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RF vs Microwave-Difference between RF and Microwave

This page on RF vs Microwave describes difference between RF and Microwave. The useful links to difference between various terms are provided here.

Both RF and Microwave are used to represent frequency ranges in the electromagnetic spectrum. Both are used for many similar as well as different applications. RF is the short form for 'Radio Frequency' signal. Following table-1 mentions frequency and wavelength of both of these terms.

RF(Radio frequency)

EM spectrum has been classified into eight regions based on radiation intensity. The major divisions are into radio spectrum and optical spectrum. Radio spectrum covers radio waves, microwaves and terahertz radiations. Optical spectrum covers infrared, visible, ultra violet, X-rays and gamma radiations. Radio waves range from 3 KHz to 300 GHz. Hence RF starts from much lower than the microwave starting range as mentioned below.

In radio waves antenna wavelength varies from hundreds of meters to about 1 millimeter. Refer what is RF?


The term "micro" means very small. It is basically millionth part of a unit. The term Microwave is used to identify EM waves above 1GHz in frequency because of short physical wavelength of these frequencies. Microwaves are basically radio frequency(RF) waves. However there is difference between RF and microwave as far as operating range and applications are concerned. Microwaves range starts from 300MHz to 300GHz. Refer what is microwave?

Most of the microwave applications range upto 100 GHz. Following are the unique features of the microwaves:
• High antenna gain and directivity
• Large Bandwidth
• It travels by LOS(Line Of Sight)
• In 1-10GHz range Microwaves noise level is very low and hence very low signal can also be easily detected at receiver
• Microwaves penetrate ionosphere with less attenuation as well as less distortion.

Difference between RF and Microwave

The terms RF and Microwave are interchangeably used by engineers across the globe, there is slight distinction between them. The same have been highlighted in the page.

Although there is ambiguity in starting range of microwave, in general it starts from 1GHz and span till 1 Tera-Hertz. Hence corresponding wavelengths range from 30cm to 0.3mm.

Specifications RF Microwave
Frequency range(Hz) 3 x 105 to 3 x 1011 3 x 108 to 3 x 1011
Wavelength 103 to 10-3 meters 1 to 10-3 meters
Applications Mobile,AM/FM radio, television radar, satellite and space communication

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