnetic waves, there are five
distinct method by which wave propagation can take place. They are
Ground wave or Surface wave propagation
Sky wave or Ionospheric propagation
Space wave propagation
Tropospheric scatter propagation
Duct propagation
Ground Wave Propagation
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The first requirement for propagation of ground wave is that the ground
wave should be vertically polarized electrical vector should be normal to earths
surface because horizontal component will be absorbed by earth i.e., horizontally
polarized wave do not propagate. The ground wave induces charge in the earth,
which travel along the earths surface. Therefore, there will be loss in this
movement. Induced current will flow through earths surface resistance and this
will be dissipation loss.
In ground wave propagation, a vertically polarized electromagnetic wave is
radiated at zero or small angle with the surface of the earth. These waves are
guided by the conducting surface of the earth, along which they are propagated.
Such waves are called ground wave or surface wave. The attenuation of grounded
wave, as they travel along the surface of the earth is proportional to frequency of
the waves. All medium wave broadcast, long wave telegraph and telephone
communication is carried out by ground wave or surface wave propagation.
The maximum range of surface wave propagation depends not only on the
frequency but also on power. Therefore, the range of transmission can be
increased by increasing the power of the transmitter in the VLF band but this
method can not be effective at the medium frequency band (higher side) where
the tilting due to diffraction is more effective.
The field strength at a distance from the transmitting antenna due to ground
wave has been calculated from the Maxwell equation is
m v
I h h
s r t

where h
= height of the transmitting antenna
= height of the receiving antenna
= wave length
d = distance
= antenna current
According to Sommerfield, for a flat earth, the field strength for a ground
wave propagation is given by
= ground wave field strength at the earths
surface at unit
distance (from the transmitting antenna)
considering earth losses.
= ground wave field strength
A = attenuation factor accounting for earth losses
d = distance from the transmitting antenna
Ground wave attenuation factor
Ground wave attenuation factor (A) is described in terms of numerical
distance (p) and phase constant (b).
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The general expression for attenuation factor (A) for b 5
6 . 0 2
3 . 0 2
p p
+ +

and m mS in and inMHz f km in d

p / ,
582 . 0

For all values of b, attenuation factor (A) is

p p



+ +

6 . 0 2
3 . 0 2
The earth offers a resistive impedance to the flow of the r.f. currents when,
b = 0, for vertical polarization and
b= 180
for horizontal polarization
While the earth offers a capacitive impedance to the flow of r.f. currents when,
b = 90
for vertical as well as horizontal polarization
From above fig. we can have the following conclusions:
i) For P<1: the ground attenuation factor A almost remains constant at unity
and slowly reduces with increasing p. then the ground losses are not
significant for p<1.
ii) For p>1: as the numerical distance p becomes greater than unity, the
attenuation factor decreases rapidly.
iii) For p>10: for larger p, the ground attenuation factor is almost inversely
proportional to the square of the distance.
Radio wave that travels along the earths surface (surface wave)
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Vertically polarized in order to minimize currents induced in the ground
creating losses.
Changes in terrain have strong effect
Attenuation directly related to surface impedances
More conductive the more attenuated
Better over water
Attenuation related to frequency
Loses increase with increase in frequency
Not very effective at frequencies above 2Mhz
Very reliable communication link
Reception is not affected by daily or seasonal weather changes
Used to communicate with submarines
ELF (30 to 300 Hz) propagation is utilized
Ground waves attenuate quickly above 2 MHz.
Military (15 KHz and 60 KHz)
Loran (100 KHz)
AM broadcast.
Given enough power they can be used to communicate between any two
points in the world
They are relatively unaffected by changing atmospheric conditions
Requires relatively high transmission power
They are limited to very low, low and medium frequencies which require
large antennas
Losses on the ground vary considerably with surface material
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The meaning of space wave is that the radio waves, which travels from the
transmitting antenna to receiving antenna through space, i.e., the earths
troposphere. The height of the troposphere is about 10km from the earths surface.
The space wave can reach to the receiving antenna through following wave.
(i) Via direct wave and
(ii) Via ground reflected wave
This includes radiated energy that travels in the lower few miles of the
earths atmosphere. They include both direct and ground reflected waves.
Direct waves travel in essentially a straight line between the transmitting
and receiving antennas. The most common name is line of sight propagation.
The field intensity at the receiving antenna depends on the distance between
the two antennas and whether the direct and ground reflected waves are in
The radio horizon is greater than the optical horizon by about one third due
to refraction of the atmosphere.
Reflections from a relatively smooth surface, such as a body of water, could
result in partial cancellation of the direct signal - a phenomenon known as
fading. Also, large objects, such as buildings and hills, could cause
multipath distortion from many reflections.
Limited to line-of sight transmission distances
Antenna height and curvature of earth are limiting factors
Radio horizon is about 80% greater than line of sight because of diffraction
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Line of sight is the maximum distance up to which direct troposheric
transmission is possible from the transmitting antenna. The distance depends upon
the heights of transmitting and receiving antennas. In light of sight distance
transmitting antenna and receiving antenna can usually see each other. In fact,
the line of sight distance, i.e., range of communication can also increase by
increasing the heights of transmitting and receiving antennas.
LOS Transmission Impairments
Attenuation and attenuation distortion
Free space loss
Atmospheric absorption
Thermal noise
Range of Space Wave Propagation
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Part of the signal from the transmitter is bounced off the ground and
reflected back to the receiving antenna
Can cause problems if the phase between the direct wave and the reflected
wave are not in phase
Detuning the antenna so that the reflected wave is too weak to receive
Effect of Earths imperfections on Space Wave Propagation
The earth is not flat and geometry used in finding the field strength is,
therefore, only approximate and that too, for limited distance between transmitter
and receiver. The bulge of the earth prevents the surface wave from reaching the
receiving point by straight line path. The surface wave reaches the receiver only by
diffraction around the earth and refraction in the earths atmosphere. The ground
wave is reflected from a curved earth contour and the energy diverges out.
Therefore, it is weaker at the receiver by a divergence factor which is less than
Calculations will require h
and h
to be replaced by h

and h

which are
vertical drops on the tangent to the curved earth at the point of reflection as
shown in fig.

= h

= h
This effectively brings down the field strength at a distant point. The effect of
earths curvature as follows:
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The difference in path lengths between direct and ground reflected waves is
reduced as the point of reflection on the ground is raised. As a result, it tends
to reduce the signal strength at receiving point.
Since the reflection at the ground takes place at a spherical point rather than
a flat point and hence the reflected ray becomes divergent which results in
weaker at receiver. This tends to increase the field strength of the total
space wave at the receiving point.
Thus above two effects produced by the curvature of earth are of opposite nature
and so neutralize each other.
Effect of obstacle on the space wave propagation
Hills and tall building absorb RF energy and ground reflected wave reduces
in strength. The extent of absorption depends on nature of the obstacle and path
difference. Some hills are tall and narrow, some are stulted but sprawling and
wide. The tall knife-edge type hill will put the receiver into shadow zone as shown
in fig.
The direct wave will not reach the receiver. The reflected wave strength will
depend on absorption by the hill. It may be absorbed, if the hill material is rocky, in
which case, the receiver will not get any reception. Chances of scattering due to
atmospheric refraction of the direct wave will be very low. Generally we will not
obtain any reception on the lee side of the hill.
If the hill is stulted and sprawling as shown in fig (b), the hill would absorb the
reflected wave and even weaken it to the point of reducing the field strength to a
negligible value.
This is for the good for the receiver because, the direct wave will receive and there
will not be out of phase component from the reflected wave. This is called obstacle
gain due to the hill. There are instances where the reception on the ice side of hill
is very good. This must be due to the ineffective reflecting wave, in phase
The reflected wave will phase oppose the direct wave, if the path difference >/4
and </2. it is rarely that the path difference is less than /4, where the reflected
wave will aid the direct wave at the receiving point.
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Atmospheric Phenomenon
Three layers:
Troposphere: earths surface to about 6.5 mi
Stratosphere: extends from the troposphere upwards for about 23 mi
Ionosphere: extends from the stratosphere upwards for about 250mi
Beyond this layer is free space
The Ionosphere, Natures Satellite
The ionosphere is the uppermost part of the atmosphere; it is ionized
by solar radiation.
The ionosphere is a region of electrically charged particles or gases in
the earths atmosphere, extending from approx. 50 to 600 km (30 to
375 miles) above the earths surface.
Ionization is converting an atom or molecule into an ion by light
(heating up or charging) from the sun on the upper atmosphere.
When the ionosphere becomes heavily ionized, the gases may even
glow and be visible. This phenomenon is known as Northern and
Southern Lights.
Thus, it influences radio propagation
Why is the ionosphere important in HF radio?
This blanket of gases is like natures satellite, actually making most
BLOS radio communications possible.
When radio waves strike these ionized layers, depending on frequency,
some are completely absorbed, others are refracted so that they
return to the earth, and still others pass through the ionosphere into
outer space.
Absorption tends to be greater at lower frequencies, and increases as
the degree of ionization increases.
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Radio waves radiated from the transmitting antenna in a direction toward
the ionosphere
Long distance transmissions
Sky wave strike the ionosphere, is refracted back to ground, strike the
ground, reflected back toward the ionosphere, etc until it reaches the
receiving antenna
Skipping is the refraction and reflection of sky waves
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Balaji Institute of Engineering & Sciences
Temperature in the stratosphere is believed to be fairly constant and is not
subject to temperature changes or inversions and will not cause significant
refractions. This is called an isothermal region
The ionic density in the ionosphere varies from very dense at the border
between the ionosphere and stratosphere to very low density as it
approaches free space
The ions in the far reaches of the ionosphere are easily susceptible to the
suns radiation with the susceptibility reducing as one approaches the
Three layers
D: low frequencies can be refracted but the high frequencies tend to
pass on through
E: signals as high as 20MHz can be refracted while higher ones pass
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F: during the day light hours there are two layers: F1 and F2
F: during the night hours the ionization layer is relatively
constant and the higher frequencies can be refracted
During the night hours, the D and E layers virtually disappear
and signals that would be refracted at lower levels now are
refracted at higher levels.
This results in greater skip distances and better reception at
greater distances than in the daytime hours.
The layers that form the ionosphere vary greatly in altitude, density, and
thickness with the varying degrees of solar activity.
The upper portion of the F layer is most affected by sunspots or solar
There is a greater concentration of solar radiation during peak sunspot
The greater radiation activity the more dense the F layer and the higher the
F layer becomes and the greater the skip distance
The D region
The D region lies between the approximate limits of 75 and 90 km above the
earth's surface. Because of the low electron density, the D region does not reflect
useful transmissions in the frequency range above 1 MHz. However, D-region
absorption is important at all frequencies and, because its ionization is produced
by ultraviolet solar radiation, it is primarily a daytime phenomenon.
The E region
The approximate true height range of the regular E layer is well established
at 90 to 130 km and it is assumed that the maximum electron density occurs at
110 km and the semi-thickness is 20 km.
For communication, the most important characteristic feature of the E region
is the temporal and geographic variation of its critical frequency. In almost all
other respects, the features of the E layer are very predictable compared with
those of the F2 layer.
The F region
For HF radio communications, the F region is the most important part of the
ionosphere. It is not regular and because of its variability, short time scale
estimates of the important F-region characteristics are required if predictions of
the operational parameters of HF radio systems are to be meaningful
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There are many characteristic features of the F region important to HF radio
communications. This layer is actually divided into two separate layers, F1 and F2
The F1 layer is of importance to communication only during daylight hours or
during Ionospheric storms; it lies in the height range of about 200 to 250 km and
undergoes both seasonal and solar cycle variations, which are more pronounced
during the summer and in high sunspot periods.
The F2 layer is located between 250 to 350 km above the earths surface.
During the night the F1 and F2 layers combine into a single layer
Daily Propagation Effects
Shortly after sunrise, the D and E layers are formed and the F layer splits into
two parts.
The D layer acts as a selective absorber, attenuating low frequency
signals, making frequencies below 5 or 6 MHz useless during the day
for DX work.
The E and F1 layers increase steadily in intensity from sunrise to noon and
then decreases thereafter.
Short skip propagation via the E or F1 layers when the local time at the
Ionospheric refraction point is approximately noon.
The MUFs for the E and F1 layers are about 5 and 10 MHz
The F2 layer is sufficiently ionized to HF radio waves and returns them to
For MUFs is above 5 - 6 MHz, long distance communications are
MUFs falls below 5 MHz, the frequencies that can be returned by the F
layer are completely attenuated by the D layer.
Effects of the Ionosphere on the Sky wave
If we consider a wave of frequency, f incident on an Ionospheric layer
whose maximum density is N then the refractive index of the layer is
given by
Critical Frequency: If the frequency of a wave transmitted vertically
is increased, a point will be reached where the wave will not be
refracted sufficiently to curve back to earth and if this frequency is
high enough then the wave will penetrate the ionosphere and
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continue on to outer space. The highest frequency that will be
returned to earth when transmitted vertically under given
atmospheric conditions is called the critical frequency.
N f
Relationship of frequency to critical angle
Maximum Usable Frequency: There is a best frequency for
communication between any two points under specific Ionospheric
conditions. The highest frequency that is returned to earth at a given
distance is called the Maximum Usable Frequency (MUF).
Sec N f
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Optimum Working Frequency: This is the frequency which
provides the most consistent communication and is therefore the
best to use. For transmission using the F2 layer it is defined as
Sec N f
9 85 . 0
Lowest Usable Frequency (LUF): This is set by the attenuation in
the ionosphere. A practical value of this is usually taken as 3 MHz.
LUF, MUF and FOT Frequencies
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Solar Cycle
Every 11 years the sun undergoes a period of activity called the
"solar maximum", followed by a period of quiet called the "solar
minimum". During the solar maximum there are many sunspots, solar
flares, and coronal mass ejections, all of which can affect
communications and weather here on Earth.
The Sun goes through a periodic rise and fall in activity which
affects HF communications; solar cycles vary in length from 9 to 14
years. At solar minimum, only the lower frequencies of the HF band
will be supported by the ionosphere, while at solar maximum the
higher frequencies will successfully propagate. This is because there
is more radiation being emitted from the Sun at solar maximum,
producing more electrons in the ionosphere which allows the use of
higher frequencies.
How Does HF Radio Work Over Long Distances?
An HF signal transmitted from the earth may travel some way
through the ionosphere before being "bent" back down towards the
ground. This occurs due to the interaction between the HF signal and
electrically charged particles in the ionosphere. The signal can then
"bounce" off the ground back into the ionosphere, return to the earth
again, and so on. The distance a given HF signal will travel depends
on the frequency, transmitter power, take-off angle relative to the
ground and the state of the ionosphere through which it is travelling.
For any given distance and time, there will be a certain range of
HF frequencies that are most likely to provide successful
communications; frequencies outside that range will work poorly or
not at all. Simply increasing the power of an HF signal will not help if
the frequency is too high for the distance required. Increasing the
power may help if the frequency is too low, but using a higher, more
suitable frequency is the best option. The highest frequency which
may be used for reliable HF communications is known as the
Maximum Usable Frequency (MUF).
What Kind of Disturbances Can Degrade HF Communications?
Short-Wave Fadeouts - short lived (up to two hours) disturbances,
in which solar flare activity results in the absorption of lower
frequency HF signals. These will only affect signals passing
through the daylight ionosphere
Ionospheric Storms - large scale changes in the chemical
composition of the ionosphere resulting in changes to the MUF.
Decreased MUFs restrict the frequencies available for use over a
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given distance. Ionospheric storms normally last for one to two
Collocated transmitters interfere with each other, as well as with
nearby receivers.
Jamming, or deliberate interference, results from transmitting on
operating frequencies with the intent to disrupt communications.
Multipath interference causes signal fading.

Critical Frequency:
The highest frequency that will be returned to the earth when
transmitted vertically under given Ionospheric conditions
Critical Angle:
The highest angle with respect to a vertical line at which a radio
wave of a specified frequency can be propagated and still be
returned to the earth from the ionosphere.
Maximum usable frequency (MUF)
The highest frequency that is returned to the earth from the
ionosphere between two specific points on earth
Optimum Working frequency:
The frequency that provides for the most consistent
communication path via sky waves
Quiet Zone or Skip Zone:
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The space between the point where the ground wave is completely
dissipated and the point where the first sky wave is received
Variations in signal strength that may occur at the receiver over
a period of time
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