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High frequency

High frequency (HF) is the ITU designation for the range of radio frequency electromagnetic waves (radio waves) between 3 and 30 megahertz (MHz). It is also known as the decameter band or decameter wave as its wavelengths range from one to ten decameters (ten to one hundred metres). Frequencies immediately below HF are denoted medium frequency (MF), while the next band of higher frequencies is known as the very high frequency (VHF) band. The HF band is a major part of the shortwave band of frequencies, so communication at these frequencies is often called shortwave radio. Because radio waves in this band can be reflected back to Earth by the ionosphere layer in the atmosphere – a method known as "skip" or "skywave" propagation – these frequencies are suitable for long-distance communication across intercontinental distances and for mountainous terrains which prevent line-of-sight communications. The band is used by international shortwave broadcasting stations (2.31–25.82 MHz), aviation communication, government time stations, weather stations, amateur radio and citizens band services, among other uses.
The maximum usable frequency regularly drops below 10 MHz in darkness during the winter months, while in summer during daylight it can easily surpass 30 MHz. It depends on the angle of incidence of the waves; it is lowest when the waves are directed straight upwards, and is higher with less acute angles. This means that at longer distances, where the waves graze the ionosphere at a very blunt angle, the MUF may be much higher. The lowest usable frequency depends on the absorption in the lower layer of the ionosphere (the D-layer). This absorption is stronger at low frequencies and is also stronger with increased solar activity (for example in daylight); total absorption often occurs at frequencies below 5 MHz during the daytime. The result of these two factors is that the usable spectrum shifts towards the lower frequencies and into the Medium Frequency (MF) range during winter nights, while on a day in full summer the higher frequencies tend to be more usable, often into the lower VHF range.
Some modes of communication, such as continuous wave Morse code transmissions (especially by amateur radio operators) and single sideband voice transmissions are more common in the HF range than on other frequencies, because of their bandwidth-conserving nature, but broadband modes, such as TV transmissions, are generally prohibited by HF's relatively small chunk of electromagnetic spectrum space.
The upper section of HF (26.5-30 MHz) shares many characteristics with the lower part of VHF. The parts of this section not allocated to amateur radio are used for local communications. These include CB radios around 27 MHz, studio-to-transmitter (STL) radio links, radio control devices for models and radio paging transmitters.
Antennas for transmitting skywaves are typically made from horizontal dipoles or bottom-fed loops, both of which emit horizontally polarized waves. The preference for horizontally polarized transmission is because (approximately) only half of the signal power transmitted by an antenna travels directly into the sky; about half travels downward towards the ground and must "bounce" into the sky. For frequencies in the upper HF band, the ground is a better reflector of horizontally polarized waves, and better absorber of power from vertically polarized waves. The effect diminishes for longer wavelengths.
For receiving, random wire antennas are often used. Alternatively, the same directional antennas used for transmitting are helpful for receiving, since most noise comes from all directions, but the desired signal comes from only one direction. Long-distance (skywave) receiving antennas can generally be oriented either vertically or horizontally since refraction through the ionosphere usually scrambles signal polarization, and signals are received directly from the sky to the antenna.