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Encyclopedia > Callsign

In broadcasting and radio communication, a callsign or call sign (also call letters) is a unique designation for a transmitting station. They can be formally assigned by a government agency, informally adopted by individuals or organizations, or even cryptographically encoded to disguise a station's identity. Broadcasting is the distribution of audio and video signals (programs) to a number of recipients (listeners or viewers) that belong to a large group. ... Cryptography has had a long and colourful history. ...


International series

International callsigns are formal, semi-permanent, and issued by a nation's telecommunications agency. They are used for amateur, broadcast, commercial, maritime and sometimes military radio use, as well as for broadcast television. Telecommunication is the extension of communication over a distance. ... An agency is a department of a local or national government responsible for the oversight and administration of a specific function, such as a customs agency or a space agency. ... Mrs. ... Broadcast could refer to: Broadcast, an electronica musical group broadcasting, the distribution of audio and video signals Broadcast address, an IP address allowing information to be sent to all machines on a given subnet. ... Terrestrial television (also known as over-the-air or OTA) is the traditional method of television broadcast signal delivery, by radio waves. ...

Each country has a set of alphabetic or numeric International Telecommunication Union-designated prefixes with which their callsigns must begin. For example: The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is an international organization established to standardize and regulate international radio and telecommunications. ... The ITU allocates callsign prefixes for radio and television stations. ...

  • The United States uses the prefixes: W, K, N, and AAA to ALZ (only W and K are used for broadcast stations).
  • Canada uses the prefixes: CF-CK, CY-CZ, VA-VG, VO, VX-VY, XJ-XO
  • Mexico uses XA-XI
  • The United Kingdom uses the prefixes: G, M, and 2
  • France uses the prefixes: F, TM
  • Germany uses the prefixes: DA-DR
  • Chad uses the prefix: TT
  • Italy uses the prefix: I

See main article: International Callsign Allocations The International Telecommunications Union sets many international standards for radio usage around the world. ...


Each licensed aircraft is assigned a unique registration or tail number. Registrations for non-military aircraft begin with one or more code letters to denote the country of origin. For example, the registrations of U.S. civilian aircraft begin with the letter N followed by some digits and/or letters according to the following standards:

  • U.S. registration numbers may not exceed five (5) characters in addition to the standard U.S. registration prefix letter "N".
  • These characters may be one (1) to five (5) numbers (eg., N12345), one (1) to four (4) numbers and one (1) suffix letter (ex. - N1234Z), or one (1) to three (3) numbers and two (2) suffix letters (N123AZ).
  • To avoid confusion with the numbers one and zero, the letters "I" and "O" may not be used.
  • An N-Number may not begin with zero. The first zero in a number must be preceded by at least one of the numbers one (1) through nine (9). For example, N01Z is not valid.

Many civil aircraft use the registration as the radio callsign, however scheduled airline flights generally use an airline code, such as United for United Airlines, followed by the flight number. See main article: airline call sign. Glider pilots often use a supplementary number (the competition number) as their call-signs. Air traffic control facilities usually identify by location and function, e.g. Boston Center. A Boeing 747-400 belonging to Virgin Atlantic Airways, one of the UKs largest airlines. ... Public transport service numbering is a means of identifying a particular transport service or route. ... Most airlines employ a distinctive and internationally recognised call sign that is normally spoken during airband radio transmissions as a prefix to the flight number. ... Gliders are un-powered heavier-than-air aircraft. ... Air Traffic Control Towers (ATCTs) at Schiphol Airport Air Traffic Control (ATC) is a service provided by ground based Controllers who direct aircraft on the ground and in the air to ensure safe, orderly and efficient traffic flow. ...

Merchant vessels

Merchant vessels are assigned a callsign by their national licensing authority. In the case of states such as Liberia or Panama, which are flags of convenience for ship registration, callsigns for larger vessels consist of the national prefix plus three letters {for example, 3LXYZ). United States vessels are given callsigns beginning with W. A flag of convenience is a flag of one country, flown by a ship owned by a citizen of another country. ...

Amateur radio

Amateur radio callsigns are in the international series and normally consist of a one- or two-character prefix, a number (which sometimes corresponds to a geographic area within the country) and a 1, 2, or 3 character suffix. The number following the prefix is normally a single number (0 to 9). Some prefixes, such as Djibouti's (J2), consist of a letter followed by a number. Hence, in the hypothetical Djibouti callsign, J29DBA, the prefix is J2, the number is 9, and the suffix is DBA. Mrs. ...

The numbers are sometimes assigned geographically. In the Italian callsign, IK1TZO, IK is the prefix, the number component is 1 and corresponds to the Piemonte region, and TZO is the suffix. Another example is WB3EBO. WB is the prefix, the number 3 most often indicates that the station is located in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, or the District of Columbia. The suffix is EBO. For the district numbers within the United States, see ARRL map. Piedmont is a region of northwestern Italy. ... State nickname: The First State Other U.S. States Capital Dover Largest city Wilmington Governor Ruth Ann Minner Official languages None Area 6,452 km² (49th)  - Land 5,068 km²  - Water 1,387 km² (21. ... State nickname: Old Line State; Free State Other U.S. States Capital Annapolis Largest city Baltimore Governor Robert L. Ehrlich (R) Official languages English Area 32,160 km² (42nd)  - Land 25,338 km²  - Water 6,968 km² (21%) Population (2000)  - Population 5,296,486 (19th)  - Density 165 /km² (5th) Admission... State nickname: The Keystone State Other U.S. States Capital Harrisburg Largest city Philadelphia Governor Ed Rendell (D) Official languages None Area 119,283 km² (33rd)  - Land 116,074 km²  - Water 3,208 km² (2. ... ...

Broadcast callsigns

North America

Main article: North American call sign

Broadcast stations in North America generally use call letters in the international series. There are some common conventions followed in each country. In Canada, callsigns begin with the letter C. In the United States, the first letter is K for stations west of the Mississippi River and W for those east of the Mississippi. There are a few exceptions-mostly with stations assigned callsigns before the Federal Communications Commission deviseed the east/west split. Many countries have specific conventions for classifying call signs by transmitter characteristics and location. ... World map showing location of North America A satellite composite image of North America North America is a continent in the northern hemisphere, bounded on the north by the Arctic Ocean, on the east by the North Atlantic Ocean, on the south by the Caribbean Sea, and on the west...


In Australia, broadcast callsigns begin with a single-digit number indicating the state or territory, followed by two letters for AM stations and three for FM. Some AM stations retain their old callsigns when moving to FM, or just add an extra letter to the end. Australian broadcast stations originally used the prefix VL-, but since Australia has no nearby neighbors, this practice was soon discarded in use. The Australian states and territories comprise the Commonwealth of Australia under a federal system of government. ... Mediumwave radio transmissions (sometimes called Medium frequency or MF) are those between the frequencies of 300 kHz and 3000 kHz. ... FM radio is a broadcast technology invented by Edwin Howard Armstrong that uses frequency modulation to provide high-fidelity broadcast radio sound. ...

Television station callsigns begin with two letters usually denoting the station itself, followed by a third letter denoting the state. For example, NBN's callsign stands for Newcastle Broadcasting, New South Wales. There are some exceptions: NBN Television is an Australian commercial television broadcasting company, broadcasting from its main studios in Newcastle, transmitting to the northern half of New South Wales (Including the Central Coast, Newcastle and The Gold Coast). ...

  • ABC television stations outside of state capitals add a fourth letter between AB and the state. This is used to denote the area e.g. the Newcastle station is known as ABHN, standing for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Hunter Valley, New South Wales. State capital stations follow the same rule as commercial stations.
  • SBS television stations all use SBS in their callsigns, regardless of the state.
  • Commercial station Imparja Television uses IMP, even though they are based in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Letters and numbers used by Australian stations: The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is Australias national public broadcaster. ... SBS can refer to: Special Broadcasting Service - Australian government-funded Radio and TV network Shaken baby syndrome Said Business School - Oxford Universitys business school. ... Imparja Television (callsign IMP) is one of 4 public access television stations that service Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and other parts of Southern Northern Territory, which are outside of the broadcasting range of Darwins television stations. ... Alice Springs on a large scale map Alice Springs is a large town in the Northern Territory of Australia located at 23°42′ S 133°52′ E. Its population of 28,178 (2001 Census) makes it the second-largest settlement in the Territory (the only other towns of significant size... Motto: None Nickname: ? Other Australian states and territories Capital Darwin Government Administrator Chief Minister Const. ...

Motto: Pro Rege, Lege et Grege (For the Queen, the Law and the People) Nickname: (none) Other Australian states and territories Capital Canberra Government Administrator Chief Minister Const. ... Motto: Orta Recens Quam Pura Nites (Newly Risen, How Brightly You Shine) Nickname: First State, Premier State Other Australian states and territories Capital Sydney Government Governor Premier Const. ... Motto: Pro Rege, Lege et Grege (For the Queen, the Law and the People) Nickname: (none) Other Australian states and territories Capital Canberra Government Administrator Chief Minister Const. ... Motto: Peace and Prosperity Nickname: Garden State Other Australian states and territories Capital Melbourne Government Governor Premier Const. ... Motto: Audax at Fidelis (Bold but Faithful) Nickname: Sunshine State/Smart State Other Australian states and territories Capital Brisbane Government Governor Premier Const. ... Motto: United for the Common Wealth Nickname: Festival State Other Australian states and territories Capital Adelaide Government Governor Premier Const. ... Motto: Cygnis Insignis (Distinguished by its swans) Nickname: Wildflower State Other Australian states and territories Capital Perth Government Governor Premier Const. ... Motto: Ubertas et Fidelitas (Fertility and Faithfulness) Nickname: The Apple Isle Other Australian states and territories Capital Hobart Government Governor Premier Const. ... Motto: None Nickname: ? Other Australian states and territories Capital Darwin Government Administrator Chief Minister Const. ... Canberra is the capital of the Commonwealth of Australia and, with a population of just over 320,000, its largest inland city. ... Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory, and is a city of 109,419 people (2001 Australian Census), on Australias far north-western coastline. ...


In Europe and much of Asia, callsigns are normally not used for broadcast stations. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are exceptions to this general rule. Other countries have yet other formats for assigning callsigns to domestic services.

Military callsigns

In wartime, monitoring an adversaries communications can be a valuable form of intelligence. Consistent call signs can aid in this monitoring, so in wartime, military units often employ tactical callsigns and sometime change them at regular intervals. In peacetime, some military stations will use fixed call signs in the international series. Police units in the United States tend to use a tactical designator (or tactical callsign) consisting of a letter of the police phonetic alphabet followed by one or two numbers. ...

US Army

The United States Army uses fixed callsigns which begin with W, such as WAR, used by U.S. Army Headquarters. US Army Seal The Army is the branch of the United States armed forces which has primary responsibility for land-based military operations. ... Headquarters denotes the location where most, if not all, of the important functions of an organization are concentrated. ...

US Air Force

Fixed callsigns for the United States Air Force stations begin with A, such as AIR, used by USAF Headquarters. The USAF also uses semi-fixed identifiers consisting of a name followed by a two or three digit number. The name is assigned to a unit on a semi-permanent basis; they change only when the U.S. Department of Defense goes to DEFCON 3. For example, JAMBO 51 would be assigned to a particular B-52 aircrew of the 5th Bomb Wing, while NODAK 1 would be an F-16 fighter with the North Dakota Air National Guard. The most recognizable callsign of this type is Air Force One, used when any Air Force aircraft is transporting the U.S. President. Individual military pilot or other flight officer usually adopt a personal aviator call sign. Seal of the Air Force. ... For the technology conference/hacker convention, see DEF CON. Defense Condition is a measure of the activation and readiness level of the United States armed forces. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... F-16 Fighting Falcon over Iraq The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a modern multi-role jet fighter aircraft built in the United States. ... Air Force One is the air traffic control call sign of any U.S. Air Force aircraft carrying the President of the United States. ... The President of the United States is the head of state of the United States. ... An aviator call sign or callsign is a nickname given to a military pilot or other flight officer. ...

US Navy/Coast Guard

The United States Navy and United States Coast Guard use a mixture of tactical callsigns and international callsigns beginning with the letter N. For example, the carrier USS John F. Kennedy has the callsign NJFK. The United States Navy (USN) is the branch of the United States armed forces responsible for naval operations. ... Coast Guard shield The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the coast guard of the United States. ...

Transmitters requiring no call-signs

No callsigns are issued to transmitters of long-range navigation systems (LORAN-C, Decca, Alpha, Omega) and transmitters on frequencies below 10 kHz, because frequencies below 10 kHz are not subject to international regulations.

See also

Most airlines employ a distinctive and internationally recognised call sign that is normally spoken during airband radio transmissions as a prefix to the flight number. ... An aviator call sign or callsign is a nickname given to a military pilot or other flight officer. ... Most American space flights, with the exception of those of Project Gemini and early Apollo flights, have had their spacecraft officially named. ... The International Telecommunications Union sets many international standards for radio usage around the world. ... A Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is a series of nine digits which are transmitted over the radio path in order to uniquely identify ship stations, ship earth stations, coast stations, coast earth stations, and group calls. ... A pseudonym (Greek: false name) is a fictitious name used by an individual as an alternative to their legal name (whereas an allonym is the name of another actual person assumed by one person in authorship of a work of art; e. ...

External links

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