Home (Global)On the AirThe IARU QSL Bureau System

The IARU QSL Bureau System

The exchange of QSL cards by radio ama­teurs is a prac­tice that is almost as old as radio itself. It began as post­card reports of dis­tant recep­tion at a time when two-way con­tacts over sig­nif­i­cant dis­tances were rel­a­tive­ly rare and the reports were val­ued as the best evi­dence of a trans­mit­ting station’s range. It devel­oped into a social ges­ture – “A QSL is the final cour­tesy of a QSO” – as well as a means of doc­u­ment­ing achievements.

IARU QSL bureaus – nation­al-lev­el clear­ing­hous­es for cards sent in bulk from one coun­try to anoth­er – came about ini­tial­ly because the address­es of indi­vid­ual sta­tions were not wide­ly avail­able (in part because ama­teurs in some coun­tries oper­at­ed with­out the ben­e­fit of a license) and inter­na­tion­al postage for indi­vid­ual cards was rel­a­tive­ly expensive.

After World War 2 it was very dif­fi­cult to obtain per­son­al address­es for ama­teurs in the Sovi­et Union and most oth­er War­saw Pact coun­tries; “QSL via bureau” was the only rea­son­ably avail­able option. Call­book list­ings were incom­plete for many coun­tries. For many years the QSL bureau sys­tem was reli­able, inex­pen­sive, and almost uni­ver­sal for coun­tries with more than a hand­ful of amateurs.

In recent years sev­er­al devel­op­ments have impact­ed the QSL bureau system:

  • Com­put­er-gen­er­at­ed QSLs have flood­ed the sys­tem with cards that are not desired by the intend­ed recipients.
  • Ama­teurs have become more envi­ron­men­tal­ly con­scious and regret the large vol­ume of unde­liv­er­able and unwant­ed cards.
  • Elec­tron­ic con­fir­ma­tion sys­tems, includ­ing but by no means lim­it­ed to the ARRL’s Log­book of The World (LoTW), have reduced the neces­si­ty of col­lect­ing cards to earn awards.
  • New­er, younger ama­teur licensees are not as wed­ded to the tra­di­tion of QSL card exchange as their old­er counterparts.
  • Despite the removal of gov­ern­ment monop­o­lies from mail and pack­age deliv­ery ser­vices in many coun­tries, the cost of send­ing pack­ages of QSL cards inter­na­tion­al­ly has increased dramatically.
  • Hol­i­day-style “DXpe­di­tions” and con­test oper­a­tions by vis­i­tors have bur­dened small­er bureaus with cards that can­not be deliv­ered local­ly, caus­ing some to cease oper­a­tion entirely.
  • Bud­getary pres­sures are forc­ing mem­ber-soci­eties to reassess their pri­or­i­ties, espe­cial­ly in coun­tries with declin­ing ama­teur populations.
  • Some mem­ber-soci­eties find it increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult to recruit vol­un­teers or to pay staff or con­trac­tors to oper­ate their QSL bureaus.

Rec­og­niz­ing these trends, in Sep­tem­ber 2018 the IARU Admin­is­tra­tive Coun­cil adopt­ed the fol­low­ing res­o­lu­tion to replace its ear­li­er pol­i­cy on QSL bureaus. Res­o­lu­tion 18 – 1 took effect on 1 Jan­u­ary 2019.

Resolution 18 – 1

con­cern­ing meth­ods of con­firm­ing (QSLing) radio con­tacts (QSOs)

The IARU Admin­is­tra­tive Coun­cil, Seoul, Sep­tem­ber 2018,

recog­nis­ing that many radio ama­teurs wish to receive con­fir­ma­tions of the radio con­tacts (QSOs) they make with oth­er ama­teurs, either in the form of phys­i­cal QSL cards or by elec­tron­ic means,

recog­nis­ing that the cost of exchang­ing QSL cards between indi­vid­ual ama­teur sta­tions in dif­fer­ent coun­tries can be pro­hib­i­tive unless an effi­cient means of inter­na­tion­al bulk exchange is in oper­a­tion, as has been the case for decades thanks to the IARU QSL bureau system,

recog­nis­ing that sys­tems for exchang­ing elec­tron­ic con­fir­ma­tions now exist that are much faster and less expen­sive than exchang­ing QSL cards, and there­fore are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­i­ty as addi­tion­al or alter­na­tive meth­ods of confirmation,

recog­nis­ing that an ama­teur who wish­es to send a card via the IARU QSL bureau sys­tem usu­al­ly has no way of know­ing whether the ama­teur to whom it is addressed is a mem­ber of his nation­al IARU mem­ber-soci­ety and often does not know whether the oth­er ama­teur wish­es to receive cards via the bureau,

recog­nis­ing that most IARU mem­ber-soci­eties oper­ate incom­ing bureau sys­tems that are avail­able to mem­bers and non-mem­bers alike, but that some are unable, for good and suf­fi­cient rea­son, to pro­vide ser­vice to non-mem­bers even if the expens­es of doing so are ful­ly reimbursed,

recog­nis­ing that many QSL cards that enter the bureau sys­tem are not desired by the intend­ed recip­i­ents and may not be deliv­er­able, either for this or some oth­er rea­son, and

sen­si­tive to the impor­tance of avoid­ing the unnec­es­sary envi­ron­men­tal impact of QSL cards being print­ed, trans­port­ed, and ulti­mate­ly dis­card­ed with­out being delivered,

resolves that mem­ber soci­eties are encour­aged to con­tin­ue to offer QSL bureau ser­vice in their coun­tries, exchang­ing cards with the bureaus of oth­er mem­ber-soci­eties, for as long as doing so is eco­nom­i­cal­ly jus­ti­fi­able, and

fur­ther resolves that ama­teurs are encour­aged to adopt con­fir­ma­tion prac­tices, includ­ing but not lim­it­ed to using elec­tron­ic con­fir­ma­tion sys­tems, that reduce the vol­ume of unwant­ed and unde­liv­er­able QSL cards being intro­duced into the bureau system.

The cur­rent list of QSL bureaus is avail­able here.

Print This Page Updated on February 11, 2020

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