When I obtained my amateur license, it was the ordinary jumble of letters. I thought about obtaining a “vanity” (custom) call sign. I decided to wait until after I obtained my Amateur Extra license before applying because the type of license that you have determines the type of call signs that you may apply for. The Technician license has the fewest choices, and the Amateur Extra the most choices.
The process for applying for a vanity call sign is not terribly difficult if you’re comfortable navigating through web sites, know the rules for allowed call signs, and can do your own research to determine which call signs are available.
There are third party services that will do most of this for you for a small fee on top of the fee that the FCC charges everybody. I personally planned on doing this, but after talking with a local ham operator decided to look into doing it myself. I saw what it would take and decided to try it myself, so unfortunately I can’t give any opinion on any of the third-party services.
If you wish to do it yourself, put “vanity call sign” into your favourite search engine. The ARRL has a web page for amateur radio vanity call signs which is a decent resource.
I highly recommend logging into the FCC website and using the online application. It fills out the appropriate forms and submits them electronically. I found the paper forms confusing, and the FCC website handles the details for you. Additionally it’s faster.
You’ll end up waiting around three weeks for the FCC to process your vanity call sign application. You can check the FCC’s ULS, but there’s something one step better. The AE7Q web site has a prediction tool. It lists all of the pending applications, and makes some educated guesses about whether each one will be rejected or when it will be accepted.
AI7GU is my new vanity call sign. I cobbled this together from Japanese for “love and freedom” (愛と自由).
The first two letters AI are pronounced like “eye” and written 愛 meaning “love”. The word for “and” can be written so that it looks somewhat like the number “7”. The last two letters when spoken (gee-you) sound similar to the Japanese word jiyū (自由) which means “freedom”.
The following is some quick and dirty calligraphy. Not so great, but I wanted to whip something out quickly as a celebration.