Amateur Radio Call Sign Allocation for British Antarctic Territory, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

A previous post concerning this subject was published in September 2020 – Open letter to the Falkland Islands Regulator about South Georgia and Antarctic VP8 Amateur Radio Licensing. There has been little published or announced since then. This post has been triggered by a worrying development that has come to our attention from several sources.

The affected DXCC entities

The following open email was sent out on 1st August to the worldwide amateur radio community and clearly states the concerns surrounding the Regulator’s proposal to use an old and defunct Caribbean prefix for the above entities.


An open email to the worldwide amateur radio community

Due to an oversight in the new communications legislation recently introduced in the Falkland Islands, the VP8 prefix no longer applies to the former Falkland Islands Dependencies (Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetlands, South Orkneys, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands).

This impasse has been ongoing since 2017 when the Falklands government abruptly stopped issuing VP8 licences to DXpeditions and other  amateurs wishing to operate from the Antarctic, South Georgia etc.

The logical solution would be to allocate new prefixes to the former Dependencies and the strongest candidates would be VPØ for British Antarctic Territory (BAT) because several nations already use Ø to indicate an Antarctic station e.g. VKØ. DPØ, HFØ etc. and ZDØ for South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) because it is the southernmost of Britain’s Mid Atlantic territories (the others being ZD7,  ZD8 & ZD9).

Both these prefixes are available and have never been allocated before. They are eminently suitable for these locations and are probably what most DXers would prefer.  Note that BAT and SGSSI are separate British Overseas Territories and therefore each requires its own separate prefix.  

The Falkland Islands Communications Regulator has never invited any public consultation on this matter, nevertheless VPØ and ZDØ have been previously suggested to him as the logical choices for these rare DX locations. Unfortunately, these suggestions seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Instead, it is now rumoured that the Falklands Government is about to revive a defunct Caribbean prefix (VP4, formerly Trinidad & Tobago) and apply it to two separate British territories in the Antarctic by subdividing the suffix e.g. VP4Axx for SGSSI (South Georgia and South Sandwich) and VP4Bxx for BAT (Antarctic Peninsula, South Orkneys & South Shetlands).

For more details, see the various posts on  https://openfalklands.com/

If you think that resurrecting a defunct Caribbean prefix for use in the Antarctic and subdividing the suffix is a really bad idea and wish to lobby for a proper solution with new prefixes to be implemented you should contact the following Falkland Islands government officials as soon as possible and make your sentiments known:

regulator.telecoms@sec.gov.fk
73, Alan VP8PJ VK0LD”

At various times, the stakeholders involved in this issue are the Falkland Islands Communications Regulator, Falkland Islands Government, Falkland Islands MLAs, British Antarctic Territory Government, South Georgia Government, and finally OFCOM in the UK. This post has been sent to all these bodies.


Roundup

The resurrection of a defunct Caribbean prefix for use in the Antarctic and South Atlantic does not accord with the internationally accepted Amateur Radio convention. Moreover, it is a rather slipshod and unprofessional solution that will cause much confusion, especially to the several million amateurs worldwide who do not have a good command of English or who only operate using Morse Code. When a new territory is declared, the usual procedure is that the relevant regulatory body assigns a new callsign prefix to that territory, not an old one from somewhere else.

Furthermore, the international convention (International Telecommunication Union Article RR-19, 19.67, 19.68 & 19.69), mandates that amateur radio callsign prefixes must be composed of either two or three alphanumeric characters with the final character being a numeral from 0 to 9.   It is this final numeral in the prefix that uniquely identifies the callsign as belonging to an amateur station.

The callsign suffix (individually allocated to each station by the local regulatory authority) then comprises one to four characters, the last of which must be a letter. Thus, territories with small amateur populations such as BAT & SGSSI would only ever need a one or two-letter suffix.

Whilst VP4 accords with the above, VP4A and VP4B do not. They are demonstrably not bona fide callsign prefixes by ITU standards and therefore they should not be used in the manner proposed.

The logical solution would be to use the next available prefix number in the VP series up from Falkland’s VP8, i.e. VP9, however, this is already allocated to Bermuda. This leaves VP0, which has never been allocated before. Note that ITU regulations permit the use of 0 in amateur callsigns and several other administrations already use 0 to indicate an Antarctic amateur prefix.

The Falkland Islands Government promotes the Islands as a “Gateway to Antarctica”. Indeed, most big-ticket Amateur Radio expeditions to the Antarctic regions in the last 40 years have departed from Stanley and have contributed significantly to the local economy.   However, it is unlikely anyone will ever consider organising a future expedition via the Falklands unless this ongoing Antarctic Amateur radio licencing and callsign prefix issue is satisfactorily resolved.

For example, to the astonishment of the Amateur Radio community, the last such expedition to the South Orkney Islands early last year was denied a £20 VP8 licence by the previous Communications Regulator.

Therefore, the expedition organisers decided that the still valid personal VP8 callsign of one of the team members would be used and that the charter vessel would depart from Punta Arenas instead.  Consequently, several hundred thousand dollars that would have been spent in the Falklands on local car hire, accommodation, expedition food & supplies, vessel bunkering, harbour fees etc., ended up being spent in Chile.

Therefore, we strongly propose that the choice of prefix be placed on hold so that a proper review of what prefixes to use can occur. This should be an open review with public comment invited from the worldwide amateur radio community.

Copyright: August 2021, OpenFalklands

2 Replies to “Amateur Radio Call Sign Allocation for British Antarctic Territory, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

  1. Alas it appears that there is no one within the Regulators circle who fully understands the worldwide ITU arrangements for issuing amateur callsigns to different countries.

    Since the Falkland Islands are such a superb place and in an extremely attractive position for those going onto Antarctica, it beggars belief that international advice had not been sought by the Communications Regulator on behalf of the Falklands Government. Allowing now a possibility of being seen as a country that does not wish to follow worldwide standards that the ITU has set up over many years of detailed discussions with virtually all worldwide countries.

    The ITU and IATU, work for the world; surely the Falklands Government do not wish to be separated from this consolidated work but to be alone in such matters.

  2. Another fine example of bureaucratic bungling and ineptitude.
    Definite ‘Yes, Minister!’ material.

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