The Citizen Band Radio Service (CBRS) is a two-way, short distance, voice communications service that provides a cheap, reliable means of communication.
The service operates in two frequency bands:
- high frequency (HF) band – (26.965 – 27.405 MHz)
- ultra high frequency (UHF) band - (476.4125 – 477.4125 MHz)
The service is for public access and available to everyone. If a company chooses to use the service for business, they have no rights of exclusivity and must accept other users on the same channel.
Recent changes to the Citizen Band Radio Service
CB radio users will no longer have to replace their older-style 40 channel equipment. A limitation of the equipment’s use was due to take effect from 1 July this year. However, following consultation, the ACMA has decided to allow continued use of 40 channel equipment alongside the newer 80 channel equipment.
The limitation on interlinking repeaters through CB stations that previously applied has also been removed. The ACMA has identified the potential for the interlinking of CB repeaters to provide significant benefit to CB users, particularly in regional and remote areas. The ACMA has come to the view that these benefits outweigh any potential interference, and that alternative regulatory mechanisms are sufficient to address interference if it arises.
Do I need a licence?
No. The operation of CB radios is authorised under the Radiocommunications (Citizen Band Radio Stations) Class Licence 2015. Class licences do not have to be applied for and no licence fees are payable.
The CBRS class licence does not authorise the operation of 27 MHz marine equipment.
What channel do I use to contact other travellers?
There are specific calling channels in the CB bands.
- channel 11 (AM – 27.085 MHz)
- channel 16 (SSB – 27.155 MHz)
Once you have established contact with another traveller, switch to another channel to continue talking. This frees the call channels for other users. If travelling in a convoy of vehicles, select a usual 'working' channel prior to setting out.
Can I use my CB radio to transmit data?
Yes. Data can only be transmitted on UHF channels:
- 22 (476.950 MHz)
- 23 (476.975 MHz)
Transmission must comply with the restrictions imposed in the CBRS class licence. These channels are dedicated to data purposes and should not be used for voice communication.
In an emergency
There are specific emergency channels that you can use:
- channel 9 (27.065 MHz) in the HF band
- channel 5/35 (476.525/477.275 MHz) in the UHF band
These channels are emergency channels and non-urgent traffic must be confined to other channels.
Organisations voluntarily monitor the emergency channels and may assist you in contacting the appropriate service in an emergency.
Conditions of operation
CB operators do not have to be licensed to operate their equipment, but the CBRS class licence imposes a number of operating conditions:
Compliance with mandatory standards
Devices operating under the CBRS class licence must comply with the relevant mandatory standards specified in the licence.
CB radios must only be operated on the channels that are detailed in the CBRS class licence. Operation on a channel that is not specified in the class licence is a breach of the licence conditions.
There are specific conditions regarding personal conduct during operation of a CB radio station, and penalties apply for improper conduct. In particular, the CBRS class licence states that:
A person must not operate a CB station:
- in a way that would be likely to cause a reasonable person, justifiably in all the circumstances, to be seriously alarmed or seriously affronted; or
- for the purpose of harassing a person.
Transmitter power levels
CB radio equipment must not exceed the maximum output power specified in the class licence. Attaching any external device, such as linear amplifiers, increase power is not allowed.
The operation of a CB radio is also subject to the provisions of the Radiocommunications Act 1992.
Breaches of licence conditions
CB radio users must comply with conditions in the class licence. If any condition of the licence is breached the operator will be liable for prosecution.
What if I cause interference?
Interference to television and radio receivers and other electronic equipment may occur when a CB radio transmitter is used nearby. Such interference is unlikely when mobile, but may occur in campsites, caravan parks or home base situations. Users should cooperate with the affected person and take reasonable steps to fix the problem.
Selective calling (selcall)-a technique used to enable the reception of calls from particular CB radios without having to listen to other users-is permitted under the class licence. Selcall uses the transmission of audio tones that are recognisable to receivers fitted with a compatible decoder. It can be used on either HF or UHF CB radios. Some CB radios come fitted with a selcall facility using continuous tone coded squelch system (CTCSS) techniques. CTCSS is only authorised on UHF CB bands.
A repeater is a station established at a fixed location that receives radio signals from one CB station and automatically retransmits the signal to another station using the corresponding output channel. UHF CBRS repeaters can be found in all states and enable the range of vehicle to vehicle communications to be significantly increased.
CB repeaters are not authorised under the CBRS class licence. The repeater stations are usually located at hilltop radiocommunication sites and require specific frequency assignments and the issue of an individual apparatus licence.
Channels 1 to 8 and 41 to 48 are designated as repeater output channels, with channels 31 to 38 and 71 to 78 the corresponding designated repeater input channels.
A repeater that transmits on channel 1 will always receive on channel 31. When operated in duplex/repeater mode the CB radio automatically selects the corresponding transmit/receive frequencies.
These designated repeater channels may be used for single frequency communications provided they are not used in the locality of repeaters.
Channels 5 and 35 are dedicated for emergency communications.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.