Amateur radio awards
Amateur radio awards are earned by amateur radio operators for establishing two-way communication (or "working") with other amateur radio stations. Awards are sponsored by national amateur radio societies, radio enthusiast magazines, or amateur radio clubs, and aim to promote activity on the amateur radio bands. Each award has its own set of rules and fees. Some awards require the amateur radio operator to have contacted other stations in a certain number of countries, Maidenhead grid locators, or counties. Because amateur radio operators are forbidden by regulation to accept financial compensation for their on-air activity, award recipients generally only receive a certificate, wooden plaque, or a small trophy as recognition of their award.
Most amateur radio operating awards require that the applicant submit proof, such as QSL cards, of the contacts which satisfy the requirements of the award.
There are thousands of operating awards available. The most popular awards are the Worked All States award and the Worked All Continents award, and the more challenging Worked All Zones, (IOTA) Islands on the Air, DX Century Club (DXCC) and VHF/UHF Century Club (VUCC) awards. DXCC is the most popular awards program, initially requiring amateurs to contact 100 of the 329 recognized countries and territories in the world. Other popular awards include contacting remote islands, US counties, and lighthouses. Many awards are available for contacting amateurs in a particular country, region or city.
Special event stations
Many amateurs also enjoy setting up and contacting special event stations. Set up to commemorate special occurrences, they often issue distinctive QSLs or certificates. Some use unusual prefixes, such as the call signs with "96" that amateurs in the US State of Georgia could use during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, or the OO prefix used by Belgian amateurs in 2005 to commemorate their nation's 175th anniversary. Some events are held annually such as Guides on the Air and Jamboree on the Air. Many amateurs decorate their radio "shacks" (the room where they keep their radios) with these certificates.
Islands On The Air (IOTA)
The IOTA programme was created by Geoff Watts, a leading British short wave listener, in the mid-1960's. When it was taken over by the RSGB in 1985 it had already become for some a favorite award. Its popularity grows each year and it is highly regarded among amateurs worldwide.
The IOTA programme consists of 18 separate awards which may be claimed by any licensed radio amateur (also available to SWLs on a heard basis) who has had contacts with stations located on islands. Many of the islands are DXCC countries in their own right; others are not, but by meeting particular eligibility criteria also count for credit. Part of the fun of IOTA is that it is an evolving programmer with new islands/groups being activated for the first time (currently there are some 800 listed with reference numbers).
The basic award is for working stations located on 100 islands/groups. There are higher achievement awards for working 200, 300, 400, 500, 600 and 700 islands/groups. In addition there are seven continental awards (including Antarctica) and three regional awards - Arctic Islands, British Islands and West Indies -for contacting a specified number of islands/groups listed in each area. The IOTA Worldwide diploma is for working a set number of islands in each of the seven continents. A Plaque of Excellence is available for confirmed contacts with at least 750 islands/groups.
The rules require that, in order for credit to be given, QSL cards need to be submitted to nominated IOTA checkpoints for checking.
Worked All Continents (WAC)
This award, issued by IARU headquarters, may be claimed by any licensed radio amateur in the UK, Channel Is or Isle of Man eligible under the General Rules who can produce evidence of having contacted amateur radio stations in each of the 6 continents - North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.
Applicants should send QSL cards to the RSGB HF Awards Manager who will certify the claim to the IARU headquarters society (ARRL) for issue of the award. They should also enclose a self addressed stamped envelope for return of the cards, and proof of RSGB membership.
All contacts must be made from the same country or separate territory within the same continent. Various endorsements including "all 1.8 MHz" are available. In addition both a 5 and 6 band WAC may be claimed.
The RSGB 136kHz Award
This award is to recognize achievements in both transmission and reception on the 136 kHz band, and to stimulate experimentation and station improvement.
The award is available in three categories, with endorsements for additional countries heard/worked.
The basic award is for confirmed two-way QSOs on 136 kHz with 5 countries from the ARRL DXCC / WAE country list.
The SWL Award is for confirmation of SWL reports from 5 countries. The SWL award may also be claimed by amateurs working cross band to stations transmitting in the 136 kHz band.
The third category is for cross band contacts, where the stations claiming the award has worked 5 countries by transmitting on the 136 kHz band and receiving stations on other amateur bands.
Cross mode contacts will be allowed for this award. The categories of this award may not be mixed, but awards from some or all of the categories may be claimed and endorsed concurrently.
Once the basic award has been claimed, it may be endorsed in steps of each additional 5 countries worked or heard.
The DX Century Club, or DXCC
The DX Century Club, or DXCC, is an amateur radio operating award earned by making a distant contact, or DX, with 100 or more geographic entities around the world.
The award is granted by (and a registered trademark of the American Radio Relay League. Radio amateurs worldwide are eligible to apply although applicants from the US, its possessions and Puerto Rico must be ARRL members. Proof of two way contacts, either in the form of QSL cards or via digital entry into Logbook of The World (LoTW), must be submitted to qualify. Each DXCC award certificate is dated and individually numbered.
As amateur radio grew, achievement awards for working several distant places were developed. As early as 1926 the International Amateur Radio Union started issuing the Worked All Continents certificate. In 1934 R/9 magazine began the Worked All Zones award. The ARRL started to examine the issue in 1932 and, after considerable work to determine what a "country" was, presented its criteria in 1935. The first DXCC certificates were awarded in 1937, but the system was suspended during World War II. A new start began when American amateurs returned to the air on November 15, 1945, and the program has continued since that time.
The basic certificate is awarded to those amateur radio operators who successfully complete and confirm amateur radio communications with land based amateur radio stations located in at least 100 different entities on the DXCC List.
Entities are often, but not always, countries. Each entity contains some definable political or geographical distinctiveness. For example, although Hawaii is not a separate country from the United States, it is a separate DXCC entity due to its distance from the rest of the US.