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World of Opportunities in Telecom
Sunday, October 1, 2000

It would be no exaggeration to state that the 21st century is looking like the era of telecommunications. For most of us, not a day goes by that is untouched by the wonders of technologies like telephone, fax, email, Internet, television and cable, satellite communication and other cellular and digital revolutions that have made the globe ¡°a small world after all.¡± Telecommunications, the term coined to describe all of these technologies, is a gigantic industry worth $1 trillion in products and services per year. It includes hardware, software and service companies that enable ¡°telecommunication¡± across the globe. Hardware includes a range of products such as video broadcasting satellites, hand-held telephones and fiber optic transmission cables that enable communication across the planet. Services include running the switches that control the phone system, making Internet access available and configuring private networks that enable corporations to conduct their business across the globe. Software delivers the applications and procedures that make this all work, from sending and receiving emails to relaying satellite data and controlling switch equipment for telephones. Because the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits service providers from manufacturing telecommunications equipment, the simplest way to break down this industry is between those that develop hardware and software, and those who provide services.

Industry deregulation and the explosive growth of the Internet have opened the floodgates of opportunity in this industry. The past decade has seen a phenomenal rise in technological innovation, merging technologies and intense competition in telecommunications. Prior to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, local service companies and long-distance service providers were banned from entering each other¡¯s market space, TV companies could not offer local telephone services, and phone lines could not be used to deliver video programming. AT&T and its 22 service-provider subsidiary companies dominated the industry. The lift of this ban has unleashed such potential that today, the telecommunications industry is home to some 1,400 local telephone companies, 150 long-distance providers and 400 long-distance resellers, besides hundreds of telecommunications-equipment manufacturers and other companies that exist on any given day. Telecommunications is so pervasive in our everyday lives and so integral to our global connectivity, that it is now an industry whose technological changes, business trends and labor shortage affect the very economy of this country.

Job Options

Who can be a part of this thrilling wave sweeping across the globe? Anyone who has anything to do with technology in their every day life; academicians, lawyers, MBAs, salespeople and PR types are needed just as badly as the techies who design and maintain the worldwide information network of the future. The industry, ripe with opportunities, will stay that way for some time to come ¨C boding good news for job seekers.

The types of jobs available can be split into two broad categories ¨C end users and service providers/suppliers. The end user community includes organizations that are consumers of telecommunications products and services, and are not primarily involved in the development of these products or services. Some examples are insurance companies, banks, financial institutions, utilities, manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers, electronic commerce service providers and Internet companies.

Service providers install, commission, operate and manage either large public networks like those of Bell Atlantic, Sprint, MCIWorldcom and AT&T, or private networks like those operated by investment firms, insurance companies, banks and local and state governments. Equipment suppliers, such as Cisco Systems, Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and Siemens, design, develop, manufacture and market telecommunications switching and network equipment and related infrastructure.

Every area of telecommunications is growing. Potential career choices include telecommunications technicians, management, network engineers, those in design and implementation, consultants, research and development types, vendor salespeople, people in marketing and technical support, just to cite a few examples. Some key jobs in this industry are listed below.

Mechanics, Repairers and Installers

Those who set up, install or repair the sophisticated telecommunications equipment required to set up a network are called telecommunications mechanics or specialists. Among them are:

¡ñ Central office installers

¡ñ PBX installers

¡ñ Radio mechanics

¡ñ Station installers and repairers

Most employers seek applicants with post secondary training in electronics and some familiarity with computers. Military experience with communications equipment is highly valued by many employers. In 1998, central office and PBX installers and repairers earned an average hourly wage of $21. Median hourly earnings of radio mechanics in 1998 were $14.71. Median hourly earnings of station installers and repairers in 1998 were $19.06.


To qualify for an engineering job, you need a degree in computer science, electrical or system engineering, as well as knowledge of Windows NT, C++, Unix or other programming language. Salaries range from $40,000 to $100,000. Some engineering jobs include:

¡ñ Broadband network architects ¡ª These people provide IP network architecture solutions to clients for the next-generation network, a network based on IP, ATM and SONET.

¡ñ Members of technical staff ¡ª These engineers participate in analysis, design, implementation and testing.

¡ñ Network and application test engineers ¡ª Those who integrate, verify and deploy a full-service, high-speed data network providing nationally distributed video, voice, local programming and data services.

¡ñ Network management and architecture/systems engineer ¡ª These people provide network management solutions to clients for currently planned deployments and next generation network technologies. A position may include focus on all aspects of operations support. A combination of business, telecommunications and computer knowledge serves one best.

¡ñ Wireless engineers ¡ª These engineers develop potential wireless data applications, technology intelligence to identify and track wireless data products and wireless data strategies. They also interact with vendors.

¡ñ Bellheads¡ª These types understand switching ¨C that is, what takes place between the switch and the network. They don¡¯t write code, but make as much as engineers. Salary range is $90,000-plus.

Nontechnical Positions

¡ñ Product managers ¡ª These are the people that determine what service or product to sell to the end user, then develop it, be it wireless service, DSL, Caller ID or voice mail. On the manufacturing side, product managers need to know the technology or show some knowledge about it. The position generally requires an MBA or similar experience, preferably in networking or data communications. Salary range is from $70,000 to $90,000.

¡ñ Salespeople ¡ª Salaries range from $40,000 to $80,000 plus commissions.

¡ñ Customer support staff ¡ª Salaries range from $30,000 to $60,000.

¡ñ Public relations and government relations ¡ª Salary range is $50,000 to $150,000.

Education and Training

At present, there are at least 50 academic telecommunications programs at various colleges and universities in the United States.

Training sources for telecommunications repairers, installers and mechanics include two- and four-year college programs in electronics or communications, trade schools and training provided by equipment and software manufacturers. Some certification courses are also available.

Remember the old adage: ¡°the only constant in business is change?¡± For no other industry is this more true than telecommunications. Career opportunities exist industrywide.

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