Can a Citizens Band (CB) Talk to a Ham Radio?

Radio communication offers various options for connecting individuals, whether for personal conversations, emergency communication, or participating in a hobby.

Two popular forms of radio communication are citizens band (CB) radio and ham radio (amateur radio). While they operate on different frequency bands and have distinct regulatory frameworks, one might wonder if these two radio systems can communicate with each other.

This article will explore the possibility of CB radio talking to ham radio. We will delve into the differences between CB radio and ham radio, their respective frequency ranges, modes of operation, and the technical considerations involved.

Overview of CB Radio and Ham Radio

CB Radio (Citizens Band Radio)

Man holding handheld CB radio wearing sunglasses and a blue checkered shirt sitting in a car
CB radio is a great communication avenue for truckers and hobbyists.

CB radio is a short-distance, two-way radio communication system that operates on the 27 MHz frequency band.

It’s a form of personal radio communication open to the general public without requiring a license in many countries.

CB radios are commonly used for personal and recreational purposes, such as communication between individuals or within small groups, truckers communicating on the road, and hobbyists engaging in radio conversations.

CB radio typically uses amplitude modulation (AM) or single-sideband (SSB) modulation.

Depending on the terrain and antenna setup, it has a limited range of a few miles to several miles.

Ham Radio (Amateur Radio)

Handheld ham radio in disaster
Ham radio is a two-way radio communication tool requiring a license.

Ham radio is a hobby and service where licensed individuals communicate via two-way radio.

Unlike CB radio, ham radio operators must obtain an amateur radio license, which involves passing a regulatory examination.

Ham radio operates on a wide range of frequency bands allocated by the government, including high-frequency (HF), very high frequency (VHF), and ultra-high frequency (UHF) bands.

Depending on the frequency band, mode, and setup, it offers long-distance communication capabilities, often spanning across regions, countries, or even globally.

Ham radio is used for various purposes, including personal communication, emergency communication during disasters, experimentation with radio technology, participation in contests, public service activities, and support for community events.

Frequency and Band Differences of CB and Ham Radio

CB radio and ham radio operate on different frequency ranges and are allocated specific portions of the radio spectrum.

Understanding these frequency differences is crucial in comprehending the challenges and possibilities of communication between CB and ham radios.

CB Radio Frequency Range

CB radio operates on a specific frequency band within the high-frequency (HF) range, the citizens band.

In most countries, the CB band spans from 26.965 MHz to 27.405 MHz, divided into 40 channels.

These channels are spaced 10 kHz apart, each with a maximum power output limit specified by regulatory authorities.

Ham Radio Frequency Range

Ham radio, being an amateur radio service, covers a broader range of frequency bands depending on the license class held by the operator. These bands include HF, VHF, UHF, and beyond.

The specific frequency allocations for ham radio vary between countries and regions, but they typically cover frequencies from several kilohertz (kHz) to gigahertz (GHz).

Ham radio operators can enjoy access to numerous bands within these ranges, allowing for long-distance communication, local communication, and experimentation with different propagation characteristics.

Allocation of Frequencies

National telecommunications authorities or regulatory bodies regulate the allocation of frequencies for CB and ham radios.

These bodies designate specific frequency ranges for each radio service, ensuring that different services coexist without interference.

CB radio frequencies are set aside exclusively for CB radio use, providing a dedicated frequency band for individuals to communicate over short distances.

The narrow band and limited channels in the CB band help prevent congestion and ensure clear communication within the CB community.

In contrast, ham radio has a broader spectrum allocation. Various frequency bands are designated for different license classes, allowing ham radio operators to explore different modes of communication, experiment with varying propagation characteristics, and engage in worldwide communication on certain bands.

The allocation of frequency ranges may differ between countries, as each regulatory body has its guidelines and regulations. Radio operators must be familiar with the specific frequency allocations defined by their respective regulatory authorities.

Transmission Modes of CB and Ham Radio

Radio tower pointing toward a blue and golden sky with dark clouds
Ham and CB radio use AM, FM, SSB, or digital transmission.

CB and ham radio utilize various transmission modes to convey voice and data signals. These modes determine the modulation techniques employed and impact the communication capabilities of each radio system.

Let’s explore the different transmission modes used in CB and ham radio and how they affect communication.

  1. AM (Amplitude Modulation): AM is the most common mode used in CB radio. In AM mode, the amplitude of the radio carrier wave is modulated to encode the voice or data signal. AM allows straightforward voice communication but has bandwidth efficiency and signal quality limitations.
  2. SSB (Single Sideband): SSB is a more advanced mode used in CB and ham radio. It improves efficiency by eliminating the redundant carrier wave and transmitting only one signal sideband. SSB provides increased power efficiency and better signal quality compared to AM. It allows for greater transmission distances and improved intelligibility, making it suitable for long-range communication.
  3. FM (Frequency Modulation): FM is primarily used in ham radio, especially on VHF and UHF bands. FM modulation encodes the voice or data signal by varying the carrier wave frequency. FM offers excellent audio quality and noise immunity, making it suitable for local communication and repeater operations.
  4. Digital Modes: CB and ham radio have adopted various digital modes for data transmission besides analog modes. These modes utilize digital encoding techniques to transmit data, messages, images, or computer commands over radio waves. Digital modes offer improved error correction, increased data throughput, and boosted the ability to transmit non-voice information.

Each transmission mode has its strengths and weaknesses, which can influence communication capabilities:

● AM, the primary mode in CB radio, provides simple voice communication but is limited in efficiency and noise resistance.

● SSB offers improved efficiency and range compared to AM, making it suitable for long-distance communication and reducing the required bandwidth.

● FM provides excellent audio quality and is often used for local communication and repeater operations, where signals are received and retransmitted to extend coverage.

● Digital modes offer the advantages of error correction, higher data rates, and the ability to transmit non-voice data, expanding communication possibilities beyond standard voice transmission.

Frequency Overlap Between CB and Ham Radios

While CB and ham radio operate on different frequency bands, there is a limited overlap between the upper frequencies of the CB band and the lower frequencies of certain ham radio bands.

This overlap presents an opportunity for communication between CB and ham radios.

10-Meter Ham Radio Band

The 10-meter ham radio band is adjacent to the upper frequencies of the CB band.

In some countries, such as the United States, the 10-meter band spans from 28.000 MHz to 29.700 MHz. The upper end of the CB band, which operates around 27.405 MHz, is very close to the lower end of the 10-meter band.

This proximity allows for communication between CB and ham radios using outbanding.

Outbanding involves modifying a CB radio to transmit frequencies outside the designated CB band. By adjusting the radio’s frequency range, a CB radio operator can reach into the lower frequencies of the 10-meter band and potentially communicate with ham radio operators on those frequencies.

6-Meter Ham Radio Band

The 6-meter ham radio band is another band that can overlap with the CB band.

The 6-meter band spans from 50.000 MHz to 54.000 MHz in many countries. Although the CB and 6-meter bands overlap less directly than the 10-meter band, communication may be possible on the shared frequencies.

Like the 10-meter band, outbanding techniques may be used to modify a CB radio to access the lower frequencies of the 6-meter band.

However, these modifications may be subject to legal regulations, and operators should ensure compliance with their local radio regulations.

It’s crucial to emphasize that outbanding or modifying a CB radio to access ham radio frequencies is subject to regulatory restrictions and licensing requirements in many countries.

Operating outside the allocated CB frequencies or transmitting on ham radio bands without proper authorization may be illegal and result in penalties.

Can a CB Talk to a Ham Radio?

Two handheld radios, one purple and the other green camo, lying parallel to each other on a bright teal background
Ham and CB radios can communicate with tools like cross-band repeaters or frequency conversion devices.

A CB radio can communicate with a ham radio under certain conditions. While CB and ham radio operate on different frequency bands and have various regulations, there are ways to establish communication between the two.

Here are a few methods to facilitate communication between CB and ham radios.

Using Cross-Band Repeaters

Cross-band repeaters receive signals on one frequency and retransmit them on another.

Using a cross-band repeater, a CB radio user can transmit their signal on the CB band, which is received by the repeater and then retransmitted on a ham radio frequency.

Similarly, a ham radio operator can transmit on a ham band, which is received by the repeater and retransmitted on the CB band. This allows for communication between the two radio systems.

Using Dual-Band Radios

Some radios are designed to operate on both CB and ham radio frequencies. These dual-band radios can switch frequency bands, allowing users to communicate on CB and ham radio channels.

Dual-band radios provide a convenient solution for individuals who want to share between CB and ham radios without additional equipment or repeaters.

Using Frequency Conversion Devices

Frequency conversion devices can be employed to convert the frequency of a CB radio to a ham radio frequency or vice-versa.

These devices modify the radios transmit and receive frequencies, enabling communication between CB and ham radios.

However, frequency conversion devices may have legal implications, as some countries have specific regulations regarding radio modifications and unauthorized frequency operations.

Participating in Radio Events

Occasionally, radio events such as field days, contests, or public service events may bring together CB and ham radio operators in a specific location or under special circumstances.

During these events, designated frequencies and communication protocols can be established to facilitate communication between CB and ham radios.


While technical and regulatory barriers exist, a CB radio can communicate with a ham radio under certain conditions.

CB and ham radios operate on different frequency bands, with CB radio using the 27 MHz citizens band and ham radio covering a broader range of frequencies across various bands.

Although direct communication between CB and ham radios is not feasible due to the frequency differences, some methods can enable limited contact between the two systems.

These include cross-band repeaters, dual-band radios capable of operating on CB and Ham frequencies, and frequency conversion devices.

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