UK Callsign prefix's & Wednesday, 27 November 2019


All call signs have an internationally agreed structure, and in this way it enables not only the station to be identified, but it also gives an indication of the country in which the radio station is located. Call signs for the maritime, aeronautical and fixed radio services along with those used for ham radio operation have a slightly different format, but despite this it is possible to identify what sort of station is being heard by its call sign and its country of origin.

A ham radio call sign consists of two elements:

Prefix Callsign serial characters
EG: New licences in Endland are M3MVB or M6 (foundation licence), 2E0MVB (intermediate licence) M0MVB (full licence)

As the name suggests, the prefix is the first part of the call. It consists of up to three characters and it is that part of the call up to and including the last number. In other words in the ham radio call sign G3???, the prefix is G3. For VP8??? it is VP8, and for 2E0MVB it is 2E0.

The remainder of the call sign may consist one to three letters. These are effectively the "serial number" of the call. These days most calls have three letter, although in countries where there are very few stations, one or two letters may be used. Also very old call signs may only have one or two letters.

Countries and prefixes Each country is allocated prefixes which it can use, and by reference to a list it is possible to identify the country and sometimes a district within the country where the station is located.

An example of a typical call sign is G3ABC. In this the prefix is G3 and from the list of amateur prefixes it can be seen that the station is located in England. Similarly the station VP8ABC is either in the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Shetland Islands, South Sandwich Islands, South Orkney Islands or the Antarctic.
During contests or when stations are on the air from special events, stations may use different prefixes in their callsigns so that they can attract more attention. Whilst these prefixes may not be within the normal amateur radio callsign lists they still fall within the internationally agreed prefixes allocated to countries for all types of stations.

Call sign area codes Sometimes the authorities within a country that issue callsigns further subdivide the callsign blocks they are able to issue so that it is possible to determine the actual area within the country where the amateur radio station is located or where the callsign was issued. A prime example of this is the USA where the last numeral in the prefix for stations on mainland North America indicates the state in which the call sign was issued. Canada also adopts a similar approach with their call signs, along with many other countries.

Ham radio call sign suffixes Often suffixes are added to a call sign. When a station is operating from an automobile it will use the suffix /M for mobile. The suffix /P may be used for portable operation, and /MM for maritime mobile. Occasionally /AM will be heard when a station is aeronautical mobile.

With international travel more common these days radio amateurs often want to set up stations in other countries. If they anticipate being there for some while a totally new call sign for the country in question is usually allocated. However if a short stay is envisaged the station is often not given a new call sign. Instead the home callsign is used with the prefix of the country where the station is located. Traditionally this additional prefix was added after the main call sign. For example G3XYZ/VP9 would be located in Bermuda. However new international regulations suggest that and additional prefix is placed before the call sign. In this way F/G3XYZ would be located in France

There is a large number of different prefixes used for UK, British amateur radio callsigns or call signs. From a knowledge of these ham radio call signs it is possible to learn something about the licencee - the type of amateur radio or ham radio licence held and also when it was issued.

As the types of ham radio licence available have changed over the years, and different call sign series were issued for each one, it may be difficult to identify what the callsigns mean without a table and explanation.

UK amateur radio call signs Over the years a variety of different ham radio call sign series have been used in the UK. By looking at the prefix and the number of letters after the prefix it is possible to tell the approximate years in which the licence was issued, and also the original form of licence. There have been a variety of different licences that have been available, and a particular call sign format was used for each different type of licence.

Foundation Licence

Call sign description Issue dates and details

M3 + 3 letters   M6 + 3 letters Available from 13 May 2008

Intermediate Licence

Call sign description Issue dates and details

2E0 + 3 letters Issued from 1991 onwards as Intermediate licence. Issued as Novice class A licence from 1991 for use on all Novice allocations 2E1 + 3 letters Issued from 1991 onwards as Intermediate licence. Issued as Novice class B licence from 1991for use on Novice allocations above 30 MHz

Full Licence

Call sign description Issue dates and details G2 + 2 letters 1920 - 1939

G3 + 2 letters 1937 - 1938

G4 + 2 letters 1938 - 1939

G5 + 2 letters 1921 - 1939

G6 + 2 letters 1921 - 1939

G8 + 2 letters 1936 - 1937

G1 + 3 letters 1983 - 1988 - originally issued as Class B licence

G2 + 3 letters 1920s to 1939. Originally issued as "Artificial Aerial" licence

G3 + 3 letters Issued between 1946 and 1971. Originally issued to amateur radio licence and Class A amateur radio licence holders.

G4 + 3 letters Issued between 1971 and 1985. Originally issued to amateur radio class A licence holders.

G5 + 3 letters Originally issued to foreign nationals as a form of reciprocal ham radio licence. They were withdrawn and either they used existing home calls with additional UK prefix / callsign, or if applicable they could apply for UK licence.

G6 + 3 letters 1981 - 1983. Originally issued as a class B licence

G7 + 3 letters 1989 - 1996. Originally issued as a class B licence

G8 + 3 letters 1964 - 1981. Originally issued as a class B licence

G0 + 3 letters 1986 - 1996. Originally issued as a class A licence

M1 + 3 letters 1996 - . Originally issued as a class B licence.

M3 + 3 letters Foundation licence holders.

M0 + 3 letters 1996 - . Originally issued as a class A licence

UK amateur radio call sign prefixes In addition to the basic ham radio call signs a variety of prefixes are used. These not only indicate the country in which the station is located, but also the type of station - a separate set of prefixes being used to indicate whether the amateur radio licence is privately held by an individual or whether it is a club station.

The schemes are different for the M or G series callsigns and those in the 2X* series as the structure of the call signs is slightly different.

Call sign prefix Country 2E England 2D Isle of Man 2I Northern Irelend 2J Jersey 2M Scotland 2U Guernsey 2W Wales

Countries for 2X* series call signs

The call signs in the G and M series follow the same format. The second letter of the prefix indicates the country and purpose of the licence.

Prefix Country / purpose G & M, no second letter England GB Special event stations

GC & MC Wales - club licence (optional alternative prefix)

GD & MD Isle of Man

GH & MH Jersey - club licence (optional alternative prefix)

GI & MI Northern Ireland GJ & MJ Jersey

GM & MM Scotland

GN & MN Northern Ireland - club licence (optional alternative prefix)

GP & MP Guernsey - club licence (optional alternative prefix)

GS & MS Scotland - club licence (optional alternative prefix)

GT & MT Isle of Man - club licence

GU & MU Guernsey GX & MX England - club licence (optional alternative prefix)

GW & MW Wales

Countries and purposes for G and M series call signs

Although amateur radio club stations are allocated call signs using the standard series of prefixes, they also have the option to use the other prefixes detailed in the table above to indicate that they are a club station. This can be particularly useful when they are operating in particular as a club station when they want to make their status more obvious, or for example in some ham radio contests where a new prefix has added value.

GB call signs The GB prefix is used for a variety of special ham radio licences ranging from repeaters and beacons to data mailboxes and special even stations. It is possible to tell the use of the station and licence from the format of the callsign.

GB call sign format Purpose

GB3 + 2 letters Repeaters

GB3 + 3 letters Beacons

GB7 + 2 letters Data repeaters

GB7 + 3 letters Data mailboxes

GB + other digits not mentioned above Special event stations For events such as contests it is also possible to obtain call signs consisting of the prefix plus one letter. For example MW0A could be used for a ham radio contest, etc.

Call sign examples Listening on the amateur radio bands, a large variety of UK call signs with different prefixes can be heard. By using the above tables and information it is possible to determine much about the station using them. Although no UK call signs with serial letters in the series QAA to QZZ were issued, these can be used as examples as they do not belong to real stations. For example it can be seen that a station with the call sign G3QQQ would have been issued with a class A license and now hold a UK full licence, but it would have been issued between 1946 and 1971, well before the current licensing system was introduced. An amateur radio station with the call sign GB3QQ would be a repeater, and so forth.

As can be seen, there is a great variety in UK ham radio call signs and their prefixes. This diversity has partly arisen out of the changes in the UK ham radio or amateur radio licences and also from the need for new series of UK amateur radio call signs. As a result it is very useful to have an understanding of the make up of these call signs.