CB Radio vs HAM Radio: What Makes the Difference Between Them

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CB Radio vs HAM Radio

Whenever one hears the word radio, the first thing that comes to mind is laid back lazy afternoons of the teenage years. Drinking cool-aid under the sun and hearing Bryan Adam’s Summer of 69′ on different radio stations on full volume.

cb radio vs ham radio

In this article, we will look at the technicalities of the more advanced format of Radio Communication – the two-way radio transmissions.

Is a Two - Way Radio Device Different from a Broadcast Receiver?

It is different from a broadcast receiver, it can not only receive signals but can send them as well. We have seen them often being used in movies by cops to communicate with each other. One may get the impression that they are used by cops or law enforcement agencies only but this may be wrong.

combination cb and radio

A two-way radio is not only restricted to be used by only police, navy, military, or Air Force personnel only. These devices can be used rather on a regular basis by people every day all around the world.

Why Should I Buy a Two-Way Radio?

With the emergence of smartphone and mobile technology, the need for a two-way radio transmitter seems like a thing of the past for an average person. Yet the simple nature of this device which is free from reliance on a cellular network makes it more lucrative a communique.

But how –

Road trips with buddies, camping escapades, holiday in exotic locations, trekking or hiking through treacherous regions, or arranging a group tour with family, friends, or acquaintances.

Any of the above-mentioned places can be cellular networks obsolete at one point or another, highlighting the need to own one of these devices.

cb frequencies on a ham radio

Then the most sophisticated applications are the Ham radios or CB radios for building a flawless and efficient communication network between work personnel during programs such as concerts, conferences, VIP meetings, seminars, etc. As long as someone is within the specified range, there may be no hindrance to relay messages across the desired person or station.

Give A Look: A List of CB Radio Channels And Frequencies

How to Know Which Two-Way Radio is The Best Fit for Me?

Operating on the principle of wattage and frequency- which means the device consumes how much power and vice versa transmits, two-way radios come in four forms known as the CB Radio, Ham radio, GMRS, MURS.

Here we will focus on the first two types.

What are CB Radios?

CB radio stands for citizens band radio. The origin of this branch of Radio Service may be traced back to the United States of America. During that time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was at the forefront of this form of communication.

They controlled, shaped, and implemented the rules and regulations of the broadcasting nature of CB radio. In the year 1945, the technology was sanctioned finally by the government and FCC for the use of the general public.

can a cb antenna be used for ham radio

There was a rapid growth of Technology at the end of the Second World War. Their acceptance and accessibility were spreading among the masses. Throughout 1960 to 1970 the popularity of CB radios increased during the time frame, CB radios were used by electronics, carpentry, plumbing, and other small scale business organizations. Also, it was used in vehicles such as cars, trucks, and other transports.

How did CB Radios become so Popular?

The reasons why CB radios became so popular are –


Due to the magic of Hollywood CB radios became so popular. Since many movies and television series featuring the device in their reels, and icons like Chuck Norris using them in box office hits like Breaker, so it was natural for the public to follow suit.

The trend did not die out as how most pop culture-induced fashions are alleged to do. CB radios survived the passage of time and still are in thriving existence.

2.Not expensive and requires no license

There are two reasons why this Radio Service continued to flourish till today. The first reason is its budget-friendly price policy while the other is no license requirement imposed by FCC. If you are having budget constraints, CB radios can be your answer.

There are no legal requirements that are needed for operating a CB radio. According to FCC rules, no foreign governments can use CB radio and people with an FCC cease-and-desist order automatically is disabled from using the device. So Overseas communication is not allowed with a CB radio.

3.A large no. of supplementary channels

CB radio services transmit 40 channels that can be used in both AM mode and single sideband mode (SSB). SSB mode can be further divided into two segments- the upper sideband mode (USB) and the lower sideband mode (LSB). This allows users to select from a wide range of supplementary channels.

The SSB CB radios are expensive when compared to AM CB Radios, the SSB CB radios have a much-extended range radius which certifies them to become reliability assurance in case of adverse weather conditions.

CB radios are very powerful both way radio transmitters that operate on 27 megahertz HF bands. Retaining a 1-15 miles range reserve, they are designated to function on four watts power on the AM. band and 12 Watts on the sideband according to FCC guidelines.

Extremely range sensitive conversations held across CBs can overlap one another easily if two or more devices operate within close ranks.

What is Ham Radio?

The origin of ham radio is stretched back to the end of the 19th century. The ham radios that are used nowadays had their initiation in the first quarter of the 20th century. Ham radio is known as the amateur radio in professional circles.

It is the most widely accessed and recognized form of both way radio service. It allows you to communicate with other operators all across the world.

Why is it known as Amateur Radio?

The word amateur used in the name has nothing to do with the expertise level of the consumer. It indicates un-commercialized or non – profit.

Now, if you are wondering how the ham Radio word came to be a replacement for amateur radio then here is the story.

In the 19th century, in professional circles of wired Telegraphy, executives having insufficient operative skills in sending morse code were called ham-fisted mockingly by their peers and colleagues. This judgemental term has remained active in human tongues from then, thus claiming its place among modern-day slangs.

frs vs gmrs

Even today in the army, Airforce, Navy, or any other professional field where the use of wireless or Radio Technology is required, the jesting term is used still to indicate an inefficient operator who lacks the expertise of the job.

By the mid 20th century community of the amateur radio, circle reclaimed the ham/amateur terminology as their own.

They worked together and succeeded in removing the negative element from the word and started using it widely with pride and a transformed meaning altogether.

What made Ham Radio so Popular?

There are two reasons why have radius have become so popular-


Ham radio is the most popular both way radio transmitters found in the market nowadays. Handheld ham radios operate with 5 watts or even less power while mobile option Ham radios use from 10 to 100 Watts of power.

Station-based Ham radios can reach up to 200 Watts of power. The wattage of Ham radios can be amplified further by 1000 times connecting it with amplifiers. Linking the Antennas with the radio system will only expand the range vicinity.


Ham radios can be connected with tablets and computers enabling the user to send messages in the form of text, Data, images, morse codes, etc. This adaptability relays a new breadth to the two-way radio service Industry that was earlier seen to be capable of transmitting audio messages only.

Do you require a License to use Ham Radio?

Due to the essential skills required to control a Ham radio efficiently, the FCC needs Ham radio operators to be licensed. This proved to be a negative point sometimes when considering purchasing options.

The FCC provides three classes of licenses that have a written test of 35 to 50 questions covering radio theory and regulations and operating practice related paraphernalia. It is important that each class of license is limited so that per license allows up to a certain usage of bands, frequencies, modes, and wattage numbers only.

combination cb and radio

It loosely controls the range in which you can communicate. According to ARRL.org, there are 600,000 Ham radio amateur in the USA and nearly 2 million worldwide. So if you are interested in taking the test and joining the huge user hub, the first step would be to contact your local club of ham radio hobbyists. They will help you with practical know-how in this regard. Read more

Differences between Ham and CB Radio

  • 1.CB radio is for general public use whereas ham radio is mostly for amateur Radio Communication use.

  • 2. The individual does not require prior knowledge for operating the CB radio whereas the individual requires to learn some basic know-how before operating the ham radio.

  • 3. For CB radio no license is required but the license is mandatory for ham radio.

  • 4. For CB radio the watts /power required is maximum 12 watts for SSB band and 4W for AM band but for ham radio 5 W is required or lower (handheld), 10 – 100 Watts (mobile type) minimum hundred but can reach 1500 Watts easily with amplifiers (station-based).

  • 5. The bands used for CB radio are AM and SBB. The bands used for ham radio are HF, UHF, VHR.

  • 6. CB radio on an average has 40 channels, the channel availability for ham radio is user-specific.

  • 7. CB radio has a range proximity of 3 – 5 miles (handheld), 7 to 10 miles (mobile type), 10 to 50 miles (station-based).

  • 8.Range proximity for ham radio is 1- 20 miles (handheld) , 5 – 1200 miles (mobile type) and 50 – 2500 miles (station-based).

  • 9. For CB radio the frequency is limited to 27 MHz bands. For ham radio, the frequency bands higher than 27 MHz can be used.

  • 10. The area coverage for CB radio is only within the country but for ham radio, the area coverage is worldwide.

Which one to choose: Ham vs CB Radio?

With the entire world being connected with Wi-Fi technology and smartphones, the need for two way Radio Communication feels like a past thing to the tech users of this generation. It is a guarantee that when those phone lines and cellular networks go down, or there is a massive power outage due to natural disasters, the Technologies like ham and CB radios will rise up to assist and overcome these unforeseen situations.

To establish a reliable network system for group traveling or hobby purposes the two-way radios are a good choice for investment in the long run. Now for which one to buy, that depends on the requirements and preferences regarding the features which you need.

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