So I’ve been thinking about how to start off this blog, and given the ‘hot topic’ that my callsign was when it was issued, I figured it was only right that my first post be an explanation of how I was issued with my callsign, and how others can get them too. I’m not precious, or interested in keeping things a secret, so here goes:
- Pass your Advanced exam. Yes, this was step 1. I did the (rather excellent) online exam, which for me worked flawlessly. Passed by a comfortable margin, and then the waiting began. Note: If you already have a full licence and callsign, there is another way you can do this, which I will explain at the end.
- Fill in a paper application form. OFCOM have two methods to apply for an amateur callsign – the online system (which provides instant gratification, for free, but limits you to the current M0ABC format, and requires exactly three letters for the suffix), or the paper system (free text boxes on the application form, which you can fill in any way you like, but incurs a paper application processing fee).
- Send your application form to OFCOM. You can either do this by e-mail or snail mail. In reality it doesn’t make much difference. At the time of writing I believe OFCOM are working on about a 2 week backlog of forms waiting to be processed, so don’t expect this to be a quick process!
- Wait for your invoice to be e-mailed to you, then pay it. My invoice didn’t tell me what callsign I would get, but it did charge me the correct £20 fee, so I paid it. As soon as I did so, the callsign and licence document appeared in my OFCOM dashboard, as well as a copy being e-mailed to me shortly afterwards by the system.
Note that the process I followed was a little more convoluted, as I first had to check that OFCOM were willing and able to issue such a callsign. This included numerous calls to OFCOM, and the staff were, on the whole, incredibly helpful. One gentleman in particular stated that OFCOM’s current policy is that “If the prefix is valid for your licence type, and the suffix is both valid and available, then we’ll issue it”. Given that the precedent of callsigns with less than three letters in the suffix was set right at the start of amateur radio licencing in the UK (we all know a G#XX user somewhere out there), and that a club had, prior to my callsign being allocated, successfully received an M0XX callsign, this confirmed that M5ET would be valid, and as the first M5+2 to be issued, there was no chance of it having been taken.
As an aside, if you already have a full licence (and therefore cannot apply for your callsign because you already have one), you could use the back-door that a number of people have used, and set up a radio club. It needs the same form filling in, but I believe needs three “club members” to be listed for OFCOM to approve it. Otherwise, the process is inherently the same, I believe!