UK callsigns potted history please!

I see people being rightly congratulated for moving from Foundation to Intermediate licenses in the UK.

But can someone explain the history of how the UK got here?

When I qualified there were A and B class licenses. For both you had to sit (2?) city & guilds papers, and both had an age restriction (16?). B class (G7 - any others?) gave you 30MHz+ only. Passing the morse test got you class A and HF (G0 - what others?).

Sometime later the novice class came in (2E0?). This had no, or lower age limits and a different examination requirement. The only novices I ever encountered were youngsters who could not get the A/B, so did it ever take off more generally?

Now, coming back to ham radio 2 decades later you’ve all become M’s or 2Es. I guess (unlike ZL) Uk does not reuse expired callsigns and you simply ran out of Gs?

And you now talk of Foundation, Intermediate & Full - which I think mirrors the US system from back when I was last involved.

So is Intermediate a renamed novice?

Why introduce foundation? To attract more people to amateur radio?

And do I understand you can no longer simply sit the full set of courses & exams & get a full license from scratch (surely that must be a big disinsentive if so)?

(I get the regional thing E/M/W etc - lets not confuse things by including that!)

A potted history of how you got from there to here (or a link to one) would be appreciated. And a summary of how (and how well) UK licensing works today.


If you look HERE you can follow the changes to UK amateur radio, although it does seem to miss out at least one class of licence.
For a short period of time, just before the abolition of the morse requirement, if you already had the class B (VHF+) licence, you could take a 5 wpm test instead of the usual 12 wpm and get on to HF with limited privileges. I can’t remember what this was called, even thou’ I did briefly hold one.


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Not sure if they completely “ran out” but they swapped from G to M at some point. You can still get a G callsign but you have to request it specially. When you pass your exam now you apply for your licence online and the system only lets you pick the M or 2 plus the 3 letters you want (if available).

I thought 2E0 callsigns for intermediate licences had run out but Martin @2E0BIA has proved me wrong. When I passed my intermediate last year I asked for a 2E1 plus the 3 letters I wanted and they released it early for me, however I understand there was a short time many years ago when 2E1 callsigns were issued for a particular type of licence.

Very recently the RSGB have introduced a “direct to full” exam which lets you get your full licence straight away.
The progressive foundation/intermediate/full route is still available.

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[quote=“MW0PJE, post:4, topic:30736”]I thought 2E0 callsigns for intermediate licences had run out but Martin @2E0BIA has proved me wrong.

I think mine was a reissue. Someone mentioned that they looked it up on QRZ.COM and it came up as a silent key (this has now changed). A quick tip. After you pass any level and try to register, you obviously go to the Ofcom site. For Intermediate you just have to put in the last three letters of the call sign you want. In my case everything I put in was rejected. At this point the obvious route is to click the button that says ‘take the next available callsign’. However I noticed a ‘click here to talk to someone’ button. I did that and he checked my choices manually and I got the call sign that was my first choice and that was initially rejected! Jobs a good un… Martin

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1992-2003 I think.

2E1 series Amateur Radio Novice Licence Class (B)… VHF only on limited bands original 3W later 10W power

2E0 series Amateur Radio Novice Licence Class (A) which had HF privileges.

M5 series was the special easy HF licence. It was a normal written test but only a 5WPM Morse test not 12WPM and gave a 100W limit on HF. But the HF privileges were not CEPT recognised so you could only operate on HF in the UK.

Original novices were upgraded to new intermediate level licence when it was all change after WRC2003.


You can see where Cleese got the idea of the skit with the kids putting their bags on the lower or upper hook, depending on whether or not they had a Latin class or a note from their parents. (Or something like that).


There’s a slightly out-of-date (No mention of M7 foundation calls, nor of recent changes regarding re-issuing of old calls) here: UK Amateur Radio Callsigns & Licences » Electronics Notes

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