In the United Kingdom, Management of the wireless spectrum has been under the control of the Government since the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1904 came into force. Originally controlled by the Post Master General, the first Amateur licences were issued in 1905 and were for "Experimental Purposes". 

Allocation of Call Sign Prefixes is managed by the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) and the UK is currently allocated the letters G, M and the number 2. A full list of prefixes is available here.

There are also a number of 'secondary' prefixes that can be added to the intial G, M or 2. These can either be Regional Secondary Locators (RSL) or to identify special types of station. When operating a club call sign in England, you can choose whether to operate using the secondary prefix or not (Prior to 1st Dec 2006 they were ONLY to be used for greetings messages by the non-licensed.) Clubs in other parts of the UK can either use their RSL or club RSL, in certain UK contests, additional points are awarded for contacting club stations and use of club RSLs is encouraged.

Many other secondary prefixes were only used for events of national significance and required an NoV (Notice of Variation) to your licence.

RSL/Prefix Country/Purpose Example
A Scotland (Alba) homecoming in 2009 GA0AAA
B Special Event/Repeater/Beacon GB0AAA
C For Wales (Cymru) Club use GC0AAA
D Isle of Man (Douglas) GD0AAA
E England (only used with 2 prefix) 2E0AAA
G 100th anniversary of Girl Guides in 2009 GG0AAA
H For Jersey Club use (St Helier) GH0AAA
I Northern Ireland GI0AAA
J Jersey GJ0AAA
K Cornwall (Kernow) in 2016 GK0AAA
M Scotland GM0AAA
N For Nothern Ireland Club use GN0AAA
O For London Olympics in 2012 MO6AAA
P For Guernsey Club use (St Peter Port) GP0AAA
Q Queens Jubilee (Golden 2002, Diamond 2012) MQ0AAA
R Royal Wedding (William & Kate) in 2011 GR0AAA
S For Scotland Club use GS0AAA
T For Isle of Man Club use  GT0AAA
U Guernsey GU0AAA
V RSGB Centenary in 2013 GV0AAA
W Wales GW0AAA
X For English Club use GX0AAA
Z Shetland Islands (Zetland) Contest Calls GZ0A

 

Types of Licence

There are currently three types of licence issued in the UK, these are Foundation, Intermediate and Full. This hasn't always been the case, prior to 1964 there was only a single licence. From 1946, new applicants must pass a City & Guilds of London Institute examination called the Radio Amateur Examination and complete a 12wpm Morse code test (holders of old Artificial Aerial licenses just needed to do the Morse test).

After the 1947 World Conference in Atlantic City allocated 2m, 70cm, 23cm and some microwave bands to Amateur Radio, it also became possible to operate above 1Ghz without demonstrating morse proficiency (although this wasn't implemented in the UK until 1954) and in 1959 this allowance was further increased to operation above 144Mhz. This greatly assisted the emerging amateur television and mobile operators, culminating in specific television and mobile licenses being issued from 1954.

This was formalized in 1964 with the introduction of two licence classes (A and B). To obtain a Class B licence, applicants only had to pass the RAE. This licence had various limitations, initially operation was only allowed over 430Mhz (later reduced to 144Mhz, then 70Mhz and 50Mhz with 6m being released in June 1987). In order to access the HF bands, you would need to pass a 12wpm Morse code test in addition to a passing grade in the RAE. This would entitle you to obtain a Class A licence

In  May 1979 the written RAE was replaced with a multiple-choice version, still administered by the City & Guilds of London Institute.

During 1991, in an attempt to reduce the entry requirements to Amateur Radio, the Novice licence was introduced. This was available in both Class A and Class B form with similar frequency restrictions to the 'Full' license (above 30Mhz only) but limited power (5w?). The Class A Novice licence required a 5wpm Morse code test and allowed access to portions of the HF bands. Both licences required that candidates pass the NRAE (Novice Radio Amateur Examination).

There was also a (fairly short-lived) introduction of Class A/B licence in 1999 which in addition to an RAE pass, required 5wpm Morse code assessment. This became a Class A licence by default in 2001 when the International morse requirement was reduced to 5wpm. 

In October 2001 the Novice licence was renamed Intermediate and the Foundation licence was announced, being introduced in January 2002. This was a further attempt to reduce the entry requirements and required that candidates complete simple practical assessments and a short examination. 

In 2003, CEPT S25 was amended to remove the Morse requirement entirely so there was no longer any need for Class A and B licences. This resulted in the current situation of Foundation, Intermediate and Full. Also in this year, City & Guilds decided that they no longer wished to administer Amateur Radio examinations and the RSGB created the Radio Communications Foundation (RCF) to fulfil this role.

The following table lists all types of main station call sign issued to UK residents together with approximate dates issued. (In all cases, the call sign suffix cannot start with the letter Q to avoid confusion with Q codes):

Callsign Originally issued as Currently Dates issued
(G)2/3/4/5/6/8 + 2 letters* Radiating Licence (pre WW2) Full Licence 1920-1939
(G)2 + 3 letters*  Artificial Aerial Licence (pre WW2) Full Licence 1920-1939
G3 + 3 letters  Licence (Class A after 1964) Full Licence 1946-1971
G3 + 3 letters + /T/P/M TV, Pedestrian or Mobile Full Licence 1950-1977
G8 + 3 letters  Class B Licence Full Licence 1964-1981
G6 + 3 letters + /T/P/M TV, Pedestrian or Mobile Class B Full License 1964-1977
G5AAA-G5DZZ Foreign National Class A  Full License 1966-1981
G5EAA-G5ZZZ Foreign National Class B Full License 1966-1981
G4 + 3 letters Class A Licence Full Licence 1971-1985
G6 + 3 letters Class B Licence Full Licence 1981-1983
G1 + 3 letters Class B Licence Full Licence 1983-1988
G0 + 3 letters Class A Licence Full Licence 1986-1996
G7 + 3 letters Class B Licence Full Licence 1989-1996
2x0 + 3 letters Novice A Licence (with RSL x) Intermediate 1991-
2x1 + 3 letters Novice B Licence (with RSL x) Intermediate 1991-2001
M0 + 3 letters Class A Licence Full Licence 1996-
M1 + 3 letters Class B Licence Full Licence 1996-2003
M5 + 3 letters Class A/B Licence Full Licence 1999-2001
M3 + 3 letters Foundation Licence Foundation 2002-2008
M6 + 3 letters Foundation Licence Foundation 2008-

* Prior to 1923, there was no Country prefix added to call signs, the letter 'G' was assigned to Great Britain and amateurs were encouraged to use it when communicating internationally. This was finally adopted as part of the call sign after WW2.

 

Special Call Signs

There are a number of 'special' call signs that can be issued to Full Licence holders, these require an NoV (Notice of Variation) to your licence and can be used for Repeaters, Beacons and Contest call signs etc. 

Call Sign Type Description Example
G/M + (RSL) + 1 number + 1 letter Single character Contest Call Sign G9A / MW8B
GB3 + 2 letters UK Repeater GB3AA
GB3 + 3 letters UK Beacon GB3AAA
GB7 + 2 letters UK Data Repeater* GB7AA
GB7 + 3 letters UK Data Mailbox GB7AAA
GB + other numbers and letters Special Event Call Sign (any combination) GB16YOTA

* Historically Data Repeaters were used to route AX25 Packet radio data but more recently they are used for data 'voice' modes like D-Star, DMR and Fusion.