What Is CB Radio?

The Citizens Band Radio Service, or CB, as it is commonly called, is a type of radio communication under the category of Personal Radio Service. CB radios are used for both business and personal and do not require any licensing to operate. The short-distance radio communication operates on a 40 channel shared on AM or SingleBand (SSB) mode within the 27-MHz band. SSB mode is not available on all CB radio, people using a regular CB radio cannot properly receive SSB signals, it will sound garbled. For more information on SSB mode see our SingleBand Explained article.

SSB offers less noise and greater range than AM mode and is usually found on higher end CB radios. SSB has two modes, Upper Sideband and Lower Sideband. You can only communicate with other SSB CB radios when in SSB mode.

Regardless of the mode used, a mobile CB radio range can extend to 25 miles depending on environmental circumstances (terrain, weather, etc), the type of antenna installed, and type of CB you are using. However, the average range tends to be closer to 3-7 miles.

The maximum power levels for CB operation depend on the type of signal you are transmitting. The FCC allowable power output which is four watts of power, whereas, SSB mode is allowed up to 12 watts Peak Envelope Power, or PEP. You are not allowed by the FCC, to raise the power output of your CB unit, attach any type of power amplifier, or modify the unit internally. The amount of power that actually gets out can be affected by the type of antenna used, its condition and location, the physical length of the whip, and more importantly the proper matching of the standing wave ratio or SWR. For more information on SWR please refer to the SWR articles in our information section.

There are many factors to consider when selecting your CB, what features you are needing/wanting, type of speaker, size of radio, and most importantly your antenna. In order to help ease your decision making please refer back to my informational section to review the differences and advantages to all of the possible options.