The Falkland Islands Communications Regulator has directed Polish radio amateur Sebastian Gleich, SQ1SGB, to cease his ham radio operation from Antarctica’s Halley VI Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf, OpenFalklands reported. Apparently following up on a complaint, the Falkland Islands regulator ordered Gleich to stop all operations as “VP8SGB.” He has been identifying as VP8/SQ1SGB, in accordance with accepted practice, and it’s unclear whether the complainant or the regulator conflated the identifier and call sign.
Gleich’s use of the VP8 identifier for his operation from the British Antarctic Territory (BAT) appears to have been an issue, however, because VP8 still can designate an operation from the Falkland Islands. The regulator may have been unfamiliar with recent changes — not yet fully formalized — that would establish VP0 as the proper identifier for such an operation as Gleich’s.
A consultation (proceeding) now in play would permit the issuance of amateur radio licenses in the BAT. The proposal followed several months of protracted negotiations involving the UK communications regulator Ofcom, the Falkland Islands Communications Regulator, and the governments of the South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands (SGSSI) and BAT.
The proceeding proposes to apply the new prefix of VP0 to BAT stations, with the existing VP8 prefix then applying exclusively to the Falkland Islands. The proposal calls for the Falkland Islands Communications Regulator to administer these licenses.
The VP0 prefix would apply in the British-claimed sector of the Antarctic mainland, including the Antarctic Peninsula and nearby islands, such as the South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands, and SGSSI. Gleich has been operating from Antarctica since November.
In a communication to the Falkland Islands Communications Regulator on Gleich’s behalf, Chris Gare, VP8WOS, in the Falkland Islands, and Alan Armstrong, VP8PJ, in the South Orkney Islands, called on the regulator to withdraw the order.
“We consider the Directive [to be] contrary to Ofcom’s 28 January 2021 guidance for amateur radio operation in BAT. We would assume the Regulator would be aware of this guidance directly from Ofcom or its publication on OpenFalklands in January 2021,” Gare and Armstrong wrote. Ofcom’s guidance is that call signs with the prefix VP8 will continue to identify existing stations in SGSSI, as well as BAT, until those overseas territories have legislative authority to issue new call signs.
In an earlier communication with the regulator, Gare and Armstrong stated, “There is still much confusion and lack of understanding about this issue in the broader amateur radio world.” Gare and Armstrong expressed concern that ARRL’s DXCC program might not accept contacts with VP8/SP1SGB, if the call sign’s legality were called into question.
Significant progress has been made by BAT authorities to start issuing VP0 call signs, Gare and Armstrong said, adding, “This can’t come too soon.”