The legal use of data modes on the CB radio bands is very fragmented throughout the world with some countries sticking to the original CB license conditions of voice transmissions only and others amending the license to include the use of data modes.
Countries that Permit Data Mode Use on CB
For example the UK CB license was updated in 2003 so that UK operators could use the packet data mode although the conditions for its use are very restricted almost to the point of making it a “niche” aspect to the hobby whereas Germany has done more to promote data mode use by being more flexible and allowing packet transmissions over a wider section of the 27 MHz band with fewer restrictions on the actual equipment used.
But the problem arises because of the potential of global communications at citizen band frequencies and allowing the use of data modes in one country is only going to promote its illegal use in others, 27 MHz is hardly limited to local communications only. Freebanders in the USA have been operating packet for over 30 years now even though the use of any data mode transmissions on CB remains illegal in the country.
Will Data Modes Use Put a Spark Back into CB
Unfortunately the 27MHz band has always had a noisy environment making it less than ideal for many data mode transmissions, add to this the fact that any attempt to designate channels solely for data use is going to be impossible to enforce and might bring intentional interference from the very small proportion of CB users who enjoy ruining other peoples pursuit of the hobby.
Many CB users also hold amateur licenses and have more user friendly frequencies to transmit on with a very slim chance of intentional interference from other users so unless the CB section of the radio spectrum can somehow be made more appealing to radio enthusiasts there is unlikely to be a huge upsurge in its use even with a global acceptance of data modes.
No Cash Incentive!
Money played a big part in the legislation of CB in the UK and the decision to adopt a different set of channel frequencies that made it prohibitive to convert imported sets forcing all “legal” users to buy new CB radios spawned a lucrative new source of income for UK producers, retailers and government alike. But that situation doesn’t exist with giving the go ahead to allow the use of data modes on CB as the required technology is available in huge quantities because it has all ready been created for the amateur radio market.
This lack of a new market to exploit is only made worse by our ever increasing move away from big physical radios to a more open source software environments where additional functionality is as simple as downloading free add on software packages making marketing any costly new data mode equipment for CB radio utterly pointless.
Why Don’t We Have Widespread Use of Data Modes Already?
Perhaps the question of allowing CB users data modes is a mute point because the widespread availability of CB radio equipment makes any sort of policing very difficult with out a large outlay of money and manpower, if there was enough interest in CB users sending out data transmissions wouldn’t they already be doing it?.
CB by its very nature is meant to be a low power system but linear amplifiers have been routinely used for decades now with modern day attempts to curve their use restricted to the passive method of waiting for a flood of localized interference complaints before seeking out the offender.
Part of the attraction of using CB before it was legalized was that it was risky and that feeling still exists for many users who are running 500 Watts of RF power up a full wave antenna. So how can the fact that its illegal to transmit packet on CB be stopping so many people doing it when we routinely ignore many of the CB license restrictions or is the interest in data modes at 27 MHz just not there?
In conclusion it would be nice to see a bit more flexibility in the Citizens band radio system but its implementation in what some governments see as a dying resource is going to be a very long battle.