The use of CB radios, which include both 27MHz Radios and UHF Radios are authorised under the Radiocommunications (Citizen Band Radio Stations) Class Licence 2002. This class licence, which is issued by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) governs the frequencies that may be used and the equipment standards and technical parameters. The ACMA made a recent variation to the licence, effective 27 May 2011, whereby users now have access to more channels in the 400MHz range (an increase from 40 channels to 80 channels), although some are allocated as repeater channels. The variation to the class licence has affected the technical standard to accommodate the new channel arrangements. Standard AS/NZX 4365:2011 was published in January 2011.
In simple terms, all simplex voice channels will transition to 12.5 kHz bandwidth, with new repeater channels created in the space between the existing channels. Utilisation of the first 40 channels remains available to the public without applying for a licence and without fees. However, if you wish to use the new repeater channels 41 to 43 & 46 to 48 you will need to apply for a new licence. Currently, licenses for channels 44 & 45 will not be issued to allow owners of channel 5 emergency repeaters more time to upgrade equipment to meet the new standards. Once the ACMA confirms that most emergency repeaters have been converted, then the 44 & 45 licenses will be issued to applicants.
The only tiny catch under the licence is; all users must operate in the allowed frequency range on a shared and cooperated basis and those users are all subject to the same conditions outlined in the licence. This means you must understand which channels are reserved for emergency use etc. See information further on this page for channel allocations.
Unfortunately, MOST (but not all) of the old 40 channel UHF CB radios are not upgradeable to include the new 80 channels, which means that to access them you will need to by a new unit. With that said, there are a limitied range of units that can be unlocked - meaning they can be converted from the 40 channel system to the 80 channel system, so do a check of your existing model first before assuming you'll need to buy a new one. The good news is that the ACMA has given a six year phase-in period during which you can continue to keep using your current 25 kHz radio. Beaware however that if you purchase a new unit, that there will be good deals going on through until late 2012 with units being sold by retailers that are not compatible with the 80 channels system. The AMCA has allowed retailers a grace period to allow them to sell off old stock.
UHF Radio Technical Standards
All UHF Radios must comply with a technical standard across the board for manufacturers and private hobbyists to adhere to. The three major concerns are:
- Transmitting power for UHF Radios must not exceed 5 watts
- Operation of UHF Radio stations must only employ FM or PM (Phase Modulation)
- Necessary bandwidth of UHF Radios must not exceed 16kHz
In some cases, interferences may occur when a CB is operating near television and radio receivers. The ACMA has produced several booklets and information brochures on how to resolve interference problems. At the end of the day, it comes down to fair cooperation with the affected television viewer or radio listener to resolving any issues.
Breaches of the Class Licence
The operator will no longer be authorised to operate under the class licence and would be liable for prosecution if breaches such as: operating on a frequency which is not permitted and using an emergency channel for non emergency use.