Introduction

Amateur radio or ham radio call signs are unique identifiers for the 60,000 or so licensed operators in Great Britain. Call signs are regulated internationally by the 'International Telecommunication Union' (ITU) as well as nationally by Britain's 'The Office of Communication', known as Ofcom. It regulates amateur radio in the country as an independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, with responsibilities across television, radio, telecommunications and wireless communications services. It assigns call signs, issues amateur radio licences, conducts exams, allocates frequency spectrum, and monitors the radio waves.

The Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) is the United Kingdom's recognised national society for amateur radio operators. The society's patron is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and it represents the interests of the UK’s licensed radio amateurs.

Callsign Blocks for Telecommunication

The ITU has assigned Great Britain the following call sign blocks for all radio communication, broadcasting or transmission.

Callsign Block Principal Use
GAA – GZZ Domestic
MAA – MZZ Domestic
VPA – VQZ Oceanic islands, Antarctica
VSA – VSZ  
ZBA – ZJZ Gibraltar, Middle East, south Atlantic
ZNA – ZOZ  
ZQA – ZQZ  
2AA – 2ZZ Domestic

While not directly related to call signs, the ITU further has divided all countries assigned amateur radio prefixes into three regions; Great Britain is located in ITU Region 1.

Callsign Assignments for Amateur Radio

Ofcom allots the individual call signs to the amateurs it licences. Call signs are the property of Ofcom even when assigned.

Prefixes + letters in suffix Licence class Issue Dates and Details
M3 + 3 Letters Foundation Licence Jan 2002 – May 2008
M6 + 3 Letters Foundation Licence May 2008 – date
2EØ + 3 Letters Intermediate Licence 1991 – date. Originally issued as Class A Novice until 2001 when the Intermediate Licence was created.
2E1 + 3 Letters Intermediate Licence 1991 – date. Originally issued as Class B Novice with restrictions to frequencies above 30MHz until 2001 when Intermediate Licence was created. In 2003 Morse was dropped as a requirement for HF access and Classes A and B were merged.
G1 + 3 letters Full Licence 1983 – 1988. Originally issued as a Class B (RAE only) licence with restriction to frequencies above 30MHz. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G2 + 2 letters Full Licence 1920 – 1939. Automatically became Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) on the creation of Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) in 1964. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G2 + 3 letters Full Licence 1920 – 1939. Originally issued as "Artificial Aerial" licence.
G3 + 2 letters Full Licence 1937 – 1938. Automatically became Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) on the creation of Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) in 1964. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G3 + 3 letters Full Licence 1946 – 1971. Post 1964 these were Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) licences. The G3 + 3 letter callsigns issued prior to 1964 became Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) on the creation of Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) in 1964. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G4 + 2 letters Full Licence 1938 – 1939. Automatically became Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) on the creation of Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) in 1964. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G4 + 3 letters Full Licence 1971 – 1985. Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001). Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G5 + 2 letters Full Licence 1921 – 1939. Automatically became Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) on the creation of Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) in 1964. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G5 + 3 letters Overseas 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 + 2 letters Full Licence 1921 – 1939. Automatically became Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) on the creation of Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) in 1964. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G6 + 3 letters Full Licence 1981 – 1983. Originally issued to Class B (RAE only) with restrictions to frequencies above 30MHz. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G7 + 3 letters Full Licence 1989 – 1996. Originally issued to Class B (RAE only) with restrictions to frequencies above 30MHz. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G8 + 2 letters Full Licence 1936 – 1937. Automatically became Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) on the creation of Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) in 1964. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
G8 + 3 letters Full Licence 1964 – 1981. Originally issued to Class B (RAE only) with restrictions to frequencies above 30MHz. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
GØ + 3 letters Full Licence 1986 – 1996. Originally issued to Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001). Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
MØ + 3 letters Full Licence 1996 – date. Originally issued to Class A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001). Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
M1 + 3 letters Full Licence 1996 – date. Originally issued to Class B (RAE only) with restrictions to frequencies above 30MHz. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.
M5 + 3 letters Full Licence 1999 – date. Originally issued as a Class A/B (RAE + 5wpm CW) this licence group was upgraded to full Class A in 2001 when the CW requirements for access to the HF bands were reduced to 5wpm. Classes A (RAE + 12wpm CW/5wpm CW post 2001) and B (RAE only) were merged into the Full Licence following the removal of Morse requirements for access to HF frequencies in 2003.

The above table draws on information published by Ofcom.

Timeline of Callsign Issue

Regional two-letter prefixes are assigned according to the following table.

Map of UK showing Regional Secondary Locators

Region G-prefix M-prefix Intermediate G-club prefix M-club prefix Special event
England G M 2E GX MX GB
Guernsey GU MU 2U GP MP GB
Isle of Man GD MD 2D GT MT GB
Jersey GJ MJ 2J GH MH GB
Northern Ireland GI MI 2I GN MN GB
Scotland GM MM 2M GS MS GB
Wales GW MW 2W GC MC GB

Overseas Callsign Assignments

Prefix DXCC Entity
VP2E Anguilla
VP2M Montserrat
VP2V British Virgin Isles
VP5 Turks & Caicos
VP6 Pitcairn Island
VR6 Pitcairn Island (prior to 1 May 1998)
VP6D Ducie Island (Pitcairn group)
VP8/F Falkland Islands
VP8/G South Georgia Island
VP8/O South Orkney Island
VP8/SA South Sandwich Island
VP8/SH South Shetland Island
VP8 Antarctica
VP9 Bermuda
VQ9 Chagos (Indian Ocean)
ZB, ZG Gibraltar
ZC4 UK Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus
ZD7 St Helena
ZD8 Ascension Island
ZD9 Tristan Da Cunha
ZF Cayman Islands

Special Event Callsigns

Ofcom reserves the right to issue temporary special event call signs to licensed amateurs holding a full licence.

Special event call signs are issued with a 'GB' prefix. An example of this is GB2BLE (Bristol Lundy Expedition) which the club uses for the annual DXpedition to Lundy Island. Ofcom also allows numerals in special event call sign suffixes; for instance GB75RD was a special event sign for the 75th anniversary of the Reading and District Amateur radio club.

Reciprocal Agreements

Holders of licences in countries signed up to CEPT TR 61-01[9] operate with their home call sign prefixed with an M/. Holders of licences in countries signed up to CEPT TR 61-02[10] can operate for 3 months before needing a Great Britain call sign as issued by Ofcom.