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What is a Citizen Band Radio?

Proving its worth from many years, the Citizens Band (CB) radio makes use of a two-way radio service. From enabling a bidirectional voice communication system over 27MHz to providing 40 channels, the Citizen band radio works as a land mobile radio system. The Federal Communication Commission called it a unique radio service due to its wide range of channels (up to 120), and low-power transmitters. In the past, the design had to be approved by the FCC.

Peeking into the late 70s, CB radio service was quite known throughout the whole world. Only back then, people used voice communications to call upon their loved ones in case of any calamities or delivered multiple business or private messages to the targeted focal persons.

At the start of 1980, people encountered this radio service using their cars or trucks. Such a radio service was quite popular. The handheld transceivers were widely used throughout the globe while the service was maintained from the home using fixed operations.

But what made this radio service unique? Was it the frequency range? Or the distance? The high frequency or commonly called the shortwave band makes it quite distinctive from the other radio such as UHF, FRS, or HAM. There are plenty of worthy devices on the market, but  McKinley seems to be leading the way in the top 10 citizen band radio list due to its additional features and compact design. At the same, small nuances in general features and capabilities may make other radios more relevant to some people.

How does it work?

For a better understanding of the functioning, one must know the frequencies that are required for the seamless operation of a citizen’s radio. A narrow band of frequencies just close to 27MHz is the most favorable for such radio service. Within this narrow range, 40 channels exist which causes information overload and distortion. In the specific years i.e. 1969, 1980, and 2002; the sunspot cycles occurred that caused the choking and clogging in the transmission of the frequency. As a result, the whole radio service faced congestion. This ultimately led to a limited range that was 20 miles.

Unlike other radio services, the CB radio is not subject to any license. All you need is the “handle” (which the laymen may refer to as the desired name) and you are good to go. Due to the excessive availability of multiple radio services within a specific range; this handle was initially needed for the identification and proved its worth in naming the signal. Spreading over several miles, the favorable atmospheric condition improved the signal length.

In several countries, the CB radio service is widely used for personal communication. Similar to the other land mobile radio services, the CB radio rests in the normal receiving mode waiting for the right transmission over adjusted frequencies. Upon receiving the wanted transmission, the receiver presses push to talk button (highlighted on the body of the radio) and answers the message.

In European countries, the transmitted power is only limited to 4 watts. Due to this limited transmission power, the users take turns while delivering their messages. However, in the US, the CB radios can have a range of between 3 to 20 miles. The range depends upon several factors including the atmospheric conditions and terrain. 

How to choose the right one?

While choosing the best CB radio, you must select the one that suits you well. A lot of things are to be assessed while making the purchase. It is better to start with the consideration of size. As the radio is to be installed inside the vehicle, the proper size of placement must be measure before. Modern compact radios come with a built-in SWR meter that collaborates with the antenna and eliminates any additional cost.

Secondly, beware of the spammers. All the radios work on a similar 4 watts’ transmission power as directed by the FCC however, some spammers in the market modify the transmission power illegally by altering the output. As a result, they sell specific radios that are capable of transmitting higher output power and allow greater frequency coverage. Such a practice is commonly called bootlegging. It is banned by the Federal Communication Commission and the person doing so can face serious charges. 

Before making the purchase, it is better to recheck the antenna system installed. The optimum performance of the device can only be achieved if you have the modern and proper functioning antenna system installed.

Lastly, if you are looking to monitor channels by CB radios, go for the radio which is offering the best receiver. A mid to high-end radio will perfectly meet your needs. However, if you are planning to buy a radio for emergencies, go a lower-end model as it would be a foolish thing to invest in high-end radios. A simple radio generally caters to all emergencies. 

The bottom line:

For many years, the CB radio service has proved its worth in perfectly catering to all critical and disastrous situations. The article probes on the basic knowledge and lays some guidelines for making the perfect purchase of a citizen band radio that will suit both your small scale or large scale needs in the future.