The United States Frequency Allocation Chart

One of the coolest documents that the U.S. Government prints. The United States Frequency Allocation Chart. Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)

The United States Frequency Allocation Chart
Beautiful Public Data, February 6, 2023
By Jon Keegan

“This crazy, beautiful chart illustrates the incredible complexity of managing one of our nation’s most crucial – and invisible – national assets: the radio spectrum.”


Somewhere above you right now, a plane is broadcasting its location, speed and bearing on 1090 MHz. A geostationary weather satellite 22 thousand miles from Earth is transmitting detailed weather maps on 1694.1 MHz. A car driving by your home is transmitting a signal with the pressure readout of one of its tires at 315MHz. A GPS satellite flying overhead at 8,000 miles per hour is pinging a signal to your phone at 1575.42 MHz . A data buoy bobbing in the Atlantic ocean transmits sea temperature, wave height and wind speed readings to a NOAA satellite at 401 MHz. On top of all that, every single mobile device and WiFi router near you blasts out everyones internet traffic through the air over radio waves. How the hell are all of these signals getting to the right place, intact without stepping all over each other? The answer is a very carefully regulated radio spectrum.


The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) share the task of managing the allotment of radio frequencies for U.S. airwaves. The NTIA manages Federal all radio applications (including military uses), while the FCC manages everything else including state and local government, commercial and amateur radio use.


The airwaves floating across America are sliced up into chunks (some wide, some incredibly narrow) where different services and uses are permitted to broadcast and receive radio signals.


It is an incredibly complex system, and to help with the job of explaining the importance of managing this invisible natural resource, the NTIA publishes this wall chart (which you can order from the Government Printing Office as a poster for a mere $6 with free shipping!).

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About the Author:

Jon Keegan is an investigative data journalist who covers technology. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Markup and MIT Technology Review. Jon’s work has won several journalism awards, including the Loeb Award, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism Award and the Society of News Design’s Best of Digital Gold Award.

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