Callsigns – Q&A

What is a callsign?

Your call sign will be assigned to you when you get your first amateur radio licence. It is unique to you, and you will use it to identify yourself every time you transmit. All radio users have call signs, ships, aircraft as well as police and fire services.

Call signs are necessary under international law – Article 25 of the International Radio Regulations (to which the UK is a party) says that the Amateur Service must use a system of licence identification.

The UK callsign system includes the characters G, M and 2, with the format being one or two letters and a digit plus two or three letters, or one digit, one letter, another digit and three letters. You can see some examples below.

“G”  amateur call signs are fully allocated so at present Full licensees are issued with call signs commencing “M0”, Intermediate licences with call signs starting “2E0” and Foundation licensees will be issued an call sign starting with “M6”.

A “Regional Secondary Identifier” is added to indicate that transmissions are from a region other than England, as follows:

  • England – none (eg M0ABC 2E0ABC)
  • Wales – W  (eg MW0ABC 2W0ABC)
  • Scotland – M  (eg MM0ABC 2M0ABC)
  • Northern Ireland – I (eg MI0ABC 2I0ABC)
  • Guernsey – U (eg MU0ABC 2U0ABC)
  • Jersey – J  (eg MJ0ABC 2J0ABC)
  • Isle of Man – D (eg MD0ABC 2D0ABC)

Eire have their own set of callsigns starting with EI and a French call could be F3ABC for example. Other countries have their own identifying letters.

If I have just qualified, can I request a particular call sign?

Yes, you will be able to choose any call sign in the current series providing that it has not already been issued. On-line applicants can choose as part of registering for the licence, postal applications to Ofcom can list in order of preference and may contact the Radio Licensing Centre to check which call signs are still available. The call sign will then be allocated once the licence application is received. Call signs  are issued on a “first come, first served” basis.

Can I change my call sign for a different one in the same class?

Very rarely, because of OFCOM’s obligations under the International Radio Regulations to maximise the use of call sign series available, very few changes of call signs are agreed. Changes will ONLY be considered on a case by case basis where the newly issued call sign is found to form an obviously offensive word or acronym or where a medical condition such as a stutter makes the use of the call sign impossible. In most cases where the radio amateur anticipates a facetious reaction to a call sign, the reaction soon disappears as the novelty wears off, and the call sign returns to its proper place as an administrative device.