Anatomy of a Callsign

It is required by law that each station on the air identify itself periodically. A station identifies by transmitting the callsign assigned to it by the government of the country in which it resides. A callsign can be broken down into at least two parts : a prefix, which identifies the country in which the station resides, and a suffix, which provides the station a unique identifier. For Amateur stations, the callsign usually contains a third part, a number, which separates the suffix from the prefix. Usually this number is assigned by the government concerned so it identifies the region of the country where the station is located.

For example, the callsign VE3XYZ can be broken down as follows :
prefix = VE = Canada
number = 3 = Ontario
suffix = XYZ (unique, to identify a specific station)

The prefix is assigned by the country concerned from a specific set of prefixes that are meant for that country. This "set of prefixes" is allocated to a country by international agreement (through the International Telecomunications Union [ ITU ] ). Thus, if you hear a station on the air, you can at least tell what country it is transmitting from, by looking up its prefix in the published listing of International Call Sign prefixes. This is true not only for Amateur stations, but also for commercial broadcast stations, marine stations, etc. (eg. for television station "CITY" in Toronto, "CI" is the Canadian prefix, "TY" is their unique suffix).

To see the usual callsign prefix assigned to Amateur stations in a specific country, first select the desired country's name in the box below. (Only a limited number of countries are shown in this box ; click on the arrow to see all the possible selections). Once you have selected a country, then click on the SUBMIT button. A new window will appear, that displays the selected country's prefix. The new window will also have a sound button in it, which, if clicked, will send (sound out) the morse code (twice) for that same prefix. [ NOTES: (a) once the sound button is clicked, your browser will show a "sound console window". You will not hear any sound until the morse code sound file is downloaded to your computer (done automatically); (b) your browser must be capable of interpreting "WAV" sound files for the sound button to work; (c) don't be afraid to try out the sound -- it won't hurt your computer despite notes (a) and (b)! ]

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