Powering The Tower

By Samir Makwana Published Date
01 - Sep - 2007
| Last Updated
01 - Sep - 2007
Powering The Tower

As you very well know, the Indian telecom industry is at a phenomenal stage of development. It is considered one of the fastest-growing industries of all time. The number of phone users in the country crossed 22.5 crore in June 2007. According to the Press Information Bureau of India, during 2006-07, the country saw the addition of about 7.2 crore phone subscribers-a 47 per cent increase over the previous year. These figures serve to indicate the frenetic nature of progress in this field.

As mobile service providers install more antennas and base
service stations, the demand for those who specialise in
telecom design and implementation is bound to rise

At the Confederation of Indian Industries Summit at Bangalore in January 2007, Dr Sam Pitroda, National Knowledge Commission Chairman and research pioneer in telecommunications and handheld computing, pitched for the manufacture, in India, of telecom equipment such as mobile phones. If manufacturing of phones does start in India, employment opportunities on a large scale will open up.

A wide range of career opportunities can be seen on both the hardware and software front. The list is long: mobile telephony, wireless communications, Internet protocol media system, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access), UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System), VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), the Symbian operating system, data networks, optical networks, and more! Internet Service Providers use telecom hardware and therefore employ telecom engineers for their network-related operations.

Opportunities In Hardware
Design and implementation: Designing telecom systems equipment, infrastructure, and networks is a career option-the installation of equipment such as switchers and routers at a base station requires proper design in the first place. However, design and manufacturing of original telecom equipment is yet to start off on a large scale in India. Equipment design engineers, therefore, see better prospects abroad.

For telecom infrastructure, the design architect / solution architect / business analyst is required to have the know-how of voice, data, and fibre-optic networks. Telecom infrastructure design is required for proper transmission voice, data, and other cabling solutions over a network.

As mobile service providers install more antennas and base service stations, the demand for those who specialise in telecom design and implementation is bound to rise.

Operations and maintenance: The telecom infrastructure requires operational support and maintenance to function at optimal capacity: this domain includes monitoring, troubleshooting, and analysis of the operations that take place at the base service station. Ultimately, the job of those in the operation and maintenance department is to ensure voice can be transmitted from one end to another.

Network: Job functions in wired, wireless, and data networks all fall under the "network" umbrella. Employed in this domain are engineers who specialise in wireless technologies. They are, for example, GSM engineers / specialists, GPRS engineers / specialists, and CDMA engineers / specialists.  Specifically, installation, planning, administration, security management, troubleshooting, and testing of networks are what is involved in this domain.

It should be mentioned that freshers are usually absorbed into the industry in networking jobs. Network engineers at times design terrestrial networks and certify them. Vendor-specific certifications are a plus in a network engineer's profile. Of all the network functions, security is an area worthy of mention in terms of opportunities.

Services: Increased competition means telecom service providers must provide quality service keeping operational costs under control. They deploy solutions for service quality management, fault management, and performance management. This domain therefore comprises service desk functions, service assurance, quality of service management, and such.

Opportunities In Software
Software in the telecom industry usually enables signal testing and network monitoring. Real-time operating systems are of particular importance to aspirants.

Revenue and billing services: Those skilled in DBA (Database Analysis) software systems and data warehousing are employed in this sector. They specialise in working on vendor-based applications and software systems such as Oracle, Kenan, and Siebel. The professional here keeps a check on whether customers are properly charged, and prevents fraud or faulty billing.

Value-Added Services (VAS): A fiercely-growing domain, emerging as a separate industry, VAS includes entertainment, commerce, TV, and more-on the mobile. The majority of the opportunities in VAS are towards programming for the mobile platform. WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) specialisation is in particular demand. Programming and scripting languages used in mobile applications include C, Java, Delphi, Visual Basic, Pascal, PERL, SQL and MATLAB should also be mentioned.

The most obvious and advisable path that leads to a career in the telecom sector is via telecommunications engineering. Only students from a science background can opt for telecommunications engineering or diploma courses: to join a telecom engineering course, one needs to have passed the higher secondary or a vocational course that includes physics, maths, and chemistry in the syllabus. These subjects have been made compulsory as the minimum eligibility criterion to appear for entrance tests such as the IIT Joint Entrance Exams.

In all cases, for employment with a telecom company, the first preference is telecom engineers. Next is electronics and communication engineers, and then those with a B. E. or B. Tech. in computer science.

"The industry generally prefers those with a B. E. / B. Tech. either in computer science or electronics. However, leverage is given for candidates with relevant experience and industry certifications," according to Shinu Karim, ex-employee, Cable & Wireless Ltd. Aspirants should pursue their B. E. or B. Tech. degree in telecommunications only from universities and institutes recognised by the All India Council of Technical Education (A.I.C.T.E.).

Engineers who pass out of engineering colleges
might get an equal chance

Those willing to pursue higher education should opt for M. Tech. courses with a specialisation in telecommunications technology and management. One can opt either for a core technology area or for a specialisation in the management aspect of the telecom industry.

The telecom education curriculum covers subjects on telecom regulatory policies, which are essential knowledge for all aspirants. Telecom companies have begun to collaborate with the top educational institutions to improve the curriculum and also directly pull in skilled, qualified engineers.

Those with hands-on knowledge of installing, maintaining, and troubleshooting equipment are sought after. That apart, "The telecom industry looks to employ candidates with relevant experience. There are not too many telecom companies in India, so employees at the higher management level keep shuffling only between these few companies," says a telecom industry official who requested anonymity. This means it is a kind of "closed circle," meaning one cannot hop between job profiles as easily as in other industries-and that in turn means one needs to develop deep expertise in one specific area.

On the hardware side of the industry, experienced candidates with industry certifications are given first preference. Soft skills are a must at any level. Leadership skills, presentation skills, and such are also necessary. "Experience in the relevant field and industry certification is the prerequisite, and most positions emphasise soft skills," says Karim.

Freshers, Take Note
As mentioned earlier, the industry believes in hiring experienced and qualified candidates. Internships are offered to students and fresh graduates. Engineers who pass out of engineering colleges might get an equal chance.

Companies access their potential recruits through placement consultants, employee referrals, and advertisements. Campus recruitment for hardware functions is not common-it is more for software functions that freshers are recruited off campuses.

According to L K Bhatia, vice president of the resource management group, Tech Mahindra Ltd, "The expansion of the education system in general-and catching people young to put them into different streams of their interest and aptitude-could speed up the recruitment process. Taking higher technical education to tier 2 and tier 3 cities could uncover a vast pool of talent."

Fresh recruits undergo induction and training for a period ranging from seven days to six months. Classroom training sessions are often organised for officials and engineers working on new technologies adopted by a company. Training sessions are held by product (such as routers and switchers) vendors to enhance skills in the context of the use of the product.

The Money…
The remuneration offered by any telecom company would, in general, be competitive. A majority of employees keep job-hopping until they have the expertise and experience to grow vertically, like we hinted at earlier.

At the entry level, salaries offered range from Rs 1.5 to 3 lakh per annum. This can shoot to Rs 20 lakh per annum for technical positions, and for management positions, the remuneration can cross that figure.

Educational Institutions 
The Indian Institutes of Technology Bombay, Delhi, Guwahati, Kanpur, Madras, and Roorkee
The National Institutes of Technology  Durgapur, Hamirpur, Jamshedpur, Karnataka, Rourkela, Silchar, Srinagar, Trichy, and Warangal
Advanced Level Telecom Training Centre, Ghaziabad
Army Institute Of Technology, Pune Assam Engineering College, Guwahati
Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore
Bangalore Institute of Aeronautical Engineering and Information Technology, Bangalore
Bharat Ratna Bhim Rao Ambedkar Institute of Telecom Training, Jabalpur
Birla Institute of Technolgy, Mesra
Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani
BMS College of Engineering, Bangalore
College of Engineering, Farmagudi, Goa
Dayanand Sagar College of Engineering, Bangalore
Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Gandhinagar
Dr. Ambedkar Institute Of Technology, Bangalore
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University, Mumbai
Hughes Communication India Ltd, Gurgaon
Jadavpur University, Faculty Of Engineering And Technology, Kolkata
Symbiosis Institute of Telecom Management, Pune
Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute, Mumbai

A Parting Word
Projects, technologies, and operations in the telecom industry are in a phase of expansion. A mention should be made of the ingress of 3G technologies. Most of the opportunities in this field come under the umbrella of the service industry.

However, service providers outsource their IT needs; Bharti has recently outsourced to IBM, for example. Network needs are outsourced to product vendors to leverage their expertise. Opportunities related to IT in telecommunications therefore lie also in those organisations, and not only with the service providers themselves.

Do take note: this industry demands super-specialisation in a specific area-you can't move around easily between domains. Choose that domain wisely, and you can be a proud architect or facilitator of one of the most fundamental of human needs: communication.

Samir MakwanaSamir Makwana