I am no longer known as N1BMX. I am now known as NT1K
I decided to change my callsign from N1BMX to NT1K because I am not involved anymore with BMX (Bicycle Motocross). When people see BMX then see me, they see this huge guy that obviously doesn’t ride bicycles, let alone a 20″ Bicycle. I browse AE7Q’s vanity list quite often and saw N1DE has passed it’s grace period and is up for grabs. I’ve applied for vanities in the past that got dismissed but this time I wanted to change my call for good. So I looked the 2X1 calls and added a call that appears that no one else is applying for. NT1K stuck out to me so I also applied for it.
For those who don’t know how the vanity system works, it is somewhat simple.First thing to do (if you haven’t done so already) is to set up an account with the FCC ULS system. You will need to REGISTER with the FCC ULS so you can apply for a vanity online.
Next you will need to know what callsign you want to use and if it’s available. If a ham lets their license expire or the ham is SK then the callsign will go into a 2 year grace period where the ham can re-activate their call or a close family member to the SK call obtain the call. After two years the call is thrown back into the system where almost anyone who has the proper license can obtain the call.
However the FCC does not really tell you if the call sign is available. You will have to refer to one of the many websites out there that database and list all the vanity call signs. From those websites you will be able to tell which callsigns are available.
I am going to mention a few websites that I think are the most used. The most popular one is Vanity HQ (DB By: N4MC) and the other one that I used is AE7Q.Com (Extra Class Calls Only). The last one that I seem to like is RadioQTH. When choosing a call you want to make sure of THREE things to increase your chances on getting the call sign you want.
First is to make sure that the callsign you want is AVAILABLE! That’s right… AVAILABLE. Requesting calls that are still in the 2 year grace period will be dismissed. Even if it’s by one day, It will get dismissed. Second is to make sure that the callsign format you want is in your license class and/or country. If you hold a Novice, Tech, Tech Plus or General license, you will not be able to go after certain call sign formats. I will break it down below for formats that your class allows you to apply for.
- Technician – 1X3 or 2X3 formats only (ex. N1ABC, NN1ABC)
- *Tech Plus - 1X3 or 2X3 formats only (ex. N1ABC, NN1ABC)
- General - 1X3 or 2X3 formats only (ex. N1ABC, NN1ABC)
- *Advanced - 1X3, 2X2 or 2X3 formats only (ex. N1ABC, NN1AB, NN1AB)
- Extra – 1X3, 2X2, 2X3, 2X1, 1X2 formats only (ex. N1ABC, NN1AB, NN1ABC, NN1A, N1AB)
* = Test are no longer given for these classes.
So if you have a Tech or General License, you will not be granted call sign formats of 1X2, 2×1 or 2X2. So callsigns like N1AB, NA1B or AB1CD are out of the question.
Also make sure that the call sign prefix (the letters before the number NT1K) are designated for the United State. So your Vanity should Start with either AA-AL,K,KA-KZ,N,W or WA-WZ. Please note that there are prefixes designated for certain areas of the United States and you will not be able to get those call signs if you do not live in that particular area. Basically the second letter in the prefix (NT1K) can NOT be “L” (Alaska),”H” (Hawaii/Pacific) or “P” (Purto Rico/Caribbean). So AL1AB is out of the questions unless you live in Alaska.
Another thing to mention is the Zone or Designator Number. In the US, the Number in a callsign generally tells you where that person is living. Back in the day, If you moved to another zone. You have to apply for a new call sign. Now you don’t have to and the same goes for applying for vanity calls. However it’s a good practice to apply for a vanity that is in your region/zone. At times it weird hearing a signal that is almost 60 Db over 9 with the callsign being from the west coast and then finding out that they live within 100m of your QTH.
The Third and final thing is to make sure no one else has already applied for the call sign you want. Some of these Vanity data-basing websites will tell you (by color) that there is an application on file for that callsign. However that doesn’t truly mean that it’s going to be taken. When applying for a vanity, you’re allowed to choose multiple call signs in-case your number one choice is already taken or denied. It will go to the next callsign on your list. So if you come across a call that you want that someone (or multiple people) applied for. Look at their applications (some websites will database the applications) and see if the call you want is their first choice. On popular (For example New england region 1 extra class 1X2 [ex. N1AB]) callsigns, when one becomes available, there could be multiple people submitting applications on the same day. When this happens you are in competition with the other Hams for the callsign. When the FCC does its assignments, it’s basically the luck draw since it will be assigned at random. So if your sitting, waiting for the call to become available and apply at 12:01AM of the day it’s released, you’re going to waste your time if someone else applies for the call you want on the same day.
In short, make sure the callsign you want is available, proper format for your license class, a US designated prefix and that no one else applied for the callsign before you.
Last thing to do is to actually apply for the call sign. It’s pretty straight forward. Log on the FCC ULS using your FRN and password (Must have an account already established), On the main page after login click on your callsign, On the right side in the Menu “Work On This License” click on “Request Vanity Call Sign” and pretty much follow the steps.
After submitting the license online and paid ($13.30?) online, your application is now in the cache. It usually takes around two weeks for the application to be processed and updated in the ULS. Then another week or two for the license to reach your house. Once the License is updated in the ULS, you are allowed to use your new callsign.
I hope this helps some people out because I made mistakes when I submitted applications because I didn’t know better and didn’t read up on it. First time ever applying, I applied for call signs that were not in my license class (was going after 1X2 and 2×1 calls when I held a tech license). I also applied for call signs that people already applied for and I applied for call signs that were still in the waiting period. Since your paying for each application, It would be beneficial to get the call you want on the first shot