Monday, September 27, 2010

So you want a Vanity Call ?

A few folks have contacted me privately, asking for a "Plain Speaking" approach to applying for a Vanity Callsign.  I will do my best to do justice to that effort here.

First off, this is serious business as far as Hamdom goes.  If you're a relatively new licensee, then it's not so bad.  But if you have had your call for a lot of years, your callsign is like your second name.  Not only will it be confusing to your friends for a while; but you'll have to get new QSL cards and any personalized station accessories that you have will become obsolete once you have your new call.  Also, awards that you have earned - keep those in mind.  Let's just say that except for WAS and WAC, which I still have from my N2ELW days - all my awards (DXCC, 1K MPW, DXCC Millennium, etc) have been applied for and received AFTER changing over to W2LJ.  If you're a regular reader of this blog, you also know that I re-did WAS as W2LJ; but the second time it was more for the fact of doing it via QRP and CW rather than because of the callsign on the award.

And like I mentioned about the second name thing ....... among close friends and while I was an officer in the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club, I was often known by and referred to as "ELW".  That all changes when you go for a Vanity callsign.  I'm not trying to dissuade anyone - just be sure it's something that you really want to do.

Once you've decided to take the plunge, you have to make sure the callsign you are interested in is available.  In order to find that out, I recommend going to the NM4C Vanity Call HQ Website.  That is where I found out that W2LJ was available.  It wasn't my first choice (ideally) as I really wanted something with LM as a suffix - my initials.  There were no callsigns in the 2 district left with those letters, so I settled for LJ - my first two initials.  I could have gone with another call district to have achieved my first preference; but there's enough of the purist in me that made me decide I did not want to lose the number "2" in my call. YMMV.

Keep in mind that when you apply for a Vanity Call, you can supply up to 25 choices.  The more you supply, the better your chances are that you will be granted a new call.  If you only supply one or two or even three choices; and it turns out that none are available, you still have to pay the Vanity filing fee.  No refunds, so the more the merrier.

To actually file for a call, the easiest way is to go online.  Mosey on over to the FCC's ULS (Universal Licensing System) Website - which can be found here - http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home
You will need your FRN number, which now appears on the bottom of your license; and your password.  When you received your license, you also should have received a letter from the FCC telling you what the password for your FRN is.  If you lost the letter; or plain just don't remember, there is a hyperlink which will allow you to reset your password.

Once you've logged in, it will take you to the "My Licenses" page.  All the way over to the right, there is a hyperlink to "Request a Vanity Callsign". This will take you to a page where you have to answer two simple questions about fees - asking you if you are exempt from FCC licensing and regulatory fees.  For the basic "Joe Ham" both answers are "No".

When you hit the "Continue" button, you will be taken to a page asking about your eligibility with regards to your request.  You make one of three choices here - first is if you are trying to request an old call sign you previously held as your new Vanity call (more about this later).  The second is if you are requesting the call of a deceased relative.  The third choice,  labeled "Primary Station Preference List" is the one most people check off.

When you hit "Continue", this brings you to the "meat of the business" page.  This is where you list your (up to) 25 choices for your new call.  Like I said before, the more options that you present to the FCC, the higher likelihood that you will receive a Vanity call.  If you list only one or two choices and someone has beat you to both - then unfortunately, you're going to be out the $13.30 that you get to pay for the privilege of filing for a Vanity call.

Once you submit your choices, there are only a few more steps, including paying the fee, which can also be done online through a secure, encrypted connection.  Make sure to print out copies of your application and payment fee when you are asked if you want to.  It never hurts to have records of your transaction should the need arise for them later.

Then comes the hardest part - sitting back and waiting.  Ideally, you should have your new callsign within a week.  QRZ.com get updates from the FCC everyday, I believe - so once 5 or 6 business days have passed after you have filed - do a search on your name in QRZ.  If your request has been granted, you will find out fairly quickly.  If it is denied, you will get a letter from the FCC telling you so.

That happened to me back in the mid-90s, when I first requested a Vanity call. I had requested either WL2M, or KL2M.  All the 1X2 and 2X1 calls with L&M had been taken in the Second Call District.  I found out the hard way that the calls with an "L" in the prefix are restricted to residents of Alaska.  I thought that wouldn't be the case, as I knew of Hams with Alaskan calls that moved to the lower 48 - and they weren't required to change. Also there are tons of Hams who have calls outside their districts (as I mentioned before) so I thought the WL calls were fair game.  They are not.  Calls with KL, WL, NL, KH, WH, NH, WP, KP, NP are still sacrosanct to Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.  I think I still have the letter from the FCC telling me this, kicking around somewhere. As an aside, I was so miffed with the refusal; and the fact that I lost the money, that I didn't file for a Vanity call again until the year 2000, when I received W2LJ, my present call

Lastly, if you get your Vanity call and decide that you absolutely hate it, have no fear - there is a cure.  You can through the process again; and you can file to get your old call back - as a Vanity call!  You will now have the privilege of paying for it every ten years when you renew your license.  So be careful!

I hope this was simple enough for everyone to understand.  Like I have posted before, the process is pretty easy and there is absolutely NO reason in the world why you should pay someone to do it for you.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

2 comments:

K2DSL - David said...

Larry,

You mentioned the waiting time of about a week but it is an 18-20 day time period from your application online until it would be approved. The length is dependent on holidays/weekends. This is to allow for anyone mailing in a request on the same date as you apply online.

Once you are approved by the FCC and showing up on the ULS, QRZ usually shows it the following day. Sites like QRZ and Vanity HQ get the daily feed file the FCC provides. I've even taken the FCC file myself to play around with in a database and run queries against it.

Besides VanityHQ.com another useful site for looking up available calls is http://www.ae7q.com/. You can also see what the last sequential calls issued for each license class in each call district.

73 - K2DSL

Anonymous said...

Very good explanation of the Vanity Call sign program. My call sign, K5DZR, is a vanity that used to belong to my great-uncle. Claude "Curly" Miks was licensed in the early 1950s. I took and passed the Technicians exam shortly after his death and applied for his call sign as soon as I received my license. Although I expect to upgrade to Extra within the next year, I will keep K5DZR as a sort of memorial to my uncle.
Cary/K5DZR