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BE Informed No. 10.2

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How to Obtain a

Deceased Ham’s Former Call Sign

John B. Johnston W3BE

Q. The person holding the call sign with my initials as the suffix has died. How can I obtain that call sign?

A. Apply for it as a Section 97.19 vanity call sign. Unless otherwise claimed beforehand, it will become available under the first-come-first-served provision of the vanity system after a hold period of two years and one day following the license expiration or cancellation. The ULS at this writing shows the deceased’s operator/primary station license grant will expire on 5/23/2018. So, unless there is a cancellation, it will become available on May 24, 2020.

Q. Where are the rules for making application for a vanity call sign?

A. They are in Section 97.19. Paragraph (d) seems to fit your intention. There are also the definitions for the three systems used to select a call sign for amateur station Section 97.119(a) over-the-air identification purposes in Section 97.3(a)(11).

Q. Three call sign systems? What are they?

A. The call sign systems are:

   (i) Sequential call sign system. The call sign is selected by the FCC from an alphabetized list corresponding to the geographic region of the licensee's mailing address and operator class. The call sign is shown on the license. The FCC will issue public announcements detailing the procedures of the sequential call sign system.

   (ii) Vanity call sign system. The call sign is selected by the FCC from a list of call signs requested by the licensee. The call sign is shown on the license. The FCC will issue public announcements detailing the procedures of the vanity call sign system.

   (iii) Special event call sign system. The call sign is selected by the station licensee from a list of call signs shown on a common data base coordinated, maintained and disseminated by the amateur station special event call sign data base coordinators. The call sign must have the single letter prefix K, N or W, followed by a single numeral 0 through 9, followed by a single letter A through W or Y or Z (for example K1A). The special event call sign is substituted for the call sign shown on the station license grant while the station is transmitting. The FCC will issue public announcements detailing the procedures of the special event call sign system.

Q. What are the rules about cancellation of a license on account of the licensee’s death?

A. A license that is canceled due to the licensee's death is canceled as of the date of the licensee's death. Read Section 97.31 for details.

Q. My grandfather passed away last month. I would like to have his call sign W3***.  He was an Extra. I am a Technician. How can I obtain his call sign?  

A. It appears there may a good chance that you - as a close relative (spouse, child, grandchild, stepchild, parent, grandparent, stepparent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or in-law) - could obtain the former call sign of your deceased grandfather under Section 97.19(c)(3). A 1X3 call sign is in Group C. Any class of operator license, except Novice, is eligible to request a Group C call sign.

  Section 97.19(c)(3) provides a two-year hold period window during which a close relative can request the former station call sign of the deceased. Under Section 97.19(c), the hold period started on the date of your grandfather’s death. During this hold period, the call sign can also be requested by a close relative of another deceased person who held the call sign before your grandfather as well as by a club under the in memoriam provision. After that, the call sign becomes available under the first-come-first-served provision. Unless you are absolutely certain, therefore, that no one else will apply for the call sign during the two-year window, you should apply as soon as possible so as to be the earliest requester. Read Vanity Call Sign System

   Note that the relatives of the SK as well as the relatives of other SK former holders of the call sign do not have to wait the hold period. Moreover, any one of these relatives - even those who are not amateur operators - can give consent to any club to apply for the call sign. Additionally, any former holder of the call sign may request it even if it has been unassigned less for less than two years.      

  No eligible person has filing priority over another. It is first-come, first-served. Unless you are absolutely certain, therefore, that no one else will apply for the call sign during the hold period, you should apply as soon as possible so as to be the earliest requester.

Q. Who all does the FCC consider to be an in-law of the deceased?

A. Section 97.3(a)(27) defines an in-law to be a parent, stepparent, sibling, or step-sibling of a licensee's spouse; the spouse of a licensee's sibling, step-sibling, child, or stepchild; or the spouse of a licensee’s spouse’s sibling or step-sibling. 

Q. I hold an Advanced Class operator license. About 18 months ago, the ham who acquired my deceased father’s long-time 1X2 call sign moved to another call sign region and acquired a different call sign. I would really like to obtain my father’s old call sign. What must I do?

A. Act promptly. Time is running out for you to take advantage of your close relative status.  When the most-recent holder relinquished the call sign, the hold period began, after which the call sign will become available under the first-come, first-served “by list” provision in the vanity call sign system. See Section 97.19(c)(2). As a close-relative of the deceased, however, you are eligible to apply during the hold period. 

  But first, you have to tend to the matter of upgrading. That 1X2 call sign is in Group A and, as such, can be assigned only to a station whose licensee holds the Amateur Extra Class.

Q. My question is about the assignment of a vanity call sign during the hold period to a person related to a SK. Does the applicant have to be related to the last person the call sign was assigned to or can the applicant be a relative of any person that held the call in the past? The person that held WØ** before me let it expire but he is still alive. When I pass on, I would love to have this call go to someone in his family. I know he has relatives that now are Techs and Generals. I want to get one of them upgraded to Extra Class so if anything happens to me they could put in for the call. As near as I can see the rules would allow for this in that they do not say the relative has to be a relative of the last person to hold the call sign. Am I correct?

A. Yes. The exception that permits a relative of a former holder now deceased to request a call sign during the hold period is available to a relative of any former holder of a call sign – not just the most recent former holder. The operative rule is Section 97.19(c)(3). Call sign WØ** is of the 1X2 format and - as such - is in Group A. When the holder dies or fails to renew the license, the call sign becomes available to the vanity call sign system after the hold period. It is only available to a station licensee who also holds an Amateur Extra Class operator license unless the applicant is a former holder of the call sign.  

   Section 97.19(c)(3), however, provides an exception to the hold period for an applicant who is a close relative of any now-deceased former licensee who held the call sign. These relatives are the:  spouse, child, grandchild, stepchild, parent, grandparent, stepparent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or in-law. As soon as the status of the license grant is changed from active to cancelled on the ULS, an otherwise eligible close relative of any former holder of that particular call sign, now deceased, may request the call sign. Do not apply for any vanity call sign while it shows active on the ULS.

Q. Some of our members want our club to someday acquire their call signs under the in memoriam provision of vanity call sign system. How can we do this?

A. It is possible, but there is no guarantee. Section 97.19(c)(3) says that except for an applicant who is the spouse, child, grandchild, stepchild, parent, grandparent, stepparent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or in-law, and except for an applicant who is a club station license trustee acting with the written consent of at least one relative, as listed above, of a person now deceased, the call sign shown on the license of a person now deceased is not available to the vanity call sign system for 2 years following the person's death, or for 2 years following the expiration of the license grant, whichever is sooner.

  Note that the relatives of the SK as well as the relatives of other SK former holders of the call sign do not have to wait the usual two-year period following the member’s death. Moreover, any one of these relatives - even those who are not amateur operators - can give consent to any club to apply for the call sign. Additionally, any former holder of the call sign may request it even if it has been unassigned less for less than two years. 

   No eligible person has filing priority over another. It is first-come, first- served. Unless you are absolutely certain, therefore, that no one else will apply for the call sign during the hold period, you should apply as soon as possible so as to be the earliest requester. 

Q. Are there ways we can maximize our chances of obtaining a call sign in memoriam?

A. Yes, there are some steps that you can take beforehand to enable you to make application for the vanity call sign just as soon as the license grant of the SK no longer appears on the ULS:

   1. Have in hand your club station license grant obtained through a Section 97.17(a)(3) Club Station Call Sign Administrator.

   2. Have your club station license grant show as its trustee a person holding the required class of operator license.  For a Group A call sign (example: W3BE), the license trustee must be an Amateur Extra Class operator. Read Vanity Call Sign System

   3. Have in your club station records a letter from a relative of the member consenting to the club making application for the call sign in memoriam. Note that Section 97.19(c)(3) does not specify that the written consent must be dated post mortem

   4. Have in hand a copy of the member’s license document. You might also help shorten the time period it takes for the SK’s license grant to be removed from the ULS. For this, prepare an envelope containing your signed request for cancellation of the SK member’s license grant due to the death of the grantee. Include a copy of the member’s license document and a copy the death certificate or an obituary notice from the newspaper showing the date of death. Mail the package to the Federal Communications Commission, ATTN: Becky Williams, 1270 Fairfield Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325. 

   5. As soon as you confirm that the license status has been changed to canceled on the ULS, file your application for the vanity call sign. The call sign will not be held for you.

Q. How much does a vanity call sign cost?

A. There is no FCC fee for a vanity call sign. If you engage someone to do the filing task for you, however, you can expect to pay that non-government service provider.

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May 5, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions