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CB vs. Ham Radio: What’s The Difference?

Two-way radio communication systems allow us to communicate without telephones or the internet. It is an excellent way for individuals to stay in touch, pass information about emergencies, or have fun.

CB radio and ham radio are two common personal radio communication systems. However, both have several differences, from technology to the purpose of use.

Let’s explore the differences between CB and ham radio to learn more about personal radios.

What is CB Radio?

CB radio, or citizens band radio, is a portable land radio system. It operates across 40 channels and is available for anyone to use without a license.

Moreover, CB radio is suitable for commercial and non-commercial communication.

CB radios work on the shortwave band. They are mostly limited to short distances and local boundaries.

Moreover, all radio operators communicate over one frequency channel. As a result, only one person can talk at a time.

Everyone must take turns to pass on their message.

A CB system has a receiver, microphone, and CB antennas. They have a button operators push when they want to talk.

What is Ham Radio?

Ham radio, or amateur radio, is a wireless communication technology. It requires a license and allows you to communicate with anyone across countries and even in space.

Amateur radio operators need to pass a test to prove their technical and compliance knowledge.

Amateur radio works over a broad frequency spectrum and can accommodate several transmitting modes. You may even exchange images or data across radio frequencies.

Ham radio works on shortwave bands like CB radio. As a result, many ham operators rely on Morse code apart from voice communication.

Ham radio is more complex than CB radio. A base station uses several gadgets like computers, amplifiers, transceivers, and more.

CB Radio vs. Ham Radio: Primary Differences

Below are the main differences between CB and amateur radio:


CB radio is mostly used for personal communication in a specific region. For example, truck drivers and off-roaders may use CB radio to communicate with each other.

Moreover, they are excellent for emergencies and areas where cell towers are not present. CB radios are even suitable for recreational use, like while traveling in a caravan.

Ham radio is mostly used to communicate with people around the world. They may also participate in contests and other fun events.

However, amateur radio operators also pass information about emergencies.

It is important to note that amateur radio does not work like commercial radio stations. The system can broadcast to all directions but is limited to two-way communication.

As a result, ham radio is unlike FM or AM radio, where a jockey runs the show.


CB radio cannot break the boundaries of geographical borders like ham radio. It is limited to a short range, such as within a neighborhood or city.

The maximum distance is mostly a few miles.

Additionally, CB radio can become overcrowded as it uses only 40 channels. Amateur radio, on the other hand, uses frequencies across the radio spectrum.

You can transmit your message over an ultrahigh, low, or medium frequency.

Another limitation of CB radio is the maximum power output of 4 watts. It makes the system suitable for personal and short-distance communication.

Ham radio can support higher power output based on their license class.


CB radios are simple and easy to operate. You can purchase a CB radio kit and start sending messages without complications.

Moreover, the equipment is affordable compared to amateur radio setups.

A ham radio setup can be complex. It can involve many components based on the needs and preferences of the operator.

However, you must purchase equipment like:

  1. Transceivers

  2. Antennas

  3. Power management system

  4. Standing wave ratio (SWR) meters

  5. Microphones and headphones

  6. Computers

Additionally, you need more technical knowledge to set up and operate amateur radio. It will require hard work and learning before you can manage everything efficiently.

Final Thoughts

CB radios are used for personal communication and emergencies. They work over a short distance and do not require a license. Ham radio operators have to pass a test and obtain a license. Moreover, they can communicate across countries and use several transmission modes. CB radio, on the other hand, is limited to audio communications only.


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