The telecoms industry encompasses any communication over a distance: telephone, television, radio, wireless network, computer network, for example. It comprises companies that make hardware, produce software, and provide services. Hardware includes a vast range of products enabling communication across the entire planet, from broadcasting satellites to telephone handsets, to fiber-optic transmission cables. Services include running the switches that control the phone system, providing Internet access, and configuring private networks by which international corporations conduct business.
Telecomms: software & hardware jobs
Software makes it all work, from sending and receiving email to relaying satellite data, to controlling telephone switching equipment, to reducing background noise on mobile phone calls.
There are many roles in the companies involved in hardware and software. Telecoms technicians install, repair and maintain broadband, mobile phone and landline telephone networks. They also work on satellite, digital TV and fibre optic systems. A telecoms technician works with fixed-line and mobile telephony networks, copper wire and fibre-optic cabling, VoIP communication systems, analogue and digital satellite systems, as well as wireless radio networks providing internet access to PCs, smartphones and tablets.
A telecoms technician’s responsibilities could vary in scale from setting up a communications network in a large organisation, to the installation of a home satellite system. Telecommunications engineers use their technical expertise to provide a range of services and engineering solutions revolving around different modes of communication and information transfer, such as wireless telephony services, radio and satellite communications, internet and broadband technologies.
Their work could involve laying, connecting and testing cabling; testing and repairing faults in public and private switching exchanges; working with aerial rigging and related equipment; installing mobile and static antennae on buildings or masts; designing, building and testing telecommunications components and equipment.
Most of the work is carried out on a project basis with tight deadlines and well-defined milestones for the delivery of project objectives. Telecommunications engineers are involved across all aspects of service delivery, from carrying out feasibility exercises and determining connectivity to preparing detailed, technical and operational documentation.
Telecomms: research jobs
Telecommunications researchers are responsible for carrying out vital research and development work across all aspects of the telecommunications industry. They are integral to the development of new technologies: satellites, super-fast broadband, wireless routers, advanced VOIP systems or smartphones.
These researchers collect raw data and interpret it using mathematical, analytical and statistical tools and techniques. They also prepare research reports for publication, present research findings to their peers and keep up-to-date on the latest inventions and developments in the telecoms industry.
Telecomms: career progression
Career progression is dependent on specialist expertise, overall experience and academic background. Researchers working in academia may take on term-based contracts in specific research areas or begin teaching roles. Commercial telecom researchers, on the other hand, can move into project and programme management, training and development, or take up specialist research roles, i.e. focusing on digital media or satellite communications.
School leavers wanting to move into this industry could do so with just GCSEs, on an Intermediate Apprenticeship training in roles like support technician, helpdesk professional and field operations (line installer and repairer).
They could then move onto an Advanced Apprenticeship (also available to school leavers with A-levels) and train in roles such as desktop support engineer, network planner, database administrator, network engineer or software tester.
School leavers with a good set of A-levels (or those who have done Advanced Apprenticeships) could do a Higher Apprenticeship in the telecoms field, training in jobs like network/telecoms manager and analyst developer.
It would also be worth looking at the telecoms-related courses at further education college and university.