# What is standing wave ratio?

Standing-wave ratio (SWR) is a mathematical expression of the non-uniformity of an electromagnetic field (EM field) on a transmission line such as coaxial cable. Usually, SWR is defined as the ratio of the maximum radio-frequency (RF) voltage to the minimum RF voltage along the line. This is also known as the voltage standing-wave ratio (VSWR). The SWR can also be defined as the ratio of the maximum RF current to the minimum RF current on the line (current standing-wave ratio or ISWR). For most practical purposes, ISWR is the same as VSWR.

Under ideal conditions, the RF voltage on a signal transmission line is the same at all points on the line, neglecting power losses caused by electrical resistance in the line wires and imperfections in the dielectric material separating the line conductors. The ideal VSWR is therefore 1:1. (Often the SWR value is written simply in terms of the first number, or numerator, of the ratio because the second number, or denominator, is always 1.) When the VSWR is 1, the ISWR is also 1. This optimum condition can exist only when the load (such as an antenna or a wireless receiver), into which RF power is delivered, has an impedance identical to the impedance of the transmission line. This means that the load resistance must be the same as the characteristic impedance of the transmission line, and the load must contain no reactance (that is, the load must be free of inductance or capacitance). In any other situation, the voltage and current fluctuate at various points along the line, and the SWR is not 1.