Proposal to Establish 500kc as an

International Memorial Frequency



Future utilization of 500 kHz as “Museum Frequency”

According to Radio Regulations (RR) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) the frequency band 495-505 kHz is still allocated to the maritime mobile service for the use of “distress and calling”. Until recently the 500 kHz centre frequency of this small portion of the spectrum was used for these purposes using Morse Telegraphy transmissions only.

Through the introduction of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), the old distress system on 500 kHz has become redundant. Due to modern alternative radio systems, 500 kHz is nowadays rarely used as a general calling frequency.

The almost complete abandonment of this frequency, even just for calling purposes, has led to an increased interest by radio amateurs in some countries to use it as an additional amateur radio band. One can only assume that other radio users will also show an interest in this band.


We the community of German merchant radio and coast station operators propose that the historically unique 500 kHz (plus/minus 5 kHz) frequency should be designated as a “Virtual Radio Memorial”. This aim can at best be achieved by an official assignment of 500 kHz as a “Museum Frequency” for the purpose of demonstrating historical equipment and methods of radio communication, in particular those of the maritime mobile services.


In other areas such as nature, science and technology there are many historically important examples at national and international levels (UNESCO) which prove worthy of preservation. In many cases these can be judged as almost essential. Many countries like Italy, USA, Russia, Denmark, France, Germany and other countries have taken steps to preserve historical inventions and contributions. The international usage of this historical frequency and all that goes with it is certainly something worthy of preservation. Although it cannot be physically preserved in a museum, 500 kHz certainly could continue to be used for demonstration purposes. 

Over 100 years ago one of the first uses of Radio was for maritime purposes and particularly for the safety of life at sea. For more than 70 years, 500 kHz has been primarily employed as an aid to mankind in times of distress and not for commercial reasons. Not even wars such as World War II have prevented the use of 500 kHz for humanitarian purposes. Tens of thousands of lives have been saved by the use of this frequency. Many radio officers have lost their own lives in assisting fellow passengers and crew during their time of duty using 500 kHz. The extensive and impressive history of the “SOS” frequency deserves suitable recognition and should be preserved in its present form as a memorial for future generations. Just to designate this frequency as an unused one, would not serve this purpose sufficiently. It would therefore be appropriate to employ 500 kHz for historical presentations and events connected with the history of radio. This would include any kind of museum, historical vessel or any group that has an historical interest in its usage. 

Further details as to which organisations or individuals would be entitled to use such a “Museum Frequency” and the administrative/technical conditions for such usage can be determined at a later date. In essence however we propose that 500 kHz should be established as a Radio Memorial operated as a Museum Frequency.

Such a decision would ensure the continuity of 500 kHz as an appropriate and historical memorial and be a meaningful utilization of this frequency without undue administrative difficulties.

Further procedure

You are requested therefore to verify whether the above-mentioned proposal should be on the agenda for the national group preparations for the next ITU-World-Radio Conference in 2007 (WRC-2007). This would probably apply under the conference agenda item 6 or 7.2. 

A submission or similar proposal to the appropriate CEPT preparation committee would in our opinion be positively received, and continue a groundswell of interest in all CEPT countries.

Sylvester Föcking, Rolf Marschner, Norbert Gabriel, Jürgen Gerpott, Hans-Jörg Pust
former radio- coast-station operators
members of "Seefunkkameradschaft BREMEN"

May 2005