Another big milestone today in the Ham Radio saga. The FCC granted my request for a vanity call sign and assigned KZ0C to me. KZ… because it was available. 0C … because i can transmogrify that into OC, which in turn is my last-name initials. A darn nifty call — 4 letters, easy for me to remember, the domain was available, etc.
Getting call letters for radio stations is what led me into domain-names, which have been a really interesting ride over the years. So this vanity-call nonsense sorta fits into a long-term thread in my life. I was assigned a set of call letters when I got my license a few weeks ago (AC0GY) but I never told anybody about that call because I knew I was going to go for a vanity call as soon as I could and didn’t want to confuse people. Now I can go public! Yippee.
Of course I’ve run out and gotten the domain — www.kz0c.com points at www.haven.com right now, but I’ll probably split the ham radio stuff off to the KZ0C site over time.
I’ve found some sites that will charge a little fee to do the vanity call-sign application for you, but I thought I’d just list the steps here in case you want to do it yourself. I didn’t think it was too bad.
Step 1 — go hunting for a good call-sign
There are two places I looked when I was hunting for my vanity call sign. The first one I found was Amateur-Radio.org vanity call letter page where they list all the active 4 and 5 letter calls. They don’t list 6-letter calls ’cause there are way too many. They also have a lot of useful tips and tricks on that page that I found really helpful in completing the application. Since I wanted a call with “0C” in it, I used the search-text function in my web browser to find calls with “0b” (just before) and “0d” (just after) to see if there were any gaps in the list that implied my “0C” call might be available. Found me a bunch that way.
Next I came across the RadioQTH vanity call-letter page . This one is really handy because it lists all the 4 and 5-letter calls that are available. See that grid on the left side of the page called “Available Calls Sorted By”? That’s the place to click — each of the choices will show a different set of available calls. Again, a little browser-based page-searching for the “0C” string got me a refined list. This page is also helpful in that it alerted me to a few calls that I couldn’t get even though they showed up as available on the Amateur-Radio list — mostly because they are in a two-year wait period.
The last place I stopped, to verify my choices, was the FCC callsign lookup page. This is a part of the FCC Universal Licensing System (which you’re gonna have to use to finish this project). I like the fact that the FCC has put this stuff online. The system’s a little clunky, but it gets the job done and it sure beats the huge paper-processing hassles I went through when I filed broadcast FM licenses back when I did community radio stations.
Step 2 — go apply for the call letters
I did this by logging into the FCC’s Universal Licensing system and heading over to their vanity call sign page. I found the process to be pretty much like any online-store type thing. The FCC suggests submitting more than one set of call letters so that if my first choice was taken by the time they review the application (which mine was — my first choice was KQ0c), they can still grant the call. They charge a fee — I recall it being around $25 — which covers the license for 10 years. Compared to domain-names, a bargain!
By the way, there’s a bug in the FCC’s system. When I typed in my choices, the grid was numbered left-to-right then top-to-bottom. But when I looked at the online “reference copy” of the application, the grid was numbered top-to-bottom then left-to-right. But my choices were in the positions that I’d entered them online. Yikes! I called the FCC and the nice person there patted me on the head, said “there there” and assured me that my preference sequence had been preserved. It just shows up wrong in the reference copy of the app.
Step 3 — bite nails and hope for the best
This is a long tradition amongst people who apply for call letters. It used to drive me nuts back in the community radio days. My favorite story was the first set of call letters I applied for in Madison. I was all set to go with WOMB (in the cradle of the revolution, Madison, WI) until wiser heads prevailed. So we settled on WART (which was available). We submitted the application, nail-biting ensued and dang! We missed that one! I called up the station that got it and asked them why on earth they wanted WART??? They came back saying “because we’re an ARTs station!” I came back with “yeah but don’t you see? you’ve got WART!” They were stunned. But they didn’t want to give up the call so we settled for our second-choice which was WORT.
Now days the nail-biting is web-enhanced because now you can watch your application fight its way through the process, and you can watch all those other people go after the same calls you covet. The place to do all this is the RadioQTH vanity call page, except this time you click in the “Filed Applications” grid on the right side of the page. I think their database is several days behind the FCC’s — I’m looking at it right now and it doesn’t reflect that I’ve gotten the KZ0C call yet. It still shows my application as in progress, even though they predicted the day that they estimated the call would appear in the FCC database on the nose.
So here I am — the proud owner of a really neat set of call letters. I’m going to find out everything I can about the previous holder(s) of this call. The person I’ve found so far is James Bohnsack who lived in Waterloo, Iowa. It seems to me that, since I’m not the first person to occupy this little piece of ham-radio real-estate, I need to honor those who’ve been here before me. If any family or friends of Mr. Bohnsack happen across this little blog entry, I’d love to hear from you!