ionosphere, such as the structure of the ionosphere, the incidence angle of radio waves, operating frequencies, etc. There is a very good reason for studying radio wave propagation. You must have a thorough knowledge of radio wave propagation to exercise good judgment when you select transmitting and receiving antennas and operating frequencies.">
Up to this point, we have covered various factors that control the propagation of radio waves through the ionosphere, such as the structure of the ionosphere, the incidence angle of radio waves, operating frequencies, etc. There is a very good reason for studying radio wave propagation. You must have a thorough knowledge of radio wave propagation to exercise good judgment when you select transmitting and receiving antennas and operating frequencies. Selection of a suitable operating frequency (within the bounds of frequency allocations and availability) is of prime importance in maintaining reliable communications.
For successful communications between any two specified locations at any given time of the day, there is a maximum frequency, a lowest frequency, and an optimum frequency that can be used.
As we discussed earlier, the higher the frequency of a radio wave, the lower the rate of refraction by an ionized layer. Therefore, for a given angle of incidence and time of day, there is a maximum frequency that can be used for communications between two given locations. This frequency is known as the MAXIMUM USABLE FREQUENCY (muf).
Waves at frequencies above the muf are normally refracted so slowly that they return to Earth beyond the desired location, or pass on through the ionosphere and are lost. You should understand, however, that use of an established muf certainly does not guarantee successful communications between a transmitting site and a receiving site. Variations in the ionosphere may occur at any time and consequently raise or lower the predetermined muf. This is particularly true for radio waves being refracted by the highly variable F2 layer.
The muf is highest around noon when ultraviolet light waves from the sun are the most intense. It then drops rather sharply as recombination begins to take place.
As there is a maximum operating frequency that can be used for communications between two points, there is also a minimum operating frequency. This is known as the LOWEST USABLE FREQUENCY (luf).
As the frequency of a radio wave is lowered, the rate of refraction increases. So a wave whose frequency is below the established luf is refracted back to Earth at a shorter distance than desired, as shown in figure 2-23.
Figure 2-23. - Refraction of frequency below the lowest usable frequency (luf).
The transmission path that results from the rate of refraction is not the only factor that determines the luf. As a frequency is lowered, absorption of the radio wave increases. A wave whose frequency is too low is absorbed to such an extent that it is too weak for reception. Likewise, atmospheric noise is greater at lower frequencies; thus, a low-frequency radio wave may have an unacceptable signal-to-noise ratio.
For a given angle of incidence and set of ionospheric conditions, the luf for successful communications between two locations depends on the refraction properties of the ionosphere, absorption considerations, and the amount of atmospheric noise present.
Optimum Working Frequency
Neither the muf nor the luf is a practical operating frequency. While radio waves at the luf can be refracted back to Earth at the desired location, the signal-to-noise ratio is still much lower than at the higher frequencies, and the probability of multipath propagation is much greater. Operating at or near the muf can result in frequent signal fading and dropouts when ionospheric variations alter the length of the transmission path.
The most practical operating frequency is one that you can rely on with the least amount of problems. It should be high enough to avoid the problems of multipath, absorption, and noise encountered at the lower frequencies; but not so high as to result in the adverse effects of rapid changes in the ionosphere.
A frequency that meets the above criteria has been established and is known as the OPTIMUM WORKING FREQUENCY. It is abbreviated "fot"from the initial letters of the French words for optimum working frequency, "frequence optimum de travail." The fot is roughly about 85 percent of the muf but the actual percentage varies and may be either considerably more or less than 85 percent.
Q.36 What do the letters muf, luf, and fot stand for?
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