When you first get on the air it can be very confusing. Sooner or later someone is going to ask you what your WAB square is, or your locator, or in a contest, what zone you are in.
Location information is used a lot in amateur radio. It can be used to work out the distance between two stations, or it can be used to collect awards. In some contests you get extra points for working specific “zones”, so it pays to know where you are!
Let’s take a look at what they all mean.
“Maidenhead” or QTH locator squares
The Maidenhead or QTH locator squares are mainly used on VHF, UHF and microwaves and plot where you are. For example, the square “IO” (Italy Oscar) covers the Western part of the UK, Scotland and Ireland.
The square is then broken down into smaller numbered squares that give more information as to your whereabouts—each of these squares represents 1° of latitude by 2° of longitude. Finally, two further letters define it even more.
For example, my locator is IO70JE.
If you want to work out what square you are in the easiest way is to go to http://f6fvy.free.fr/qthLocator/,
zoom in on the map and click where you live.
If you chase DX on 6m, 2m, 70cms or higher the chances are people will want to know this locator square.
The other way now of course is to use one of the various Apps available for the smart phones, even easier.
Worked All Britain square
The Worked All Britain Awards Group (W.A.B.) was devised by the late John Morris G3ABG in 1969.
The aim was to promote an interest in amateur radio in Britain and sponsor a series of awards based on the geography
of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
You can find out more at www.worked-all-britain.co.uk
But in the meantime you might want to work out what WAB square you live in.
These are based on the Ordnance Survey maps of the UK and a simple way is to go to
www.streetmap.co.uk and enter your postcode. Once you have done that you’ll see a line at the bottom of the screen that says
“Click here to convert coordinates”. If you do you will see that the sixth line down is headed “LR”, standing for “Land Ranger”.
Now just take the two letters and first two numbers and these are your WAB square. So, as a test, enter the postcode—
NR18 0XJ—and you will see that the WAB square comes out as TG12.
Put your address in and see what your WAB square is.
Also available withing some smart phone Apps too of course.
ITU Zones and CQ Zones
If you enter HF contests you may hear people exchanging “Zone” numbers. This can be very confusing as it depends
what contest you are in as to what your zone is.
For example, the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) has the UK in ITU region 27. However,
CQ Magazine has its own zones, which are used in its contests such as CQ Worldwide Contest
(the SSB contest is being held on October 26-27 in 2013 by the way, an excellent contest to check out your station’s efficiency).
The CQ zone for Western Europe is actually 14.
Just to confuse you even more, we live in IARU (International Amateur Radio Union) region 1!
The best bet is make a note of all of your locator information so that you can refer to it when operating. If using 6m, 2m
or higher you will likely be asked for your Maidenhead or QTH locator. If anyone asks for your WAB square you will
also have it to hand. And you will probably only need the zone information if operating in a contest.
This sounds complicated but in reality it is not as you only need to look things up once for your QTH as the information
will never change.
If you listen to the GB3SI repeater identification CW you will hear it send the locator on the old system that pre dated
the current Maidenhead system and it sends from memory XK63J relating to its former home at St Ives School.
Based on an article within the RSGB newsletter.