CB radios made their United Kingdom debut in 1972 at a few airports around the country. Some historians claim a few illegal CB radios were used as early as 1960. The early UK adopters of CB radios mainly purchased radios from American manufacturers. Since CB radio use was considered illegal in the UK, not many British manufacturers saw enough reward from the risks involved in production. All of this changed by the 1980s, when CB radio use caught on in Great Britain, mostly due to the popularity of two American films that promoted the two-way communication devices. After legalising CB radios in 1983, the popularity of the radios declined due to the British government's poor choice of radio frequencies.
Far from climbing back into mainstream popularity, CB radios have made a steady comeback since their lull during the 1990s. British consumers can find CB radios in large electronics shops or shops that specialise in selling radio communication devices. They can also shop online at the leading auction site, eBay. Before shopping for a CB radio, consumers should receive an overview of CB radios, as well as know how to buy CB radios, and what to look for in the most important CB radio component, the antenna.
What Is a CB Radio?
Citizen’s Band, or CB, radios are communication devices that people use over predetermined radio frequencies. Users have 40 channels at their disposal, with each channel broadcasting over 27 MHz. Unlike ham or amatuer radio operators, CB operators can transmit for both personal and professional purposes. CBs can be shared by multiple operators, although only one station is capable of being transmitted at any particular time. Most countries require operators to obtain licences to use CB radios, but many operators flout the laws and refuse to comply. While statistics are not available, it is believed that thousand of people use CB radio frequencies every day. CB radios are still popular amongst truckers and people who live in remote rural areas. Perhaps no other country jumped aboard the CB radio bandwagon quicker and with more zeal than the citizens of the United Kingdom.
The UK CB Craze
In 1981, the use of CB radios exploded in the UK, as people were caught in a craze made popular by two American films. "Convoy" and "Smokey and the Bandit" not only captivated American audiences, but the films also prompted the CB radio craze in England as well. With creative call names, CB radio became a social hangout for mostly young males who needed a common domain to discuss and share music. After a few years, CB radios entered the British mainstream, as lorry drivers found them useful to communicate with other drivers concerning speed traps and road hazards. Moreover, CB radios were a way to fight off the loneliness of cross-country travel.
The Rapid Rise in Popularity
British law enforcement agencies were dumbfounded about why CB radios became so popular. Law enforcement officials from around the UK converged in London to express their angst during Parliamentary sessions. Instead of claiming loss of speeding ticket revenue, the law enforcement officials claimed CB radios disrupted emergency communications, and thus, needed to be regulated. However, the illegality of UK CB technology only added fuel to the popularity fire. By 1981, British authorities estimated that there were over 300,000 illegal CB radio users in the country.
The Steady Decline
The British government legalised CB radio use in the fall of 1981, but by doing so, the government alienated a large swath of CB radio aficionados. The government chose a radio frequency range that was much different than the frequencies utilised by illegal CB radio communicators. Still, there were over 300,000 CB radio licence holders in 1983, with an unknown number of British citizens remaining under the CB radio radar. The number of CB radio users declined slowly over the next 10 years, but the pace of decline quickened during the 1990s. Young males, which comprised the largest CB radio user demographic, began to flock to online chat rooms. The introduction of social media sites further eroded the CB radio user base, and of course, so did smartphones.
CB Radio Comeback
By the time the British government fixed the frequency problem, many electronics industry experts predicted the ultimate demise of CB radios. Nonetheless, CB radios held on for another 10 years before people began to realise additional benefits of using the devices. Instead of sending text messages or dialing up phone numbers, CB users can instantly contact a person of interest. This capability especially appeals to business professionals who conduct short meetings over live CB transmissions. In addition, CB radios help alleviate the isolation that the elderly feel in assisted living homes or homes located in remote areas. While not expected to reach the popularity levels attained during the 1980s, CB radio user growth in the UK is expected to remain steady for the next decade.
How to Buy CB Radios
The rebirth of CB radios has created a new generation of UK users who may not know how to purchase the two-way communication devices. As with most electronic devices, buyers should never sacrifice CB radio quality for lower prices. Be prepared to spend the amount of money required to ensure a long-lasting CB radio. Cost should be the tie-breaking factor after consumers follow a few CB radio steps.
Visit several shops that specialise in selling CB radios and browse numerous online sites. Look for the subtle variations that determine CB radio quality. A good CB radio buying strategy used by some consumers is to confer with a sales professional in person, and then go online to make a CB radio purchase.
CB radio antennas are the most important CB radio component. The quality and projection distance of radio signals depend on the quality of an antenna. A good rule to remember is that high-performance antennas can make cheap CB radios perform at higher levels.
The microphones that come with many CB radios do not possess the same type of quality as their radios. This means British consumers should look to replace the included microphone with a better performing model. High-quality CB radio microphones eliminate muddled conversations.
Make sure to receive setup information from the CB shop where a CB radio is purchased. There are many different ways to set up a CB radio, which depends on vehicle type and CB radio model. Moreover, learn the CB radio rules that pertain to British law before transmitting the first message. UK CB radio laws constantly change due to rapidly changing audio technologies.
CB Radio Antenna Buying Factors
CB radio antennas often determine a radio’s performance. With that in mind, consumers should consider a few factors before investing in a CB antenna.
CB radio antennas can mount on a vehicle in almost any area, so the important thing to remember is where the antenna mounts determines which type of antenna to purchase. Most vehicle roofs, mirror bars, hood channels, bumpers, and trunks provide open CB radio communication channels. Antennas mounted on top of a vehicle perform better than antennas mounted in other places. CB antennas should always have the coil placed above the roof line of any vehicle. The most important CB antenna consideration is how well-grounded the antenna is to the vehicle chassis.
Name brand CB antennas tend to perform better than generic or off-brand CB antennas. Noted brand names, such as General Electric, construct durable CB antennas made with quality fibreglass. Moreover, Firestik, K40, and Wilson all manufacture top-of-the-line CB radio antennas.
Length CB radio antennas can compensate for poor mount locations. Select the longest length of any brand name CB radio antenna. Look for antennas that possess quick disconnect and tool-free CB antenna removal for the length models that cannot clear garage or parking lot entrances.
Any mount chosen must be strong enough to support the antenna. While a small roof magnet can securely hold a short antenna, a sturdier mount is required to hold a heavy centre-loaded antenna. Swinging antennas can pick up enough momentum to become loose from a mount. Antenna mounts must be able to withstand the swaying caused by vehicle movement.
Buying CB Radios on eBay
British consumers can find a wide variety of CB radios on eBay. Sellers may also offer buyers CB radio components, such as antennas and microphones. The key to finding the right CB radio seller is to input keywords into eBay’s powerful search engine. For instance, typing "PRESIDENT CB radio" or "base station CB radio" narrows the number of search results. Once you find a seller who matches your CB radio buying criteria, navigate to the seller’s product page to review the accepted payment methods, delivery terms, and return policies. The length of a seller’s return policy may be the determining purchasing factor.
Consider buying a CB radio from one of eBay’s Top-Rated Sellers. These sellers have established themselves on eBay by selling superior products and running generous auctions. You can also review the customer feedback that appears on seller product pages. Look for sellers who have garnered positive feedback over the past year and have preferably received some positive feedback for selling two-way communication devices, such as walkie-talkies. Once you form a business bond with an eBay seller, ask if the seller runs an eBay Store where you can buy products directly and forgo the auction process.
It is rare to see a fad or trend that has faded from public view make a comeback, but that is exactly what is happening with CB radios in the UK. At the height of their popularity during the 1980s, over 300,000 UK residents were licensed CB radio owners, and who knows how many additional CB radio owners transmitted without licences? At the time, CB radios were considered not only hip because of film exposure, but they also provided users with a fast and direct way of communication. The popularity of CB radios began to decline with the advent of other forms of communication, most of which occurred online.
The rumour of the CB radio’s demise has been greatly exaggerated. The two-way communication device is making a comeback because UK consumers have found other useful ways of employing the device. Because of the CB radio rebirth, UK consumers should review how CB radios operate before they shop for a device. They should also pay special attention to the type of antenna that they combine with a CB radio, since CB radio antennas are the transmission and reception portals for CB radios. British consumers can find CB radios in electronics shops, but they may find better bargains online at eBay.