Tag Archives: CB

Guest Post: Citizens Band FM mode is long overdue

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Peter Laws, who shares the following guest post:


Adding FM as an allowable mode on CB seems long overdue

by Peter Laws

The FCC’s recent action to add FM as an allowable mode on CB seems long overdue.  See the final rule as published in the Federal Register on September 28, 2021: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/09/28/2021-19399/review-of-the-commissions-personal-radio-services-rules

Looking through old CB and amateur radio magazines from the 1970s it appears that the FCC considered allowing FM around the time that the service expanded to 40 channels.  The FCC being the FCC took their usual “what’s the least we can do to make this issue go away?” path and just added 17 new channels starting at the beginning of 1977.  Other than that expansion, they didn’t really change anything.  There were incumbents on the spectrum re-allocated to CB, too, and licensees were given a 2-year grace period to vacate what was to become channels 24, 25, and 26 and up.

Personally, your humble reporter is happy that the Commission has finally allowed FM on CB.  This should be a big improvement for people who are actually trying to communicate.  The reduction of static alone will be welcome.  There are claims that AM has better range than FM at the same power levels.  I suspect that people who make that claim are confusing AM broadcast (on MF) to FM broadcast (on VHF) but the proof will be in the pudding once we start to see new FM CBs hit the market.

And what about that?  When will we see new radios?  It should happen pretty quickly, almost certainly by the end of the year “Christmas” rush assuming no supply chain delays.  If you are unfamiliar with CB outside of North America, you may be surprised to find that radios that will meet the new FCC rules already exist.  I don’t mean those quasi-legal “Export” radios that many are fond of, but main-stream consumer radios from vendors like Midland, Cobra (the petitioner that got FM approved), Uniden, and President.

If you are an amateur licensee, you may be familiar with CEPT, the Conférence européenne des administrations des postes et des télécommunications.  That’s an association of the various FCC equivalents (and USPS equivalents) in each of the European nations.  In the amateur world, CEPT has a simple reciprocal licensing regime that allows US amateurs to operate in CEPT countries and amateurs from CEPT countries to operate in the US without any extra paperwork.  CEPT also works to harmonize radio and other telecommunication rules regimes between the different nations to make it easier for vendors to build equipment acceptable to all and making the market bigger.

For the most part — there are exceptions — CEPT nations have all adopted the same CB radio band plan and rules.  Here’s the surprise: they are nearly identical to the FCC rules!  Same 40 channels, even with the weirdness between channels 22 and 25 and the skipped channels for radio control, the 4 W power output, etc.  The only big difference is that CEPT allows FM in addition to AM and SSB.

So a CEPT-spec radio will meet the new FCC rules today.  A vendor will simply need to make certain that their product’s firmware and other components really do match US requirements, get it tested by a contract certification facility (those facilities will also need to update their FCC CB test procedures for the addition of FM), and file the paperwork with the Commission.  This is far simpler than actually having to engineer the addition of FM to an existing AM-only product.

One jurisdiction that has their own rules, in addition to allowing CEPT rules, is the United Kingdom.  When CB was legalized in the UK in 1981, the government allowed FM (only) on 40 channels that start at 27.60125 MHz and go up every 10 kHz to 27.99125 MHz.  A decade or two after that, the UK also made operation of CEPT-spec CB radios legal with the result being the UK CBers have 80 legal channels available – 40 CEPT channels with all three modes and an additional 40 with FM only.

Don’t expect to see “multi-norm” radios in the US like those marketed in Europe.  Multi-norm units allow for switching between CEPT, UK, and other national channel/power/mode layouts, often with only a few simple button presses.  Historically, the FCC has been reluctant to allow radios that have user-adjustable operating parameters outside of the Amateur Radio Service so watch for firmware on US versions to be locked down.

Undoubtedly, some will claim that this is all being done so that Cobra (the petitioner in this case) can sell more radios.  What is the problem with this?  The new rules do not change anything with regard to the current rules.  If you have a legal AM or AM/SSB radio now, you will still have a legal AM or AM/SSB radio after October 28, 2021.  And after that, it will be legal to sell an FCC-approved radio that includes FM in addition to AM or AM and SSB.  That’s right – radios may include FM but must have AM.

Generally speaking, I am one that is not in favor of deregulation.  But if you look through old FCC regulations, either in Part 97 (Amateur) or Part 95 (CB, GMRS, et al), there really were a lot of silly regulations.  But only silly by the time they went away; at the time they were created they were, or were at least thought to be, vital.  Time showed that some of those rules really weren’t vital and many have been removed.  One of those rules was the 250-km limit on CB communications.  It’s likely that at the time the rule was promulgated it was intended to reinforce that Class D CB (as it was known then) was intended as a short-range communications system.  The ionosphere made sure that the “DX rule” was nearly impossible to enforce as even regular, law-abiding citizens could and did answer a “breaker” who ended up being 1000 miles away!  In Cobra’s initial 2017 petition to the FCC, they requested abolition of the distance limit and the Commission agreed but in that same Report and Order, they declined to add FM.  Cobra petitioned for reconsideration of that point (FM) and here we are.

While there are still allocations for other services between channel 40 and the start of the 10-m amateur band, and while there are still licensees there, it is hard to imagine that those licensees are actually using that spectrum.  Free-banders, yes, licensed stations, unlikely.  A quick tour of the Commission’s Universal Licensing System shows a number of licensees in the spectrum between channel 40 (27.405 MHz) and the start of the amateur allocation at 28.0 MHz.  Most, however, appear to be dealers, consultants, and manufacturers in the communications business that are required to have blanket licenses for any band that they intend to use.  As a result, there are many licenses that cover 25-50 MHz (and many other bands) inclusive for demonstration purposes.

So where is this story going?  Why not petition the FCC to allow UK-spec radios to be used in the US?  Literally, almost no one is using this spectrum aside from freebanders that may already be there.  The reason that the Congress reserved to itself the ability to regulate the radio spectrum, later delegated to the FCC, was to ensure that the spectrum was used in the most efficient manner possible and to prevent interference.  Since almost no one uses this patch of spectrum at 27 MHz, why not let it become an expanded “national park” for hobbyists?

If you are thinking, “well, if the FCC does that for 27 MHz, why not new bands in other, largely-abandoned spectrum?”  This reporter’s answer is “sure, why not?”  This is, after all, how amateurs got bands at 630 and 2200 meters – the spectrum was largely abandoned.  WL2XUP is an Part 5 experimental station that is transmitting various digital modes between 40.66 and 40.7 MHz.  This roughly aligns with 8-meter amateur allocations that are popping up in other jurisdictions.  Maybe this 8-meter experiment, too, will pave the way to a new allocation like the Part 5 operations did on the new MF and LF bands mentioned above.

It’s a brave new world in CB.

Peter Laws has been licensed as a ham since 1991 (after a false start c.1978), has listened to scanners since 1982, was on CB in the late 1970s, and started DXing on MW and SW in the mid-1970s.  He edits columns in both LWCA’s Lowdown and IRCA’s DX Monitor.  He lives in Norman, Oklahoma, with his wife, several small doggoes, and many radios and antennas.

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Radio Waves: FM CB, Radio Listeners in Zimbabwe, Tom Clark SK, and SAQ Grimeton UN-Day Transmission

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!


Biggest change for CBs in four decades as FM mode gets approved by FCC (CCJ Digital)

The biggest change for CB radios in the U.S. since the late 1970s is coming and it looks to be a good thing for improved voice quality and cutting through frustrating background noise common at the peak of day.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently approved FM to join alongside AM and single-sideband (SSB) modes on CBs. It’s a big change to old technology that offers some clear advantages.

On the plus side, FM will provide users with improved audio quality and greater ability to circumvent background signal noise typical on CB’s long-standing AM side. The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at U.C. Berkeley reports that FM will provide an “improved signal to noise ratio (about 25dB) with regards to man-made interference” over AM. That kind of reduction in background noise could prove popular with truckers who remain among the top users of CBs in the U.S.

Continue reading

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FCC approves FM for CB Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ron who shares the following news via the Southgate ARC:

FCC signals FM CB will be permitted on 27 MHz

63 years after the introduction of Class D 27 MHz AM CB Radio the FCC has agreed to permit FM to be used

From FCC Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration WT Docket No. 10-119, issued July 15, 2021:

What the Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration Would Do:

• Grant Cobra’s Petition requesting that the Commission allow FM as an optional modulation scheme for all existing 40 CB Radio Service channels (with AM remaining mandatory).

• Grant Motorola’s Petition requesting that the Commission allow automatic or periodic location and data transmissions in the GMRS and FRS. The Commission’s rules currently permit the transmission of location information and brief text messages initiated by a manual action and automatic responses of location information.

• Grant Medtronic’s Petition requesting the correction of typographical errors and rule changes in the Part 95 Personal Radio Services Rules Report and Order that inadvertently altered the substance of the Medical Device Radiocommunications Service (MedRadio) rules

The FCC say:

After considering this additional information, we conclude that allowing manufacturers to add FM as an optional modulation scheme will not substantially change the fundamental nature of the CB Radio Service and will improve the user experience, as described by Cobra and President. How people use the service will not materially change or be expanded. Further, Cobra states that AM is a “well established” operating mode that is unlikely to disappear, even if we permit operations in FM mode.

Continuing to mandate AM capability while permitting dual modulation will provide benefits to CB radio users who will have an additional modulation option, while maintaining the basic character of the service.

The addition of FM as a permitted mode will not result in additional interference because users who hear unintelligible audio on a particular channel can simply select another channel or switch modes.

Read FCC Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration WT Docket No. 10-119
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-374114A1.pdf

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The story of a 1970s CB Radio QSL card print house

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ulis (K3LU), who shares the following story of a popular CB Radio QSL Card design and print house:

73s and 88s :: The Ballad of Runnin Bare and Lil White Dove

We set a custom screensaver on Our AppleTV. Told it to pull images from Flickr tagged with “British Columbia.” After my wife and kids and I spent a few weeks in Vancouver and in various places on Vancouver Island, it had become one of our favorite places. We missed it.

And so, at night, after a show or movie ended and the AppleTV sat idle for a few minutes, a slideshow would automatically begin. The Parliamentary Buildings in Victoria, the Inner Harbor, the wild, rocky, tidepool-rich shores of Tofino, the murals of Chemainus.

Then, every once in a while, an illustration of some sort. I couldn’t tell what. A one-panel comic? Some kind of advertisement or flyer? It would be gone from the screen before I could really get a good look. Weeks would go by and I wouldn’t see it until, once again, there it was. It looked old, like something from the 60s or 70s. And it had numbers on it, like a code or a message: 73s and 88s.

It was the numbers that got me. Like the park rangers in The Shining calling for Wendy Torrance on the radio: “This is KDK-1 calling KDK-12. KDK-1 calling KDK-12. Are you receiving me?” They seemed to be saying something. But what? I had to find out. So, I took to Google, and began my search.[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article.

FYI: Although the CB Radio landscape is quite different than it was in the 70s, most modern shortwave radio receivers can tune to CB channels. Here’s a quick tutorial from our archives.

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CB radio manufacturer Cedar Electronics (Cobra) struggles with new tariffs

(Source: The Washington Post via Jeff McMahan)

CHICAGO — Cedar Electronics has been selling CB radios to American truckers since the 1960s, helping connect the workers who keep the U.S. economy rolling. But these days Cedar’s business isn’t exactly trucking along.

The Chicago-headquartered company is racing around Asia looking for other countries to host its manufacturing, after the radios Cedar makes in China and brings to the United States were hit with one of the Trump administration’s 25 percent tariffs this summer, making them more expensive to import.

The White House’s decision to extend its tariff campaign to an even broader range of Chinese imports starting Monday is putting similar pressure on more U.S. companies to uproot their Chinese manufacturing, and to consider layoffs, price hikes and investment cuts.

[…]Cedar Electronics’ predecessor company was the first to introduce CB radios to the market decades ago. “We like to joke it was the first social media device,” Karnes said. The radios, made famous by movies like “Smokey and the Bandit,” are still used by many truckers, despite the advent of cellphones.

Steven Fields, a trucker based in Kansas City, Mo., said he uses a CB to warn other drivers about bad weather and accidents. “Being prepared can make a big difference between a miserable trip and a safe trip,” he said.

About 15 years ago, Cedar moved its manufacturing to China to save money on parts and labor, Karnes said.

Cedar imports almost all of its Cobra-brand CBs to North America, where it holds almost 80 percent of the market. The radios are mostly sold at large truck stops, for $99 to $199, depending on the model.

When Cedar learned its CBs would be included on the initial tariff list targeting $50 billion in imports, it applied for an exemption and imported additional inventory by costly airfreight to have stock on hand before the tariffs took effect. That gave the company enough CBs to meet demand through September without having to raise prices, Karnes said.

Click here to read the full story and comment at The Washington Post.

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Citizens Band (CB) radio celebrates 60th anniversary

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ron, who reminds us that today is Class D CB radio’s 60th anniversary. From Wikipedia:

On September 11, 1958 the Class D CB service was created on 27 MHz, and this band became what is popularly known today as “Citizens Band”. There were only 23 channels at the time; the first 22 were taken from the former amateur radio service 11-meter band, and channel 23 was shared with radio-controlled devices. Some hobbyists continue to use the designation “11 meters” to refer to the Citizens Band and adjoining frequencies.

My dad was an avid CBer when I was a kid. He had an FCC-issued license and belonged to a healthy community of CBers in our part of the state. He had a beautiful yellow Robyn T-240D (same as pictured above) as a base station, and a mobile CB installed in every car. After the FCC dropped the licensing requirement, his activity on the bands slowed down although it did give me a chance to hop on.

My best friend (who lived about 1/4 mile away) and I used to keep in constant contact with our 40 channel 5 watt CB walkie talkies. It was great fun.

Of course, it was a treat when I would catch some “skip” and make contact with someone two states away with that same walkie talkie.

Like it or hate it, a lot of radio enthusiasts and ham radio operators cut their teeth on CB radio.

I was certainly one of them.

CB radio is still a pretty dynamic public radio space today.  True, it’s a bit of a free-for-all and if you can’t tolerate profanity and “colorful metaphors” then you best stay away.

You don’t need a CB radio in order to listen to the CB frequencies; most SDRs and many portable shortwave radios can tune in. If interested, check out this previous post: Listening to Citizens’ Band (CB) radio on your shortwave receiver.

Post readers: Anyone still use CB radio today? Anyone else get their start in CB radio? Any stories you’d like to share? Please comment!

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Tidlow explores 1970s CB radio culture through photos

(Source: British Journal of Photography)

Dart Player, from the photobook Eyeball Cards: The Art of British CB Radio Culture. © David Titlow, Four Corners Books

David Titlow is Eyeballing 1970s Citizens Band Radio culture

Before mobile phones and social medias, there was Citizens Band Radio – a now largely defunct technology whose culture has been unearthed by David Titlow. With the project going on show at PhotoEast festival from 24 May – 24 June, we revisit an article first published in August 2017

“It was before mobile phones, before the internet. It was the initial form of mass communication, a way you could chat to your friends for free,” says David Titlow as we talk about CB Radio, the now-obscure 1970s and 80s technology.

“I remember lots of people in Suffolk got a CB radio and thought they were in the Dukes of Hazard,” he laughs. “It was the same all over the country. It was a fascinating phenomenon.”

It’s the subject of Titlow’s new photobook, which brings together portraits of Citizens Band (CB) Radio users with their ‘calling cards’, known amongst the community as ‘eyeball cards’. These cards were a form of personal promotion – pseudonyms and artistic illustrations were used as a means of identifying the CB user, expressing something of their personality as well as giving the recipient their details.[…]

Click here to read the full article and enjoy Tidlow’s excellent photos.

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