Amateur Radio Licensing in The United States - Call Signs

Call Signs

Each station is assigned a call sign which is used to identify the station during transmissions.

Amateur station call signs in the US take the format of one or two letters (the prefix), then a numeral (the call district), and finally between one and three letters (the suffix). The number of letters used in the call sign is determined by the operator's license class and the availability of letter combinations.

The format of the callsign is often abbreviated as X-by-X where a number in place of the X indicates the quantity of letters, separated by a single digit of the call district.

Currently there are 13 geographically based regions. There were 9 original call districts within the 48 contiguous states, also known as radio inspection districts. The 10th district (with numeral 0) was split from the 9th district. Three additional regions cover Alaska, the Caribbean (including Puerto Rico), and the Pacific (including Hawaii).

In the last few decades the FCC has discarded the requirement that a station be located in the corresponding numerical district. Whereas at one time the callsign W1xxx would have been solid identification that the station was in New England (district 1), that is no longer the case, and W1xxx may be located anywhere in the USA. Even particularly distinctive calls such as KH6xxx which used to be exclusively in Hawaii, may be assigned to license holders on the US mainland. However, those licensees with KH6, KL7, KP4, etc., call signs must have been living in Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico when they received those call signs.

A newly licensed amateur will always receive a call sign from the district in which he or she lives. For instance, a newly licensed Technician from New England would receive a call sign of the form KB1xxx. The amateur may thereafter apply for a specific or specialized call sign under the Vanity Licensing program.

Approximately 88% of all amateur radio operators have call signs that reflect the district in which they live.

An amateur operator with an Amateur Extra Class license can hold a call from any of the four call sign groups, either by keeping an existing call sign (indefinitely, since there is no requirement to change call sign upon license renewal), or by choosing a Group B, C or D call sign under the Vanity Licensing Program.

Likewise, Advanced Class licensees can hold Group C or D call signs, as well as Group B, and any operator may choose a Group D call sign (in reality, all new licensees, except Amateur Extra, are assigned Group D call signs, since the supply of available Group C "1x3" call signs was quickly depleted with the introduction of the elimination of the Element 1A Morse Code requirement for the Technician Class in 1991)

Amateur Radio Callsigns in the United States
Class Size Format Letters Example
Group A Amateur Extra Class Four characters 1-by-2 K, N, or W plus two letters W1AW
2-by-1 AA-AL, KA-KZ, NA-NZ, or WA-WZ plus one letter AB0C
Five characters 2-by-2 AA-AL plus two letters AB2MH
Group B Advanced Class Five characters 2-by-2 KA-KZ, NA-NZ, or WA-WZ plus two letters NZ9WA
Group C Technician or General Classes Five characters 1-by-3 K, N, or W plus three letters K9DOG
(location specific)
KL, NL, or WL; NP or WP; KH, NH, or WH, plus two letters KL5CD
Group D Novice, Club, and Military Recreations Stations; and sequentially to Technician or General Six characters 2-by-3
(Novice or Club)
KA-KZ, WA-WZ plus three letters KA2DOG
KA-KZ plus three letters KN0WCW
Source: FCC Callsign information

The call district assignments are as follows (note that a station may not actually be located in the district indicated by the numeral in the stations's callsign) :

District Numeral States and Territories
1 1 ME, NH, MA, RI, CT, VT
2 2 NY, NJ
3 3 PA, DE, MD, DC
4 4 KY, VA, TN, NC, AL, GA, SC, FL
5 5 NM, TX, OK, AR, LA, MS
6 6 CA
7 7 WA, OR, ID, MT, WY, NV, UT, AZ
8 8 MI, OH, WV
9 9 WI, IL, IN
10 0 ND, SD, NE, KS, CO, MN, IA, MO
11 L0 - L9 AK
12 P1 - P5 Caribbean
P1: Navassa Island P3/P4: Puerto Rico
P2: U.S. Virgin Islands P5: Desecheo Island
13 H0 - H9 Hawaii and Pacific H5K: Kingman Reef
H1: Baker, Howland Islands H6/7: Hawaii
H2: Guam H7K: Kure Island
H3: Johnston Atoll H8: American Samoa
H4: Midway Island H9: Wake Island
H5: Palmyra Atoll, Jarvis Island H0: Northern Marianas

Read more about this topic:  Amateur Radio Licensing In The United States

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