Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How The ITU Screwed Over Fiji and Swaziland

In the past I've written a bit about how amateur radio call signs (and call signs generally) are formed. Basically speaking, the ITU has allocated various prefixes to various nations, with some nations getting a lot (e.g. the US, which has all of W, N, and K, and AA through AL), and others just a few (such as Tonga, which just gets A3).

But there's two countries who really get the short end of the stick on this issue: Fiji and Swaziland, who have to share the 3D prefix between them. Technically, Swaziland has 3DA through 3DM and Fiji has 3DN through 3DZ. However, amateur radio call sign prefixes, according to the ITU's own standards, are at most two characters; a call sign that begins "3DA" is not compliant with § 30 of the ITU's standards. This puts Fiji and Swaziland into the difficult position of being unable to issue conformant callsigns to amateurs within their jurisdiction.

In practice, Fiji issues call signs with the prefix 3D2, while Swaziland has issued call signs prefixed 3D6 and (nonconformantly) 3DA0. Neither country has very many hams, but both are occasionally the target of DXpeditions, especially Fiji (due to being an island).

Still, it amuses me that Fiji and Swaziland have to share a prefix, while both the ICAO and the World Meterological Organization get whole prefixes to themselves (4Y and C7, respectively) despite not even being countries. I suppose they must have been late to acceed to the ITU treaty or something, to be singled out for such inauspicious treatment.