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Extremely high frequency
Frequency Range 30 to 300 GHz

ITU Radio Band Numbers


Extremely high frequency is the highest radio frequency band. EHF runs the range of frequencies from 30 to 300 gigahertz, above which electromagnetic radiation is considered to be low (or far) infrared light, also referred to as terahertz radiation. This band has a wavelength of ten to one millimetre, giving it the name millimeter band or millimetre wave, sometimes abbreviated MMW or mmW.

Compared to lower bands, terrestrial radio signals in this band are extremely prone to atmospheric attenuation, making them of very little use over long distances. In particular, signals in the 57–64 GHz region are subject to a resonance of the oxygen molecule and are severely attenuated. Even over relatively short distances, rain fade is a serious problem, caused when absorption by rain reduces signal strength. In climates other than deserts absorption due to humidity also has an impact on propagation. While this absorption limits potential communications range, it also allows for smaller frequency reuse distances than lower frequencies. The small wavelength allows modest size antennas to have a small beam width, further increasing frequency reuse potential.




Scientific research

This band is commonly used in radio astronomy and remote sensing. Ground-based radio astronomy is limited to high altitude sites such as Kitt Peak and Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) due to atmospheric absorption issues. Satellite-based remote sensing near 60 GHz can determine temperature distributions in the upper atmosphere by measuring radiation emitted from oxygen molecules that is a function of temperature and pressure. The ITU non-exclusive passive frequency allocation at 57-59.3 is used for atmospheric monitoring in meteorological and climate sensing applications, and is important for these purposes due to the properties of oxygen absorption and emission in Earth’s atmosphere. Currently operational U.S. satellite sensors such as the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) on one NASA satellite (Aqua) and four NOAA (15-18) satellites and the Special Sensor Microwave Imager Sounder (SSMI/S) on Department of Defense satellite F-16 make use of this frequency range. [1]


In the United States, the band 38.6 - 40.0 GHz is used for licensed high-speed microwave data links, and the 60 GHz band can be used for unlicensed short range (1.7 km) data links with data throughputs up to 2.5 Gbit/s. It is used commonly in flat terrain.

The 71-76, 81-86 and 92–95 GHz bands are also used for point-to-point high-bandwidth communication links. These frequencies, as opposed to the 60 GHz frequency, require a transmitting license in the US from the FCC, though they do not suffer from the effects of oxygen absorption as the 60 GHz does. There are plans for 10 Gbit/s links using these frequencies as well. In the case of the 92–95 GHz band, a small 100 MHz range has been reserved for space-borne radios, making this reserved range limited to a transmission rate of under a few gigabits per second. [2]

The band is essentially undeveloped and available for use in a broad range of new products and services, including high-speed, point-to-point wireless local area networks and broadband Internet access. WirelessHD is another recent technology that operates near the 60 GHz range. Highly directional, "pencil-beam" signal characteristics permit systems in these bands to be engineered in close proximity to one another without causing interference. Potential applications include radar systems with very high resolution.

Uses of the millimeter wave bands include point-to-point communications, intersatellite links, and point-to-multipoint communications.

Because of shorter wavelengths, the band permits the use of smaller antennas than would be required for similar circumstances in the lower bands, to achieve the same high directivity and high gain. The immediate consequence of this high directivity, coupled with the high free space loss at these frequencies, is the possibility of a more efficient use of the spectrum for point-to-multipoint applications. Since a greater number of highly directive antennas can be placed in a given area than less directive antennas, the net result is higher reuse of the spectrum, and higher density of users, as compared to lower frequencies. Furthermore, because one can place more voice channels or broadband information using a higher frequency to transmit the information, this spectrum could potentially be used as a replacement for or supplement to fiber optics.

ASELSAN, a Turkish Armed Forces owned company, is currently working on an on-board processing EHF satellite transponder in conjunction with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TUBITAK) and Bilkent University. ASELSAN's aim is to produce an indegenous on-board processing EHF satellite transponder and its phased array antenna.[3]

As reported in monthly magazine, the WiMedia Alliance is looking at using the 60 GHz range in their road map.[4]

Weapons systems

The U.S. Air Force is reported to have developed a nonlethal weapon system called Active Denial System (ADS) which emits a beam of radiation with a wavelength of 3mm.[5] The weapon is reportedly not dangerous and causes no physical harm, but is extremely painful and causes the target to feel an intense burning pain, as if his or her skin is going to catch fire.

Security screening

A recent development has been imagers for security applications as clothing and other organic materials are translucent in some mm-wave atmospheric windows.[6] Privacy advocates are concerned about the use of this technology because it allows screeners to see airport passengers without clothing.

The TSA has deployed a $170,000 machine, in the month of February 2009, for use in Tulsa International Airport according to USA Today. Machines will follow in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Albuquerque and Salt Lake City by May of 2009.[7] Similar units have been deployed in Baltimore (BWI) and Raleigh (RDU) for some time. These machines have been deployed in the Jersey City PATH train system as well.[8]

Currently the technology does not mask any part of the bodies of the people who are being scanned. However, passengers' faces are deliberately masked by the system. The photos are screened by technicians in a closed room, then deleted immediately upon search completion. Currently, passengers can decline scanning and be screened via a metal detector and patted down. The machines do allow the screener to see detailed images of body parts. Privacy advocates are concerned. "We're getting closer and closer to a required strip-search to board an airplane," said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union.[7]

Three security scanners using millimeter waves were put into use at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam on 15 May 2007, with more expected to be installed later. The passenger's head is masked from the view of the security personnel.

According to Farran Technologies, a manufacturer of one model of the millimeter wave scanner, the technology exists to extend the search area to as far as 50 meters beyond the scanning area which would allow security workers to scan a large number of people without their awareness that they are being scanned.[9]

See also


External links


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