UK Amateur Radio Callsigns & Licences

Summary or overview of UK or British amateur radio callsigns or call signs and the types of licence used in the UK by ham radio operators.

Ham radio call signs includes:
Callsigns     UK callsigns    

There is a large number of different prefixes used for UK, British amateur radio callsigns or call signs and many wonder whether any information about the licence can be gained from the callsign.

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.

UK callsigns & licences

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.

Even now the way in which callsigns are allocated and the types changes as time moves on and new requirements are needed.

Current UK amateur radio licences

First, it is worth understanding the different types of licence that are available within the UK.

Within the UK, there are three types of amateur radio licence that can be obtained, namely the Foundation Licence, Intermediate Licence and the Full Licence. Each of these ham radio licences offers different privileges in a form of incentive amateur radio licence scheme through which all new UK radio hams must progress to achieve the full licence.

The different ham radio licences reflect the experience of the operators, the Foundation Licence offering entry level privileges while the Full licence offers the highest power levels and the greatest number of bands.

UK Amateur Radio Licence Classes
Amateur Radio Licence Class Summary of privileges
Foundation licence Maximum of 10 watts on most allocated bands. Band allocations limited.
Intermediate licence Maximum of 50 watts.
Full licence Maximum UK licence power can be used and all UK amateur radio band allocations available.

These overviews are by their nature limited in definition. For full details it is necessary to refer to the appropriate ham radio licence.

UK amateur radio call signs

Over the years a variety of different ham radio call sign series have been used in the UK and the number of prefixes used has increased. It is worth noting that these are strictly in line with the international allocations of prefixes so that countries of origin can easily be identified.

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.

However, it is worth noting that from April 2000, out od sequence callsigns could be requested so some callsigns may not correspond to the dates shown, although these tend to be a minority.

  •   Foundation Licence

The foundation licence is the entry level or "novice" style licence which has become popular as a means of entering the hobby and getting onto the air.

UK Foundation Licence Issue Dates
Call sign description Issue dates and details
M3 + 3 letters Available from 2002
M6 + 3 letters Available from 13 May 2008
M7 + 3 letters Available 2018

  •   Intermediate Licence

Once experience has been gained from using the foundation licence, it is possible to move on to the Intermediate Lice for radio amateurs in the UK.

The callsigns used for this series reflect that this was once the entry level licence as the callsigns start with the numeral "2".

UK Intermediate Licence Issue Dates
Call sign description Issue dates and details
2E0 + 3 letters Issued from 1991 onwards as Intermediate licence. Originally issued as Novice class A licence from 1991 for use on all Novice allocations.
2E1 + 3 letters Issued from 1991 onwards as Intermediate licence. Originally issued as Novice class B licence from 1991 for use on Novice allocations above 30 MHz. Now access is allowed on all frequency allocations for intermediate licensees above and below 30 MHz.
    2E1AAA - 1991 onwards
    2E1BAA - 1992 onwards
    2E1CAA - 1993 onwards
    2E1DAA - 1994 onwards
    2E1EAA - 1995 - 97
    2E1GAA - 1997 - 99
    2E1HAA - 1999 - 2000

  •   Full Licence

The UK amateur radio Full Licence was derived from the original class A licence that gave access to all the UK amateur radio allocations.

The callsigns were originally issues in the series G3 plus three letters and holders of pre-war licences has two letters int he suffix or G2 plus three letters for a form of licence called an artificial aerial licence which allowed transmitteters to be built and tested, but only into a dummy load or "artificial aerial."

With the abolition of the requirement for a Morse test, the holders of the class B licences were given the same privileges as the original class A licensees with access toth e HF bands, etc.

UK Full Licence Issue Dates
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, but now used for new full licences.
      M1AAA 1996 onwards
      M1CAA 1997 onwards
      M1DAA 1998 - 99
      M1EAA 1999 - 00
M3 + 3 letters Foundation licence holders.
M0 + 3 letters 1996 - . Originally issued as a class A licence
Old QSL card sent from G6BW to G6YL for contact on 30 October 1929 these G6 ham radio call signs were issued between 1921 and 1939
QSL card from G6BW to G6YL for contact on 30 Oct 1929
Callsigns issued between 1921 and 1939

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.

Countries for 2X* series call signs
Call sign Prefix UK Country
2E England
2D Isle of Man
2I Northern Irelend
2J Jersey
2M Scotland
2U Guernsey
2W Wales

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.

Countries for G and M series call signs
Call sign Prefix UK Country / Purpose
G & M, no second letter in prefix 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

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 and this can be very useful when listening for repeaters, beacons and also special event stations.

UK GB Callsign Formats and Uses
GB callsign format Purpose
GB1 + 2 or 3 letters Special event stations
GB2 + 2 or 3 letters Special event stations
GB3 + 2 letters Repeaters
GB3 + 3 letters Beacons
GB4 + 2 or 3 letters Special event stations
GB5 + 2 or 3 letters Special event stations
GB6 + 2 or 3 letters Special event stations
GB7 + 2 letters Data repeaters
GB7 + 3 letters Data mailboxes
GB8 + 2 or 3 letters Special event stations
GB0 + 2 or 3 letters Special event stations

Contest callsigns

UK licencees and clubs may apply for a licence with a single letter callign suffix or body for use in contests.

Callsigns like G1A, GM2B or M3C may be heard and they are a perfectly legitimate format these days.

these special contest callsigns or SCCs are available for specific contests during the year. The applicant can be either an individual or club that already holds a full licence and they are renewable after a year. As there are only 520 of these callsigns and there is stiff competition for them, they can be reallocated if they are not renewed.

UK callsign suffixes

Suffixes may occasionally be used with UK amateur radio callsigns, normally to denote a particular type of operation. These are normally quite straightforward as show in the table below.

UK Callsign Suffixes
Callsign suffix Purpose
- /M Mobile operation including operation on inland waterways
- /P Portable operation, including a temporary location
- /MM Maritime mobile

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.

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