It's common knowledge that the 2.4 GHz band was set aside for industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) purposes due to its use in microwave heating. From what I've found, the United States proposed the creation of international ISM bands at an ITU convention in Atlantic City in 1947. Page 464 of this PDF of scanned documents from the convention (source) contains the U.S. proposal, which suggests five frequency bands centered at 13.66 MHz, 27.320 MHz, 40.980 MHz, and 2.45 GHz. Page 270 contains a concurrence from the French delegation, which proposes 13.32 MHz, 26.505 MHz, and 39.96 MHz. (There are current ISM bands around the middle of these proposed frequencies.) However, the 5.8 GHz band is not in the ISM proposals. The radio regulations (PDF page 57) that came out of the 1947 meeting list 5.65 - 5.85 GHz as an amateur radio band.

The ITU's search engine is pretty terrible, so I haven't been able to find when or why they declared 5.8 GHz to be an ISM band. A more recent document dated (1994-2007) suggests that 5.8 GHz is used for "environmental space heating" "bulk thawing and cooling", and "RF lighting", but I haven't found many mentions of those on Google. There's a mention of 5.8 GHz being used for wireless power transfer, but all of the examples are 2.45 GHz and below.

So why was 5.8 GHz chosen, and when did it happen? Microwave heating is apparently pretty flexible, so why that frequency in particular? I'd have expected 4.9 GHz, since it's a harmonic of 2.45 GHz. Is 5.8 GHz heating commonly used today, or is there some other common ISM usage of that band?

EDIT: To clarify, I'm not asking about the use of the 5.8 GHz band for unlicensed telecommunications, or about the purpose of ISM bands in general. I'm asking specifically about ISM (non-comm) uses of the 5.8 GHz band, and when it was designated for that purpose.


2 Answers 2


After quite an exhaustive search, I have been unable to determine when the 5.8 GHz ISM band was initially allocated. Although one document implies it was done in 1947 along with the 2.45 GHz ISM band, the ITU document you referenced makes it pretty clear the only ISM bands allocated back then were 13.66 MHz, 27.320 MHz, 40.980 MHz, and 2.45 GHz as you stated.

In 1985, the 2.45 GHz ISM band was opened up to general communication, but requiring the use of spread spectrum techniques to reduce interference from other activities on the band. In 1997, the same thing was done for the 5.8 GHz ISM band, due to the potential for severe RF congestion in the 2.4 GHz band.

So the 5.8 GHz ISM band was initially allocated sometime in the 50 year span between 1947 and 1997. Not very precise, sorry.

In the 5.8 GHz band, 5.725–5.875 GHz is specifically allocated to ISM and also used for wireless LAN (802.11/a).

BTW you wouldn't want to use the 4.9 GHz, as you wouldn't want to use a band that is the second harmonic of devices in the the busy 2.45 GHz (although all devices must be tested that they produce no harmful emissions for FCC certification, so there should theoretically be no interference).

Besides avoiding congestion in the 2.45 GHz band, using the 5.8 GHz band allows for higher data rates.

However operating in a higher frequency band increases the noise level, obstacles and walls are more opaque to transmissions and a higher bit rate requires more SNR (Signal Noise Ratio), which means a reduced range compared to 2.4 GHz products.

Some of the products that specifically make use of the 5.8 GHz band are baby monitors, cordless phones, and cameras (mentioned, for example, here and several other documents). It's not clear to me whether cordless telephones should be classified as ISM or communications -- I guess it depends on whether they use spread spectrum or not.

I also found this digital microwave radio that has a bandwidth of 39 MHz and a range of 45 Km. It is a wireless extension of a STM-1 fiber optic network. So this would definitely be an ISM application.

Research in using RFID technology in the 5.8 GHz ISM band is being carried out also.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So was 1997 the original ISM allocation, or just when the FCC allowed its use for communications? What ISM devices operate at that frequency? \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam Haun
    Apr 4, 2015 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AdamHaun See my updated answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – tcrosley
    Apr 7, 2015 at 0:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-99-305A1.pdf \$\endgroup\$ Apr 30, 2015 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StainlessSteelRat That 1999 document is part of the formal approval following the discussion in 1997 to share portions of the 5.8 MHz band with additional services, in particular DSRC as mentioned in the second paragraph of my answer. Doesn't really shed any light on the OP's question of when the 5.8 GHz ISM band was allocated. \$\endgroup\$
    – tcrosley
    Apr 30, 2015 at 23:21

This article indicates that all of the ISM bands (900 MHz, 2.4 GHz, and 5.8 GHz) were all set aside for physical processes for any machine that would produce RF "noise" from a communications perspective. While the US FCC changed policy to allow communications in those bands without reference to 5.8 GHz, it appears that the European Union authorized this for HiperLAN, a European alternative to conventional WiFi that ultimately failed. In 1997, the FCC authorized the 5 GHz bands for communications, presumably because Europe started using it for communications.

In a certain sense, all of the ISM bands were arbitrarily chosen based on what countries were and were not using at the time, and the desire to chose bands far enough apart that they had different propagation characteristics and other physics. (Although if I recall, there's a physical connection between 2.4 GHz and hydrogen that was a fact in its selection.) It also makes sense to chose bands that are not harmonic multiples so that one can avoid harmonic interference among powerful ISM devices.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer, but that isn't what I'm asking about. Please see the edit to my question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam Haun
    Apr 4, 2015 at 15:58

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