What is the Difference Between HAM Radio and CB Radio?

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CB (or citizens band) radio is very similar to HAM radio although it does come with a few restrictions.  Unlike HAM radio, CB is loosely regulated by the government and you do not need a license to operate.

CB radio was created in the 1940’s in the United States by the FCC for general public use.  People would be able to communicate with each other if the phone lines were down.

People operating CB radios do not need a license.  Because of this they are restricted to a transmitter power of 4 watts and only have a range of about 3 to 20 miles. HAM radio equipment can transmit up to 1.5 kilowatts and can reach people around the world.

CB radio users are only to use frequencies in the UHF bands around 27 mHz.  Ham radio has a much broader frequency range available for use. With HAM radio, you can transmit voice, images and communicate with satellites.  CB radio is limited to voice only.

CB radio isn’t quite as popular today as it was decades ago.  Cell phones are the biggest competitor of CB radio.  Cell phones are much more reliable than they once were.

Who uses CB radios?

CB radio is popular among truck drivers, hikers and off-roaders.  Hikers and off-roaders like to use CB radio particularly because sometimes they will be up in the mountains where you can’t even really get good cell service.

For the truck drivers, CB is a way to communicate traffic, weather and other tips.  CB radio is also just a way to keep entertained on those long road trips.

There are 40 CB radio channels that can be used.  Channel 9 is used as the emergency channel and channel 19 is the unofficial trucker channel.

CB radio is more for hobbyists or people who need to communicate that aren’t interested in getting licensed.  People who get licensed for HAM radio are able to broadcast on a much larger frequency range at higher power.  HAM radio can be used for emergency broadcasting.

Which is better?

The answer to this question would depend on what you needed it for.  If you are going camping with some friends and don’t want to get lost on your hike, CB radio might be the way to go.

If you are interested in radio communication and don’t mind taking a test, then you might try dabbling in both.  With a little bit of effort and studying, taking the exam to be HAM licensed would prove to be worthwhile and satisfying.  And then you could talk to people around the world.

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