FCC to legalize CB DXing and boost FRS power

(Source: Southgate ARC)

FCC to modernize Part 95 Regs – GMRS, FRS, CB

The FCC is to legalize 27 MHz CB DXing and boost power of license exempt UHF FM Family Radio Service (equivalent of UK PMR 446)

Under its new Chair Ajit Pai, the FCC is seeking to modernize radio regulations and is scrapping pointless rules like the 250 km (155.3 mile) restriction on Citizen Band Radio contacts.

As yet there is no word on the FCC taking action on the archaic Part 97 amateur radio regulations. Over 40 years ago the FCC considered these regulations were in need of a major overhaul and in 1976 introduced the “Regulation by Bandwidth” Docket 20777. The FCC eventually abandoned the modernization attempt after a a long campaign against it waged by the ARRL.

There was a desire by some radio amateurs in the late 1970’s to restrict the bandwidth of digital data transmissions but any form of “Regulation by Bandwidth” was considered anathema. This resulted in the introduction in 1980 of a Symbol Rate restriction on digital transmissions (avoiding the dreaded words “Bandwidth Restriction”). This has crippled amateur radio data communications ever since, preventing amateurs using modern modes.

It may well be that before too long the FCC will make another attempt at reforming Part 97.

Regarding the Part 95 changes the ARRL says:

In a lengthy Report and Order (R&O) in a proceeding (WT Docket No. 10-119) dating back 7 years, the FCC has announced rule changes affecting the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS), the Family Radio Service (FRS), the Citizens Band Radio Service (CBRS or “CB”), as well as other applications that fall under the FCC’s Part 95 Personal Radio Services (PRS) rules and regulations. Part 95 devices typically are low-power units that communicate over shared spectrum and, with some exceptions, do not require an individual user license from the FCC. As the R&O explains, common examples of PRS devices include “walkie-talkies;” radio-control cars, boats, and planes; hearing assistance devices; CB radios; medical implant devices; and Personal Locator Beacons.

“This draft Report and Order completes a thorough review of the PRS rules in order to modernize them, remove outdated requirements, and reorganize them to make it easier to find information,” the FCC said in a summary attached to the R&O. “As a result of this effort, the rules will become consistent, clear, and concise.”

GMRS and FRS devices are used for personal communication over several miles; compact FRS handhelds, often sold in pairs, are widely available. While GMRS and FRS share spectrum, GMRS provides for greater communications range and requires an FCC license; FRS does not.

“The rules will increase the number of communications channels for both GMRS and FRS, expand digital capabilities to GMRS (currently allowed for FRS), and increase the power/range for certain FRS channels to meet consumer demands for longer range communications (while maintaining higher power capabilities for licensed GMRS),” the FCC explained.

The amended rules eventually will eliminate combination FRS/GMRS radios for the most part, but allow up to 2 W PEP output for FRS transceivers.

Read the full ARRL story at

FCC Report and Order

The irony here is that CB DXing (regardless of power) has been in wide practice since the begging of the Citizen’s Band service! I suppose I never realized (at legal power) DXing was illegal. 🙂

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11 thoughts on “FCC to legalize CB DXing and boost FRS power

  1. Harald Kuhl

    but the relevant FCC document still says:

    Ҥ 95.933 Prohibited CBRS uses.
    In addition to the prohibited uses set forth in
    § 95.333, the operator of a CBRS station must not
    use a CBRS station:
    (d) To communicate with stations in other
    countries, except General Radio Service stations in

    So, you can DX only within the US?

    1. Michael Black

      The change hasn’t taken place yet.

      But that bit may still remain. Japan long had a ham license that allowed operation below 144MHz, without a code test, even though international laws required a code test. My understanding was that it worked because the holders of that license weren’t allowed to communicate with anyone outside Japan.

      CB has never been an international allocation, and for some time in the. US and I think Canada, haven’t required licensing. So keeping it in the US may be important. Besides, other countries may not want DXing in this range either. They can’t legislate propagation, but they can limit who to talk to.


  2. Mario

    As a CB’er from the 70’s could not understand the rule about DX’ing when the band was open so this is good news.

  3. Chuck E

    As a wideband radio receiver owner, I’m hoping both these developments will be a real shot in the arm for CB and FRS. This is great news!

  4. Ken Hansen n2vip

    As a CB’er in the late 70’s I once worked PA from CA using nothing more than 12W SSB and a hand-made dipole hanging vertically outside my second story window.

    DX was always illegal, and typically not possible, on CB – you had to either invest serious money into a tower/beam, an illegal amplifier, or operate outside the FCC-authorized 23/40 channels.

    Ken, KADQ-7669

    1. William Ellingsworth

      I Am a CB’er and I have made contact in every state across the United States except N.Y. Road Island ME and Washington State . as well as Canada Mexico South Paulo Brazil the Bahamas Jamaica Puerto Rico and as far east as South London England… With a stock cobra 29 LTD Classic and a 5/8 wave Maco v58 antenna no amplifier .. with no problem and excellent audio reports. The FCC should have made Citizen band in the 400 megahertz range and put the 440 amateurs in 27 megahertz if they wanted to keep long distance Communications to a minimum

      1. Michael Black

        CB was up around 450MHz, and 11metres was a ham band.

        In the late forties, there was a 450MHz allocation, I forget the precise name but it was “CB”. But it was too early, the equipment for the frequency was too expensive, so a common transceiver was very simple, a superegen receiver. So few made use of the band.

        About a decade later, 27MHz, which had been a ham band shared with diathermy and other things, went to CB. It was easy to do since it wasn’t an international allocation for ham radio. One little known thong is that in Canada, CB came a couple of years later and only 19 channels, a tiny slice remained as a ham band, I think until May of 1972.

        The real problem was that after the War, tv got a big allocation, 6×12 MHz worth, 72MHz, and then later 70 UHF channels, another 420 MHz. So a big spread of spectrum before anyone thought about what else might come along, or thought about how technology might improve or become cheaper. So the spectrum was locked up, unless you went really high in frequency.

        So after that, any new radio services had to come from elsewhere. That pits a limit on things, and means you had to choose from frequencies that could be taken rather than what might be best for the service.

        So CB was at 27MHz, easy to grab and easy to build cheap equipment for. When there was an attempt at another CB band in the early seventies, the 220MHz ham band was the target (another ham band that wasn’t an international allocation). Equipment by then could be readily cheap, but it was high enough that it would be a local band.

        Eventually “Class A” CB became the General Mobile Radio Service, still for general use but more costly. TV lost some UHF channels for public service. When cellphones came along, radio for the masses though considered telephones, the allocation was high enough that it was making use of new frequencies, but the design of the system made it an efficient use of the spectrum and didn’t require so much from the end user’s equipment.

        The move to DTV released more of the tv channels for other uses. The shift to higher frequencies has released frequencies, there are more HF ham bands than forty years ago, and in recent years, some LF frequencies have become ham bands. (And ham bands are spread over the spectrum because of its traditional experimental nature, different frequencies allowing different propagation, at the very least. 27MHz didn’t offer much different from 28ZmhZ, but the 420MHz band was very different, and wide enough to play with amateur tv and wideband FM.


      2. Steve

        When CB was first established 400 MHz would have been expensive/impractical for the sort of personal communications it was intended for.

  5. Keith Heimbold

    I play around on FRS with my 4 year old son and it is fun as I am trying to get him more interested in radio and prep him for taking the ham exams soon. increasing the power levels for the UHF bands seems to be a response to all the Chinese radios hitting the market. I am not sure how impactful it will be but I guess it is an ok development.

    1. Ken Hansen n2vip

      As I recall, FRS and GMRS radio services had some very strict rules over the design of the radios – power limits, non-removable antennas, no programable frequencies, etc. the cheap Chinese radios you mention violate multiple rules, not just increased power.

    2. Michael Black

      Here in Canada, the rules are different, so we have walkie talkies for FRS that would be illegal in the US (at least until the rules change). So we get GMRS frequencies, and I think a bit more power.

      I’ve not really paid attention, but I wonder if this will equalize things between the two countries. Some of the problem of license free is that the end user doesn’t even have to come near any list of rules.



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