This page discusses the evolution of radio station callsigns in New Zealand and fits our circumstances into the international events of the times.
Commercial Callsign Allocation
The early 1900's were a time of rapid development of radio technology. Much of this was led by individuals and commercial companies, the most successful company belonging to Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi. The British Marconi company was established in 1897 and gained strong control of the ship to shore communication services. The White Star Line was one Marconi Company customer and its premiere vessel RMS Titanic was fitted with a Marconi Company radio system. The Titanic sank on 15 April 1912 while on its maiden voyage between England and the USA after it struck ice south of Newfoundland. The loss of life caused in this event brought about a significant shake-up in rules about safety of life at sea, some of those rules changing the way radio stations were identified.
The radio callsign of RMS Titanic was MGY, the 'M' designating it as a Marconi Company-equipped vessel. In 1912 there was no linkage between radio callsigns and countries, the company installing the equipment produced callsigns to suit its customers needs. This same arrangement applied to radio installations provided by other companies. For Australia and New Zealand this 'policy' affected the initial callsigns provided by Australasian Wireless Limited to stations it was constructing as agent for Telefunken of Germany.
Prior to 5 July 1912
Around the same time as New Zealand Telefunken-equipped sites were being installed, high power sites were also being installed in Australia. These were at Applecross, Perth and at Pennant Hills, Sydney. When completed they were given callsigns of POP at Applecross and POS at Pennant Hills. The callsigns were derived from being Australian Post Office (PO) sites at Perth (P) and Sydney (S).
Similarly, when the New Zealand (NZ) stations were put into use they received callsigns of NZA (Awanui), NZK (Auckland) and NZW (Wellington). There is no confirmation of any 'NZB' callsign being allocated to Awarua (Bluff) in this series, probably because its construction was later than the other sites and callsign designations had moved on by the time Awarua was commissioned on 18 December 1913.
5 July 1912 - 25 November 1927
The International RadioTelegraph Conference held in London in July 1912 established international callsigns with prefixes allocated to different countries. At this conference British colonies were allocated callsigns beginning with 'V', possibly because that letter could be associated with Queen Victoria. Australia was allocated the block VHA - VKZ and so changed its PO designation to VI for all its coast stations so that POP became VIP and POS became VIS. New Zealand was allocated the code block VLA - VMZ and its coast stations changed to the use of VL prefixes hence VLA - Awanui and VLB - Awarua.
From 25 Nov1927
At a subsequent International Radio Convention in Washington in November 1927, New Zealand was re-allocated callsign prefixes in the block ZKA-ZMZ. Following this agreement coast stations callsigns allocated were/are ZLA - Awanui, ZLB - Awarua, ZLC - Chatham Islands, ZLD - Auckland Radio, Musick Point (Coast station services), ZLF - Auckland Radio, Musick Point (Flying Boat services), ZLM - Maritime Radio Service, Taupo, ZLW - Wellington Radio (Mt Etako, Tinakori Hills).