I finally gave in and applied for a vanity call sign. When I was licensed as an extra class amateur, I had the option of keeping my FCC assigned technician call, KD7GUN, or taking the next incremental extra class call sign. I chose the latter. I was tired of being teased for being gun this and gun that. Just being overly sensitive I suppose. Since I work quite a few contests, it’s clear to me from experience that shorter calls are easier copy on CW and to an extent, on SSB. Vanity is a descriptive term too–I want a 7th call area 1×2 call which is a relatively rare commodity because…well…I just want it, OK? In October I was scheduled to renew AC7FA anyway. Forget getting a top of the list desirable call. The most desirable calls are ones with few CW elements and few phonetic syllables, or one with DX or practically any pro-sign in it. When those calls are available, the number of applications can skyrocket to 25 or more. The FCC randomly picks an application so for one of the most popular calls, an application has long odds against being granted. I guess it can’t hurt to try because the FCC will refund your application fee after 6 weeks.
The FCC, a handful of websites, and ham related publications provide a flood of detailed information about vanity calls. The last article I read was in the December 2008 edition of CQ Magazine. Perhaps too much information to digest is available. Here, boiled down to a few key points, is what you need as I understand it:
• Have your FCC ULS on-line system logon number and password ready to go. Log on to the FCC ULS and test it to make sure. You need to apply for vanity call signs on the FCC web site to hit the critical date. No exceptions really. If you apply by mail, you don’t have control of the received date. Be familiar with how to navigate around the ULS system a little.
• Be sure you understand the call sign rules for your QTH, license class, and the special calls that the FCC has reserved.
• Pay your application fee before the ten day deadline after you apply. It’s best to just pay at the time you apply.
• ABSOLUTELY understand what dates are important. Other dates than the ones listed below are irrelevant in my opinion. Time of day is not critical but be aware the FCC is in the Eastern time zone.
o The expiration date plus two years–use this date to find an available call. Do not apply the day of exactly the expiration date plus two years because the call is still active until the FCC cancels it. Cancellation does NOT happen two years to the day after expiration.
o The cancellation date–this date is the exact day a call is available, not the day before, and for popular calls, not a day later. The cancellation date is NEVER equal to the expiration date plus two years. Cancellation occurs the day after the expiration date plus two years.
o The received date–this date is the day you applied (on line, right?) for the call you want. The received date must exactly match the cancellation date. If the received date equals the expiration date plus two years, your application will be denied because the call is still active at the time of your application. If the call expired January 1, 2007, it is canceled and available on January 2, 2009.
o The process date–this date is the day you are either assigned your new call or your application is denied. The process date is the cancellation date plus 18 days. Another day might be tacked on if the 18th day falls on a federal holiday.
AE7Q’s web site is by far the best resource for vanity call information. The site has a flood of information and you will find an explanation of every aspect of vanity call signs there. The web site describes how to put in your application and defines nearly every data point in the ULS database. AE7Q gathers data from the FCC very frequently, like every four hours. Using the query tools yields the best list of available and soon to be available 1×2 and 2×1 call signs. Look carefully at the key dates and strike at your desired call right on the correct date. Second best is VanityHQ where the data is downloaded from the file that the FCC creates Tuesday through Saturday. VanityHQ makes it easier to search for all call formats from 1×2 to 2×3. RadioQTH provides ways to search for available vanity calls and to track applications.