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CB Radio in the UK

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CB Radio in the UK

Post by 2W0PWR on Thu Oct 25, 2007 3:38 am

CB Radio was first introduced into the United Kingdom around 1972. These dates are hard to confirm accurately; certainly early use was known around the airports in the UK, particularly Stansted in 1973. Some claim that a few illegal CBs were in use in the 1960s. These early adopters used CB radios imported from the United States that were illegal to own and use. The usage of illegal CB radio peaked in 1980 and the UK Government was forced to legalise CB Radio. CB became legal in the United Kingdom on November 2, 1981; hence the logo stamped on all type approved radios of this era CB27/81 or CB934/81. As of 8 December 2006, no licence is required to own or operate a CB Radio providing it meets the original legal specifications for UK usage: FM only, 4 watts power output and operating on either of the UK allowed 27 MHz bands. http://www.ofcom.org.uk/radiocomms/ifi/licensing/classes/citizen/

In the run up to legalisation, some people wanted the old VHF bomber frequency around 220 MHz (unused since WW2) for UK CB. This would have offered much better conditions for CB: nice clear channels without the chronic overseas interference there is on 27 MHz. This interference is often so severe, it even stops local contacts from being made. However, the vast majority of users were not technically minded enough to realise what a bad slot 27 MHz was, and had already purchased American-sourced equipment, so the preferred option for legalisation was the U.S. 27 MHz AM system. While technically this was one of the poorest possible choices for a short range person-to-person radio system, and was already allocated for other services, the CB community lobbied vociferously for it. The final legalised service was a compromise - a band at 27 MHz was allocated but using FM and offset channel frequencies 27.60125 - 27.99125 MHz which were incompatible with the U.S. system

Methods of transmission
The modes of transmission used AM (amplitude modulation) and SSB (single sideband modulation).

The channels legalised on 2 November 1981 were on two blocks of frequencies: 40 channels on the 27 MHz band and 20 channels on the 934 MHz band, both of which used FM (frequency modulation) and both unique to the UK. The 27 MHz band frequency allocation is shown here: 27 MHz CB27/81 Bandplan. In the 1990s 40 additional frequencies were added, which were ironically the same as the U.S. allocation - but again using FM. This additional band is often referred to as the CEPT or EU band.

Many CB users who witnessed the noisy and unruly conditions on 27 MHz wanted to get away from all that and use the superior 934 MHz UHF CB allocation. In fact, the cost of cutting edge (at the time) UHF radio equipment meant that only the more serious CB operator would use the band, a nice though expensive haven for mature CB operators, and radio hams who didn't like the 'red tape' of amateur radio. At first the range was limited, but as antenna restrictions were lifted and better equipment started to appear, the number of UHF CB operators grew. Sadly, after just a few years in 1988, it was announced that no more new equipment for 934 would be made, the specification was withdrawn and the band was 'frozen'. The 934 MHz band was eventually discontinued by the government on 31 December 1998. The reason given for this was that the band had low user numbers; in fact that there was more activity on the 1 MHz of 934 than the entire 12 MHz of amateur bands 2m & 70cms. Nevertheless these other bands were not shut down. Perhaps the main reason for the lower user numbers on the 934 MHz band was its cost (up to 500 for a radio), coupled with the fact that by the time reliable Japanese equipment became available in the mid-1980s, most people had opted for the noisier but cheaper 27 MHz, or gone on to take the Radio Amateur Exam. Though many people think mobile phones have taken 934MHz over, the band remains unused to the present day [May 2007]. Arguably, the real reason for the 934 MHz band's demise, was the lucrative sale of the band to the mobile phone industry; the start of a trend which continues with the move from analogue to digital TV.

There are three channels that have a specific use in the UK:

Channel 9: The emergency calling channel
Channel 14: Calling channel
Channel 19: Truckers' channel and secondary calling channel
CB users may use the phonetic alphabet and ten-codes.

Nowadays it seems nobody wants to use Channel 14 for Calling, even though Channel 14 was actually intended for homebase users and Channel 19 for mobile users.

Channel 9 on the other hand going back quite a few years ago in the 1980s the channel was taken more seriously for emergencies, where as nowadays Channel 9 is just another breaker channel.

If anybody was really stuck or maybe in an attempt of being hijacked of their lorry or similar life threatening situation they should call for help on the most used Channel which is 19.


The CB craze and legalisation
Wider CB usage in the UK started off with a few individuals, particularly truck drivers, importing US equipment and using it illegally. It clearly served a need as the craze grew rapidly, reaching an enormous peak in the early 1980s. At the same time, technically savvy engineers with a certain amount of curiosity about the rumours, started to convert radiotelephone equipment to use on the 27 MHz band. The result was an explosion in the number of users, and a huge growth in the CB culture that accompanied it. Around 1980, companies in Britain started to sell US equipment quite openly, as there was no law against selling or owning accessories, though being in possession of an unlicenced radio transmitter was an offence.

While the number of users grew, the authorities were slow to react. By the beginning of 1980, a number of police forces began clamping down on illegal CB users. The normal authority for regulating the use of radio, the Home Office Radio Regulatory Department, were overwhelmed and could not possibly trace and prosecute every illegal user. It is speculated that the actions by the police caused the popularity and longevity of CB to grow - suddenly the legalisation of CB was a common cause among CB enthusiasts. During the same period, CB clubs started appear in a large number towns around the country, and the number of users increased proportionally. As the fad reached its peak towards the end of 1980, it became impossible to achieve a range of more than a few miles at most; This was often attributed by the number of users jamming the short-wave channels and the congestion from overseas operators.


Last edited by on Thu Oct 25, 2007 3:39 am; edited 1 time in total

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Re: CB Radio in the UK

Post by 2W0PWR on Thu Oct 25, 2007 3:39 am

Around this time, a number of CB-related periodicals appeared on the market, you could buy CB equipment such as antennae in many ordinary car accessory shops. The CB clubs organised a number of national demonstrations in favour of legalisation, including a mass "convoy" to the heart of London, which brought the city to a stand-still. In response to this, the government commissioned a white paper proposing a CB service called "Open Channel" around 860 MHz. Among the enthusiasts there was an outcry, since they wanted to use the 27 MHz equipment they had already invested in, despite the fact that the band was already allocated for model control and other applications. Eventually the government capitulated, and sanctioned both a 27 MHz and 934 MHz band. The CB lobby was appeased, until they saw the fine print the new 27 MHz band used an odd channel offset and FM modulation, so it was incompatible with the American system. The reason for this was on the grounds of reducing as much as possible the interference to legitimate services. By then it was too late, the legislation had been passed, and the 27 MHz FM system was standardised.[1]

The new system was taken up enthusiastically by all those who had held back using an illegal system, and it was one of the biggest selling gifts for Christmas in 1981. The combination of the old and new systems operating on a largely overlapping band rendered both systems more or less unusable, especially in the 6 month period following Christmas 1981. With the fight won, albeit with a considerable compromise, and the system practically unusable, the remaining CB clubs gradually dwindled in membership, most disappearing altogether within a year.


Nuisance
While most CB users felt they were a persecuted and harmless segment of society, there were some notable anti-social aspects to the craze. Many users boosted their signals to very high levels using imported power amplifiers (called "burners" in the CB jargon) and these would often cause interference to local television reception, or cause "breakthrough" on other equipment, such as stereo systems. Even some un-amplified equipment could cause interference in some cases. Harmonics from badly designed or misaligned equipment could cause radio interference to legitimate services; indeed, this was the main argument used by opponents of CB against the illegal users. Imported equipment was of variable quality and certainly never tested to any British standard. Problems were often exacerbated because users were not often technically minded and installations were sometimes very poor.

Some enthusiasts erected very large antennas which were considered an eyesore.

The band used for CB was already allocated in the UK to radio controlled models. While this was usually little more than a frustrating nuisance for modellers, it did pose a genuine danger for aircraft models, which can easily kill or seriously injure. As a result of the CB craze, it became mandatory to operate aircraft models on the alternative band of 35 MHz. The legalised service left some of the 27 MHz band available for models, but since the illegal American equipment continued to be widely used, most modellers gave up and adopted other frequencies instead.


CB culture
At the height of the craze, everyone was either using CB or knew somebody who did it is important to realise that this was a very significant movement, in terms of numbers. While essentially a youth culture and a working class one, CB was enthusiastically embraced by people in all walks of life. The cause of legalisation and the community spirit of beating "smokey" and not getting "busted" was very strong.[2] CBers adopted the ten-code and much of the incumbent US slang, but this rapidly evolved into a distinctly UK-oriented lingua franca. New ten-codes were frequently made up, used for a while in the local area, then fell into disuse. For example, a "10-100" was sometimes used to refer to the call of nature. Most of the official ten-code was ignored, except for basic ones such as 10-4 and 10-20.

Everyone was required to have a "handle" - using proper names was definitely out.[3] In addition, at one time the use of slang terms for the most everyday things was considered virtually compulsory. For example, one overheard conversation involved a CBer inviting another round for a cup of tea after a very long pause with the mike held down following "fancy a cup of. ...", she finally offered the ad-hoc slang term "mud?" Another typical aspect of the UK CB culture was the low-level of paranoia that accompanied every conversation in light of the fact it was breaking the law. It was forbidden to disclose ones location (or "twenty", after the ten-code), but it was OK to give clues in a semi-cryptic form. Presumably any eavesdropper had the same chance of solving these as the intended listener, so the value of this was moot.

Typical terminology included asking another CBer, "How many candles are you burning?" (What is your age?), "Pick a window" (Choose another channel - for example if the current one is too busy for conversation), and, "Do you copy?" (Can you hear me?). The term "Roger" was borrowed from standard radio operating jargon to mean "yes" (even though in fact it means "message received", which is subtly different), and this mutated into other forms unique to CB such as "Roger Dee", and, "That's a Rog". "Negatory", often used to mean "no", borrowed from U.S. CB slang, also mutated into unique forms such as "That's a Neg".

There were technical aspects to the culture for example, very few people had much idea what VSWR (voltage standing wave ratio) was, but most users knew their antenna had to be "swred in" before use. Usually pronounced "swarring", some even referred to this process as "swearing in." The "swring in" ritual was also often part of another huge aspect of the CB culture that of the "wind up". This involved convincing another CBer to do something on a false premise, usually a form of practical joke. Often this could be witnessed if the victim was within sight of the perpetrator, but was not aware of this. A typical example was to get a newbie to "swr in" his antenna by standing on the bonnet of his vehicle with no socks on, one leg in the air and his hand on the antenna. The perpetrator had to convince the victim that it was enhancing his signal.


Eyeballs
Having an eyeball was CB slang for meeting someone off air. This was particularly popular with teenage users who used CB radio to improve their social circle. More mature users often formed clubs which met up in bars and licenced clubs. Impromptu mobile meetings between two users could sometimes grow larger as others who were passing by joined in.


Foxhunts
Foxhunting was a hide and seek activity (using cars and vans fitted with CB's) that took place late on an evening, normally Friday and /or Saturday and would last well into the small hours.

One user would go and hide and would be requested by the others to "Fox give us a count" the 'Fox' would then count to Five and the searchers would use their signal meters to determine how close they were. One of the largest regular foxhunts occurred every weekend at Hitchin in Hertfordshire, which attracted participants from miles around. There would be an entry fee which was put towards prize money.


Channel 9
Channel 9 was designated as the emergency channel, but this wasn't always observed and some users objected to not being able to use it as a normal channel. Channel 9's status as an emergency channel wasn't legally recognised in UK and received no protection.

Two groups emerged to organise monitoring of channel 9, they were:

REACT UK (RADIO EMERGENCY ASSOCIATE CITIZENS TEAM - later changed to RADIO EMERGENCY AND COMUNICATIONS TEAMS)
THAMES (TRAFFIC HELP AND MONITORING EMERGENCY SERVICE)
REACT UK was formed under licence from REACT INTERNATIONAL in the United States, its teams were located across the UK. It was noted for its members signing on and off monitoring on Channel 9 which annoyed some users (eg: "This is Stevenage REACT monitor 14 signing on/off"). REACT UK also provided members equipped with mobiles and handheld to provide radio coverage for marathons, fun runs, county shows - it also obtained a Private Mobile Radio (PMR) licence so its members had a secure private radio channel.

The national committee of REACT UK was beset by scandals and arguments from about 1986, first the National Communications secretary was arrested and charged with financial irregularities with regards to receipts from PMR licences, then following much in-fighting in the national committee REACT UK members decided to split. Some REACT units provided search volunteers to assist the police with searching for missing persons (something that stil occurs today with ALSAR albeit without CB radios).

Some teams became overseas members of REACT International whilst others chose to join splinter group REVCOM (Radio Emergency Volunteer Communications).

THAMES mainly operated in the south of England and didn't appear to gain many members elsewhere. They provided similar services to REACT. From 2007 there was only one REACT International team based in Britain, operating under the name of REACT UK Dundee.


QSL'ing
QSL'ing was taken from Q codes used by the military and amateur radio, QSL meant acknowledge receipt.

Amateurs would often follow up contacts around the world by sending specially printed QSL cards. This was adapted by CB'ers and colourful cards featuring 'handles', pictures and so on appeared. They were originally sent to long range contacts (some users would run networks in the early hours of the weekend because it was quieter) during normal conditions at this time of day contact over 50 to 60 miles distance could often be obtained.

A spin off from QSL'ing was collecting - although originally it developed from users having special eyeball cards produced. Most of the CB radio magazines devoted regular features on QSL'ing.


Fall from popularity
The CB channels remained very busy until 2000, when more and more channels became empty as fewer and fewer users were on air. This is due to the rise of pay-as-you-go mobile phones and flat rate access to the Internet. Amateur radio which gained most of its number from CB radio since 1980, is also in decline.

And now there is what's known as VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) where anybody can call another person for free over a broadband or dialup connection. VOIP gives people the ability to ring land lines and other users PC's for a very small fee or possibly for free which may have also contributed to the decline of Citizens' Band Radio.

Licence free CB brings rise in popularity
As of 8 December 2006, CB Radio now joins PMR446 radio under the category of licence-free personal communications. As a result, reports have been made of a significant increase in CB activity across the country. Coincidentally, several new CB Radios have recently been introduced to the UK market and their popularity with traditional CB users, such as truckers and farmers, combined with a prolific advertising campaign in Amateur Radio magazines sold in the high street, is resulting in a significant number of sales.

CB Radio looks to be on the increase again in the UK. Whilst the quantity of users would be hard pushed to reach the dizzy heights of the 80s, there seems to be a growing number of rural communities around the UK who are reverting to old-fashioned communications, which of course, are now totally free of any ongoing running costs. Only time will tell if this trend continues.

_________________
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QSOUK - Founding member and moderator
dmrk@me.com
avatar
2W0PWR
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Call Sign : 2W0PWR
Other Call Signs : MW3VSG, M3VSG
Locator : IO83KD
DXCC Entity : Wales
VHF / UHF Rig : Yaesu FT-7900 Motorola DM4600 DMR
HandHeld : Wouxun / Motorola DP-3400
Preferred Bands : 80 / 20 / VHF / UHF / D-Star / DMR
Special Event Calls : GB2RFS
Location : North Wales
Registration date : 2007-10-03
Number of posts : 1225
Points : 741
Reputation : 57

http://www.qrz.com/db/2W0PWR http://www.alarmboyz.co.uk

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