Every licensed Radio Amateur is given a call sign that is
used to identify you and your location of license. Each country
that has Amateur Radio status is allocated a range of call signs
by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). See below
for pages containing these country allocations.
Prefix and Suffix
signs consist of a prefix and a suffix. The prefix is usually
composed of one or two letters and a number such as VE4 in
Canada for the province of Manitoba or K9 in the U.S. for the
states Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Some countries have
prefixes that are composed of a number and a letter such as 4X
for Israel or 9K for Kuwait. If this sounds confusing tables of
call sign allocations will be given later in this section to
make things clear.
the prefix uniquely identifies a country the suffix is unique for the
individual. In Canada a call sign such as VE3ABC has VE3 (Ontario) as
the prefix and ABC as the suffix. In the U.S the call sign N2MG has a
prefix of N2 and suffix of MG. U.S. hams may also have a two letter prefix
thus AB2Z is a valid call. Suffixes may also be less than three letters
so you have call signs such as VE7AB in British Columbia and KH6Y in Hawaii.
America the number in the call sign generally refers to an
area of the country. The 3 in VE3 refers to Ontario and
the 6 in K6 refers to California. The number may be shared
between states in the U.S. so that 1 as in K1 or W1 can
refer to the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine,
New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. Usually in Canada
the number refers to a single province although VE1 can
refer to the Maritime provinces New Brunswick or Nova
Other countries follow a similar practice so you can
have states in Brazil and Prefectures in Japan.
Amateurs are generally
advised to use the phonetic
alphabet when giving their call sign on
the air. This helps others to clearly understand
the call sign and is especially important under
poor band conditions.
The table below contains the generally used prefixes for
Canadian Radio Amateurs. Note that all calls have two letters
followed by a single digit.
|Call Sign Prefix
||Province or Territory
||New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
||North West Territories
||Prince Edward Island
Prefixes used by Amateurs in the United States are shown in
the following table. U.S. Radio Amateurs may have either a
single letter or two letters in the prefix. See the two letter
allocations at the bottom of the table. The single letter
prefixes K, and N are also in use by U.S. Amateurs. To further
complicate matters Amateurs that have moved to a different area
of the country may retain their existing call sign so when you
hear W8ABC you may be receiving a signal from other than the W8
|Call Sign Prefix
||Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri,
Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota
||Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
Rhode Island, Vermont
||New Jersey, New York
||Delaware, D.C., Maryland, Pennsylvania
||Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia
||Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico,
||Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon,
Washington, Utah, Wyoming
||Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia
||Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin
|A, AA - AK K, KA - KK
KM - KW
KX - KZ
N, NA - NK
NM - NW
NX - NZ
WA - WK
WM - WO
WQ - WW
WX - WZ
International Call Sign Allocation
Prefixes beginning with both letters and numbers are
allocated to countries around the world that have Amateur Radio
licensing. For a complete list of these allocations see the International
Call Sign Allocation table.
Special Call Signs
In many countries special call sign allocations may be made
to commemorate a special event. These special event call signs
usually have an unusual prefix so that the station using the
call will be easily recognized. For example the calls M2000A and
7S2000M were heard quite often commemorating the year 2000. CI3O
was used in 1996 for the Charles Island DXpedition. Many of
these special events also have unique QSL cards that are well
worth the effort to make the contact and to send for the card.
See the section on QSL cards to get more
information on this aspect of the hobby.
|Another type of call sign is
the vanity call as it is called in the United States. The
FCC in the U.S. and Industry Canada permit hams to apply
for a call that has special meaning to them. For example,
Bob R. might apply for the call KA5BOB or Pam W. might ask
for VE3PAM for obvious reasons. Although my call is
VE3BUC my name is Don and not Buc so not everyone with a
name in their call has a vanity call.
Operating Portable or Mobile
If an amateur operator is in a province, state or country
other than his or her own then he/she is working portable. So if
VE3BUC was operating in Alberta then he would use the call sign
VE3BUC/VE6 pronounced as "VE3BUC portable VE6." If he
was in Florida then the call sign VE3BUC/W4 would be used. W5AX
in New York would use W5AX/W2 and in Quebec would use W5AX/VE2.
Although a common practice for U.S. hams who have moved to a new
state is to continue with their old callsign. Thus N2AB who
moves to Texas might be using the same call without the portable
indication. But he could sign N2AB/5. Confusing?
In most areas of the world the portable prefix comes before
the call. Thus if VE3BUC was active in Australia the call would
be VK1/VE3BUC pronounced "VK1 portable VE3BUC" or
ZL1AM in California might use W6/ZL1AM although ZL1AM/W6 would
also be acceptable there.
When working mobile you would use a call such as VE3BUC/M
pronounced as "VE3BUC mobile."
One of the important decisions to make when operating is what
band to use. The section Amateur Radio Bands
looks into this topic.
© 2001 - 2007 Don Cassel VE3XD
|Table of Contents
What is Amateur Radio?
What Hams Do
How to Become a Radio Amateur
Amateur Radio Bands
IRLP in Depth
Guide to Choosing Your First Radio
Glossary of Terms
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