While out on the road, you may have heard talk about some drivers using a single side band CB and became curious. A little research and asking around might have turned up that it’s more powerful, but other than that, what does it do that a normal CB radio won’t? It’s the thought that makes you scratch your head- if it’s more powerful, then why isn’t everyone using it?
A single side band CB simply is a refined frequency off of AM, with a functionality that uses the transmitter’s power and bandwidth much more efficiently than standard AM or FM, in that it cuts the bandwidth by half. To make it simpler, AM uses an output that has twice the bandwidth, and SSB uses the single stream. This gains the signal more power, up to 8 watts more than a standard CB radio. This means communications can reach further with less power output – it’s even conceivable under the right conditions to reach around the globe, though it’s not a good idea.
The FCC bans anyone from using SSB to speak to anyone greater than 90 miles away without a license (think ham radio operators, who work on SSB as well). But within the 90 miles, it is a beneficial bandwidth for a truck driver to be on, but there is a drawback.
Not everyone can receive the SSB signal and translate it through their radio units. It takes a specialized SSB receiver to do that. For this purpose, SSB rigs are often the toys of larger fleets, which might be in a specialized need on the road.
To clarify, SSB is not its own frequency, nor is a section of a particular band. In fact, it is considered a mode of transmission, much like AM or FM, just much more efficient. The receiver isn’t necessarily seeking the exact bandwidth a transmission is coming in on, either. The efficiency of the original broadcast makes a specialized SSB receiver more of a fine-tuner, modulating the sound waves on the mode to sound their best. With a little fiddling of the dial, voices coming over SSB can sound high pitched or low, duck-like and ‘quacky,’ as some drivers have described it.
Your antenna array will be the same as with a regular CB rig if you are interested in exploring further. But you will find that not many folks outside fleets will use the SSB due to its complexity and difficulty of tuning in a clean signal on the receiver.