In The Beginning....
CB Radio goes back much further than many people will imagine. CB stands for Citizens Band and it started life in America governed under the FCC,
(Federal Communications Commission) way back in 1945 where it put aside some frequencies for Public use.
The FCC is a federal agency that regulates electronic communications such as the radio, TV, Phone, Internet and so on. They chose the lowest
frequency spectrum at that time leaving other frequencies for more important uses (police, military, radio and TV) and also because they thought long
distance communication couldn't occur on these frequencies....
On July 3rd 1958 the FCC (Uncle Charlie) officially assigned 27MHz for the use of CB radio with 23 channels on AM (Amplitude Modulation). Back then it
was known as the Citizens Radio Service and to talk on it you had to obtain a licence by filling out a simple form but this was later eliminated. In 1977 the
FCC assigned 17 more channels thus making it 40ch and the Phase Lock Loop came into its own.
Earlier CB's used to have a crystal for each channel making them very bulky and was controlled by a rotary dial (cooker dial) and they were limited to 4w
ERP (Effective Radiating Power) .
With 40 channel CB's came the PLL (Phase Lock Loop) which did away with nearly all these crystals making the sets much more stable and smaller
and the frequencies needed for the channels were mixed together and controlled by a rotary channel selector with a LED (light emitting diode) display.
Then came SSB (Single Side Band) which worked by using the same frequencies but making each channel available in two different modes eliminating
the need for a carrier signal needed by AM, making the channel 3 times larger AM, USB, LSB. With the AM carrier removed on SSB more power could be
concentrated into the transmission increasing its talking distance over that of AM.
CB in the UK
CB began to take off in the UK in the Mid 70's thanks to such films as Smokey and the Bandit, Convoy, Dukes of Hazzard and CB magazines like Citizens
Band and Breaker on the Side, etc. and it was the cool thing to have an Illegal CB and non-suss antenna (Unless you were brave or stupid) and many
left it till late at night after the tellies closed down (Yes they used to go off air late at night no 24 hr telly then) .Why wait? Because AM radio's used to Rip
into black and white and old colour TV's like you wouldn't believe and also interfere with Phones.... and even model planes... Something had to be
done....the DTI and radio communications agencies were hot on our heels (Buzby).
After much protesting and mayhem caused by marchers and pressure on the government of the time The then Home Secretary "William Whitelaw"
brought us the legalised version (2nd November 1981) of CB radio still on 27MHz but higher up the band and FM (Frequency Modulation) instead of AM.
These FM rigs caused a lot less interference than their AM counterparts and instead of the 9 to full scale of interference on the "mid" block (Original
40ch) we had a much quieter, more usable in the day service. Another difference with the new FM sets was the FM white Noise (hiss) which was bloody
annoying compared to the Quiet AM background noise (At Night) but this is where the Squelch came into its own... Longer distance copies were clearer
on FM and distance noise under the FM carrier was eliminated completely leaving a nice clear signal. On AM you could hear other stuff in the
background even if it was a much weaker signal to the person you were talking to. (This is also why most music radio channels went on the FM network)
CB radio was the thing to have, millions were sold in the UK, some were complete pants and had terrible broadband rejection, some were very good
and had loads of fancy switches and knobs. Antennas were restricted in height to 1.5m and 4w output as previous. Many people complained this FM CB
would be useless and have no distance to it but they were proved wrong. All the 40 channels were full especially in the big cities, and people
campaigned for more channels to use as it was vastly overcrowded.
A CB licence was (but not now) required which cost £10 for the year (Which later increased to £15) which was small potatoes really for the amount of
entertainment they gave, and many people made new friends and even got married thanks to the CB radio..... yes it was great !!.
There was another frequency used by UK Citizens which isnt talked about much. It is the 934 MHz system. These radios operate between 934.0125MHz
to 934.9625MHz (20ch, 50KHz spacing instead of 10KHz) but were never highly used due to the fact they were very expensive, even the accessories
were dear making it an "elitest" band... missing the point of CB entirely. These radio's are no Longer made and were made illegal to use since 1st
January 1999. These radios are marked CB934/81
In the early 90's the Government allowed us the PR27GB band which was the original 40ch from the 70's but still on FM. You had to have one CB for
each Band, converting the radio to work on both blocks was a no no..
The law was relaxed on Antennas too so you could legally use a half wave (18ft) or 3/4 wave (21ft) silver rod or the like, maximum width 55mm not
including any groundplanes, increasing distance tremendously.
Then came the PR27/97 (December 1997) which legally combined FCC FM and UK FM for the first time, which came a bit late really as the hobby had
already dwindled quite a bit. Still, it gave us extra channels to escape from some of the "Muppets" who had no real interest in the hobby but bought a
complete straight 40 setup for a tenner and found great amusement by threatening people and playing music over it... such losers !!
1999 saw the release of PMR446 which a few people are getting into but these are only really designed for local work and although possible, DX is
more luck than planned. You can only use hand-helds with a fixed antenna and 0.5w (500mW) output. The plus point is there is NO LICENCE required
for this and the radios themselves are inexpensive unless you go top of the range. Not quite CB but not far off. Its use is for private and professional alike.
For a couple of years now we've heard rumours about the UK27/81 band being deregulated and the frequencies taken away from CB use. Also we were
told we would no longer need a licence and the band would be phased out soon after 2010. Ive also heard rumours that AM and SSB might become
legal but I think thats more wishful thinking than anything else.
Next we were told about sharing the band with CADS (Community Audio Distribution System) which has been running on a trial basis for a few years
now, which involves churches transmitting their sermons on the UK27/81 band (they would be licensed of course) and the results of that pilot will no
doubt be reaching us soon. In the meantime there is no Hard and Fast legislation yet as to what will happen.
So... at the moment both bands are still legal to use with the correct equipment and a licence is required at £15 per year. Youngsters and pensioners
get it free.
In 1997 we were allowed another 40 channels on the old 'mid block' wavelength but on FM. This now gave the legal CB operator 80 channels to chose
from. The equipment had to be type specified still of course and these radios were emblazoned with the logo PR27/97. AM and SSB were still not
In January 1999 we had the 934MHz band taken off us and using the equipment from that date was deemed illegal.
December 8th 2006. CB radio has now been de-regulated so you no longer need a licence to use CB radio. This does NOT mean you can use anything
you like. It works the same as PMR446. No licence but the correct type of radio equipment will still be needed. Anything converted will NOT be allowed.
UK27/81 radios are no longer made and the type approval has been withdrawn. Ofcom, however, have said that UK27/81 equipment may still be used
for the radios useful lifetime. This can mean virtually anything as CB's can work without problems (If correctly used) for many years. Until another piece
of legislation emerges in the future then it is business as usual as far as these type of radios go.
More information, if required, is available on the Ofcom website.
On 27th June 2014 AM and SSB was made legal on the CEPT frequencies (Mid block) on approved CB radios, 4w AM and 12w SSB I believe.
Some reading for you..
DEREGULATION OF CITIZENS BAND RADIO AND EVENTUAL WITHDRAWAL OF THE UK40 ONLY CHANNELS
SUMMARY OF CONSULTATION RESPONSES AUGUST 2003
!! PEOPLE WHO DO NOT HAVE A VALID CB LICENCE DO GET BUSTED !! (SNIPPIT FROM 2000)
THE COMPLETE STORY BEHIND THE LEGALISATION FIGHT FOR CB IN THE UK. (LONG READ BUT ITS OUR HISTORY )