Significance of N, K, W in call sign?

Status
Not open for further replies.

902

Member
Joined
Nov 7, 2003
Messages
2,393
Location
Downsouthsomewhere
Codeless technician licenses started being issued in February/March 1991. I was among the first. I called a VE team leader in January 1991 to see if he would let me just take the Technician written test and he declined. I had to wait until February to sit for the test. I was originally issued N9KRS in March 1991.
For some reason I was confused with an event in 1987 or so. I'm not sure why. I was involved in a "stocked VE team" in NE NJ for a while at the time, but seem to remember a lot of the guys being anti-no-code. I still had a box of cassette tapes for the tests back then, so the CW exam was still being administered. For what it's worth, the rest of my family (an extra, a general, and three technicians) are all no-code. I went to the NYC field office to take my general and extra CW exams.

N8IAA said:
Not so. N calls existed in 1985 when I was first licensed as a Novice. I had a KA prefix. January of 1986, I took the Tech/General written test and became a Tech. No code Techs followed a year or so later. I could have changed to a N call in 86, but didn't like the suffixes. Waited a year and got N8IAA.
Was grandfathered to General when they eliminated the 13wpm requirement.
Lots of extras and general class licensees had N calls in the mid 80's.
Larry
The "block" system of callsigns were established in 1978, where novices began to be issued KAxAyy, technicians and generals NxAyy, advanceds KBxAy, and extras 1x2 and 2x1, then certain 2x2 combinations. Most of the new people on the air when I first hit the scene were KA2's and N2's. At one point around 1986, we had KB2's and we thought "there goes the neighborhood." :wink: Some regions, though, were way, way past there. The KB advanced series was gone very quickly and the people had to take the next lower block's sequence, although I only knew a handful of people who actually had a sequence assigned 2x2 advanced call from "back in the day." In the days before the Internet (yes, there was life before this), we looked in QST and Worldradio to see what the latest block was at the time of print. At college, a few of us in the ham radio club discussed changing our addresses to some exotic island in the Pacific to get a cool callsign, then change it back thinking we'd have instant pileup (in retrospect, that's not a good thing). Most of us didn't. I still have my original 2x3 and my kids don't seem to want to change theirs after upgrading. I've never regretted not changing my call, except when working DX. And then it's "too long," but the only 1x2 I'd consider changing to has been taken multiple times over since the original issue.

Prior to this, there were a number of WB series callsigns issued, and for a very brief time, WD series, although I don't recall the original run of WD sequence every getting out of the A's before the FCC transitioned to KAs, Ns, KBs, and 2x1s. I'm thinking the WD2 calls (my home call region is 2) never made it past ALx before they were supplanted in sequence by the KA calls. And, of course, WC calls were civil defense organizations that were officially recognized as such, not as clubs, under the Rules of the time.
 

KB1VLA

Member
Joined
Nov 22, 2012
Messages
244
Location
South Berwick, ME
I heard a story somewhere that the reason the US has the K, N, W and AA-AL is that the US representatives at the ITU conference that originally assigned prefixes were from the US Army and US Navy, which is where A and N come from. And adding a dash to each letter in CW gives us K and W.
 

902

Member
Joined
Nov 7, 2003
Messages
2,393
Location
Downsouthsomewhere
I heard a story somewhere that the reason the US has the K, N, W and AA-AL is that the US representatives at the ITU conference that originally assigned prefixes were from the US Army and US Navy, which is where A and N come from. And adding a dash to each letter in CW gives us K and W.
Hmmm... could be. It's funny how the early days had some logic applied to them. Do you remember the source? I was surprised when I began working with Canadian land mobile radio call signs and found a bunch of them having X prefixes. They share the block with Mexico and other countries. Never really gave much thought to AM - AZ before then.
 

nd5y

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
8,247
Location
Wichita Falls, TX
Prior to this, there were a number of WB series callsigns issued, and for a very brief time, WD series, although I don't recall the original run of WD sequence every getting out of the A's before the FCC transitioned to KAs, Ns, KBs, and 2x1s. I'm thinking the WD2 calls (my home call region is 2) never made it past ALx before they were supplanted in sequence by the KA calls. And, of course, WC calls were civil defense organizations that were officially recognized as such, not as clubs, under the Rules of the time.
Also before 1978 all repeaters had to have their own station license and had WR prefix 2x3 callsigns.

In 5 land they got up to at least WD5Fxx tech/general callsigns.

Shortly after they ran out of 2x1 callsigns I got my original extra class callsign AA5EK. Several OF's told me "You can't use your MARS callsign on ham frequencies".
 

nd5y

Member
Joined
Dec 19, 2002
Messages
8,247
Location
Wichita Falls, TX
W used to be the prefix for all stations east of the Mississippi and K was the prefix for all stations west of it (at least for broadcast)
The exact east-west dividing line for broadcast stations changed several times. At one point TX, OK, KS, NE, SD and ND were in the east half and there are still a few stations in those states with W callsigns.
 

KA1NTG

Member
Premium Subscriber
Joined
Jul 8, 2013
Messages
31
Location
NYC
Ha! Always knew my call was older than I.....it was my Grandfathers, now an SK.
 

K7MEM

Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2013
Messages
341
Location
1158 W. Valley Circle, Ash Fork, AZ 86320-482
The N for Novice wasn't the initial character but the second character (as in "WNzxxx"). When the novice upgraded, the N was either dropped (way back when they issued Wyxxx calls) or replaced by the letter currently being used for the licenses. For example, if the new Novice was given the call of WN4ABC and the FCC would normally be assigning call signs starting with WA4 for higher class licenses, the novice, when upgrading, would be assigned the call of WA4ABC.
Yes, I was part of that mess. I received my Novice license in 1965 and was issued WN2TCL. It was a nice call, but I had to upgrade before one year had passed. When I upgraded to Technician, my call was changed to WB2TCL. The problem that I had with the "upgrade" was that the Technician license did not have any low band privileges. So I lost CW access on 80, 40, and 15 Meters. I didn't consider that an upgrade at all. While I had a good time on 2 Meters AM, I let that license expire and went back to the Novice ticket. Somewhere along the line they fixed that "upgrade" issue, but I don't remember when. And by that time, the Novice license was renewable.

With life generally getting in the way, the Novice was all I needed for a very long time. But when I started hearing noises about dropping the CW requirements, I went for my Extra. It only took about 6-8 months to get there (1999). It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Once I had the Extra, I went for a vanity call sign, before the licensing changed and the call sign pool was gutted.
 

n5ims

Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2004
Messages
3,699
Yes, I was part of that mess. I received my Novice license in 1965 and was issued WN2TCL. It was a nice call, but I had to upgrade before one year had passed. When I upgraded to Technician, my call was changed to WB2TCL. The problem that I had with the "upgrade" was that the Technician license did not have any low band privileges. So I lost CW access on 80, 40, and 15 Meters. I didn't consider that an upgrade at all. While I had a good time on 2 Meters AM, I let that license expire and went back to the Novice ticket. Somewhere along the line they fixed that "upgrade" issue, but I don't remember when. And by that time, the Novice license was renewable.

With life generally getting in the way, the Novice was all I needed for a very long time. But when I started hearing noises about dropping the CW requirements, I went for my Extra. It only took about 6-8 months to get there (1999). It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Once I had the Extra, I went for a vanity call sign, before the licensing changed and the call sign pool was gutted.
I also was affected by the upgrade to tech removing HF privileges, which made it quite hard to keep proficient with your CW skills. Yes, it was legal to use CW on the VHF bands, but to practice you needed both a rig that would let you do so and a partner to communicate with, neither were really available. For a while, it was possible to hold both a Novice and a Tech license which did help address this issue. By then I had sold all of my HF gear so it didn't really help me.

In my case, as a Novice, I could do 20 WPM pretty solid, just not when you add the pressure of testing at the FCC office. I can still copy some if needed, but no longer very fast nor very proficient. I really should rearrange my station to allow me the space for a code key and the necessary writing area to copy it down.
 

K8BL

Member
Joined
Aug 18, 2016
Messages
1
The "N" was used by US Hams to indicate North America. This goes back to the 1920's when
transoceanic QSO's were beginning to happen with regularity.

Here's a C & P of some info from a longer article I found:

1923, from "200 Meters and Down," by Clinton DeSoto, page 85. "It was expected, then, that every effort would be bent toward putting over the fourth transatlantic tests, to be held from December 21st (1923) to January 10th (1924). The widest possible publicity was accorded these tests on both sides of the Atlantic. To facilitate the international identification, an initial letter was assigned to each country to be used by the amateurs of that country ahead of their calls. The United States was given "U"; an American station would sign itself u1AA, for example. For each of the countries participating in the transatlantics: Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, United States and New Zealand (z). Cuba was assigned the phonetic Q, Argentina the phonetic R. South Africa was arbitrarily given O." These were not official prefixes assigned by any authority, but an informal convention adopted to avoid confusion when transoceanic communications were first becoming "routinely" possible. Later an additional prefix letter was adopted indicating the continent, "N" being North America, so "1AW" would be "Nu1AW".

This is the link to the complete article: Amateur Radio History

Hope this helps. 73, Bob K8BL
 

SCPD

QRT
Joined
Feb 24, 2001
Messages
65,126
Location
Virginia
Long time ago the Continental US Ham callsigns were 'W's", Territorial Stations (Hawaii, Alaska, Canal Zone, Swan Island, Guam, Greenland- yes you read that right- and many many others) were "K's."
I grew up with this- it was practically pages from my family history- a lot my relatives held K calls--like my grandfather who was a K6 -- once issued only to stations in Hawaii ...

(By the by, I have held KX6, KS6, KC6, KJ6 prefix's- and some others- over my ham career... want to make this more interesting??...not all K calls were issued by the FCC... my father was once a KR6..... anyone place these old prefixes - where they were, what they meant to DX'ers??... :)
.
...................CF
 
Last edited:

SCPD

QRT
Joined
Feb 24, 2001
Messages
65,126
Location
Virginia
Very Good !

(KC6 was the Carolines, KW6 was Wake, however.... I was on Wake a few times but never operated there....I think its KH9 today, that is, if you can get permission to go to that atoll-- the military left it years ago....Smiles...;)
 
Last edited:

KD8DVR

Member
Joined
Apr 11, 2004
Messages
1,144
Location
Columbus, Ohio
The N, K, W (and A) are callsign prefixes assigned to the United States by the ITU. The FCC assigns callsigns in blocks. As I recall, the "W" block is the oldest (but since the FCC recycles callsigns and offers vanity calls, it's possible somebody with a "W" call may be a newer licensee).

Here's a link to the ITU callsign series: Table of International Call Sign Series (Appendix 42 to the RR)
They are assigning "K" prefixes to all Tech and General licenses. "A" prefixes are being assigned to all new hams who go from Tech to Extra in one sitting.
 

SCPD

QRT
Joined
Feb 24, 2001
Messages
65,126
Location
Virginia
I have listed the US locales for the territories and such when ham callsign prefixes meant something... this comes from memory, so please bear in mind there may be a error (or two!)....Enjoy! :)

KA6,8--Occupied Japan
KB6 - Bonin Islands
KC4 - Antarctica
KC6 - Caroline Islands
KG1 - Greenland (US installations)
KG4 - Guant. Bay Cuba
KG6 - Guam
KH6 - Hawaii
KJ6 - Johnston Island
KL7 - Alaska
KM6 - Midway Isalnd
KN* - Novices (for Novices in areas with territory prefixes, calls went something like KJ6N**)
KP4 - Puerto Rico
KP5 - I'm sure there was one but....... Nasava??...oh well
KP6 - Palmyra and nearby's
KR6 - Okinawa
KS4 - Swan Island (the rarest of the rare...;) )
KS6 - Samoa
KV4 - Virgin Islands
KV6 - the Volcano Islands ??.. this one I go fuzzy on....
KW6 - Wake
KX6 - Marshall Islands
KZ5 - Canal Zone

Were there others??.. hmmmmmmm.......Anyone remember?
.
..................CF
 

n5ims

Member
Joined
Jul 25, 2004
Messages
3,699
for that about the "K" prefix going to Techs and Generals please. What's happening with the "N" prefixs?
Available, just like the K and W prefixes, the N prefix is available for use. They may not be currently assigned as part of the automatic assignments since the pool may be empty, but you can request one that's available using the vanity system as long as what you request is available for your license class. For example, a 1x2 or 2x1 (e.g. K1AA or KA1A) is available to Extra class operators but not Tech or General class operators. A General or Tech can get a 1x3 (e.g. K1ABC). Be aware that you don't need to change your call if you upgrade so an extra can use their old Novice call of KA1ABC. A higher class operator can also request calls that would normally go to lower class operators if desired (for example, a 1x3 call that has that extra class operator's initials).

For full details use the link above in ND5Y's post (copied below):
 

W9BU

Lead Wiki Manager
Super Moderator
Joined
Jul 18, 2004
Messages
5,953
Location
Brownsburg, Indiana
They are assigning "K" prefixes to all Tech and General licenses. "A" prefixes are being assigned to all new hams who go from Tech to Extra in one sitting.
Here is the FCC Amateur Radio Sequential Callsign System in detail:
FCC: Wireless Services: Amateur Radio Service: Call Sign Systems: Sequential

Technicians qualify for a Group C callsign which, in most parts of the territory governed by the FCC, is a 1x3 callsign with the first letter starting with K, N, or W. But, because the FCC has issued all of those callsigns in the sequential system, they revert to Group D callsigns which are 2 x 3 with the first letter being K or W. They are going through the Ks right now.

Generals also qualify for a Group C callsign, so they are treated the same as Technicians right now.

Extras qualify for a Group A callsign which is a 1x2 starting with K, N, or W or a 2x1 starting with A, N, K, or W or a 2x2 with the first letter being A. All of the 1x2 and 2x1 callsigns have been issued by the FCC in the sequential system so that's why new Extras get a 2x2.

You are only eligible for a callsign in your group or a lower group. Extras can have a callsign from Groups A, B, C, or D. Advanced can have B, C, or D. General can have C or D. Technicians can have C or D. Novices can only have Group D.

There are exceptions for Alaska, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Caribbean islands, and Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific islands.

You can see the last callsign issued in each group and each callsign district by going to: AE7Q's Amateur Radio Database Query Tools and clicking on the button for the district of interest. For example, the last callsigns issued in callsign district 8 as of August 19 were Group A: AC8XR, Group B: KI8KX, Group C: none available, Group D: KE8EWT.

Note, this is the automatic sequential callsign system. If you apply for a vanity callsign, you can get any available callsign as long as it conforms to the sequential callsign rules. That means that Extras can apply for any available 1x2 or 2x1 and Generals or Technicians can apply for any available 1x3.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top