Over the past few years the line between traditional CB radio and 10 meter radio has become blurred. Phrases like ’10 meter CB radio’ and ‘export radio’ have irrevocably woven themselves into the vocabulary. Despite widespread use of both technologies many users have no idea what the real differences are.
A traditional CB operates on the 11 meter band at about 27mhz. This gives it 40 channels ranging from 26.965mhz on channel 1 to 27.405mhz on channel 40. The distinctive characteristic of CB is that access to these frequencies is unrestricted by the FCC and available to anyone. Thus the term ‘Citizens Band’.
However although access is unrestricted, use of these frequencies is another matter. Users are required to adhere to certain codes of conduct and severe hardware limitations. By FCC rule no CB transmitter may exceed 4 watts of transmitting power. A smart operator may use a high quality antenna to ‘get out’ further but increasing output by almost any other means is prohibited.
By contrast 10 meter radio access is restricted but the allowable hardware is not as limited. 10 meter radios operate on frequencies ranging from 28mhz to 29.7mhz. To access 10 meter radio frequencies you are required to obtain an amateur or ‘ham’ radio license from the FCC. Such licenses are relatively easy to get and usually free of charge. Certain 10 meter radios also operate on FM radio frequencies which will require an even more advanced license. The hardware involved in 10 meter radio can be quite impressive. Unlike CB communications the FCC considers the 10 meter band acceptable for long range communication, many radios offer over 100 times the transmitting power of a traditional CB transmitter.
So why has the line between the two become blurred? Many CB operators dislike the severe restrictions placed on CB transmission output. Manufacturers responding to this desire have produced 10 meter radios that look and operate exactly like a standard CB. These new radios are easily modified to operate on CB radio frequencies which is probably what both the manufacturer and operator both had in mind when it was purchased. It is important to note that such modifications are against FCC rules.
The term ‘export radio’ is used to refer to these new CB radio style 10 meter radios. The catch is that these radios are supposed to be marketed for export use only. Many other countries do not have such severe restrictions on transmitting power as does the United States.
Although there is a large amount of public desire to allow greater transmitting power amongst CB radio users the FCC is very unlikely to change its policy anytime soon. The FCC regards CB radio as a short range communication device and does not want high powered transmissions interrupting local communications between other operators. This viewpoint will almost certainly preclude any change in policy any time in the near future. By knowing the difference between 10 meter and CB radio, and how you intend to use your new equipment, determining which is the right model for you should be clear.