What is SSB Radio?

What is Single Sideband (SSB) Radio?

Marine SSB (Single Side Band) is a form of marine radio used by vessels offshore, be they yachts or larger ships. It is particularly relevant for cruising yachts sailing outside of coastal waters (i.e. beyond VHF range).

SSB provide sailors with long range communications with no ongoing contract, costs or connection charges. There are four levels of GMDSS Certificate of Competence, however only two are relevant for SSB;

The range of SSB is several thousand miles (and potentially even global at the right time of day), intership calls are free and there are coast stations broadcasting marine safety information (such as weather forecasts). Modern SSB sets are equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC). A SSB transceiver will usually operate on two frequency bands.
  • Medium Frequency (MF)
  • High Frequency (HF)

Marine HF Radio

High Frequency (HF) lies between MF and VHF and is the frequencies 3 MHz to 30 MHz. HF radio waves can refract of the ionosphere giving us hundreds or even thousands of miles range.


HF Radio Propagation

Low frequencies follow the curvature of the earth. This is known as Ground Wave. Higher frequency radio waves can refract off the Ionosphere wich is known as Sky Wave. Sky Wave can result in dead zones (where no signal is received) when close to a transmitting station and MF or VHF will therefore be more appropriate for short range communication. A good rule of thumb for daytime use is to assume about 100 miles range per MHz of frequency:-

MF/HF Frequency Daylight Range Range in Darkness
2 MHZ 200 NM 500 NM
4 MHZ 400 NM 800 NM
6 MHZ 600 NM 1200 NM
8 MHZ 800 NM 1600 NM
12 MHZ 1200 NM 2400 NM
16 MHZ 1600 NM Fade Out
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