Amateur Radio Callsigns
The ITU (a UN agency) coordinates the allocation of specific letters (prefixes) to uniquely identify radio callsigns to particular countries. This applies to all radio use, the Amateur Service, Fixed and Mobile, Aeronautical, Maritime etc.
The Amateur Radio callsign format, as specified in Article 19 (19.68) is one or two characters, a single digit, followed by a group of not more than four letters (was three letters maximum until WRC 2003).
"one character (provided that it is the letter B, F, G, I, K, M, N, R or W) and a single digit
(other than 0 or 1), followed by a group of not more than four characters, the last of which shall be a letter, or
See http://life.itu.int/radioclub/rr/arts19.htm for official details.
ITU APPENDIX S42 is a table of 'Allocation of International Call Sign Series' (http://life.itu.int/radioclub/rr/aps42.htm) and you can see that British callsigns begin with G,M or 2. Some of the V and Z series are still allocated to Great Britain, these are used for overseas British Commonwealth countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand etc.) and may have been retained by nations that have left the commonwealth - such as India (VT to VW) and Hong Hong (VR).
British CallsBritish Amateur Callsigns are in the format :
G, M, or 2 (G before March 1996, M afterwards. 2 for Intermediate class)
( + Secondary Locator ) - regional (or none for G & M stations in England)
+ Digit (may denote a Morse test pass * , and an approximate 'era' of issue **)
+ three letters (or less)
for example G2AA, M1AAA, 2E1AAA, GW7AAA - the secondary locator denoting the country within the United Kingdom
(or other British region), with none required by English stations (except Novices because
callsigns cannot start with two digits).
British Licence Classes
Full / Advanced - all bands, max power. Callsigns start with G and M (except M3 & M6)
Background : there were no classes as such until 1964 when the UHF Class B was introduced, and all
other licence holders then became Class A. Both Classes required an RAE (exam) pass, the only difference in
qualifications was the 12wpm Morse test.
(update: G3aaa/T calls from 1950 allowed use of 420MHz and above, for /Television use, without Morse)
In 1991 the Novice Classes A and B were introduced. Novices had to attend a course and then take the NRAE (Novice RAE). A Morse test separated Novice Classes A (2E0 calls) and B (2E1). The Novice Class was renamed the Intermediate Class in October 2001, and is the middle tier between the Foundation and Full classes.
The beginner's Foundation Class was also announced in October 2001, hitting the airwaves on 1st January 2002, with no A or B sub-classes. A Morse 'appreciation' test just about complied with the S25 of the time, to allow access to HF (without 10 metres). Holders of these M3 callsigns will now be complete newcomers, though for a year or two it was possible for Full/Int. Class B (codeless) operators to take the Morse 'test' and thus get onto HF with the addtional M3 licence.
From 2004 new licensees will have to take the Foundation course (with Morse 'appreciation'!), then the Intermediate course, and then finally the Full course - probably 'wasting' 2 callsigns along the way.
G Full licence, before Apr 1996 - (G8/6/1/7 +3 = no Morse), (G3/4/0 +3 = Morse at 12wpm) M Full licence, after Apr 1996 - (M1 no Morse), (M0 12wpm, 5 wpm or none!), (M5 Morse at 5wpm) Foundation, started Jan 2002 - (M3/6, course) 2 Intermediate, started 1991 - (2E1, course), (2E0, course + Morse test at 12 or 5 wpm) (Original Marconi callsigns started with M, before the international prefix allocations) Examples of other types of British callsigns Ships Gaaa, Maaa, Maaan, 2aaa, 2aaan etc (some V and Z) e.g. MZXS2 Coast Stations Gaa Time Station MSF (Rugby) RSGB beacon GAM1 CB 2anaa e.g. 2T1ME Aircraft G-aaaa e.g. G-ABCD (Private aircraft registrations used as callsigns) Police/Fire M2aa (according to various books and sites!) Sea Cadets MFann, ATC MRann (web search for PROJECT MILLECOM - use Google's cache!)Secondary Locator
(none) England A used Aug-30.Nov.2009 by Scottish (NOV) for Homecoming (Alba Gaelic for Scotland) GA,MA,2A B Special Events, Beacons, British Repeaters, Data nodes/BBS, Broadcasts (all regions) C Wales clubs (Cymru) (was Channel Islands, pre-1976) D Isle of Man (Douglas) E England (for 2E series) (GE used in 1977 to celebrate Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee) F G used Sep.2009-Oct.2010 for special event GG100aaa stations celebrating 100 yrs of Girl Guides H Jersey clubs (St. Helier) I Northern Ireland J Jersey K L M Scotland (Mac! The maritime code flag M is a white X on blue, St. Andrew's Cross) N Northern Ireland clubs O used 21.Jul-9.Sep.2012 (via NOV) to celebrate London Olympics P Guernsey clubs (St. Peter Port) Q used to celebr. HM Queen’s Jubilees (GQ,MQ,2Q) - Golden 2002, Diamond 5.May-10.Jun 2012 (via NOV) R used 29.Apr-9.May.2011 celebrate Royal Wedding of Prince William & Kate (GR,MR,2R) (NoV required) S Scotland clubs T Isle of Man clubs (Tynwald / TT races!) U Guernsey V used 5.Jul-31.Jul.2013 to celebrate RSGB Centenary (NOV applications via RSGB) W Wales X England clubs (always an exception!) Y Z Shetland Islands (Zetland) Contest callsigns (e.g. GZ7V) - from Oct.2000 GB3aa Voice/TV Repeater GB3aaa Beacon GB7aa AX25 node (Packet) and Digital Repeaters (D-Star) GB7aaa AX25 BBS (Packet) Special Events may (rarely) use more than one digit - i.e. GB100GM, or even M2000A The correct regional locator must be used when away from the Main Station Address. G0AAA must sign GW0AAA/M when mobile in Wales, or will be changed to GM0AAA if he moves to Scotland. Secondary Club locators T,N,H,S,P,C,X are optional. Prior to 1st Dec 2006 they were ONLY to be used for greetings messages by the non-licensed. "If the Station is a club station AND OPERATING IN ACCORDANCE WITH SUB 1(8)" (BR68) (my CAPS) 1(8) : ".. greetings messages may be sent by non-licensed persons" There was widespread misuse of these letters by club stations trying to have a stand-out call. If you don't believe me, check out BR68 yourself! As usual, what seemed straightforward was complicated by cases of the RA insisting that club stations use these identifiers, regardless of any greetings. And it was a grey area as to whether the station is "OPERATING IN ACCORDANCE WITH SUB 1(8)" only each time a message was sent, or whether it applies throughout the whole duration of a club event where such greetings MAY end up being sent! Nowadays the Club Locators may be used as required, as BR68 no longer applies - the current 'Notes to the Licence' simply says : (c) If the Radio Equipment is used solely by a Club then the following Regional Secondary Locators may be used instead of those described in Clause 2(2) A visiting CEPT amateur shall use M/homecall, with regional locators e.g. MW/F1AAA in Wales Foreign amateurs gaining a British licence through a reciprocal agreement are issued with : M0/homecall Class A (HF) M1/homecall Class B (Non HF)Digit
'Class A' denotes a Morse pass, access to HF before 2003 'Class B' denotes no Morse, only 50MHz and upwards before 2003 Two letter G calls are all pre-WWII Class A (G2,G3,G4,G5,G6,G8) Full +3 Intermediate 0 Class A G0 (1985-1996), M0 (1996 onwards) 2E0+3 (1991 onwards) 1 Class B G1 (1983-1987), M1 (1996-2003) 2E1+3 (1991-2003) 2 Class A G2 (pre-WWII) (M2 used by other services) 3 Class A G3 (1946-1970), G3+2 (pre-WWII) Foundation M3 (2002-2008) 4 Class A G4 (1970-1984), G2+2 (pre-WWII) (M4 future full?) 5 Class A/B M5 (1999-2001 5wpm), G5+2 (pre-WWII) (M5 to continue when M1/M0 taken?) 6 Class B G6 (1981-1982), G6+2 (pre-WWII Class A) Foundation M6 (2008 onwards) 7 Class B G7 (1988-1996) (M7 future full?) 8 Class B G8 (1964-1981), G8+2 (pre-WWII Class A) (M8 future foundation?) 9 (G9 Commercial Experimental - non Amateur) (M9 unlikely?) NOTE : G5+3 was used for foreign nationals who passed the RAE or who had a suitable qualification in their home country that had a reciprocal agreement with the UK. (1966 to 1980/1?) G5AAA-G5DZZ Class A (Morse) G5NAA-G5ZZZ Class B (no Morse) "G7 used to be for RF heating, plastics welding equipment etc., things that were not intended to radiate but most likely did!"3 Letters
These cannot start with Q (confused with Q-codes) 2 letter callsigns are class A, pre-WWII. Post-war calls contain 3 letters. 1 letter calls have been issued for major contest stations, since June 1996 - G6a, M6a, M7a, M0a, M2a, M8a etcSuffixes (now optional from 1st Dec 2006)
/A Alternative Address Reintroduced 1st Dec 2006. An old suffice that had been scrapped back in the 1970s (1978?) with /P being used instead, until the 2006 comeback. /M Mobile "In any vehicle" (moving or not!) ".. as a pedestrian or on any Vessel in Inland Waters" Inland Waters being unaffected by tides - lake/loch, canal, inland section of a river. The advantage before 1st Dec 2006 was that no log keeping was required. /MM Maritime Mobile (first issued in 1966) "on any Vessel At Sea" Vesel being a "floating stucture which is capable of being manned" including hovecraft. At Sea being international waters, territorial sea, or Tidal Waters (sea/river affected by tides). Permission required by the Vessel's Master. /P Portable the station has been ported to another FIXED location (including a mobile station using a fixed antenna - the station cannot be simply driven away). Prior to 1st Dec 2006 : the location to within 5km/1km accuracy had to be given every 30 mins, and /P is not required if written notification has been given to the Operations Manager of the local office (to the relevant location) of the RA (although there have been cases of the RA still insisting on /P even when informed). I almost NEVER hear a location being given by a /P station! The location can be given as a full postcode, lat/long, IARU locator or O/S NGR. Requires log keeping. bygone suffixes /2K during January 2000 to celebrate the Millennium /MA Maritime at Anchor (from 1966? until?) GB5QM/MA issued in 1967 /P Portable - using a handheld radio (until 1978?) now /M /T Television (G3aaa/T calls, 1950-?) (G6aaa/T calls, 1964-?) bygone prefixes M2000Y/(non-amateur call) Used by military cadet/training stations in 2000 and 2001 - Project Millecom
1890s First experimentation, unlicensed 1904 August 15th - The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904 starts Experimental Licensing Permits specify power and wavelength, three letter callsigns contain a X for Experimental 1912 London International Radiotelegraphic Convention - international call prefixes agreed and allocated, although this doesn't internationally apply to Amateur Radio until 1928 1913 London Wireless Club (RSGB) formed. New licensing introduced, callsigns introduced 1914 Amateur radio suspended during the war, and for some time after WWI 1918 1920 April - New post-war licensing resumes. 12wpm required, and a good reason to have a licence. "Artificial Aerial" 2aaa licences (tested for Morse after WWII). It seems that callsign letters may have been chosen in many cases. 1923 Wireless Society of London changes name to RSGB 1920-39 G2aaa pre-war "Artificial Aerial" 2aaa calls - mostly 2Aaa to 2Daa, 2Faa, 2Haa 1920-39 G2aa 1921-39 G5aa 1921-39 G6aa 1928 harmonically related bands granted, covering 1.72-2, 7-7.3, 14-14.4, 28-30, 56-60 MHz 1932 Madrid Conference, the Union decided to combine the International Telegraph Convention of 1865 and the International Radiotelegraph Convention of 1906 to form the International Telecommunication Convention. Name changed to I.T. Union, effective 1 January 1934. 1936-37 G8aa 1937-38 G3aa 1938-39 G4aa "There are no +2 calls beginning G0 or G1.. there were a very few G7 or G9 +2 calls issued to certain amateurs towards the end of WWII." 1939 Thursday 31st August - "licences for ... experimental purposes are hereby withdrawn" WWII 1946 June - licensing resumes with fewer restrictions. 12wpm Morse still required. CW and AM in use. RAE (written exam) introduced, run by City and Guilds of London Institute (C&G). Calls issued in sequence. It became possible to wait for your choice to be issued (it has never been possible to change callsign within the same class) 1946 G3Aaa 1947 G3Caa 1947 - World Conference, Atlantic City, allocates bands, inc 2m, 70cm, 23cm, microwaves. Morse proficiency only required when operation is on frequencies below 1000 MHz (1 GHz.) 1948 G3Eaa 1948 - 145-146MHz, 420-450MHz, 2.35GHz bands released. SSB being developed 1949-50 G3Gaa 1949 - SSB allowed. 144-148, 23cm, 5.65GHz, 10GHz bands available. 150W allowed over 28MHz (not 70cm) 1950-1 G3Haa 1950 - ATV allowed on 70cms as /T operation. Additional licence fee allows alternate address 1951-2 G3Iaa 1951 - ATV allowed on 1225-1290MHz. FM permitted on 144.5-145.5MHz 1952-4 G3Jaa 1952 - restrictions lifted on operation away from the home address. Max 70cm power up to 150W 1954-6 G3Kaa 1954 - The Post Office introduces new Mobile and Amateur Television licences 1956-7 G3Laa 1956 - 4m introduced (Nov.), 70.2-70.4MHz. 'self-training' and disaster relief use now included 1957-8 G3Maa 1958-60 G3Naa 1959 - WRC lowers Morse requirement to operation on frequencies below 144 MHz 1960-1 G3Oaa 1961-2 G3Paa 1962-3 G3Raa (a Qaa series is never issued) 1963-4 G3Saa 1964 June 1st, Class B introduced, 70cms and up. 4m becomes 70.1-70.7MHz "I found a note in a 1960s SWM, mentioning the G6 television calls but also having a slightly snide addendum that "these seem mostly to be used for voice operation on 70cms without having to take the CW test" - perhaps that explains how Class B came about! 1964-5 G3Taa G8Aaa (and G6Aaa/T ATV) 1965-6 G3Uaa " 1965 - 70 cms band reduced, 420-427MHz withdrawn 1966-7 G3Vaa " 1966 - Reciprocal licences (G5+3 letters) first issued. First /MM 1967 G3Waa G8Baa 1967-8 G3Xaa " 1968-9 G3Yaa G8Caa Class B extended to include 144MHz band 1969-70 G3Zaa G8Daa 1970-71 " G8Eaa 1971-2 G4Aaa G8Faa 1972-3 G4Baa " GB3PI the first UK repeater (14 Sept 1972) 1973 " G8Haa 1974-5 G4Daa G8Jaa 1975 " G8Kaa 1975-6 G4Eaa " 1976-7 " G8Maa 1977 G4Gaa G8Oaa January 1st - licences reissued incorporating mobile, pedestrian, TV 1978 " G8Paa 1979 G4Iaa G8Taa World Admin. Radio Conference allocates 10.1-10.15, 18.068-18.168, 24.89-24.99 MHz Morse requirement lowered to operation on frequencies below 30 MHz May 1979 - RAE becomes multiple choice 1981 G4Maa G8Zaa (CB: UK CB legalised 1st November - 27 & 934MHz FM) G6Aaa 1982 G4Raa G6Raa Some permits issued for 6m G6Zaa 1983 G4Saa G1Aaa 1984 G4Waa G1Daa G4Zaa 1985 G0Aaa G1Laa June - Minister of State for Industry and Technology states 50-50.5MHz will be alloc. 1986 G0Eaa G1Saa Feb 1st - Class A gets 50-50.5MHz. 18 June - Morse passes now valid for life. Morse tests change to "on-air QSO-type" format( May?), now run by RSGB 1987 G0Haa G1Xaa June 1st - Class B gets 50 and 70MHz. 6m extended to 52MHz, 4m 70.0-70.5MHz G1Zaa 1988 G0Jaa G7Aaa (CB: CEPT channels now legal in UK) 1989 G0Laa G7Eaa 1990 G0Maa G7Faa (G7HTG was issued in 1990) 1991 Novice classes A and B introduced (what date?) - NRAE (exam) required Limited bands and power (3W?). ?wpm for class A 1991 G0Naa G7H-- 2E0Aaa 2E1Aaa 1992 G0Saa G7Maa " 2E1Baa SSL issues licences since 1 apr 92 1993 G0Taa G7Oaa " 2E1Caa 1994 G0Vaa G7Saa " 2E1Daa 6m power/aerial restrictions lifted 1995 G7Uaa " 2E1Eaa 1996 G0XCa G7WMa " ANa " EVa (by end of March) "SSL has informed the Society that as of last Wednesday morning, the latest callsigns allocated were in the G0 X-Ray Alfa and G7 Whisky Lima series" - 24th March GB2RS Either G0 or G7 (or maybe both!) didn't reach the ZZZ end of the series.. must consult a call book! 1996 Sat 30th March - M series takes over from G series 1996 M0Aaa M1Aaa " 2E1Faa 1997-8 M0Baa M1Caa " 2E1Gaa (CB: 2 band UK+CEPT radios now permitted) 1998-99 M0Caa M1Daa " " May 98 - the RAE changes to one paper of 80 multiple choice questions 1999 June 21st - Novice power up to 10W, 2m now included, SSB on 80m, HF to include QRP CW call frequencies. 1999 Aug 2nd - New class A/B (M5aaa) - HF access with 5wpm test instead of 12wpm (announced 15 July) (PMR446: the 8 channel European service introduced in the UK on 19th April) 1999 " M1Eaa " 2E1Haa M5Aaa 2000 M0Daa M1Faa " 2E1Iaa M5Baa 2000 April 1st - callsigns can now be selected from any available within the current class number so they will now appear in a seemingly random order, you can no longer tell how long someone has had their licence. Website http://www.radiolicencecentre.co.uk/rlc (Callsign Page) shows the latest callsigns issued, presumably those where the applicant didn't choose one? I think this was poorly thought out and a little unfair. Those applying at the start of a series will have their pick of the 'good' calls (triple letters etc). Those applying when a series is nearly used up will be stuck with the unwanted calls (the kind that score well in Scrabble!). Also, the Foundation course was available in some areas in November, before the calls could even be used - whereas in other areas there was a wait until well into the new year for the RSGB or the local clubs to get their act together. If they'd kept the ordering, they would have only used up to about M5Eaa and could have started from M5Faa onwards for Class Bs passing the Foundation Morse, with 2E5 for complete beginners. Any existing M5 who wouldn't want to be associated with it could have changed to M0 anyway. 2001 October 1st - Class A speed reduced to 5wpm - M5 "A/B" becomes class A and can change to M0 Unlicensed trainees (on a registered training course) may be supervised by full licence holders to operate a station and contact other UK licensed amateurs. There will be no time limit on the duration of any message. Foundation Licence class announced, and so.. The Novice class is re-named the Intermediate class - maximum 50W Intermediate (A) licensees now allowed all bands. Intermediate (B) now allowed all bands from 50MHz up. 2001 M0 M1 2E0 2E1 2002 M0 M1 2E0 2E1 M3 January 1st - New Foundation class starts (M3aaa), maximum 10W. 6m, 4m, 2m, 70cm, HF except 10m Access to HF with only a Morse appreciation 'test' that is near impossible to fail. A course must be taken, or a Class B licence held for at least 1 year. BR68/F May 1st 2002 : Class B 1 year requirement dropped to 3 months (Full and Intermediate classes) A hasty rush-job, IMHO. Never, in the field of Amateur Licensing, as so much been given, for so little (sorry Winston). They should have given parts of fewer bands, I think. Where is the incentive to progress? From Foundation to Intermediate takes you from 10W to just 50W, gets you a crappy 2 callsign and doesn't allow you HF without a real 5wpm Morse test! (until 2003) Bands (or parts of them) should be the rewards for upgrading, not power levels - and would be much easier to police too. What a waste of callsigns, too. You might want to go straight to Full, but you can't - you have to start at Foundation level. So you get an M3 call, take the next course, get a 2E1 call you can't use on HF (yet) and so keep the M3 call too, then possibly pass a Morse test and trade those in for a 2E0 and then when you finally pass the Full course you get yet another callsign, an M0 at last. What a fiasco. Many people think callsigns should never be reissued (it doesn't seem to be a problem with cars or telephone numbers) so this is a handy way to use up all the calls too quickly! For every future M0 there will probably be an M3 as well - eventually using up the M series twice as fast as it should be. I have to say though, if there's a G0ZZZ in one century and a different G0ZZZ in another is that really a problem telling them apart?! Just how do all those John Smiths out there tell who's who? Some people are incredibly posessive of the callsign 'given' to them (allowed to them, in reality), but I really don't care if someone else has 'my' callsign long after I'm gone. Is it fair on future generations to make them use even more longwinded calls? GW23ABC? MM0MMMM/MM?! But I digress... (actually WRC-2003 ammended art.19 to enable 4-letter suffixes. Yuk.) With the Foundation Licence being so simple, even for a complete newcomer, I can see how some say it really is becoming more like CB - but I still believe there is room for us all. An Amateur Licence isn't a prize for a lot of learning, rather it is the first step to a lifetime of learning. The licensee almost cannot fail to learn by doing. If some people delay more active experimentation a little (or never get there), that is purely their own business. Yes, it's human nature to look down on those who haven't 'caught up' with us (yet), but please try exchanging self-pride and snobbery for a more humble gratitude for the position in which you find yourself. A 'real' amateur helps and encourages beginners. Always remember it's a hobby, folks. Being a wise and decent human being should take priority! 2003 July 4th - WRC 2003 ammends the ITU regs such that Morse testing for HF is no longer mandatory, but up to each administration. Effective 5th July, but each country waits for its own rule changes to be announced... July 25th - UK Gazette notice announces the end of Morse testing for HF access. All previous Full Class A and Full Class B licencees are now in the single Full class, similarly with the Intermediate classes A and B. Effective 26th July 2003 there are now just 3 classes : FULL : G (all), M0, M1, M5 INTERMEDIATE : 2 (all) FOUNDATION : M3 New Full and Intermediate callsigns use 0, so that you can't tell if an M0 or 2E0 was licenced before July 2003 or not - whether they've passed a Morse test or not. Very kind of them to blur the issue in favour of 'Morse is irrelevant', hehe. If they'd stopped M0 and carried on using M1, an M0 would have always denoted a Morse pass. Too much to expect logic, I suppose. I've come to expect the complete opposite of what seems reasonable! In fairness, it says to the world that Class B has disappeared / has been upgraded to Full, rather than Class A being downgraded to Class B level; amusingly pleasant in actual fact. You can't get a Class B callsign any more, we're special! (and equal to new M0s... ROFL) 2003-7 M0 (Full) 2E0 (int.) M3 (Foundation) Last RAE exam in Dec 2003 2004 The manual for the Full class course is encouragingly called "Advance!", so some people got confused and starting calling the Full class the Advanced class. The name appears to have stuck! January Radcom announces that M4 will be used for the next FL series after M3. 2006 December 1st - New Lifetime Licences (no more £15 per year charge, just check in every 5 years) with some changes to the conditions including : Logging now optional, only mandatory if required by Ofcom for interference investigations. More bands available to M3 FLs, such as 28MHz. Club GX callsigns now for general use, optionally. Suffixes like /M now optional, but new /A for Alternative Address. No /P locations needed. No more BR68 booklet as such, the similar terms & condtions are now part of the licence. (CB: December 8th - CB deregulated, no licences required. "iTrip" 50nW FM transmitters now legal) December 16th - FCC announces Morse will no longer (early 2007) be needed for HF access. 2008 May 13th - new M6 callsign series announced to take over from M3 2011 December 1st - first 5-year update required for new Lifetime Licences BUT OFCOM allow 1 year grace due to their workload with London 2012 Games. 2012 December 1st - 2006 licences definitely require revalidation!
To remember the spellings, think of advice (noun) and advise (verb)."
17 Jun 2013
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