Shortwave Radio vs Ham Radio: Facts You Shouldn’t Miss Out!

by Chris Lewis.

In our daily life, we rely on countless incredible technologies to make our life easier.

Nowadays, advanced technology has given people more opportunities to access an increasing amount of information. Radio is one of them. And it remains as popular as before.

Different types of radios have been developed since the last century. Among them, shortwave radio and ham radio are quite amazing.

However, so many people get confused about their exploration of the radio device. Usually, they get confused about Shortwave radio and Ham Radio. They can't figure out which one to buy.

Some people think that Shortwave radio and Ham radio are almost the same just because they both have the term radio. As a result, they don’t meet their expectations due to a lack of knowledge.

But don’t worry, in this article, we will discuss Shortwave radio vs Ham radio: an overall comparison. But before knowing their differences we will know what is Shortwave radio and what is Ham radio.

Shortwave Radio

Shortwave Radio
Shortwave Radio

Shortwave radio is a type of radio that has shortwave radio frequencies. Shortwave uses very high frequencies at around 3mHz to 21mHz.

However, shortwave is very unique because of its very long-distance traveling characteristic. Shortwave radio frequencies allow shortwave radio broadcasts to travel thousands of miles. 

That means a shortwave broadcast can easily be heard thousands of miles away like one continent to another with great clarity from only one transmitter.

Shortwave broadcasts are one of the major sources of news and entertainment and you can tune into a broadcast from anywhere on the earth.

Ham Radio

Ham Radio
Ham Radio

Ham radio is known as amateur radio. Its service brings people, devices, and communication together. Ham radio can broadcast signals thousands of miles away on the earth and even in space.

If you want to use ham radio you must need to have a license and training. A ham radio operator is a non-commercial type of radio license.

This license allows you to exchange information on certain frequencies in different bands including AM, FM, VHF, HF, UHF, and so on. Ham radio operates on a special set of frequencies that are determined by the Federal Communication Commission.

Shortwave Radio vs Ham Radio: an Overall Comparison

Shortwave Radio vs Ham Radio: an Overall Comparison
Shortwave Radio vs Ham Radio: an Overall Comparison


A shortwave radio receiver can receive more than one shortwave band. Shortwave frequency ranging from 1.6 MHz to 30MHz.

On the other hand, Ham radio or Amateur radio is a two-way communication system. This system allows individuals to communicate with one another successfully. Ham radio frequency allocation is determined by national telecommunication authorities.


A shortwave radio can broadcast signals hundreds to thousands of miles away. Using shortwave radio we can listen to news, music, and other cultural programs from our country and other countries internationally.

Ham radio also broadcasts signals from miles away. But using ham radio, people talk across town, around the world, or even into space.


You can only listen on the shortwave radio. But you can not communicate or broadcast.

Ham radio provides a service that allows people to listen and talk to others from earth and space.

Also, you will be able to broadcast. To achieve this, you need to set up a ham radio station. You can set anywhere including your home.


For buying a shortwave radio you do not need a license. You can use a shortwave radio right away after purchasing.

But, to set up a ham radio station, you must need a license, certain knowledge of radio technology, and training.

Shortwave radio operates on all frequencies including all of the frequencies that ham radios operate on.

On the other hand, Ham radio operates on limited frequencies only with licenses.


Shortwave listening is a hobby whereas ham radio is a worldwide activity involving communications. The purposes of amateur radio are radio experiment, emergency communications, public service, and some simple enjoyment.

To make you understand the difference easier, the most important difference between shortwave radio and ham radio can be summarized only in few words-

Shortwave radio typically operates on every frequency, including all of those frequencies which also the ham radio keeps operating on.

But the ham radio operates on limited and licensed frequencies and those bands are allocated only by the Federal Communication Commission.

Is shortwave Radio useful nowadays?

Is shortwave Radio useful nowadays?
Is shortwave Radio useful nowadays?

We live in a world of modern technologies. This time is for the emergence of advanced new technologies. As a consequence, the usage of shortwave radio has declined over the past few years.

The golden age of shortwave radio is almost over but shortwave radio still has hope. Shortwave radio is used globally and there is plenty of content that we can enjoy. Those contents are great enough that makes shortwave radio a good investment.

The major broadcasters of shortwave radio who still have a large number of audiences nowadays are BBC, China Radio International, Voice of America, All India Radio, Radio France International, and so on.

Shortwave radio is very useful to those who explore accurate information. Shortwave radio is effective radio that allows you to actively listen to world events from different perspectives.

Furthermore, if the world faces any disasters or crises in the future, shortwave radio can be a useful medium for communications.

Importance of Ham Radio

The Internet, smartphones, and computers are the most important medium for communications nowadays.

But have you ever thought, if one day we lost all opportunities to make a phone call, send texts using mobile, laptop then how could it be possible to communicate with others

You might think it would never happen. But natural disasters are unpredictable, and then the only hope might be ham radio.

Ham radio operators provide extremely important communications especially during and after emergencies. Ham operators must need special training to get a ham radio operator license.

Also, they participate in various kinds of activities. So during an emergency, a ham radio will be the best medium for communications over long distances.

Final Thoughts

We hope that after reading the Shortwave radio vs Ham radio: An overall comparison, you can understand the major differences which exist between the Shortwave radio and Ham radio.

Now you are no longer confused about which radio meets your expectations and is suitable for your purposes.

Nowadays, Ham radio is very popular while some others still choose shortwave radio, especially those who don't have any interest in exchanging non-commercial messages with others using the radio.

If your purpose is not communications but only to get a wide range of programming channels then shortwave radio is suitable for you.

But Ham radio is an amazing device for communications worldwide without the Internet or cell phone. Also, ham radio has great potential in the future.

About Chris Lewis.

Chris Lewis is a passionate individual with a deep affinity for the world of automobiles. From a tender age, his fascination with cars was nurtured by his father, a seasoned mechanic based in the vibrant city of San Francisco. Growing up under the watchful guidance of his skilled father, Chris developed an early aptitude for all things automotive.

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