revised 16.Nov.2010

 CB radio 

Facts and figures, dates and details.

USA Origins

  • 1933
    Experimental Station W6XBC Yuma AZ operated at 27.1 MHz.

  • 1940
    World War II spurs development of 27MHz equipment for use in tanks and beachhead landing networks. The BC-1335 4Watt military unit is a forerunner of things to come.

  • 1946
    Doctors use 27MHz, operating diathermy medical equipment.

  • 1947
    After the Atlantic City Conference - in June, Amateurs lose parts of 10 meters and 20 meters, but will gain a new band at 15 meters in 1952 (although I found : 15M "was cleared of its Marine users which took until May of 1954"). To compensate for the loss, the FCC allows use of the 11 meter band (26.96 to 27.23 Mc) on a shared basis with Industrial, Scientific and Medical devices.

    Thanks to the efforts of pioneer Al Gross and portable two-way radio equipment had proved its worth during WWII, a Citizens Radio Service was established for shared professional use, introduced at 460-470 MHz UHF. Nobody seems to have published full and accurate details online (or at least I can't find it!), with a number of different and conflicting sets of information, so the best I have at present is :
     * Class A : 460-462 MHz, assigned frequencies 50W AM/FM,
     * Class B : 460-468 MHz (461? 465?), 5W, 50 channels 50kHz spaced - ended 1.nov.1971,
     * Class C : Remote Control : 27.255MHz only at first, later (1958) the other 5 27MHz channels, and 72-76MHz,
     * Class D : 465 MHz?
    This early Citizens Radio Service had some limited success, but the technology of the time, valves and crystals, weren't conducive to mass market success, so Class D didn't catch on in any big way.
    (The UHF band later shrank as Class B ceased and Class A ended up in the 462 & 467 segments now used for GMRS and FRS)
    Doctors permitted to continue using 27MHz.

  • 1948
    Firestone Tire Company granted experimental license W10XXD for 27.255MHz using two 3Watt transmitters.

  • 465MHz Class D service deemed a failure, the search is on for a replacement band.

  • Early 1957
    FCC Docket #11994 proposes reallocating Class D in the very underused 11 meters Ham band 26.96-27.23 MHz (USA-only). At this time there was little business/military use of 27MHz and model control on 27.255 was inadequate, being shared with paging and other services.

  • 11th Sept 1958
    The 11 meters Amateur band is reassigned to models and Class D Citizens' Band radio. The band is divided into 10kHz channels, the first channel bounded by 26.96 and 26.97 with the carrier frequency centered at 26.965 - and 27.225 being the last channel center - 27 channels in all. Models were allocated 5 new channel centers, 50kHz apart, the outer channels being 35kHz away from the band edges. 22 Class D channels were arranged around the model channels that later became known as channels 3A, 7A, 11A, 15A and 19A. The old model channel at 27.255 was allocated as a further 23rd Class D channel, a shared frequency that remains as the 6th model channel also. The Business Band above 27.23 couldn't yet be used for CB apart from channel 23 - the two-channel gap between 22 and 23 gave rise to pirate channels 22A and 22B. I'd still like to know what the channels were on that business band, whether it was a fluke that 27.255 fitted in nicely with the new 10kHz steps. Official (!) US usage above 27.410 is with 20kHz FM channels (1990s) starting at 27.430 I believe.
    
    --26.96-----
      26.965  01
      26.975  02
      26.985  03
      26.995     "Brown"  /  3A 
      27.005  04
      27.015  05
      27.025  06
      27.035  07
      27.045     "Red"    /  7A 
      27.055  08
      27.065  09
      27.075  10
      27.085  11
      27.095     "Orange" / 11A 
      27.105  12
      27.115  13
      27.125  14
      27.135  15
      27.145     "Yellow" / 15A 
      27.155  16
      27.165  17
      27.175  18
      27.185  19
      27.195     "Green"  / 19A 
      27.205  20
      27.215  21
      27.225  22
    --27.23-----
                    (27.235  22A before becoming 24 in 1977)
                    (27.245  22B before becoming 25 in 1977)
      27.255  23  + models #6 - "blue" 
    

23 Channel CB radios became enormously popular in the 1970s (US) due to the fuel shortages and new 55mph speed limits, making vehicle-to-vehicle communications extremely useful for finding fuel and avoiding speed traps.

The technical standards weren't great though, with much interference around. The FCC decided to tighten up the specs, and at the same time introduced more channels...

  • 1st Jan 1977
    More CB channels added - there was talk of having 99 channels up to 27.995 but it was decided not to allow a span of more than 440kHz - to prevent intermod breakthrough to any 455kHz receiver Intermediate Frequency stages. The business band lost 27.23 - 27.41, to new CB channels 24 to 40. Channels 24 and 25 filled in the reclaimed gap between 22 and 23 (which is why the order is strange), and channels 26 to 40 continued from 27.265 to 27.405 - by coincidence the first two decimal places match the channel number. The five newer model freqs are now part of an allocation from 26.96 to 27.28 in the UK with channel 25 now being "Blue" (27.245) and channel 02 now "Black", amongst other interleaved channels. In the USA, channel 23 is still the "Blue" model channel.
    --26.96-----
      26.965  01
        to
      27.225  22
      27.235  24 *new*
      27.245  25 *new*
      27.255  23
      27.265  26 *new*
        to       *new* 
      27.405  40 *new*
    --27.41-----
    

  • My thanks (for info) to : The Wayback machine (link dead), Richard McCollum & Meg on rec.radio.cb, Retro-Dave (RetroCom 27Mc museum)), WoodyWorld CB pages, 'the author' of 'UK Bands'
(CB was also legalised in Australia in 1977 with 18 channels, the full 40 coming later on 1.1.1982. But 40 channels at 476/477MHz UHF were also provided in 1977)

To hasten the take-up of the better new 40 channels rigs and make older equipment obsolete, the FCC ordered that the older 23 channel rigs were to be off dealers' shelves by the start of 1978. The glut of unwanted rigs lowered prices so much that they ended up making their way around the world to the UK and other countries where CB was in demand by a public eager to join the communications revolution and stay in touch on the move at last.

By 1978 there were, apparently, some 40,000,000 users in the US.

Technical note
The standard 26.965 to 27.405 "mid"/CEPT/EU channels are transposed up and down the spectrum by multiples of 450kHz to create extra sets of 40 channels such as "hi" and "lo", including the gaps and sequence jumps! Even the 40 New Zealand channels at 26.33 to 26.77 MHz feature the same order.
However, the 40 UK FM channels run straight through from 27.60125 to 27.99125, likewise the extra 40 German channels from 26.565 (41) to 26.955 (80).

Many operators just use ham radio equipment simply modified to allow all modes on any frequency, and usually at least 100 Watts too.

CB Bands worldwide : wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens'_band_radio



The UK - Early Days

It wasn't long after the start of 27MHz in the US, that equipment found its way into the UK. History has recorded some early use in the mid 1960s :

Breaker Magazine, issue 3

"Probably the first recorded users of the
illegal 27MHz band were the Charlie
Bravo Group who seem to have
appeared in about 1965. They used the
100 milliwatt hand-held sets which, in the
USA, required no licence, and worked on
channel 11. Later they moved up to ch 14
because of interference. In view of the
low power they escaped detection for
some years, but a number of prose-
cutions in the 70s forced them off the air.

They were quickly replaced in the
mid-70s by the Lima Echo Group who
had got sophisticated and mobile, using
the 23-channel rigs which were then
available in the States. Mostly they
worked ch 14 as well, using it as a private
net.

Really it was about then that the CB
boom began in the UK. Although the
Lima Echo Group didn't fold up as such,
the larger numbers of other illicit users
who gradually caught the bug swamped
them out and they sank without trace.

It was probably their use of 14 as their
net channel which first led to it being
established as the London calling chan-
nel- new users tuned in automatically.."

1967
The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1967 (a follow up to one from 1949) grants powers to the Home Secretary to ban manufacture or importation of specific radio apparatus. Paging systems had been operating on 26/27 MHz since the 1950s, so to protect them from interference ...

1.April.1968
Statutory Instrument No. 61, "The Telegraphic Transmitters (Control of Manufacture and Importation) Order 1968" comes into force, applying to equipment capable of transmission on 26.1-29.7 MHz (11m and Amateur 10m band) or 88-108 MHz (Band II Broadcasting), which made life interesting in the decade to come ...

CB started to catch the public's attention in the mid 1970s, helped in no small part by the C.W. McColl "Convoy" record in 1976. This was also parodied as "Convoy GB" featuring BBC Radio 1 DJs Dave Lee Travis and Paul Burnett as Laurie Lingo & The Dipsticks, which made #4 on the UK singles chart. In this version, the two truckers are "Super-Scouse" and "Plastic Chicken".

CB was also in pop culture via movies like Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Convoy (1978), and television shows like Movin' On (debuted 1974) and The Dukes of Hazzard (debuted 1979) bolstered the appeal of CB radio. The Dukes were on UK TV at tea time on a Saturday, with a massive audience.

At this time there were only 3 UK TV channels, with many viewers watching the main channels BBC1 and ITV on the low definition black & white VHF system with only 405 lines compared to BBC2 on UHF with 625 lines and colour (BBC1 and ITV were also on UHF as well as VHF). There was no satellite TV as we know it, only very primitive old computer games, music came over the air from MW AM radio and what FM there was seldom provided pop music in stereo. Music could only be bought on those primitive old black plastic discs - even cassette tapes weren't yet that popular. It wasn't until 1983 that CD was introduced. As if it's not bad enough imagining life without the internet, consider the states of public communications at the time -

Telephones were hardwired into the wall at home (no sockets like today!), and usually there was only one per household - extensions were a bit of a status symbol! Mobile phones were just a distant dream (it seemed back then), even cordless phones had yet to arrive legally. So the UK public were simply not used to communications on the move - no wonder those Dukes of Hazzard seemed so glamourous, keeping in touch wherever they went. The only people using two-way radio were the emergency services, other government/military types or business users. I remember when the record "Pop Muzik" by "M" was first performed on TV's "Top of the Pops" (in spring 1979) the singer pretended to use a walkie talkie complete with telescopic whip aerial - it was that cool!

I have seen "the halcyon days" of UK 27 AM described as being from mid '76 to mid '77.

In February 77, the radio magazine "Wavelength" started campaigning for CB, which raised its profile.

In 1977/78 CB picked up noticeably, still underground but with many busts leading to the covert slang subculture. The fact that CB was illegal added to the fun for many, and made the use of handles catch on, as using your "personal" was obviously a bad idea.

It was a risky business being a breaker back in the illegal AM days, with the Police, the GPO (Post Office and Telephones back then) and Customs Officers all able to confiscate rigs for a variety of legal reasons. One AM breaker, Annette Box "Yellow Peril", a hairdresser from Tunbridge Wells, found out the hard way, being fined more than once for daring to communicate on CB radio. Due to not fully paying the whole amount of the fines, she ended up being arrested and sentenced to 9 weeks imprisonment - but local breakers clubbed together to pay for her release.

March 1979's "Custom Car" magazine spread the news to 140,000 purchasers (2m readers).

By the turn of the decade into the 1980s there were an estimated 100,000 breakers - activity picking up markedly from late 79 to early 80.

CB magazines appeared in newsagents and CB lingo books were common in the high street. Pretty much everyone came to know what 10-4 meant!

Over the channel in France, CB was legalised in the spring of 1980. Enthusiasts had 1 AM channel at first, limited to handhelds with 100mw! Pro users could get an expensive licence for 6 AM channels at 3W. There was widespread use of US equipment and multimodes anyway, so it didn't take long for, on 20.Dec.80, 22 channels to be legalised - 2W FM. (Later, Jan.83, they legalised 4W 40ch FCC mulitmodes, and Citizens Band magazine (Oct 84) reported the AM calling channel as 27, and 11 for FM)

The government couldn't really ignore the vast amount of breakers already on the air, organised into clubs and associations such as the United Breakers Assocation, UKCBC and NatColCiBaR. The UBA organised a well attended walk through the West End from Speakers Corner to Jubilee Gardens - the first of its kind for CB. The UBA was also the first independent CB club to be televised on British TV and are believed to be the only one televised in the USA in a piece about the state of CB in the UK at the time. It was estimated that there were some 200,000 breakers using US AM rigs back then in the 1970s.

For those who simply wanted to listen in, there were CB-to-MW convertors available for motorists, plugging into the car radio aerial lead. A crystal at 26.165 was used to translate the CB frequencies downwards so that channel 1 (26.965) appeared on the AM radio at 800kHz on the MW band, etc. - running through to channel 40 at 1240kHz.

There was a knock-on effect upon the numbers of new Radio Amateurs in this era. To become a radio ham required passing the Radio Amateur Exam (RAE), held in May by City & Guilds. The number of exam candidates rose considerably:
1978 : 1872
1979 : 2800
1980 : 3700
1981 : 5500

UK CB history, another page : http://www.jambutty.u-net.com/09f02.html


The UK Campaign

The fact that we got CB at all in the UK is proof that democracy sometimes DOES work, the government actually took notice of strong public pressure, including petitions and marches.

1972, Malaga (or 15.Oct.73?)
An agreement signed by all EEC European countries (including Britain) for an early version of CEPT "PR27" FM CB - but doesn't bring us CB yet.

June '76
CBA Citizen's Band Association formed, president James M. Bryant, realising the drawbacks of obsolete AM mode and troublesome 27MHz band, favouring a new frequency band somewhere between 41 and 500MHz. Over 4000 members join by the end of 1980.

12.July.1977
MP Austin Mitchell (Grimsby) asks which wavebands could be used for UK CB.

25.April.1978
A debate took place in parliament to discuss Citizens Band Radio. Lord Wells-Pestell said "I think we have seriously to consider the enormous disadvantages of having a vast army of people who can communicate with each other very easily."! The Labour government of the time were not in favour of CB, so it was going to be an uphill struggle.

May 1978
A report of the working party set up by the National Electronics Council defined a possible CB service as a short range radio communication service available to private users (not excluding small business) at an acceptably low cost and with the minimum of formality.

11.July.1978
CB was mentioned in parliament again.

Sep.1979
MP Major Patrick Wall (knighted in 1981), who came to deserve the title "Father of British CB", formed an all party parliamentary working party for CB radio. Patrick Wall had asked numerous questions in the House during the previous Labour government, to no avail.

2.Dec.79
After initial meetings in November, a National Committee was formed from representatives from a number of campaigning groups. NatCoLCiBaR (National Committee for Legalisation of Citizens Band Radio) represented 130,000 breakers by early 1981. Some manufacturers like Amstrad and Fidelity were original members and provided financial support.

6.Dec.79
CB was again in parliament in a commons debate, and also in a Greater London Council paper in March 1980.

6.May.1980
A change from Labour government in May.1979 helped, it only took a year or so of Conservative government for a forthcoming green paper to be announced, "Open Channel, a discussion document". It was published 5.August.80, with replies to be submitted by 30.Nov.80

At this time, it had yet to be decided where CB would end up amongst the wavebands. The breakers of the time wanted 27 AM to be simply legalised as it was, but that was ruled out by the Radio Regulatory Department of the Home Office - the body responsible back then for all radio transmissions in the UK. The AM mode was said to cause more interference, so the government was only going to allow FM, no matter where in the radio spectrum. Although 4W of FM could cause TVI just as easily as a 4W peak from AM, FM TVI was less severe, causing a more stable change in brightness or contrast, sometimes with striped colour effects, rather than the picture being completely broken up in sympathy with the modulation.

27 AM
(FCC channels) - caused considerable interference problems. There was direct AM breakthrough into all manner of equipment and appliances. In the same 27MHz band CB signals disrupted remote control model aircraft (which had yet to be moved to 35MHz), telemetry (offshore data buoys), and on-site paging (mainly industrial sites and some 400 hospitals, a number of 25kHz spaced channels, AM and FM). The band simply couldn't be cleared for a number of years as existing users (there were pager systems on around 4000 sites around the country) had a right to a reasonable use of their equipment before being asked to replace it or retune.
The AM CB transmissions also affected TVs in Band I at the 2x harmonic, pro two-way radio at 3x, and aircraft nav & landing systems at 4x - Vulcan bombers reported CB coming through on their cockpit equipment! It simply wasn't an option to introduce CB on the FCC channels until the band was cleared a number of years later, and higher spec FM CBs could be introduced in 1987 with the CEPT standard which specified lower levels of unwanted harmonics.

41-47 MHz
(41.5 considered and tested negatively by the RRD) was favoured by NatCoLCiBaR because use of the obsolete 405 lines TV (low definition black & white) in Band I was in its final decline (watched by less than 3% of viewers, on old TV sets no longer being made) and was due to be phased out circa 1984. Band I was to be cleared (by 1.Jan.87 at the latest, decided at Geneva's ITU WARC 1979), leaving 41 to 68 MHz clear (wavelengths from 7m to 4m approx). At WARC 1979 the 41-47 MHz band became allocated to FIXED AND MOBILE, with BROADCASTING deleted (Land Mobile was added as a permitted service in 47-68). The National Committee suggested 16 channels at 42.608-43.0 and another 20 channels at 43.694-44.0
However, Band I was still in use for TV in other countries for many years to come (Britain and France could continue to use channel 1 until 1987), and propagation allowed signals to travel long distances too frequently so that would be a problem in both directions. Harmonics would also be a problem. In the end, few services have been allowed into this band since - hospital paging ended up at 49MHz, low power devices and early cordless phones at 49 and 47, Amateur Radio gained the 50MHz 6m Band at last, and still nothing much has come along to claim the top of the band, which is prone to interference from the "smog" of unintended leakage of radio "hash" from electronics of all kinds. Also the wavelength is too long for practical aerials on handheld radios, where short is the order of the day in the modern age. (Amateurs could apply for 6m permits in 1982, a general allocation was announced in June 85 and came to Class A hams on 1.Feb.86 and then to Class B too on 1.June.87)

225/230/232 MHz
Favoured by the CBA, Pye and others, being the boundary between ITV's obsolete VHF Band III (174-225) and the military band 225-400 MHz. It was a two-way band in the US, with an Amateur 1.3m allocation there. Again, neighbouring countries were to still use Band III for decades to come, and the UK ended up placing low power microphones in amongst the TV carriers, and some two-way Land Mobile radio. The top section ended up being used for DAB Digital Radio.

232 was called the Lancaster Bomber Band, supposedly having been used in WWII but never since - but scanner enthusiasts will know that the whole "Military Airband" was always in full use, so it was a non starter to suggest even a tiny segment for CB. In hindsight there was really never any realistic chance of the M.o.D. giving up a slice of their important NATO 225-400 band, even if the boundary has shifted since to start at 230 due to DAB, and parts of the top end at 380/390 have been taken over by digital TETRA communications for the government.

450 MHz
This 66cm wavelength area was favoured by two-way radio specialists Pye and Phillips who already manufactured equipment for pro users, and there was scope to standardise with the 462/467 band in the USA, but again the government thought it was at the wrong side of the 470-854 MHz UHF TV band.

928/930 MHz
This UHF frequency band was still the government's favoured area, to avoid harmonics (multiples of the original frequency) from causing problems to other services such as TV or aeronautical navigational aids. It was believed to be where a new US/Euro standard CB system was to be introduced soon. This was far from a popular choice for the existing breakers of the time, as it can be very poor for mobile-to-mobile range. The wavelength at this near-microwave band is just 0.32m compared to the 11m of 27MHz - a factor of 34 times smaller. The band is highly affected by absorbtion and mobile flutter. The complete immunity to 'skip' signals bouncing off the sky's layers of charged particles is either an advantage or disadvantage depending whether you enjoy working DX or want a peaceful service with no interference, but on the other hand the band is affected by tropospheric enhancements which can sometimes make things seem like your aerial has been 'lifted' up hundreds of feet with a large increase in range. An off-putting aspect of 930MHz was that there was some question about whether it was possibly dangerous to the health!

6.July.1980
An estimated 5000 people attended a rally in London, ending up in Trafalgar Square, organised by NATCOLCIBAR. Ivan Francis of REACT, MPs Austin Mitchell, John Butcher and Patrick Wall all gave speeches. It did turn a bit sour when the members from the UBA (United Breakers Association) were denied acces to the mic. This was because NATCOLCIBAR asked Disco One (the UBA President) to arrange for his vast membership (in London and affiliates all over the country) to attend and falsly led him to believe he would be granted a speech. Some UBA members (and probably many other non-members) were in uproar about this and from there things got a bit nasty with a few people being threatened, including the MPs, although the UBA committee and other representatives tried their best to calm things down. All this aside it shows what can be achieved eventually if people get together for the sake of one common cause.
(Thanks to Tony Handret and Marty Donovan for providing various details, this paragraph)

(Comment on an earlier version of this page)

"I remember vividly the fracas caused on that day. A lot of hard work was put in by the UBA at the time. But no thanks was ever given, and they were made out to be a bunch of yobs. I ask anyone reading this how they would react in a similar circumstance. The UBA should not be portrayed as Rally Saboteurs. One thing I do remember very well is that it was the members who were attending the rally that were in uproar, and it was the then UBA committee, Andy Donovan - Disco One (President) and Michael Jenning - CB Free (I think Secretary), who tried to pacify the situation.

The early pioneering days of CB seems to be in a smoke screen of fantasy rather than facts. The UBA was the driving force behind UK CB at the time, the rest were corporate people ready to make a quick pound note. But as in all areas of life, money wins hands down. James Bryant (Plessey Electronics) and the CBA were just goverment puppets set out to reap revenue from the new CB craze. It was the Real Breakers, the real guys and girls who out there dodging the officials, and making small clubs and going on mini convoys, meeting up and having fun at the time, who deserve the recognition.

"It's just that the only mention the UBA gets is one that makes it look disruptive (edited since - RF). And if it could be mentioned in a positive way then that would be better. Did you know that the average club membership back then was 3.00 per member? To Join the UBA was FREE, and you got proper membership cards and a newsletter was POSTED out weekly! All to the expense of DISCO ONE. That's how passionate he was with his fight for CB Radio in this country. I was just a mere boy back then, just starting secondry school, it was a weird world meeting my dad's friends with funny names, all the Catweazles and Satans - my teachers must have thought I was a nutter. 20 years later and although Disco One has passed on, I am now a Radio Ham and a Morse Examiner...... it just goes to show, the love of Radio stays with you forever. M"


Mid '80
A number of CB magazines start up in the second half of 1980, a visible presence of the campaign for CB on the newagent's shelves :
 * "CB Radio Magazine" (issue #1 June.80) from British Breaker Productions, Hayes, Middlesex
 * "Breaker" (issue #1 June.80) from Link House Publications
 * "CB News" (Oct.80) from Crofts Publishers
 * "CB Citizens Band" (Dec.80) from Modmags - publishers of Hobby Electronics, after a special one-off in Summer.79, later changed name to Argus Specialist Publications (Nov.81)
 * "CB World" (Dec.80) from IPC

6.December.1980
Traffic was brought to a standstill around Westminster and Trafalgar Square on Saturday the 6th of December by CBers. A convoy of over 700 cars poured into London to hand a petition in to the Prime Minister demanding "the freedom to speak legally on 27MHz". President of the United Breakers Association, Andrew Donovan known as Disco One says that this time they mean business, that claims of interference to emergency services are nonsense, and that they reject 928 MHz as impracticable and inefficient.

18.December.1980
In a Parliamentary written reply the Home Secretary stated that he favoured a CB facility around 930MHz, but due to public demand he undertook to consider a lower frequency such as 27FM. Alternative frequencies 41MHz and 450MHz were ruled out due to interference difficulties or other problems.

21.December.1980
Licence fees no longer apply to 27MHz R/C modellers and other Low Power Devices in the band, but they will continue there. There had been some 27,000 model control licencees.


1981 - the UK awaits

While UK breakers waited to hear from the Home Office, many European countries already had 22ch legal 27AM/FM by now, called PR27. Eire followed suit, making 27FM legal with 40 channels, 4W, announced 16.Feb.81

A company called CTVR Ltd (64 Castlegate, Grantham, Lincs) advertised handhelds on 29.86 MHz (just above the amateur 10m band) for those wanting a clear channel to themselves, and 49.860 MHz AM was another frequency used by walkie-talkies (also illegal at the time).

24.January.1981
Word got around the Severn Bridge Area that "Associated Breakers" was being set up, intended for the members of previous eyeball meetings that had been running at Aust Services since Spring 1980 - organisers were swamped when more than 600 breakers turned up to register!

7.February.1981 (sat)
A London to Tunbridge Wells convoy, organised by the UBA and 27 Club, gets 500 vehicles participating.

9.Feb.1981 (mon)
Parliamentary debate, Patrick Wall continued to make the case for CB. Tim Raison, the Minister of State at the Home Office, warned of the dangers of interference but acknowledged the justification for CB, and announced that a decision had been made in favour of introducing a CB service, and technical matters were being investigated before any further announcements could be made.

14.February.1981 (sat)
A St.Valentine's Demo in London, organised by the North Cotswold CB Club, gets a turnout of 1800 plus, marching from Hyde Park, Marble Arch, Trafalgar Square, Waterloo Bridge, No 10 etc.

26.Feb.81 (thur)
At last, answering another question from Patrick Wall, the Home Secretary Mr William Whitelaw announced that we would be getting FM CB at 27 MHz and also a second band at 930 MHz, to be introduced in the autumn of 1981. MP Timothy Raison said "We are offering a new service which we hope will provide enjoyment for many people."
Specifications would follow in a month or two...

16.April.1981 (Maundy Thursday)
The H.O. mailed letters to interested parties detailing the draft 27MHz specs (UHF specs to follow later in the month) and giving notice of a meeting on Friday the 24th - and written comments were to be received before then. But with the Easter hols in the meantime (Good Friday the 17th to Easter Monday the 20th) meaning that many did not even receive the letter until Tuesday the 21st, it didn't give much time to respond!
To avoid the troublesome 27AM band segment, CB was to be placed within 27.59 to 28 MHz, which was able to be cleared in the UK in time. The band was unique to the UK, which was thought to be of benefit to UK manufacturers, and the harmonics fell into manageable areas, assisted by 1.25kHz offsets from conventional 5/10kHz tuning steps. The 40 channels were announced to run from 27.60125 to 27.99125 in 10kHz steps, with 4W FM sounding like it could be a workable solution, even if the AM breakers felt let down and many vowed to continue on the American channels.

The specs also called out of band limits of 50nW to prevent those pesky harmonics causing a problem, and a -10dB switch would be required to drop the power to 0.4W if the aerial was more than 10m above ground level.

The UHF channels were later announced as being at 934 MHz, with 20 channels running from 934.025 to 934.975 in 50kHz steps, with a useful 8W of power and aerials designs which were to prove very capable.

The finalised specs were to be published by the end of May, but took until the 24th June to arrive. The 27/81 standard was published as MPT 1320, and 934/81 as MPT 1321, and the "MPT" led to legal CB channels being called the "muppets".

10.May.1981
The campaigning didn't stop, as 27AM was still very much in use and in demand. The UCBF held a demo at Hyde Park Corner, defying a ban on such gatherings (due to National Front problems) to which some 500 breakers turned up.
Report : CB Radio July 81 issue 13

4.Sep.81
It was now legal for dealers to import or manufacture equipment for the new CB service, and special Test & Development licences ("Evaluation and Demonstration" - see CBCitizensBand Sept.81) allowed signals to appear on the air (12.50, valid until end of 1981) - the kind of licences that had G9xxx callsigns allocated.

1.Oct.81
The launch date was finally announced - British CB would be legal at last on Monday 2.Nov.81 (copy of official announcement, and licence form, both shown in CBCitizensBand Nov.81 issue).

2.Nov.81
The UK finally "had its ears on"! The American CB pioneer and "Father of CB" Al Gross flew over for the day to obtain the first 10 UK licence issued on the first day (possibly not the very first licence of all - as CB Radio Magazine claimed to have obtained a licence from their Post Office several days earlier on Oct 29). Legal rigs had already been on sale, with some activity already on the not yet legal channels! By leaving it so long to legislate, the UK Government had made it difficult for manufacturers to decide whether to take part, because the initial buzz of the craze had already taken place with so many breakers using AM rigs, so the potential market was reduced (in fact the market slumped as early as the second half of 1982!).


UK Legal CB

From the start on the 2nd November, it was fairly busy on 27/81 FM for a month or two (106,408 licences issued by the end of the year, for an estimated 300,000 rigs, rising to 169,494 up to 19.feb.82) - and then lots of kids arrived on the the air with their new rigs that Santa had brought them! In this area things were hectic for a year or two, and it was hard to find a clear channel for chatting. The calling channel was humming with activity, an entertainment in its own right, even well into the small hours. In fact, for quite some time I think there was activity 24 hours a day, CB never slept!

For those wanting a more quiet band, CTVR (now at 35 Oxford Street, Grantham) developed a 46 MHz rig (6.5m wavelength) - although I'm not sure if any were sold (?). The CTVR40 was shown in the June '82 issue of CB Radio (issue 24, p44), and featured 40 channels of 4W FM from 46.000 to 46.390 in 10kHz steps, fitting in (illegally) between Band I TV channels 1 and 2. Ask an amateur who uses the nearby 6m (50MHz) band mobile how good the band is, on the move!


The 46MHz CTVR40 rig - click for full size pic.

Even where I was, in a rural backwater area at the time, CB reached us in force. Even we had REACT monitoring ch 9, and plenty of activity on our mobile channel. Various annual local special events had volunteers helping out using CB. We had a club with weekly meetings, and foxhunts, the works!

By 83/84 if I remember correctly there was some drop off in numbers, and it was easy enough to find a clear channel - but still there was plenty going on. By 85/86 it was getting quiet enough that you could have your own channel where your friends could call you, yet there were plenty of breakers about, still meeting up in their cars at various local places in the evenings (anywhere with ample parking, a cafe, and a good view was good for "eyeballs").

Licence numbers -
End of 82 : 310,000
End of 83 : 225,000
End of 84 : 180,000

I read that in 1988 there were about 115,000 licencees - but an estimated 300,000 actual users.

By the turn of the decade it thinned out considerably, I last used the rig in about 1991 and at that time many minutes could go by without a call on the calling channel, and we were lucky to have more than 1 or 2 channels in use. A regular net of older folk talked amongst themselves on 'their' channel, and the youngsters left them to it.


UK changes

Early 1984
BCBC (British CB Council) was formed by ex-officers of the CBA and NatColCiBaR, to represent enthusiasts to the authorities and media, campaign for improvements, organise a QSL bureau/insurance/rallies, publish a newsletter, and position itself as a governing body for CB.

5.March.1984
Some rule changes came along after the DTI took over CB from the Home Office - the most noticeable being changes to aerial regulations. We had been limited at first to base loaded 'twigs' only, max length 1.5m - now they could be center/top/helically loaded, with a max length of 1.65m.
A lower age limit of 14 was imposed unless supervised

Sept.84
State of play : R.R.D. are under control of the DTI, and interference issues are dealt with by the R.I.S. Radio Investigation Service run by British Telecom. However, the October '84 CB Citizens Band magazine announced that the DTI would be taking over the RIS, with expanded powers to seize illegal equipment.

1.Sep.87
The CEPT band arrives, giving us 40 more channels - the original US FCC AM "mids" frequencies, now designated EU1 to EU40 with the new 4W FM European standard (paging systems there previously were given until 1996 to move down slightly to 26MHz or change to a new band at 49MHz). New CB sets were to be marked "PR 27 GB" to a new MPT 1333 specification (based upon the CEPT technical spec ETS 300 135), and the licence fee went up to 12. Some antenna restrictions were also lifted, as full size aerials were now allowed.

2.April.1990
The national management of radio passed to the new Radiocommunications Agency which was established as an Executive Agency of the Department of Trade and Industry.

1992
CB licensing was centralised and application forms were no longer available 'over the counter' from Post Offices.

January 1995
The performance Specification MPT 1333 was withdrawn (just the 40 EU channels) and no equipment type approved to that specification is permitted to be manufactured or imported from that date. (So what happened for 3 years, for EU channels, until MPT 1382 was extended bringing 80ch rigs in Dec.97?)

March 1995
Original 27/81 Specification MPT 1320 was withdrawn and replaced by a new Specification MPT 1382 for the UK channels - marking "PR 27/94". All equipment type-approved to MPT 1320 may continue to be used for its foreseeable useful life.

December 1997
An ammendment to the specification MPT 1382 now allows 80 channel rigs, with both sets of 40 channels :
26.965 - 27.405 MHz CEPT channels (ETS 300 135) or ("EU") and
27.60125 - 27.99125 MHz "UK" (PR 27/97)
Equipment based on this revised specification will be strictly for use in the UK only.

(We would eventually end up in the situation where multi-standard rigs were acceptable throughout the EU - the idea being that you would select the relevant country when switching on, and would be trusted not to use the UK channels on mainland Europe, or the German low channels over here, etc.!)

31.12.1998
The 934 MHz UK CB band died - it was now illegal to use from 1999 onwards.

19.April.1999
The 8ch European two-way handheld system PMR446 introduced to the UK, a useful alternative to CB.

1.November.1999
Licence conditions changed. "To use CB, you either need to hold a licence yourself or be directly supervised by a licence holder".
All licences are now issued with callsigns. The format of CB callsigns is "2 + letter + digit + letter + letter" - e.g. 2A1BC, but this ceased, obviously, when deregulation came...

1.December.1999
Licences now free to those individuals who are under 21 at the time of renewal or issue.

1.April.2001
Licences now free to those individuals who are aged 75 or over at the time of renewal or issue.

By March 2001 (RA 246 rev 8) the licence fee was 15 per year (from when exactly?).

4.July.2003 - HF's Independence Day
A World Radio Conference finally decides that Morse is no longer required for Amateur use of HF, the change taking effect in the UK on 26.July.2003 - making Amateur Radio significantly easier to access for those wishing to DX (especially as the new M3 Foundation Class licence introduced 1.1.2002 was so easy to attain).

29.December.2003
The national management of radio passed from the DTI's Radiocommunications Agency to OFCOM, which inherited the duties that had previously been the responsibility of five regulatory bodies:
* the Broadcasting Standards Commission,
* the Independent Television Commission,
* the Office of Telecommunications (OFTEL),
* the Radio Authority, and
* the Radiocommunications Agency (of the DTI)

8.Dec.2006
CB was deregulated, making our 80 channels (27MHz) licence free, bringing the UK into line with European regulation DEC(98)16-E from only 8 years earlier! Anyone wishing to use these channels only needs to use 'type approved' radio equipment. No licence or paperwork is required. This came a week after lighter regulations for Amateur Radio, including free Lifetime Licences, /M & /P suffixes and logging to be optional - improvements that made the ham option even more attractive to radio enthusiasts.

19.March.2007
After trials that started in 2004, a limited range broadcasting system called CADS became legal to interested parties - to the dismay of many CBers. CADS enables legal broadcasting of speech based material using CB - mainly used by Churches to relay their services around the local community, hogging a channel for some time (but at their own risk of interference!).


934 MHz UK CB Band

2.Nov.1981
20 channels at 934 MHz were made legal to the British public at the start of legal UK CB in 1981, alongside the 40 channels on 27MHz. At first the frequencies ran from 934.025 to 934.975 (50kHz steps), but this would change later, in 1983. Things were very quiet at first, as it took some time for manufacturers to get such complicated UHF technology working and available to the public.

1983

In the July '83 issue of Citizens Band magazine (many issues here) it was announced that the channels would be moved down 12.5kHz (from 934.0125 to 934.9625) in line with a CEPT plan. (At this time the first legal cordless home phones were legalised on 47/1.7 MHz too, mentioned here to show how unused to mobile comms we were back then!)

Aug '83
Citizens Band magazine reported very little 934 activity, and Mack the Hack had only just managed to get to try out the band. Only about 500 rigs had been sold, from Reftec only, and spread thinly around the nation. Callsigns were often made from the owner's Reftec radio serial number, such as "Unit 271". Grandstand was about to go into production with a rig+transverter combination. Apparently business users were using ch 1 to ch 10 by informal agreement, with CB as we know it on the top channels 11 - 20. (That seems logical to me, yet some people complained at the time, believing that business should stay off CB. However, CB was far cheaper than "proper" business radio back then, and the licence conditions DID allow business use so long as it wasn't abused to sell anything over the air)

Sept. '83
Citizens Band magazine - 934 channels actually moved in accordance with CEPT plan. Reftec radios would be available soon with the new frequencies, and the first models could be sent back for retuning.
934-1 Reftecs (.025) could still be sold until 30/4/84, and used until the end of 87.
934-2 Reftecs (.0125) sold from late 83 onwards.

Oct '83
Citizens Band magazine - Reftec 934 review (p26)

Late '83
The Japanese introduce their Personal Radio Service on 903-904, with I.D. numbers (and traceable transmissions!), selective calling and automatic channel assignment, etc.

1984

1.1.84
The Swiss follow the Japanese PRS system, with what seems destined to become a US/Euro standard, only with 40ch at 934-935.

April '84
Citizens Band magazine - Grandstand LA83 934 Transverter / Bluebird combo review (p26)
The Grandstand system was supplied with a normal 27MHz rig the 'Bluebird' (but worked with any 27FM rig) which had to be set to Channel 1 (it was filtered such that no other channel would work). The 934 channel was selected on the transverter itself, using 20 crystals - one per channel! The unsynthesized approach is so much more primitive than would be possible now in 2010! It appears to have been slightly more sensitive than the Reftecs, but quite a cumbersome option, and a little too selective using a 10kHz receiver at 27MHz. Technical review results followed in the May issue (p30). A later model the LA84 never went into production.

Mid '84
Reftecs were supplied with 40ch selectable, to allow owners to hear the new Swiss system (on 934.x375 and 934.x875 channels), but still would only TX on the UK legal 20.
The Reftec BS-934 Homebase (photo in CB Citizens Band May issue) was available.

Summer '84
The 934 MHz Club UK formed to keep things running smoothly and champion the rights of owners.

Sept '84
Citizens Band magazine showed (p26) an early prototype of Telecomms' new 934 radio - later to become the Delta 1.

Oct '84
Citizens Band magazine - Telecomms in Portsmouth (renamed as Nevada in 1987) get their new Cybernet Delta 1 934 MHz rig ready for launch (review on p26), to join the Reftec and the Grandstand transverter system LA83.
At this time it was reported that the calling channel was 10 in the south and west, with some use of 14 elsewhere, but the use of 20 was gaining some momentum.

End of '84
Reftec ceased trading by the end of 1984, having supplied an estimated 800 radios, and Grandstand gave up too (just 150 sold), leaving the way for radios like the Cybernet Delta 1 and Kestrel Commtel to corner the market in the spring of 1985. Kestrel's Commtel (NP1? NPR-934?) was a well engineered Japanese 903-905MHz rig, converted to the UK spec.
Telecomms had 1000 Delta 1 rigs on the way at the start of 1985, with another batch of 1000 to follow.

1985

Early '85
Some 934 users started to notice interference from the new analogue TACS cellular phones, which were close by in a neighbouring band (935-950 at first, later extended down to 917) - continuous control channels were operating 24/7 at 935.56-936.06 & 943.06-943.56.
Thus led to IF-related 'images' breaking through into the receivers. The mobile phones were vertically polarised, so there were some early experiments to avoid the interference by working 'flatside' (horizontal) - which usually meant directional beams to complicate matters a little - it was difficult to make omnidirectional high gain aerials with horizontal polarisation, which meant phased arrays of some sort. Flatside did seem to travel farther, though, which was a plus for hilltop DXing.

March '85
Citizens Band magazine - Kestrel Commtel NPR-934 review (p12)

July '85
The Uniace 400 934 rig was available, and a month later a single channel handheld from Gem Communications of Sevenoaks (Aug issue p10). Due to difficulties sourcing the high tech components required for such a high frequency band, a couple of other prospects had sunk without trace in the meantime, like ones from EMS (British manufacturer of Electro-Medical Supplies who made the respected Mercury 1040 27MHz rig), Magpie (who made the advanced Autoscan 5000 27/81 rig) and further rigs from Grandstand. A keenly awaited rig from Everite (4 Coventry Road, Hinckley, Leics), the "Warlock" dualband 27/934 version of an Audioline 341 had been promised during 1984 but also came to nothing. A small photo of the Warlock prototype was in CB Citizens Band April 84, and the May issue showed a Uniace Minster Dual Band base station, also mentioning a possible Uniace Britannia 201 dualband mobile and the economy Uniace Cavalier 101 single band 934 rig.

August '85
Citizens Band magazine - Uniace 400 934/81 rig review (p14)

1986

Jan '86
Citizens Band magazine - p15 - reports that the wallies are now on 934 in force, to the surprise of Mack the Hack who hadn't noticed any problems in his neck of the woods.

March '86
The DTI announced plans for a new, European standard, Personal Radio Service to run alongside 934/81 in the UK for a time, sharing the same band.

April '86
Citizens Band magazine - prototype Mitsubushi handheld shown in Mack Chat, advertised in May as the MT370.

Mid '86
An alternative club was formed - the PRCGB (934) Personal Radio Club GB - with a focus on heading toward the PRS type of service as used elsewhere.
The remaining UK CB magazine reported a growing popularity of horizontal polarisation to counter the cellular phones interference.
G4ONF advertises cavity filters to solve cellular phones interference.

Oct '86
Citizens Band magazine - first ad for a new handheld, the NPR 900. News that Commtel also ceased 934 in 1985. The Uniace 400 being discontinued was a rumour - but was confirmed in the Dec 86 issue.

End of '86
There were an estimated 3,000 users of 934 around the UK.


8.8.88
An order prohibited the sale of rigs other than to MPT 1320 & MPT 1333 standards. As the Performance Specification MPT 1321 to which 934 MHz CB transceivers were manufactured was withdrawn, no new 934 sets were manufactured from that date and none were imported. (August or December? Is this another case of Announcement versus Date of Effect, which makes historical research from the web so difficult?!)

30.Dec.1988
No import or manufacture of 934 equipment, in preparation for the new SRR system in 1990 (which never happened in the end). This was later named DSRR (Digital Short Range Radio), to occupy 933-935 MHz alongside a paired band 45MHz lower at 888-890 - allowing base/mobile use on paired channels, or single frequency simplex. Control channels were to be 888.6625 and 889.3125 (933.6625 & 934.3125). European legislation included technical specs like the ETSI standard I-ETS 300 168 (max 4W), Decision ERC/DEC/(93)01e of 12th March 1993, and "T/R 20-10 E" 1990-93.

DSRR was a lame duck though. Manufacturers failed to show any interest, as prepaid Pay-As-You-Go mobile phones had caused an explosion of new users of GSM by then (the "2G" digital mobile phone system that replaced the analogue TACS, with the attraction of SMS Text Messaging, GSM still being in use in 2010), and it was such a cheap option that a two-way radio system simply couldn't compete. The whole idea was shelved, officially withdrawn on 1.November.1996

It was too late for a reprieve for 934/81 CB though, which was discontinued by the UK Government. From the 1988 bombshell, owners were allowed another decade to use 934 until the final day of 31.Dec.1998, and then the band was later reallocated to the extended E-GSM band 925-935 (paired with 880-890). UHF CB also ran out in Switzerland 5 years later, with their 933 Band closing 31.Dec.2003.

1.1.1999
934 MHz UK CB now illegal to use.

You will often hear that we lost 934 to mobile phones, but it was really the DSRR idea which signed 934's death warrant. We could have had those oft-promised extra 20 channels by reducing the spacing to 25kHz, but that never happened in the end.


Cybernet Delta 1 - click for full size pic.

934 was perhaps too far ahead of its time. Too expensive and in short supply at the height of the CB craze, out of the range of too many people's pockets until it was too late to save it. I tried it once, it was extremely poor for mobile use in a hilly rural area, the flutter and absorbtion was unbearable. It's no wonder the mobile phone providers needed so many base stations on the band for adequate coverage (back in the days when capacity wasn't a problem that drove a need to reduce cell sizes).

934 came into its own for hilltop DX, and base use, rooftop-to-rooftop, with huge ranges available during tropo "lifts". Ask an Amateur with experience of 430 and 1290 MHz, and they'll tell you just how good a band halfway between would be!

Even now in 2010, people still talk about how great 934 was for them. Rigs still change hands on auction websites, and I believe there are still some enthusiasts experimenting on the air, fitting in between the mobile phones where they can.

2010 - What now?

It seems obvious to me that CB only caught on in the UK because of the glamour of American CB in the media, combined with the main driving force : the novelty of mobile communications to a populace only used to telephones hard-wired to their walls. I'd even go as far as to suggest that it was inevitable that cheap two-way radio like CB would be available to the public before networks of mobile telephones could evolve, and the same kind of thing would be quite likely to happen in any advancing civilisation (on any planet!) - especially likely to emerge in a large sprawling (and democratic) country with isolated pockets of habitation. As soon as the state of technology permits something like CB, it is almost a given that a Citizen's service will be introduced, in a free country.

Unfortunately for those who look back fondly at the fun of those 70s/80s days, and who really yearn for the craze to catch alight once more, those reasons mean that it's almost impossible for it to happen again. We have mobile communications with our mobile phones, so two-way radio simply isn't needed for that kind of use (long range secure and reliable telecommunications) - even if there is still a niche for things like PMR446 : close range, free of charges, independent of network providers or infrastructure, providing one-to-many calls, with instant call setup. CB may seem to offer a longer range version of this, but as soon as range is increased, so is the risk of intrusion by mischief-making idiots which sadly makes it unviable. The amount of "skip" interference on 27MHz makes it near to useless all too often, but even a skip-free VHF band would still run into the Wallies Problem, and any successful way to counter that would lead to another problem if it actually became worthwhile : overcrowding!

The early days of CB had the novelty of the social aspect of suddenly being able to contact lots of new people, but again those days are over and unlikely to return. The internet has made it much easier to make contact with new people, with the added advantage of being able to achieve this worldwide and not be limited to the local area, and also being able to directly target those who share our specific interests. Plus you don't have to worry about the possibility of freaky stalkers or pedos, or at least not too close to home for comfort! I really can't imagine the media letting a resurgence of CB pass without massive scare stories about the danger to children in this day and age of overblown risks.

In this area now, CB is almost dead when the skip is absent. It is used by 4x4 enthusiasts, as it has better range than PMR446 handheld radios, and it's no big deal to have a springy-base (resistant to knocks from branches) CB antenna on the vehicle. That just about sums up the modern use of CB - a longer range version of PMR446, used by closed groups of people who already know each other. The whole "14 for a copy" "copy copy, pick a window" culture has been consigned to history, around here at least!

With my old rigs lying around in forgotten corners of the loft or garage in various states of malfunction, why would I buy a new one? Perhaps it would be fun to do a spot of DXing again? No thanks, I don't look back too fondly on the horrible racket of several FM signals competing for dominance of the channel (although it was a fun novelty to a teenager at the time) and if the conditions are supporting such a thing I might as well be on 24/28 MHz Amateur bands instead, maybe 29 MHz "10 fm" to re-live FM DXing in a more civilised way.

But, why do I find myself yearning for the fun I had back then, waiting for The Dukes to reappear on a Free-To-Air TV channel, and looking keenly at those adverts for the latest generation 80 channel multi-standard rigs? It's in my blood! Could it be possible that people might get fed up with their internet and smart phones and the craze comes back? :-)




The rest of this page is mostly the same as it was when first written in 2003 or earlier. Things may have changed a little, but I thought I'd leave it as a record of how I felt at the time!


Thoughts

Some say CB was intended as a short range hobby communications facility. "Intended" doesn't come into it in the UK. The government gave way to public demand. The people wanted 27MHz, the same system as the USA, the same size antennas, the whole lot. Back then part of the thrill of CB was working 'skip' to the USA too. We were eventually fobbed off with FM on different frequencies. This has since meant that any DX openings cannot be properly taken advatage of.

Legal CB grants the public access to 11 meters, albeit with the limitations of FM. The public are now used to being able to use this band in any way they see fit. We are used to DXing to other countries where they use FM. Many MANY people have decided the law is an ass and do their own thing with SSB regardless. Many of us would rather have FULL LEGAL access (SSB) in order to take part on a level playing field with other countries. Not too much to ask, IMHO. For now, when the band is flooded with SSB 'skip' we legal FM-ers can't make sense of it or call back. They say wouldn't there be more TVI with SSB? But how can there be - any TV totally unaffected by 4W of constant carrier is not going to be affected by a varying signal that doesn't rise above the same upper power limit at any time. If there's TVI then there's a problem somewhere, regardless of mode. Some actual TVI may be worse in effect with SSB than FM, but most people still find ANY TVI objectionable and will try to cure it. It is more correct to say that SSB makes existing TVI worse, but that TVI can usually be cured quite easily. A type approved 27MHz SSB set would cause less problems than a legal amateur running 100W on 28MHz.

So it is wrong to suggest that CB is just local and short range. Working skip DX is part of the nature of 11m, part of CB back then and always will be. By some odd irony, the USA actually doesn't permit DX over ranges of greater than 153 miles, but this doesn't apply in practice, and doesn't feature in the rules in any other country. 11m is the band for the non-amateur DX enthusiast to enjoy, and no legislation is likely to stop it, it's too well established, and too difficult and pointless to enforce otherwise. DX-ing is a recognized radio sport, and while it fits within the bounds of the definition of amateur radio there is not necessarily a need to understand all the technical details as an amateur is required to. Some hams will snobbily look down their noses at the mere mention of CB, and make childish remarks about brain-dead 'appliance operators' etc. They only make themselves look foolish.

CB : Allows you to communicate and fiddle about with accessories
AR : Allows you to communicate and fiddle about with the guts of it.

Specifics aside (exams, callsigns, logbooks, operating procedures etc), that's all there is to it in principle, to a 'glorified CB-er' (ha ha!) amateur like myself. That's what the regulations permit, all that matters to me overall. Let's be honest, you don't need a ham license to play with electronics, to use a receiver, experiment with antennas, power supplies, microphones and speech processors, to use a CB. The only action that actually requires an amateur license is the specific one of transmitting on an amateur band. All those who say that 'real' amateurs build their own equipment are missing the point - anyone can tinker with radio electronics without a license.

People like me look at what's allowed with the amateur service, not what may have been **intended** a century ago. If some 'real amateurs' see things differently that's their problem. Tough, we're here to stay. Share your playpen, kiddies. The radio spectrum belongs to all of us. You want a private club? Go play golf!

People say local CB is dead. It isn't, yet! What we have are 80 channels that anyone can use for any almost any speech purpose. Great! Only, in real life you'll find either no activity whatsoever, or a packed band full of would-be DJs and idiots intent on spoiling things for others.

There are ways to avoid the idiots though. Have a secret meeting channel with your mates - where you can meet up when there's a problem on the current channel. Make overs VERY brief when meeting there, just passing another channel number. Meet on the new channel with "OK?" .. "yup" and keep quiet for a minute or two. The idiot will have no idea where you are and get bored.

Or you can have a arrange a next-channel system without having one fixed rendez-vous. Every time you meet on a new channel, start by giving the channel number you'll go to NEXT time. Have a code word that means "I'm moving on to the next channel" - it's usually possible for messages to pass at least in one direction over the top of any jamming.

The practice of waiting for a few minutes on an unknown channel is what really gets them bored enough to give up, unless they have NOTHING better to do!

Away from such trouble spots CB is still useful for groups of people wanting to keep in touch. Until the skip comes in... SSB is the main problem for the UK. For long periods the whole system is completely swamped with interference from signals that mess up the FM reception. This makes local communication impossible. It would be nice to talk back to those interfering stations but the UK does not allow the use of SSB. Well, that's CB ruined then.

The future

It doesn't look good for CB longterm. 27MHz is a joke when the skip is there. There will be other ways to communicate easily before long.

Imagine high-speed internet access, and how that will allow quick real-time voice communication worldwide. Imagine the newsgroups with each message being spoken instead of typed - and almost instant to download. Imagine this mobile, wherever you are, instead of tethered to your computer - open, speech chatrooms - who would need radio (as we know it) then?

Imagine a mobile phone sized widget, with free (or low cost) mobile HIGH SPEED net access. It will be like having a handheld walky-talky with a non-stop-action stream of chat, like listening to a global-coverage repeater.

It won't be long. It will stun the telecomms industry. We could even see it spiral totally out of control by having a system where mobile units pass messages around between each other (as nodes on the web) without any FIXED parts of the system. Totally inter-mobile, relying on sufficient numbers of units being in the area. Enthusiasts would provide their own repeaters to extend the service out into rural areas.

Where does that leave CB?!! Looking to the present though, there are three main types of radio use without becoming a radio amateur:

  • Low-power handheld - now well served by PMR 446
  • Base/mobile use that is well served by CB SOME OF THE TIME
  • DX-ing - not well served at all, leading to the 27MHz SSB and 6.6MHz problems.
Perhaps scrap the present CB system and allowing type-approved use of USB on 3kHz channels between 26.96 and 28MHz to cater for the DX-er (hopefully world-wide) and legitimize what's already happening? Callsigns would help.
But it's so straightforward to get an M3 callsign (and progress through other classes without learning Morse) that is this really worth doing? Anyone who hated the thought of learning Morse now has nothing to stop them getting licenced and using 28MHz SSB legally.

But there is a need for the kind of local service that allows a low-powered service with roof-mounted antennas to achieve local CB-like ranges WITHOUT any possibility of SSB interference (i.e. above 30MHz) preferably using CTCSS/DCS as with PMR 446. With CTCSS, and given the current demand, I would imagine 20 channels or less would meet the demand. A 200kHz ( 20 x 10kHz ) section of spectrum allocated throughout Europe somewhere between 30 and 217 is hardly asking too much is it? The same bandwidth as ONE radio mic channel?

27MHz SSB should eventually ease off ( with access to HF much easier) and to make matters bearable for FM users of 27MHz I would say CTCSS is needed.

The license structure of Amateur Radio in the UK has changed. With Morse no longer required for access to HF, and a more simply obtained license class allowing a CB-ishly local 433MHz service, it seems that anyone wishing to use radio in any style vaguely amateur-like will find little in their way. Some people find this horrifying while I welcome it. We all have to start somewhere. If the snobs want an exclusive club tough luck. They can have nets where outsiders are unwelcome, I'll leave them to it. They aren't likely to get any more abuse than they do already (not that I condone that - I'll happily track down anyone making a pain of themself).

With Amateur Radio sorted and worthy of its place in the 21st century, this still leaves a demand for skip-free UHF CB for normal people not interested in radio for its own sake, and perhaps for a non-amateur DX/local 27MHz.

The call for UHF CB

Since we lost 934MHz there has been some clamour for a decent skip-free UHF-based CB. PMR446 is good for low range, and many countries have equivilant services, but it just doesn't cut it for CB-style use. But Australia has 40 channels at 477MHz. Japan has 903MHz. Sweden and Finland have VHF services on 31 an 70MHz. And the USA has GMRS - a simple license gets you up to 50W on 462 and 467MHz. And they have 5 channels at 151/154 MHz too, with CB-like range.

A coordinated campaign for Europe has got to be worth a try, hasn't it? Asking just the UK Government for something is likely to be as fruitless as an empty basket. Demanding something of the European ERO is the only way anything is going to filter through to the UK. Trouble is, there has been an awful lot of work at the ERO just trying to harmonise 27MHz!

Even finding a spot for TETRA Direct Mode, or a common allocation for Low Power Devices, can take an age. Just one country can foul up the best laid plans. I'm not too optimistic about a common UHF CB system, but let's not give up :o)

If we pressure Europe, in conjunction with other national societies, it just might get discussed. I think it's premature to even think in terms of frequencies, but with 410-430 and 450-470 being 2 x 10 MHz bands suitable for TETRA, somewhere in 430-450 would seem the best bet. Somewhere in 442-448 because 432-438 is likely to always remain an amateur band and not be used for TETRA, even if amateurs lose 430-432 and/or 438-440. An allocation within 430-450 would also mean that any equipment taken to the USA would only affect their Amateur Radio band and not foul up any commercial business services.

As the police have cleared from 450-453/464-467 onto PSRCP TETRA at 380-400, who knows how these vacated 6MHz will be used? The whole 20MHz of 450-470 is earmarked as a candidate for public TETRA in 2 chunks of 10MHz (for base and mobile). If Marine On-board systems stay put at 457/467, they have 10MHz splits anyway and so no spectrum is left unusable for TETRA 10MHz splits there.

I believe imported USA equipment at 462 and 467 (GMRS and FRS) is likely to be an increasing problem and spectrum may have to remain set aside for this. Here is an opportunity to allow FRS in Europe, after all it's likely to be (ab)used here anyway if not allowed. There are 15 channels at 12.5kHz spacing from 462.550 to 462.725 as used by FRS (7) and GMRS (8), and 15 more at 467.550-467.725 - a new 30 channel CB service could use these channels. There is a possibility of using the space 10MHz lower at 452.55-452.725 and 457.55-457.725 - making a 60 channel CB service where some 14 channels can be used with FRS radios. This system would feature 4 sets of 15 channels, each set spread 5MHz apart over some 15MHz in all - but I suspect this is too much of a spread to be acceptable and that some other service would get the 452/457 parts.

Further down the spectrum there isn't a snowflake in hell's chance of anywhere from 217 to 410 - DAB, miltary AERO (OR), PSRCP TETRA and satellite/LPD - except maybe 389.9-390 as this spot within the 380-400 Public Safety TETRA band cannot be paired with 399.9-400 (satellite). I don't expect they'd like anything so close to government TETRA though!

From 470 upwards is unlikely until UHF TV bands are vacated by the march of 'progress' towards digital telly. I don't favour anything at 800MHz or higher, personally.

However, with 12.5kHz channels we only really need a very modest slice of spectrum. PMR446 (analogue and digital) fits into just 0.2MHz, and a 16 channel CB system would be better than nothing.

The bands 445.2-445.3 OR 447.3-447.4 have been proposed for civil TETRA Direct Mode (no base station repeaters required). Perhaps when they decide on one of these, we can pressure them for the other one! Enough for 8 channels as with 446. Then again 444 has a nice ring to it :o) (UPDATE It has just been decided that 445.2-445.3 is to be used in Europe for TETRA DMO)

We really want at least 20 channels and some repeater possibilities though, don't we? Or do we? I could do without repeaters, become an amateur if that's your interest. 934 never had them. But the Aussies and Yanks do :o)

Some enthusiasts call for PMR446 to be extended, more channels and external antennas allowed. That would give us a CB service, but destroy the nature of PMR446. I think the two need to be different services. Either call for more channels at 446 with no PMR446 overlap, or say 20 channels at 444 (0.25MHz total), or 30 at 462/467. I personally favour 462/467 as the 450-470 band is being re-farmed, imported FRS and GMRS will be there anyway, and it's a natural candidate for repeaters with a GMRS 5MHz split.

We need a UHF CB mailing list and a central web-site to co-ordinate efforts. If such a list ever gained thousands of members throughout Europe that would have to count for something. If enough people ask for the same thing, Europe must surely debate the topic. That is our best hope.

Debate on uk.rec.radio.cb please! Try Google Groups for Usenet newsgroups on the web.


11m DX

11m (11 meters) means the 27MHz band - or even down as far as 25MHz. SSB is allowed in quite a few large countries, but is not permitted by many administrations - repressive regimes like the UK :o) - although it continues nonetheless as "freeband". Here are the channels in use - although "opened-up" ham radio equipment allows operation on any frequency, instead of by channel.

Here in the UK only FM is allowed for CB. Not very useful for DX, as all the channels will be swamped with noise during openings. Pathetic.

You will hear calling on 27.555 - very nicely done too, puts the amateurs to shame! Calling is by announcing the station and the frequency the station will be moving to, instead of the poorer amateur practice of clogging a calling frequency with initial contacts before finally changing frequency. Operating is very good on the whole.

Callsigns usually consist of a country prefix number (or division), followed by letters and numbers of the station's own choice. Usually a station will belong to a radio club such as Alpha Tango and would use the AT letters followed by their membership number. Similarly the White Cliffs DX Group (link dead) used WC (fnarr!). For example, a UK based member of the United Kingdom (link dead) club might be 26 UK 01 and on holiday in France would sign as 14/26UK01.

See the divisions page for more details.

The pirate nature of 11m operating gives it an appeal that will ensure activity well into the future. Those who DX here do so despite the ease of getting an Amateur Licence, so I believe there will always be a core of operators for whom legalisation would kill the joy of it. I can't imagine it affects anyone else unduly, so unless there are complaints of interference I expect the authorities will just turn a blind eye.


Channel
-3
-2
-1
EU
+1
+2
+3
UK
0125.61526.06526.51526.96527.41527.86528.315
27.60125
0225.62526.07526.52526.97527.42527.87528.325
27.61125
0325.63526.08526.53526.98527.43527.88528.335
27.62125
03a25.64526.09526.54526.99527.44527.89528.345
---------
0425.65526.10526.55527.00527.45527.90528.355
27.63125
0525.66526.11526.56527.01527.46527.91528.365
27.64125
0625.67526.12526.57527.02527.47527.92528.375
27.65125
0725.68526.13526.58527.03527.48527.93528.385
27.66125
07a25.69526.14526.59527.04527.49527.94528.395
---------
0825.70526.15526.60527.05527.50527.95528.405
27.67125
0925.71526.16526.61527.06527.51527.96528.415
27.68125
1025.72526.17526.62527.07527.52527.97528.425
27.69125
1125.73526.18526.63527.08527.53527.98528.435
27.70125
11a25.74526.19526.64527.09527.54527.99528.445
---------
1225.75526.20526.65527.10527.55528.00528.455
27.71125
1325.76526.21526.66527.11527.56528.01528.465
27.72125
1425.77526.22526.67527.12527.57528.02528.475
27.73125
1525.78526.23526.68527.13527.58528.03528.485
27.74125
15a25.79526.24526.69527.14527.59528.04528.495
---------
1625.80526.25526.70527.15527.60528.05528.505
27.75125
1725.81526.26526.71527.16527.61528.06528.515
27.76125
1825.82526.27526.72527.17527.62528.07528.525
27.77125
1925.83526.28526.73527.18527.63528.08528.535
27.78125
19a25.84526.29526.74527.19527.64528.09528.545
---------
2025.85526.30526.75527.20527.65528.10528.555
27.79125
2125.86526.31526.76527.21527.66528.11528.565
27.80125
2225.87526.32526.77527.22527.67528.12528.575
27.81125
2325.90526.35526.80527.25527.70528.15528.605
27.82125
2425.88526.33526.78527.23527.68528.13528.585
27.83125
2525.89526.34526.79527.24527.69528.14528.595
27.84125
2625.91526.36526.81527.26527.71528.16528.615
27.85125
2725.92526.37526.82527.27527.72528.17528.625
27.86125
2825.93526.38526.83527.28527.73528.18528.635
27.87125
2925.94526.39526.84527.29527.74528.19528.645
27.88125
3025.95526.40526.85527.30527.75528.20528.655
27.89125
3125.96526.41526.86527.31527.76528.21528.665
27.90125
3225.97526.42526.87527.32527.77528.22528.675
27.91125
3325.98526.43526.88527.33527.78528.23528.685
27.92125
3425.99526.44526.89527.34527.79528.24528.695
27.93125
3526.00526.45526.90527.35527.80528.25528.705
27.94125
3626.01526.46526.91527.36527.81528.26528.715
27.95125
3726.02526.47526.92527.37527.82528.27528.725
27.96125
3826.03526.48526.93527.38527.83528.28528.735
27.97125
3926.04526.49526.94527.39527.84528.29528.745
27.98125
4026.05526.50526.95527.40527.85528.30528.755
27.99125

Please do not use, 11 meter AM broadcasting band 25.6 - 26.1
Please do not use, frequencies in use for maritime service 26.1 - 26.175
Please do not use, frequencies in use for remote controlled models and LPDs!
Please do not use, 10 meter amateur radio band! 28 - 29.7
These are the ONLY frequencies you can LEGALLY use in the UK!
USB Calling channel
Interferes with UK FM CB. Thanks a lot!

Note that "going up 2 bands" from 19 puts you on 28.085 which is within an amateur band. Please don't!

It would be good if there was a convention to avoid at least 10 channels worth, just from 27.7 to 27.8 (hi channels 26 to 35 even) to allow the UK clear use of their FM channels 12 to 20 including 14 and 19. I can dream!

Other services using 26MHz:

  • Paging between 26.225 and 26.935 - i.e. most of Lo and Lo-Lo.

  • There are three channels at 26.25, 26.35 and 26.45 (12.5kHz) used in the UK for Outside broadcasts, Programme Making etc, corresponding to Lo-Lo channels 15a,16, 23,25, 34,35.


Simon, 32010 :

Has there ever been a case where any CBer has caused interference
to a public service except where a receiver has just been overloaded
by strong signals? The only things which an illegal CB could do are

1) Cause direct breakthrough on to audio or video equipment. So can
   a radio amateur legally using 400 watts into a 4 element yagi on
   28.005 MHz. So can LF/MF and HF broadcast stations using up to
   2 Megawatts of AM power. What is done to stop these breaking
   through on telephone lines etc. - nothing, the phone lines in the
   area have to be filtered. It is BT who usually has to pay for RF
   filtering on telephone lines. There are MF transmitters using up
   to 5000 watts on sites which are virtually in somebodys back garden. 

2) Overload RF stages in recievers. So can anything. So could a taxi
   firm next door. So could a radio amateur using 400 watts to a 48
   element yagi on 70 cms. So could any broadcast station, many legal
   broadcast stations use 100 watts from the top of tower blocks (so
   do pirates but they are ALWAYS going to interfere with the
   emergency services for some reason). What about people on the top
   floor?

3) Produce a lot of harmonics. So could a home made QRP rig. The
   amateur radio standards for out of band transmission aren't hard
   to meet. Something like no more than 1% out of band. 1% of 400
   watts is 4 watts. Any piece of commercial equipment would almost
   certainly be better filtered than this. Do SSB CB radios go
   through less thorough testing procedures than FM ones? Which has
   the cleanest output, a Ranger 2950 or something built from a kit
   on the 10 metre band which was set up using only a power meter?

4) Upset other CBers. There is always someone who complains about
   hearing foreign people on the CB. They probably believed the RA
   when they said it was a short range band. Yeah, and 10 metres is
   a short range band too, with distances of 5-10 miles expected. 
   What if you were doing CW on 28.02 MHz with a 100 watt radio.
   Wouldn't there be the possibility that local CBers would notice
   a blocking effect on distant signals when your key was down.
   This might become rather annoying after a while (especially on
   channel 40). You have the privilege of being able to cause
   interference to absolutely anything because you can remember
   some dots and dashes.



DX prefixes

For a table listing these 'divisions', with maps, please follow this link.



Echo Charlie

To read about pirate 6.6MHz acitivities, please follow this link.



PMR446

One legal way to communicate via radio (ignoring the pathetic 49MHz system) is via PMR446, 8 channels at the UHF frequency of 446 to 446.1 MHz. Please follow links here for more details.




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