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A First-Hand Look at the Z60K Activation in Kosovo

09/25/2012

Editor’s Note: On September 12, the Autoriteti Rregullativ i Telekomunikacionit (ART) -- Kosovo’s telecommunications regulatory authority -- created the necessary legal framework for the development of an Amateur Radio Service in the Republic of Kosovo by approving its Regulation for Amateur Radio Services (please see the link below for the document). Although not formally assigned a prefix by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Kosovo will use the Z6 prefix. Currently, Kosovo does not count toward the ARRL’s DXCC Award, as it has not been assigned a prefix by the ITU, nor has it been recognized by the United Nations (per DXCC rule II.1.a or II.1.b).

Nigel Cawthorne, G3TXF, and Bob Barden, MD0CCE/N2BB -- members of the Chiltern DX Club (CDXC) -- were part of a team of operators led by IARU Region 1 President Hans Blondeel Timmerman, PB2T, that activated Z60K, the first Amateur Radio station in the Republic of Kosovo. Along with Cawthorne, Barden and Blondeel Timmerman, the team included the following radio amateurs: Nik Perčin, 9A5W; Emil Balen Zdravko, 9A9A; Emir Mahmutovic, 9A6AA; Martti Lane, OH2BH; Jorma Saloranta, OH2KI, and Pekka Holstila, OH2TA.

This is Cawthorne and Barden’s account of the Z60K activation, as posted on the CDXC e-mail reflector.

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CDXCers may be wondering why there has not been an earlier posting on this reflector about the operation. Both of us were late invitees to the special event, on which Martti Lane, OH2BH, has been working with the Kosovar Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ART) continuously for several years. Martti had asked us to treat the information as confidential until the operation started and to allow him to issue the press releases under the control of IARU Region 1 President Hans Blondeel Timmerman, PB2T. This was not only sensible from an accuracy standpoint, but it was also only right that Hans -- representing the IARU -- was involved, and also, of course, considering the sensitivities around the whole topic of Kosovo. We now have their permission to provide this short report.

The undoubted highlight of our visit to Kosovo was attending a ceremony hosted by the Autoriteti Rregullativ i Telekomunikacionit (ART), Kosovo’s telecommunications regulatory authority, where the first of the country’s new Amateur Radio licenses were awarded. These licenses were no ordinary licenses. These radio amateurs are no ordinary radio amateurs. Most of them had been off the air for the past 23 years or more, and each was keen to get back on the air again, following Kosovo’s move into the new era of full sovereign statehood on September 10, 2012.

These 11 Kosovar radio amateurs had each been active as YU8s back in the “old days” of Yugoslavia; however, during the period of the various conflicts that engulfed their region, most Kosovar radio amateurs were unable to operate at all. For the most part, their equipment had been confiscated. With the issue of these brand new licenses, the presentation ceremony on September 17 was indeed the start of a new era in Amateur Radio in Kosovo. The event was covered by the main TV station in Kosovo and shown on the evening news at 7:30; the first QSOs made by the new amateurs were shown on the 11 PM news.

Through their newly formed national society (SHRAK), it is hoped that this group will be the nucleus for the re-emergence of Amateur Radio as a self-training hobby throughout Kosovo, and particularly for the younger generation. The seminar -- which was organized by the ART for the presentation of these new licenses -- was attended by the Kosovo MP, who is also the Cabinet Minister for Economic Development (which includes Telecommunications), the ART Chairman and a representative of the Ministry of Education (who sees Amateur Radio as a positive theme that could be usefully introduced both into schools and into technical colleges). The potential benefits of Amateur Radio as a foundation for further studies in electronics and telecommunications were evidently appreciated by those attending the call sign license presentation ceremony.

Hans spoke at the ceremonies and also spent a full day with the ART discussing regulatory and licensing matters. The Kosovar government had been advised by Croatia, Finland and Turkey in the drafting of their telecommunications legislation, and Nik Perčin, 9A5W, had been specifically involved in the legislation related to Amateur Radio.

When asked by the newly licensed amateurs, Hans told them that Kosovo was not recognized by DXCC at this time, and that this ceremony and his visit had nothing to do with DXCC, but that the purposes of the trip were:

  • to help ensure that plans were in place for the re-establishment of an Amateur Radio infrastructure consisting of regulations similar to those in other IARU countries;
  • the establishment of a radio society open to all amateurs in Kosovo;
  • the development of new licensees and new entrants into Amateur Radio;
  • and the development of a robust society in all aspects that would eventually allow them to apply for IARU membership.

Hans accepted the license for Z60K and became the trustee for the call sign related to this special event. The purpose of the Z60K special event operation was to help to raise awareness of the re-emergence of Amateur Radio in Kosovo.

As with any Amateur Radio station, the call sign is an important feature. The call sign uniquely identifies the operator and the location. As part of the process of establishing its independence Kosovo -- which is now recognized by 91 countries including the US, the UK and most of the industrialized world -- the ART has already set in train both formal and informal processes so that it be allowed to use the currently unallocated national prefix Z6.

We were advised that this process was started by a letter sent to the ICAO, the UN’s specialized aviation agency, in November 2011 and that the 25-nation steering group appointed under the UN Settlement Process was still in an advisory and approval position in August 2012, when the Prime Minister announced Kosovo’s intention to use Z6. This Z6 prefix would be used for aircraft registration numbers and for Amateur Radio stations in the usual prefix + number + letter(s) combination. Given that the country is not seeking UN membership at this time, Kosovo has relied on advice by its own experts and advisors and approval by the steering group. The Z6 prefix is not currently an ITU-allocated prefix, but is a free prefix that was selected in order to avoid clashing with other nations’ allocations.

We understand that the ITU has been notified about the use of the Z6 prefix in Amateur Radio, in addition to the earlier November 2011 notification to ICAO. The 11 newly issued licenses of September 17 were all in the series Z61xx. Most of the new licensees chose to use the same suffix that they had with their former YU8 calls more than 20 years earlier; for example, ex-YU8FF is now Z61FF.

As part of the formal re-launch of Amateur Radio in Kosovo, the special event group call sign Z60K was issued to Hans as the IARU Region 1 President. The first QSOs with the new call sign Z60K were made by the new Kosovar operators themselves during the evening following the presentation of the new licenses. Unsurprisingly, after over two decades of absence from the bands, many were quite microphone-shy at first; however, that will soon wear off once they get used to modern Amateur Radio equipment -- and as they catch up on the latest techniques and Amateur Radio operating practices. The Z60K shacks set up in hotel rooms were frequently visited by the new amateurs (and other non-amateurs from government and industry), sometimes several times per day as their work schedules permitted, so they could become more familiar with operating.

At least two of the new amateurs are already on-the-air from their own stations with their new call signs, with more expected to follow soon. One not-yet licensed enthusiast who is very computer savvy was given several hours of instruction in Internet and computer software, including computer logging programs and demonstrations of various websites; he in turn will provide instruction for the others in the Albanian language.

This activation was not intended to be an all-band, all-mode major DXpedition; it was primarily a demonstration activity, and it was definitely not a major full-blown operation. There were no announced frequencies. The duration of the operation was uncertain. Not all bands and modes were used. There were many interruptions to the operation when there were visitors in the shack, or when there were outside meetings, training sessions and social functions. The various Z60K stations used relatively simple antennas. Nevertheless, the call sign Z60K was successfully activated on CW and SSB on 40, 30, 20, 17 and 15 meters. The newly formalized regulations for operating Amateur Radio in Kosovo do not yet include all the amateur bands used elsewhere. For example, 80 meters is still missing, although in the longer term, this band may well be introduced.

The ART is now able to issue Z6/xxx call signs to visiting radio amateurs. The formalities are very straightforward: Applicants need to provide copy of their license, complete of a one-page application form (in English) and pay a €50 fee. We can probably expect a wave of Z6 activity from visiting radio amateurs during the upcoming CQWW DX contests where Kosovo is now a “country multiplier.”  -- Thanks to Nigel Cawthorne, G3TXF, and Bob Barden, MD0CCE/N2BB, for allowing the ARRL to reprint their story

 



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