Station Identifiers – Should I Use Them?


Yesterday I was looking through the Amateur Radio sub-Redit and came across a question that was being asked about how he should identify himself as he is driving through an area. Did he need to use /mobile or /portable or some other suffix after his call sign. This question reminded me of another question or comment that I remember reading not too long ago. The person was told by someone that he needed to use a / whatever the number area he was in when operating in a different number area.

Should I Use Identifiers?

For example, my call sign is K5CLM. According to what the person told him, if I were to go to say Nebraska which is 0 area call, I would have to say K5CLM/0. The reason that the person gave was so that the local operators would know that you are “passing through” and that it wasn’t just an awesome skip event and you were from your home area.


Let’s talk about the last part first. Whether I am passing through or working an awesome skip, if someone wants to talk to me, pick up the mic. If they think that they are hearing some awesome skip and they talk to me, when they find out that I am only 15 miles from them instead of 150 miles from then, guess what, they are big boys and girls, they will get over it.

There is nothing anywhere in the FCC part 97 rules that state that you have to do this!

Now what about the first part, the /mobile or /portable. Again, there isn’t anything in the FCC Part 97 rules that state that you have to do this. This is more of a courtesy the operator is doing to let a net control or other hams listening on a frequency that they are not operating in a stationary system and that they might not be there for long.

I have a question about this, but let me first off start by saying that I do this all the time. When I leave from where ever I am, I will pick up my mic and say “K5CLM, Mobile”. This let’s everyone know that I am near the radio. So here is the questions I have:

  1. Does this qualify as a one way transmission?
  2. Does this breaks that rule that states the last thing you are suppose to say is you call sign?

The answer to both questions could be: Yes.

Yes, saying something after your call sign and telling people what you are doing or how you are operating is giving someone information about you without anything in return. That is a pretty basic example of One Way Communications.

Yes, to question two as well, because you are again saying something after your call sign and therefore your call sign is not the last thing that you said in what could potentially be the last thing that you say.

Here is the big BUT and why the answer to both questions is: No.

Rather than the “mobile” or “portable” being seen as “K5CLM, Mobile”, it is actually, “K5CLM/Mobile.” Do people normally say “slash mobile?” No, they just say mobile.

The way that I see it, it falls under the section 97.119(c), where it talks about Self-Assigned Station Identifiers.

So what does Part 97 say about how you have to identify?

§97.119 Station identification.

(a) Each amateur station, except a space station or telecommand station, must transmit its assigned call sign on its transmitting channel at the end of each communication, and at least every 10 minutes during a communication, for the purpose of clearly making the source of the transmissions from the station known to those receiving the transmissions. No station may transmit unidentified communications or signals, or transmit as the station call sign, any call sign not authorized to the station.

(b) The call sign must be transmitted with an emission authorized for the transmitting channel in one of the following ways:

(1) By a CW emission. When keyed by an automatic device used only for identification, the speed must not exceed 20 words per minute;
(2) By a phone emission in the English language. Use of a phonetic alphabet as an aid for correct station identification is encouraged;
(3) By a RTTY emission using a specified digital code when all or part of the communications are transmitted by a RTTY or data emission;
(4) By an image emission conforming to the applicable transmission standards, either color or monochrome, of §73.682(a) of the FCC Rules when all or part of the communications are transmitted in the same image emission

(c) One or more indicators may be included with the call sign. Each indicator must be separated from the call sign by the slant mark (/) or by any suitable word that denotes the slant mark. If an indicator is self-assigned, it must be included before, after, or both before and after, the call sign. No selfassigned indicator may conflict with any other indicator specified by the FCC Rules or with any prefix assigned to another country.

(d) When transmitting in conjunction with an event of special significance, a station may substitute for its assigned call sign a special event call sign as shown for that station for that period of time on the common data base coordinated, maintained and disseminated by the special event call sign data base coordinators. Additionally, the station must transmit its assigned call sign at least once per hour during such transmissions.

(e) When the operator license class held by the control operator exceeds that of the station licensee, an indicator consisting of the call sign assigned to the control operator’s station must be included after the call sign.

(f) When the control operator is a person who is exercising the rights and privileges authorized by §97.9(b) of this part, an indicator must be included after the call sign as follows:

(1) For a control operator who has requested a license modification from Novice Class to Technical Class: KT;
(2) For a control operator who has requested a license modification from Novice or Technician to General Class: AG;
(3) For a control operator who has requested a license modification from Novice, Technician, General, or Advanced Class to Amateur Extra Class: AE.

(g) When the station is transmitting under the authority of §97.107 of this part, an indicator consisting of the appropriate letter-numeral designating the station location must be included before the call sign that was issued to the station by the country granting the license. For an amateur service license granted by the Government of Canada, however, the indicator must be included after the call sign. At least once during each intercommunication, the identification announcement must include the geographical location as nearly as possible by city and state, commonwealth or possession.

[54 FR 25857, June 20, 1989, as amended at 54 FR 39535, Sept. 27, 1989; 55 FR 30457, July 26, 1990; 56 FR 28, Jan. 2, 1991; 62 FR 17567, Apr. 10, 1997; 63 FR 68980, Dec. 14, 1998; 64 FR 51471, Sept. 23, 1999; 66 FR 20752, Apr. 25, 2001; 75 FR 78171, Dec. 15, 2010]

With all this being said, do you HAVE to say that you are mobile or portable? No, you don’t. It is just a thing that people use to let other people that are on the frequency know that you are there and that you might be out of range shortly.

Some people even say “Monitoring”, just to let other know that they are listening. Again, you don’t have to say that or anything else other than you call sign. If you just say you call and that’s it, doesn’t it do the same thing that saying monitoring does? It doesn’t necessarily say that you are mobile, but if someone tries to call you and you don’t answer, then you don’t answer.

So, use an identifier like mobile, portable or monitoring, or don’t, either way is fine. Either way is legal, if I’m interrupting that section of Part 97 correctly anyway. You don’t have to, but it’s nice when you are running a net or something like that to know who you should take first in check ins.

Related posts