THE FIFTH RADIO DISTRICT TODAY
So, saying all of that above, it is finally time to take a look at the 5th District "W" call sign allocations in more detail (today the FCC refers to the old district as a "call sign region."
There were, in early 2016, 95,581 licensed amateur radio operators in the states of Texas (55,977), Oklahoma (10,863) Arkansas (8,466), New Mexico (7,220), Louisiana (7,004), and Mississippi (6,051). This included all call sign groups opend up for assignment thus far (through KG5L--). It placed the 5th region above the ham population of the 1st (37,951), 3rd (40,518), 2nd (45,602), 9th (50,982), 8th (60,783), and 10th (68,689). Largest mainland region is the 4th (159,564), followed by the 6th and 7th (with 112,978 and 111,573 respectively). Texas alone has more hams than four of the other mainland regions!
There are few, if any, original holders of "W" calls still living, given that the last of the "virgin" W calls were assigned around 1952. One would have had to have been old enough to present himself to an FCC inspector in or before 1952, which generally implies age 18 or older. Prior to the introduction of the novice license, amateur radio tended to be populated with adults. In many cases, it was the novice license that brought an influx of young people into the hobby in the 1950's and afterward. There may be a few holders still alive who received recycled calls in the mid to late 50's, but most have applied for them since the incentive licensing program (1967) or the vanity program (1993).
Today, one would generally be age 80 or older to have still been the original grantee, still living in the same general region, and interested enough to have renewed multiple times. In the past, renewals were at 3-5 year intervals. Today, renewals are required every 10 years. Many W5 calls were routinely reissued when the FCC started to run low on available callsigns, particularly between 1954 and 1960. All available combinations in the X and Y blocks, formerly reserved, were assigned.
Under the present FCC assignment system in use today, since 2000, family members in direct line to a deceased former holder have a preferential treatment. Clubs may also have a preference in call sign choice. Otherwise, W5 calls today are in the class C group, requiring nothing higher than an entry level license. They must still be considered somewhat special however, since as of January 2016, half of the W calls in the 5th district are in use. Most, if not all, have been recycled from former users through the years, many of them high in the alphabet multiple times.
In the past, the only way to keep track of call sign usage was to work for the FCC, or have a complete collection of callbooks. Some libraries had the paperback callbooks in their collection, but most generally it was rare to find an amateur who bought more than one every year or so. The "RAC" is still the best way to pinpoint what existed at a certain spot in time. It was published, usually at quarterly intervals, based upon what information the FCC had it its files. Every ham was anxious to see himself listed in their first RAC after licensing, but there was a lag of several months before this would happen. Only then would others have access to the address for sending a "QSL" unless the new ham was to laboriously give the address over the air. The same thing happened if you moved. Fortunately, the RAC format remained mostly the same over the years, and fortunately as well is the internet, which has made scanned copies of older callbooks available to everyone fairly easily.
The Spring 1938 RAC indicates that the most recently assigned W5 call at that time was to Ray Runder of Galveston, Texas, W5GWY. Mr. Runder was either a new amateur at that time, or had moved from another district and changed call signs. Thus, by the end of 1937 at least, seven letters out of the alphabet had been more or less fully subscribed. In 1938, the remaining two letter calls, GZ-ZX, were partially subscribed, indicating numerous deaths of prior holders. There were no X calls in use, and five club stations had Y calls. W5YB was the Draughon School radio club in Little Rock, W5YF was the SMU Radio Society in Dallas, W5YH was Port Arthur College in Texas, W5YJ was licensed to Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, and W5YW to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
FIFTH DISTRICT HAM POPULATION RELATIVE TO THE OTHER RADIO DISTRICTS
Once Alabama shifted to the 4th district in 1928, there were some additional call signs to reassign in the 5th district. By 1930, the W5AAA-W5BOZ group had been run through at least once, with some reassignments likely having occurred in that group. This can be contrasted to the 9th radio district, which had already reached W9GLA. There were 59 hams licensed in the city of New Orleans (including W5LA). The first three hams evidently licensed in Lafayette were W5ATN, W5AXG, and W5BOU.
Interestingly, the calls W5ZZA-ZZQ had been issued in the 5th, with the reason for that apparently lost to time. Those would have been recinded at a later point, and the Z prefixes were blocked out for assignment again until after 1950.
While there were club station calls intermixed throughout, the "technical and training school" stations in the 5th district took up most of the two letter "Y" calls in 1930. Apparently their issuance began with the new FRC, as there is no record of them prior. That year, YA was the New Mexico A&M College, YC the Chenier Business College in Beaumont, Texas, YD Mississippi A&M, YE the public schools of Oklahoma City, YG the Rice Institute, YH Port Arthur College, YI the Wallace Radio Institute, YM New Braunfels High School, YN the Mississippi College in Clinton, YS Draughon College in Ft. Worth, and YW Louisianaa State University. Elsewhere, it is notable to point out that not all colleges and universities opted for the "Y," even though potentially they could have. Purdue University did, and had both a aural station (YB) and a visual station in 1930, presumably an early form of television (W9XG). The X suffix at that time was for experimental stations. The University of Missouri club station in Columbia originally was 9BNX. Whether it lost its call sign in the shift to the tenth district in 1946 is unknown, but for many years it was W0ZLN. Apparently the club went inactive, but it returned to the air as W0ZOU in 2015.
K6 calls at that time were assigned to Hawaii, and K7 calls to Alaska. Most Alaska calls in 1938 were in the K7A-- through K7G-- group, with no two letter calls out except for some former W7 holders who converted to K7 when the FCC ordered them to. Instructive was a note at the bottom of the page of the RAC, "US Amateurs are requested not to write the FCC regarding unassigned calls." Amateurs attemtping to influence the FCC into doling out preferential call signs was a problem even way back then!
In 1938, the 8th district included most of New York and Pennsylvania, territory that was subsequently moved into the 2nd and 3rd districts at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 1946. Once again, it is assumed that many amateurs received counterpart calls when the shift occurred, and the call sign change would have been manditory unless the amateur engaged in some sort of address manipulations. One could always receive their mail at the address of a relative or friend in another state.
Later on, when "N" was added as a second letter for new novices in 1951, it became easier to spot these recycled calls. The "WN" assignments were peppered throughout the alphabet. In the 5th call district, systemmatic recycling of W calls took place at least twice, first in the early 1950's prior to the opening up of the K pool, and again in the late 1950's prior to the opening up of the "WA" group of calls.
The spring 1940 RAC is also available in scanned form on the internet. This provides a fairly accurate representation of what the amateur radio call sign program was like prior to the world war II shutdown of the service. By then the last new call issued was W5ISW, to J.J. Miller of Hobbs, New Mexico. W6SLX was the newest California call sign issued, indicating that it would not be too much longer before the Golden State would run the tables on call signs, as the 9th already had done.
TWO LETTER CALLS TODAY
There are 676 possible combinations of two letter W5 (1x2) call signs today. These are considered by the FCC to be in the "group A" category, for assignment to extra class licensees. According to FCC records in 2015, all of them were either assigned to active hams, or pending a two year grace period for renewal. If an amateur passes away, the call may be applied for by someone else after the expiry of the two year waiting period. As of late 2015, 519 of these had been assigned under the personalized program, since 1993. While some of the present holders may have been previously licensed for long periods of time, these are not their original call lsigns. Likewise, the other 142 pre-personalized calls mostly were granted under the incentive licensing upgrade windows that were opened by the FCC in the 1970's. All were assigned to "extra class" operators, and at the outset they had to prove that they had been licensed for 25 years or more. Later this experience requirement was waived.
Relatively early-on the 1x2 group was expanded to included non-traditional combinations. The K5 and N5 prefixes comprised the rest of the group A 1x2's. In order to provide more opportunity, group A was expanded to include "2x1" call signs such as WA5A-WZ5Z, KA5A-KZ5Z, NA5A-NZ5Z (with some combinations excluded for Alaska, Hawaii, and Island territories). Currently, the class A group is issuing new virgin calls in the 2x2 format, with AA5AA-AG5ZZ. This format is apparently near exhaustion, so unless some new version is created, extra class amateurs in the future will receive group B assignments.
Currently, group B in the 5th district is issuing in the 2x2 format KA5AA-KM5ZZ (certain groups excluded). Group B call signs are available only to extra class and the now-defunct advanced class of licensees. Currently this group is at KM5ZK.
There are no new sequential assignments taking place in group C (which includes W5, K5, WA5, WB5), General and technician new assignments are occuring in group D, which is a 2x3 group currently at KG5LJG.
Updated February 4, 2016