Medium wave

Medium wave (MW) is the part of the medium frequency (MF) radio band used mainly for AM radio broadcasting. The spectrum provides about 120 channels with limited sound quality. During daytime, only local stations can be received. Propagation in the night allows strong signals within a range of about 2,000 km. This can cause massive interference because on most channels, about 20 to 50 transmitters operate simultaneously worldwide. In addition to that, amplitude modulation (AM) is prone to interference by all sorts of electronic devices, especially power supplies and computers. Strong transmitters cover larger areas than on the FM broadcast band but require more energy. Digital modes are possible but have not reached the momentum yet.

Typical mast radiator of a commercial medium wave AM broadcasting station, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S.

MW was the main radio band for broadcasting from the beginnings in the 1920s into the 1950s until FM with a better sound quality took over. In Europe, digital radio is gaining popularity and offers AM stations the chance to switch over if no frequency in the FM band is available. Many countries in Europe have switched off their MW transmitters since the 2010s.

The term is a historic one, dating from the early 20th century, when the radio spectrum was divided on the basis of the wavelength of the waves into long wave (LW), medium wave, and short wave (SW) radio bands.