What’s in a callsign? – numeric State identifiers

Our current callsign structure, where the numeric prefix denotes the State/Territory, was first used on the 8th of December 1928. (History of Australian radio callsigns. David Burger, 2007) 

Traditionally, if an amateur moved to another State/Territory, he/she would be issued a new callsign, with the numeric prefix denoting the new place of residence.

On a recent WIA News broadcast, WIA Director, Mike VK8MA noted that this policy is no longer enforced by ACMA – that is, a person can change State/Territory and not change their callsign.

We verified this with ACMA. 

To quote ACMA’s Manager, Licence Allocation:  there is no regulatory requirement for an amateur to obtain (and use) a new callsign when they move interstate – the only requirement is that they transmit using a callsign as per the LCD requirement.

The callsign structure (the “callsign template”) is defined in the Deed (contract) with the Australian Maritime College (AMC), but is not listed in any ACMA regulatory instrument such as the Act or the Licence Conditions Determination (LCD).  

The ACMA regard callsigns as a matter of operational practice.  They do not see callsign structures as part of their core regulatory responsibility – this is why the callsign structure is not included in the LCD, and will not be. 

ACMA have made it clear they will not change the LCD or Act to include callsign structure. 

However, just to clarify, if you apply for a new or an upgraded callsign via the AMC, the normal rules apply – that is, your callsign prefix must match your location.  This is because AMC have a contract with ACMA to manage callsigns, and the current callsign template is part of this contract.

So, what does this all mean?

If a person does not have to change their callsign when moving interstate, the numeric prefix/QTH connection has effectively been broken.  

Our callsign structure has been running for more than 90 years…but is that a good reason to continue with this arrangement?

The US dispensed with their callsign numeric connection to QTH some years ago, and they have approximately 750,000 amateur licences….

Of course, the great advantage of the current system is that your state location is embedded in your callsign – you know roughly where stations are for propagation purposes, etc.

The global award and contest system is also geared around our current callsigns – awards such as the Worked all VK call areas, Worked all Zones, etc.  Any awards or contests relating to distance or call area will need extra verification… is a VK8 station actually operating in VK8/Zone 29? …  or has the op relocated (i.e. not portable) to VK2 and is operating with his callsign for life in VK2/Zone 30?

CQ Zones Map – used for Worked All Zones Award

However, the reality is that these points are moot.  The linkage of location to callsign has been broken.  It is only a matter of time until more and more people just don’t change their callsign when shifting QTH.

So, what do we do?

Do we accept the inevitable and simply remove the connection between QTH and callsign – that is, any amateur can have any numeric prefix?  

Or should amateurs self-regulate and encourage their peers to abide by the present system?  

In this matter we will be guided by your views as we always are – via an on-line survey.  

As with our previous surveys, we’ll be using SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading online survey tool used by 98% of Fortune 500 companies, including VISA, Cisco, Johnson & Johnson and Australian Government departments, councils and NFPs.  Indeed, SurveyMonkey serves over 50,000 businesses in Australia.

Have your say.

Link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ZYJSJ99