John W3BE, who spent 27 years at the FCC has a very good explanation of this
topic in his Rules & Regs column in the Dec 2007 WorldRadio. You can find
much, but not all, of the same information on his website at
http://home.att.net/~w3be/. Check out "Which Call Sign." Several other topics
are also relevant including Station ID and Club Station.
Of course, this may not be accurate for amateur operation not regulated by the
In his WR article, he makes the point that the station license is analogous to
a vehicle registration, while the amateur operator license is analogous to a
driver's license. For the amateur service, under 97.5(b)(1), both the operator
license and the station license are shown on the same grant.
John uses precise language to define how these concepts apply, along with the
concept of control operator, so I'm not going to repeat any more of it here,
for fear I will mangle it and cause more confusion than good. It has taken me
a few readings but the various scenarios are becoming more clear to me.
In the simplest case (which so far has covered 100% of my operating), where I,
with only one station and operator license grant and callsign, operate my own
station under those grants, there is no ambiguity. But as soon as you go
beyond that case, there are decisions to make about which callsign to use, who
is the control operator, etc. And John makes it clear that if you don't
consciously make those decisions, you could be assuming you don't have
accountability for the operation of your station when in fact you do. Or you
may inadvertently allow your station to be used in a way that violates the
As evidenced by the discussion here, this area can be a little tricky to
understand -- but it is so fundamental to what we do, it seems like
understatement to say it is "worth studying!"
[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Bob Davis
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 10:09 AM
To: reflector cq-contest
Subject: [CQ-Contest] Callsigns & People
However, an inconceivably large number of electrons was terribly
----- Original Message -----
From: "Michael Coslo" <email@example.com>
To: "reflector cq-contest" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Thursday, December 06, 2007 8:44 AM
Subject: Re: [CQ-Contest] QSL ethics
> On Dec 5, 2007, at 5:49 PM, K0HB wrote:
> > Good point. People don't have call signs. Radio stations have
> > call signs.
> Is there a good online reference for this? I've always had a few
> questions on that matter, and would love to see the total rationale,
> since an exact reading of it would imply that a person without a
> station would not be licensed - and that isn't the case.
> Looked through part 97 a bit and didn't see anything definitive.
I've always held that people are licensed and the station holds the
callsign. Look at it from the broadcast perspective - an entity, whether a
singular person or a corporation - is licensed to operate a station. For
example, the Central Pennsylvania Broadcasting Company owned and operated a
5kw AM broadcast station, the callsign of which was WKVA. To the best of my
knowledge, neither a particular person nor the company itself was licensed
as WKVA; the company had a license to *operate* WKVA. (Note: I could be
misremembering; it's been ten years since I was involved with that
Thus, I see it that R P Davis has a license to operate an amateur radio
station called NQ3X. Another person I designate could operate my station
and use that callsign. Happens all the time with special event stations,
club stations and multi-operator contest stations - and even sometimes in
single-op roles, where I might lend my WPX-savvy call to a regular ol' W3.
That said, we as a hobby tend to use our callsigns as personal identifiers,
since they - generally speaking - are issued to a singular person, not an
entity (club calls and special event calls notwithstanding). There aren't
many people who would recognize the name Bob Davis, even in my local club;
many more, comparatively speaking, will recognize my callsign.
Tangentially, this is an interesting onomastic exercise. One could argue
that ham radio callsigns serve the same purpose as locative, familial or
occupational bynames in past cultures. A fellow named Will from the town of
Crecy becomes Guillaume d'Crecy; Will's son, who puts stones on top of each
other, becomes known as Tom Mason. In turn, Tom's son might be known as Jack
Tomson (locative, occupational, and familial respectively). In the same
manner do we assign further onomastic identifiers through the conjunctive
use of our callsigns - thus, we are Tim Duffy and Mike Coslo as well as Tim,
K3LR and Mike, N3LI or even just K3LR and N3LI.
You've made me think. I'll be wary of you in the future. ;-)
Bob NQ3X (See!?)
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