W3BE'S BE Informed!
STATION IDENTIFICATION ANNOUNCEMENT
 
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BE Informed No. 4.1

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Appending a Self-Assigned Indicator

To Your Station Call Sign

John B. Johnston W3BE

Rule Section 97.119(a) says: Each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions. No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals, or transmit as the station call sign, any call sign not authorized to the station.

   Section 97.119(c) so authorizes one or more indicators to be appended to your station’s assigned call sign: Each indicator must be separated from the call sign by the slant mark (/) or by any suitable word that denotes the slant mark. If an indicator is self-assigned, it must be included before, after, or both before and after, the call sign. No self-assigned indicator may conflict with any other indicator specified by the FCC rules or with any prefix assigned to another country. 

   Appending a Section 97.119(c) self-assigned indicator to a government-assigned call sign in the station identification announcement is a long-accepted amateur practice. It is an expedient way to inform listeners that the station seeks out of the ordinary attention and is claiming some degree of priority to the channel. It may, for instance, be transmitting under the Subpart C special operations rules, from a portable location, from a vehicle, or while providing emergency communications. For this purpose, appending one or more words to a call sign seems to be straightforward for phone and image transmissions. For non-voice transmissions – in particular, CW, MCW, data and RTTY – there is a desire to keep the appended indicator to as few characters as possible. Doing that, however, creates a need to enable the listeners to understand just what it is that the appended indicators are intended to convey.    

   There is a hitch. The International Telecommunications Union (“ITU”) assigns nationality indicators to countries. The combinations of characters and digits in its assignments are, therefore, unavailable to FCC-licensed stations for appending a self-assigned indicator.

   Our United States has available prefixes AA-AL, AAA-ALZ, K, KA-KZ, KAA-KZZ, N, NA-NZ, NAA-NZZ, W, WA-WZ, WAA-WZZ. Not all of these prefixes, however, are authorized for assignment to amateur stations. Read Section 2.302 for more detail.

   Also, the following single letters and digits may be available: A, C, D, E, H, J, L, O, P, Q, S, T, U, V, X, Y, Z, 0, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. The blocks of call signs having these characters as the first letter are allocated to more than one country, however, and the I.T.U. has declared the first two characters in each block to constitute the nationality identification. Check for availability with a website specializing in international call sign arrangements.  

   The one-character prefixes assigned to other countries that are disallowed for self-assigned indicators by Section 97.119(c)(4) currently are:

   B (People’s Republic of China);

   F (France);

   G (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland);

   I (Italy);

   M (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland);

   R (Russian Federation);

   2 (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).

   Check a current listing of DX countries for other 1, 2, and 3 letter prefixes assigned to other countries.   

Not available for a self-assigned indicator

   There are three indicators specified by Section 97.119(f) for recent upgrades, and thusly not available for self-assignment: AE, AG and KT. 

   Also unavailable are certain three letter combinations assigned to our military. Read Section 2.302): 

   AAA-AEZ and ALA-ALZ (Department of the Army);

   AFA-AKZ (Department of the Air Force);

   NAA-NZZ (jointly to the Department of the Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard). 

   Additionally, the FCC webpage says that when a station is transmitting under the privileges afforded by an amateur service license granted by the Government of Canada or an amateur service license granted by any other country with which the United States has a multilateral or bilateral agreement, a certain indicator consisting of the appropriate letter-numeral designating the station location must be included in the Section 97.119(a) station identification announcement: KH0, KH1, KH2, KH4, KH5, KH5K, KH6, KH7, KH9, KL7; KP1, KP2, KP4, KP5, W0, W1, W2, W3, W4, W5, W6, W7, W8 and W9.

   The station location letter-numeral indicators for such reciprocal operation are:  Alabama W4; Alaska KL7; American Samoa KH8; Arizona W7; Arkansas W5; Baker Island KH1; California W6; Colorado W0; Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands KH0; Commonwealth of Puerto Rico KP4; Connecticut W1; Delaware W3; Desecheo Island, PR KP5; District of Columbia W3; Florida W4; Georgia W4; Guam KH2; Hawaii KH6; Howland Island KH1; Idaho W7; Illinois W9; Indiana W9; Iowa W0; Jarvis Island KH5; Johnston Island KH3; Kansas W0; Kentucky W4; Kingman Reef KH5K; Kure Island, HI KH7; Louisiana W5; Maine W1; Maryland W3; Massachusetts W1; Michigan W8; Midway Island KH4; Minnesota W0; Mississippi W5; Missouri W0; Montana W7; Navassa Island KP1; Nebraska W0; Nevada W7; New Hampshire W1; New Jersey W2; New Mexico W5; New York W2; North Carolina W4; North Dakota W0; Ohio W8; Oklahoma W5; Oregon W7; Palmyra Island KH5; Peale Island KH9; Pennsylvania W3; Rhode Island W1; South Carolina W4; South Dakota W0; Tennessee W4; Texas W5; Utah W7; Vermont W1; Virgin Islands KP2; Virginia W4; Wake Island KH9; Washington W7; West Virginia W8; Wilkes Island KH9; Wisconsin W9; Wyoming W7. 

PROVISIONAL SCHEDULE

   Appending a self-assigned indicator to your station’s FCC-assigned call sign will not be meaningful to your listeners unless they can comprehend your intended information.

Q/A

Q. The FCC seems to be tacitly in agreement with the substitution of "-" for "/" in certain situations, by not pursuing the use of the dash-number or dash-tactical indicator commonly in use with ARPS and other situations. Apparently - though not codified - the FCC defers to the knowledge that "/" is a hierarchal operator to the computers running the digital software, where the "-" is not.

   A. Unlikely. Such decisions are codified in the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations through a public notice and comment rulemaking process. Don’t confuse enforcement lapses with the rulemaking process. Had the dash mark (-) been acknowledged, as was the slant-mark (/), it would likewise be codified in Section 97.119(c) – but it is not. Although our regulator has implemented its statutory authority to accept the voluntary services of our Maintenance Monitors, our Section 97.507 preparing VEs, and our Section 97.509 administering VEs, it has not similarly outsourced its rule-making mandate.

Q. Station identification can and should be carried out automatically in the background of our communications - employing some contemporary techniques brought over from more progressive radio services - and shown on a display along with information the control operator wishes to disseminate to listeners. Why is our amateur service community bogged down with such antiquated protocols for station identification? They were barely appropriate for the 20th century, let alone for the 21st.

A. They are how-to-ism artifacts carried over from the very beginnings of 19th century wire-line telegraphy. Hams seem to adulate their call signs and like to enunciate them as often as possible. When transmitted for the purpose of the Section 97.119(a) station identification announcement, unfortunately, they are very limiting in an apparently highly desirable ability to convey supplementary information that might distinguish the station as being one warranting extraordinary notice. So we have ourselves a conundrum. Unless and until a more modern system for us to pinpoint the person responsible for causing or allowing a station to transmit on our amateur service spectrum, we can only continue with appending our call signs with optional self-assigned indicators.

Q. Does my station identification announcement have to include an appended self-assigned indicator?

A. No. It is strictly your choice. Should you decide to append a proper Section 97.119(c) self-assigned indicator, make certain that it does not conflict with any other indicator specified by the FCC rules or with any DX prefix assigned to another country. Make certain that you know why you want to append a self-assigned indicator: Special operation? Portable? Vehicular? Providing emergency communications, Look Ma! No hands? 

Q. What is the “prefix” of a call sign?

A. The call sign prefix is that initial portion of the FCC-assigned station call sign consisting of characters that designate the nationality of the country of the transmitting station’s regulatory authority. The International Telecommunication Union assigns one or more blocks of call sign prefixes to each country for this purpose. Because of ever-shifting geopolitical status, the blocks are subject to change. Each block is composed of up to 676 characters in groups of two or three characters. The characters are the 26 letters of the alphabet and the ten single numerical digits 0-9. 

Q. What are the two- and three-character prefixes assigned to other countries that are disallowed for self-assigned indicators by Section 97.119(c)?

A. Most every combination.  Consult a website that keeps track of such matters.

Q.  From which blocks can we select for our FCC-licensed amateur stations?

A. Select from: AA-AL, K, KA-KZ, KAA-KZZ, N, NA-NZ, W, WA-WZ and WAA-WZZ avoiding, of course, AE, AG, KT, KH0, KH1, KH2, KH4, KH5, KH5K, KH6, KH7, KH9, KL7; KP1, KP2, KP4, KP5, W0, W1, W2, W3, W4, W5, W6, W7, W8 and W9.   Also, the following single letters and digits may be available: A, C, D, E, H, J, L, O, P, Q, S, T, U, V, X, Y, Z, 0, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.  

Q. If we cannot use the three letter combination groups assigned to the military, can we use the two-letter versions from those groups?

A. Yes. Section 2.302 assigns the three letter combinations to the military. They are, therefore, the combinations that are not available to us for Section 97.119(c) self-assigned indicators. The two letter combinations, however, are not so assigned. 

Q. The instructions for amateurs visiting and operating in CEPT countries say the indicator M is required for mobile operation.

A. Noted, but our United States is not one of the CEPT countries, so those rules do not apply to amateur stations transmitting from places where the FCC regulates communications. Our FCC rules, obviously, do not apply in CEPT countries. What must or may be done in a CEPT country is up to the local regulatory authority. But at places where the FCC regulates our amateur service, there is no such rigid “how-to” requirement. 

   Here, it is the station licensee’s free choice whether or not to exercise his/her privilege, under Section 97.119(c), of including one or more indicators with our call sign. Simply make certain that your self-assigned indicator does not conflict with any other indicator specified by the FCC rules or with any prefix assigned to another country. Understanding just what it is that you want to notify your listeners to know about your station will help you with this.     

Q. When on water and transmitting CW stations have signed call sign/MM. When on voice, stations have signed either Marine Mobile or Maritime Mobile. Is there a difference and if so what is it?

A. Yes. The difference is that the letters M and MM are I.T.U.-assigned nationality prefixes for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Their appendage as a Section 97.119(c) self-assigned indicator to an FCC-licensed amateur station, therefore is disallowed. To inform listeners that the station is transmitting from a waterborne vehicle for the purpose of its control operator requesting a courtesy priority to the channel, the station identification announcements could append /WW.

   Another way to satisfy Section 97.119(c) is to disassociate the indicator “MM” from the call sign, i.e., replace the “/” mark with a pause such that it is just another part of the transmitted text. In this manner, the indicator can inform listeners that the station is transmitting from a waterborne vehicle for the purpose of its control operator requesting courtesy priority to the channel. This meaning of the indicator when so utilized has been documented publically such as not to run afoul of Section 97.113(a)(4) which prohibits messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning. For more information on this topic, read Non-Appended Self-Assigned Indicator BE Informed No. 4.7.

Q. The person asking me the question seems to think one is on a saltwater ocean and the other on a fresh water lake. But if they verbally sign call sign “slash M.”  Would that cover either?

A. If it is important to you for your listeners to know whether the vehicle is on salt or fresh water, append either indicator /WWS (salt) or /WWF (fresh). It might be of somewhat more interest to them to learn the name of the ocean, sea, lake, river, pond, or whatever body of water from which the station is transmitting.

Q. Our frequency coordinator has recommended that each repeater append its call sign with /R. The letter of the rule and the intent of the rule are a bit fuzzy. There is a 'gray zone' here when repeaters, mobiles, maritime mobiles, beacons, etc. use the /whatever suffix. If the intent of appending an indicator to a FCC-assigned call sign, such as /R, is to identify a repeater, and not to identify itself as a Russian station, is it compliant?

A. No gray zone there. Section 97.119(c)(4) clearly says:

   No self-assigned indicator may conflict with any other indicator specified by the FCC Rules or with any prefix assigned to another country. “No” means “no.”

   The letter R, therefore is not available to FCC-licensed stations for a self-assigned indicator because it is assigned by the ITU to the Russian Federation. Don’t wrongly cause or allow your station to transmit its FCC-assigned call sign appended with /R from any place where the FCC regulates our amateur service. You might choose to append /NR or NR/.

Q. Does that mean that there is no requirement for a repeater to have a self-assigned indicator and adding such an indicator for when the repeater IDs in MCW is nothing more than a request for a “courtesy priority”?

A.  Exactly. 

Q. Does this mean that our repeater should never ID as “(call sign)/R”?

A. Maybe, but not from any place where the FCC regulates communications. It might be appropriate, however, at places within the Russian Federation. Check with those authorities.

Q. Another way to satisfy Section 97.119(c) is to disassociate your indicator from the call sign, i.e., replace the “/” mark with a space such that it is just another part of the transmitted text. In this manner, the indicator “R” following a space can signify that the station is a special operation transmitting under the rules for a repeater station codified in Section 97.205, and not a station authorized or somehow associated with the Russian Federation.

A. That seems to be a simple solution as long as the meanings of the various indicators so utilized have been documented publically such as not to run afoul of Section 97.113(a)(4) which prohibits messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning. For more information on this topic, read Non-Appended Self-Assigned Indicator BE Informed No. 4.7.

Q. I don't believe that a single B is used in Chinese amateur station identifications. Can /B be appended for a beacon station ID even though it is a prefix assigned to China?

A. Maybe in the People’s Republic of China. Check with the authorities there. Otherwise, appending the letter B as a self-assigned indicator to an FCC-assigned amateur station call sign obviously would not be at odds with Section 97.119(c)(4). Because the entire BAA-BZZ block is assigned to the People’s Republic of China, B is its nationality identification. Whether or not a foreign country does or does not utilize its I.T.U.-assigned prefix block does not make it available to others.

Q. Could /BB appended to a FCC-licensed station call sign?

A. No. Not and be consistent with Section 97.119(c)(4). The entire BAA-BZZ block is assigned to the People’s Republic of China. That includes all of the one, two and three letter combinations, just like our K, N, and W blocks do.

Q. May I use [call sign]/1 or any of the other VEC Regions?

A. Numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (0), 11, 12 and 13: Yes. Number 2: No. The single digit 2 constitutes the nationality identification for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and, as such, its usage as a self-assigned indicator would be at odds with Section 97.119(c). You could chose to append /K2 or K2/ instead.

Q. It is our U.S. amateur service community’s worst kept secret that some of our most widely used indicators are the very same one-character prefixes assigned to other countries that are clearly disallowed for self-assigned indicators by Section 97.119(c)(4). That seems to be OK with most hams, but they might not like it should some twit append other DX prefixes like /KP1 or /KH3 just to fool us into creating a phony DX pileup frenzy.

A. The chances do not appear to be good of the ITU stripping the People’s Republic of China, France, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Italy, and the Russian Federation of some or all of their nationality radio identification prefixes just so some U.S. hams can append them to their station call signs if and whenever they so desire.

   Likewise, the chances of our regulator amending Section 97.119(c)(4) so as to allow the amateur stations they authorize to append – if their licensee so desires - to their station call sign the nationality radio identification prefixes of certain or all other countries, is similarly difficult to envision happening.

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March 6, 2017

Supersedes all prior editions