Your operator/primary station license will indicate your amateur call sign. There are several important features to an amateur callsign. It allows other operators to identify which country you are from, which part of the country you are in, and sometimes even what license class you have.
A basic amateur callsign consists of two letters, a number, and three letters. Sometimes there may be as few as one letter, a number, and one letter.
The letters used for stations in the United States are...
You may notice all of the TV and radio broadcast stations you tune into in the U.S. either start with a K or a W. Amatuer calls also start with a K, or W; BUT they can also start with an A or N.
The U.S. is broken down into 10 regions (0-9) where callsigns are assigned different numbers. I've included a link that allows you to look up your state and see what number would be on your callsign.
They are what make the callsign truely your own.
Callsigns are assigned sequentially. For example, if three people passed their license at the same time, they might receive the following callsigns...
For example, a 2-by-3 [two letters, a number, and three letters] callsign typically belongs to a Novice or Technician operator. Some of the newer General operators have a 2-by-3 call.
A 1-by-3 callsign usually belongs to older Technician and General class operators. These callsigns were 'used up' in the sequential callsign system, so newer Tech and General operators are now receiving 2-by-3 calls.
A 2-by-2 call usually belongs to an Advanced or a newer Extra class operator. An Extra 2-by-2 usually starts with an 'A'. An Advanced 2-by-2 usually starts with a 'K', 'N', or 'W'.
A 1-by-2 or 2-by-1 call usually belongs to an older Extra class operator. When these sequential callsigns were 'used up', the Extra class operators started receiving 2-by-2 calls.
A 1-by-1 callsign is very special. It is usually only assigned to a special event station for a short period of time. They are not assigned to individual operators as their regular callsign.
What if you don't like the letters in your call? You can send in an application requesting to receive the next sequential callsign available.
Another option is to do a little research and pick a "vanity" callsign (a callsign that is not taken). A vanity callsign is one where you select the actual letters that are in the call.
Whenever you transmit on an amateur radio, you are required to identify your transmissions.
You identify your transmissions by giving your amateur callsign.
You are NOT required to identify at the beginning of your transmission (although it is common practice).
You are required to identify with your callsign at least every 10 minutes.
When you end your contact you are required to identify with your callsign.
It is common practice for each station to identify themselves and the station(s) they are in contact with - but it is NOT required (there is an exception - international third party traffic... in a later lesson).
Table of Contents
Lesson 8 -Amateur Callsigns and Station Identification
Daniel Reynolds - AA0NI - August 21, 1998