A common question I hear from new hams is “how do I get a vanity call sign?” The process is probably harder than it needs to be but certainly something any ham can do. As of September 2015, the FCC no longer charges a fee for vanity call signs. (Some organizations will handle the application process for you, charging a fee for that service, but you do not have to go that route.) In this article, I’ll keep things as simple as possible, focusing on what a new ham must do to get a vanity call.
The basic steps to getting your special call sign are:
1. Choose one or more call signs that you’d like.
2. Find your FCC Registration Number (FRN)
3. Log onto the FCC Universal Licensing System (ULS)
4. Apply using “Request Vanity Call Sign”
To go deeper on this topic take a look at the ARRL page, which describes the vanity call sign program in greater detail.
1. Choose A Call Sign
The first step is probably the most fun, choosing what call sign you’d like to have. I chose my callsign KØNR because of its short length and the traditional KØ prefix. My buddy Stu chose the call sign WØSTU to match his name. Steve WGØAT chose his call sign to reflect his passion for hiking with pack goats. Many people choose a call sign with their initials in it. You certainly may have other ideas on what constitutes the right call sign for you.
Tech and General class licensees are allowed to choose either a 1×3 call sign (beginning with prefix N, K or W), or a 2×3 call sign (beginning with prefix letter K or W), referred to by the FCC as call sign Groups C and D. Of course, you must choose a call sign that is not assigned, which you can check by doing a search on the FCC ULS web site.
You should probably choose a few call signs that you’d be happy with and submit them in order of preference. Your first choice may not be available for a number of reasons, such as someone else may have just applied for it.
2. Find Your FCC Registration Number (FRN)
If you have an FCC radio license, you have an FRN. It was probably assigned to you when your license was first issued. Think of this as your user name for the ULS web site. To find your FRN, search for your call sign on the ULS page.
3. Log onto the FCC ULS
Next you need to log into the ULS, which will probably be the most difficult part of the process. You’ll need your FRN and your password for the site. Hopefully, you just found your FRN but you probably do not have a password assigned yet. If so, you’ll need to follow the Forgot Your Password? instructions on this page. There is a good chance you’ll end up calling FCC Tech Support (1-877-480-3201) to get this straightened out.
4. Request a Vanity Call Sign
Once you get into the ULS, click on your call sign and then select Request Vanity Call Sign. Follow the instructions, selecting Primary Station Preference List which will allow you to enter your list of requested call signs in order of preference.
This should get your application into the FCC for your call sign. It will probably take a few weeks to get action from the FCC, so be patient. Good luck with your new call!
73, Bob K0NR