CB Radio

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Midland 48 ExcelCB History
Citizens Band Radio was first available in the UK in the late seventies albeit by using illegal AM rigs imported from the US. CB was legalised in the UK in 1981 with the launch of the 27/81 specification which gave us our own 40 channels on FM (known as the UK40 or “the muppets”). In 1997 dual band UK40 & Euro-40 (aka CEPT or mid band) rigs were made legal giving a possible 80 legal channels, again FM is the only legal mode. So called freeband rigs that work outside these frequencies have always remained in use with the most common operating mode being SSB (single sideband) which allows a much greater operating distance than FM or even AM.

CB Today
Over recent years use of CB radio has declined dramatically, some reports claim a drop from 300,000 licences in the 90’s to only 23,000 in 2002 although as most CB users will know this does not reflect the true user base as hardly anyone bothers with a licence as the band is effectively un-policed. Still, the UK40 band is very quiet with mostly truckers and the odd local net still using it, oh and the idiots who play music all day on channel 19 still show up from time to time. The Mid band is little used as it is pretty much useless for local work for most of the year due to skip interference. On the other hand PMR446 use is growing dramatically and there is still a large international community of operators using the freeband with the most active calling frequency for DX (long distance contacts) being 27.555 MHz USB.

Packet Radio
Changes are afoot in UK CB, in December 2002 packet radio (data) was made legal in the UK for the first time although it is really too little, too late and only allows one-to-one simplex operation only (ie. No Bulletin Boards, no nodes, no mailboxes and no digipeating) and only the AX25 Protocol may be used. You are also not allowed to have “unattended operation of a CB station”. Packet is restricted to EU channels 24, 25 and 32 only (27.235, 27.245 and 27.325 MHz FM).

So far there is no CB specific equipment on the market and I think with such a limited service this situation is unlikely to change. However using a PC soundcard and a simple circuit (see WinPack Help Files) to operate the PTT together with AGWPE and WinPack you can get going without a hardware TNC. For something a bit simpler try AGW Monitor a program that simply displays incoming packets; it doesn’t transmit.

The Future
On the 25 March 2003 The Radiocommunications Agency announced its proposals to deregulate CB which basically means the £15 per annum licence will be abolished. It had also been proposed that the allowed channels be halved in 2010 by removing the original UK40 channels but this has since been dropped. (Thanks Guzzy, tried to email you back but address invalid).

CB Links:

Places to buy CB equipment:

Last modified: 21 July 2012