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CB Radio is 40 Years Old


A Celebration by Tim Kirby

A Remarkable Milestone

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On 2nd November, legal CB radio in the UK is forty years old! Of course, CB Radio had been around in the UK for a long while before November 1981 and it had taken a huge amount of lobbying and discussion before the Government would agree to a legal CB service.


Prior to legalisation, CBers, ‘breakers’ as they were known, used CB sets generally imported from the USA which used the Amplitude Modulation (AM) system. The sets which were legalised used a different set of channels and the Frequency Modulation (FM) system, the authorities arguing that FM sets were less likely to interfere with other services than AM.


It’s hard to imagine now, but the legalisation of CB Radio was huge! Take-up was incredible. CB Radios were widely available in the High Street and of course, you had to go to the Post Office to buy a CB licence, which was renewable annually at a cost of £15. The licence was dropped in 2006.


CBers seemed to come from all ages, all walks of life and social backgrounds. For the first few years, the channels were very busy indeed. CB Radio gave many people a voice and perhaps widened their horizons in all sorts of ways. For Radio Enthusiasts like myself, it was a first step in transmitting over the air and gave me the impetus to pursue my radio interest further.


The CB Radio boom translated into record numbers of radio enthusiasts taking up licenced Amateur Radio, by passing what was then the City and Guilds Radio Amateur’s Examination.


Although CB Radio was mostly all about the 27/81 system (27MHz FM), it’s worth remembering that November 1981 also brought into being short-lived UHF CB system on 934MHz.


Have a look at Ringway Manchester’s video all about 934MHz at


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In 1987, a further 40 27MHz channels were released, this time using the CEPT (European) channels, which made it easier for drivers coming into the UK from Europe to use their existing CB radios while they were here.


Over time, CB radio became less popular to the masses, but dedicated enthusiasts continued to plough their furrows and took to campaigning again, this time to expand legal CB to encompass AM and Single Sideband (SSB) operation. More lobbying was required, a lot more lobbying, but in June 2014, AM and SSB CB was legalised in the UK, on the CEPT channels.


Although less popular than it was, CB Radio has seen something of a renaissance during recent lockdowns, allowing those isolating or isolated, to communicate across the air. Farmers, 4x4 clubs and radio enthusiasts still use CB Radio.


Have you got a CB hanging around? Some of the old 1980s sets still work surprisingly well! For old times’ sake, why not try and get on the air on 2nd November, from 7 pm on channel 40 and take part in the CB40 anniversary net?


Happy 40th, UK CB radio!


Pictures – CB Sets old and new


A Cybernet Beta 2000 and Icom ICB-1050 dating from 1981


An Anytone AT-500, CB Radio 2021 style!

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