If your are in the continental US there is a large number of available callsigns. There are, however, some reserved callsigns for areas outside the continental US. There are three major areas outside the continental US: Alaska, the Pacific and the Carribbean. These areas are futher subdivided with reserved callsigns for each subdivision.
While the continental US is technically not subdivided as far as callsign availability there is a convention that many hams follow based on the subdivisions that once were a requirement for callsign assignment. These subdivisions are still used by the FCC when assigning callsigns such as when you first get your license or you request the FCC to pick and assign you a new callsign.
While you can choose any numeral, many hams recommend that you use the correct numeral for your region. If you do (or plan to do) contesting or DX then other hams would prefer that you use the matching numeral. Often DX'ers are looking for QSOs from a particular area and are looking for callsigns with the numeral that matches that area.
There are reserved letters for the areas outside the continental US. These letters are only reserved for the second letter in the first part of the callsign before the numeral. Certain numerals may be reserved for specific islands when using one of these callsigns.
The reserved letters are:
Your mailing address determines callsign availability. Please see Your Mailing Address And The FCC for more information about the importance of your mailing address.
Callsigns are reserved for different areas or regions. The search engine will limit you search to only the callsigns for that region. These regions are:
When you select the Call Region on the search page the available callsigns will be limited to only the callsigns for that area.
These buttons are only used to preset the following two sections, Call Group and Call Config. It is not used directly by the search engine. You do not need to select anything in this section.
Caution: Pressing any button here will change the next two sections. If you have already made selections then pressing any of these buttons will force the presets on those sections and clear out what was already selected.
Currently there are only three licenses issues by the FCC. (Technician, General, Extra) There have been other types of licenses available in the past and an operator with one of these license may keep it including renewing it.
Callsigns are catergorized by Call Groups. The call groups are:
Higher groups do have access to callsigns in lower groups however for the search engine the search will be limited to just the group(s) selected. Note that if no group is selected then this criteria is not used and the search enging behaves as if all the groups are selected.
Any selection will limit the search to just the callsign groups selected and override any wildcards in the search pattern. This can bite you if you are not careful. If you select Group A but then enter a 2x3 callsign pattern (ex:KM4AB*) you will get no results.
See the FCC web page Amateur Call Sign Systems for additional details about the call groups including the number of letters that can be used in each group.
This allows you to limit the search to certain configuration types of callsigns. A callsign has one or two letters followed by a number followed by one to three letters. The configurations that are allowed to you depend on you license. To see which configurations you may use click on your license class in a previous section and the allowed configurations will be selected for you. If you do not select anything in this section then it is the same as having all of them selected.
Any selection of the call config types will limit the search to just calls of that type and can override any wildcards in the search pattern. The selection may also alter the search pattern to limit the pattern to just the number of characters allowed. You may select multiple config types and the pattern will be adjusted to handle all of the selected configs.
For example if you have a technician license then you are limited to 1x3 and 2x3 callsigns. This means you can only request a license that has one or two letters and a number followed by 3 letters.
To limit callsigns to a particular area number simply enter that number in the search pattern.
At one time the FCC required that the number used in the callsign must match the area of the country where you were located. This is no longer true for mainland callsigns. There still are limitations for callsigns in the Pacific and Caribbean.
However many hams still pick a callsign with the correct area number for their location. This helps other hams identify where you are in the country. If you choose another number you may find hams getting confused as to your location and can lead to issues especially when contesting.
If you are in the Pacific or Caribbean then there are other restrictions on the number and other letters in the callsigns that are available to you. Currently this site will limit your search to all available callsigns for the region but you will have to validate that a chosen callsign is in fact available to you in your location. (Usually assigned based on the island.)
The search pattern allows you to limit your search to specific letters and a number along with using wildcards that will match anything. This is roughly based on a simplified version of regex. (Internally the pattern is converted to a simple regex pattern in the database.) Note the difference between the "*" and "?" search characters. Both will match any character but a "*" will require that a character must exist while the "?" will also match no character.
You can either use your keyboard or the on-screen keyboard to enter your search characters. The on-screen keyboard will highlight the available characters for each cursor position. There are two additional characters on the keyboard, "<" and ">" which will move the cursor. The available positions can be limited by the call config items selected. For example if you select only the 1x2 callsign config then the pattern will be changed to "***?" and the search will require all 4 characters even though the last character could be a "?".
PLEASE NOTE: If you select incompatible selections and or patterns you may not get your desired results including not finding any matching callsigns. Pay close attention to how all of the settings are set. When doing a new search it is advisable to clear out any old settings.