The utility frequency, (power) line frequency (American English) or mains frequency (British English) is the nominal frequency of the oscillations of alternating current (AC) in a wide area synchronous grid transmitted from a power station to the end-user. In large parts of the world this is 50 Hz, although in the Americas and parts of Asia it is typically 60 Hz. Current usage by country or region is given in the list of mains electricity by country.
During the development of commercial electric power systems in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, many different frequencies (and voltages) had been used. Large investment in equipment at one frequency made standardization a slow process. However, as of the turn of the 21st century, places that now use the 50 Hz frequency tend to use 220–240 V, and those that now use 60 Hz tend to use 100–127 V. Both frequencies coexist today (Japan uses both) with no great technical reason to prefer one over the other and no apparent desire for complete worldwide standardization.
In practice, the exact frequency of the grid varies around the nominal frequency, reducing when the grid is heavily loaded, and speeding up when lightly loaded. However, most utilities will adjust generation onto the grid over the course of the day to ensure a constant number of cycles occur. This is used by some clocks to accurately maintain their time.