JULY 2012: Telecommunications engineering is currently the hottest branch of engineering in India. At the risk of being immodest, one can say that the scope of this engineering will last forever in an economy like India.
Alok Sinha, an industry professional working as an assistant vice president-general business sales and IT solutions, Huawei, says, “There is no place to be born on this planet better than India for people who want to make a career in telecommunications engineering. The entire Middle East and Saudi Arabia has around 24 million subscribers. UAE has seven million subscribers. We add 12 million subscribers per month. So India adds as many subscribers in a month as the entire subscribers base in some of the countries of the world.”
“From the perspective of population penetration we have reached just 0.7-0.8 per cent, while for the rest of the world it is around 1.5 to 2 per cent. So we can very well assume that there is still enough to leverage from core telephony,” he adds.
A sustainable career option
Though India has 76 per cent teledensity, compared to its BRIC peers, the country’s infrastructure still requires a major improvement. Hence in a market that still requires growth impetus, the demand for telecommunications engineers will remain resilient.
Reema Malhotra, head of HR (India), Nokia Siemens Networks, informs, “With new access technologies and the huge growth in the number of subscribers, the next decade will see unprecedented growth in mobile telephony. In recent years, traffic levels have grown manifolds. This trend is expected to continue well into the future, again bringing opportunities and changing the face of communications as we know it. This growth is expected to provide a sky of career opportunities to telecommunication engineers.”
Demand of manpower is growing exponentially in telecommunication sector. However, there has been a paradigm shift of resource requirements to different verticals within the telecommunication industry. Demand of engineers, which was more in handset, network implementation and maintenance segments of the industry in early 2000s, is now migrating towards application development, data networking and value-added services (VAS).
Rajeev Kabra, director and chief executive officer, Cognitel, says, “With new areas like mobile money, mobile advertising and mobile healthcare opening up, we expect to see an increase in lateral hiring in telecommunication industry. This hiring will include a major chunk of telecommunication engineers.”
It’s not just about talent, but the right kind of talent!
For those wanting to get into telecom, there are a plethora of colleges waiting for you across India offering courses in telecommunications engineering.
Pramod Patil, registrar, Dr DY Patil Institute of Engineering and Technology, Pimpri, Pune, says, “The aspirants should make a choice meticulously. Any college which is at least three years ahead in terms of technology is an ideal place for a student as the industry expects the students to have a thorough knowledge of the present technology and clear vision about the futuristic technology.”
However, the educational institutions in India are focused on theoretical education. The industry needs manpower which has practical exposure to telecom systems. So the curriculum of educational institutions needs to be changed to include more industryoriented education and training.
Sinha says, “The educational institutes in India are trying to keep pace with the evolving technology, but there is a lot of scope for development, definitely. They need to understand the demand of the changing time and evolving technology and offer forward-looking courses to the students. Those institutes which provide cuttingedge environment are sustaining. The educational institutes have to see more from the perspective of what will be the scenario three years henceforth.”
“I would like to see more of business-and industry-oriented education being incorporated in the syllabus. If that integration does not happen, it is a problem. There is still no course available for architects, whereas in real world everybody needs that. There is a dearth of skilled talent in the telecom industry. There is a need of people in many areas. Apart from talent, the required skill set is also important and that’s the biggest challenge we face in the industry today,” he adds.
Kabra says, “Telecom organisations look for engineers who have some hands-on experience in managing the equipment. But these resources are virtually non-existent as the telecom infrastructure equipment are very expensive to own for any educational institution. So the industry has to settle with engineers having at least good grasp of theoretical engineering concepts and good communication skills.”
There are companies like Cognitel which help the colleges to provide hands-on training to the students in order to make them industry-ready.
Kabra explains, “We have a setup where students undergo real training. It is not possible for the colleges to tie up with companies for hands-on training of their students. We come in as a solution for colleges which want to bring industry-ready products.”
K.P. Unnikrishnan, marketing director (Asia Pacific), Brocade, endorses such trainings by saying, “India has the benefit of having one of the youngest and most skilled workforce coming into the industry. With some of the best universities and colleges around, this is taken care of. But what the academia and students should ensure is that they are up-to-date with latest technologies like cloud.”
Sky is the limit
Experts call telecom the second IT industry of India.
Sinha highlights: “If you look at the larger picture, the number of engineers coming out of the colleges and the number of vacant positions even out. But if you break down the figures, that’s where the problem is. Like, if you say “I have 5000 engineers coming out,” 1000 out of 5000 will be in hardware engineering. Now if you ask whether I have jobs for a thousand hardware engineers, I will say ‘no’ because perhaps only a hundred of them are familiar with telecom business operations.”
India has been a growth market for telecommunication companies from across the globe. Employees having the desired skillset are valued by companies in the business.
Reema Malhotra says, “Nokia Siemens Networks is viewed as talent incubator by the telecom industry. We continue to drive innovation and serve India’s telecom industry. We provide our employees opportunities to engage with people from around the world, providing valuable opportunities to share and exchange ideas, values and cultures. Through the use of advanced tools and applications supporting virtual teaming, collaboration and remote working, Nokia Siemens Networks provides more opportunities to create an ideal work environment and facilitates the development of global work teams. Our employment policies give employees the support as and when they need. We give the training that employees need to meet the challenges of a dynamic industry. We aim to provide employees with the tools and materials that will help develop their career and encourage personal development.”
Companies in telecom work to imbibe a culture in their organisations where employees are encouraged to take cross-functional roles. This proCareer www.efymag.com Electronics For You | July 2012 123 vides them exposure to every aspect of running a telecom organisation. Some companies continuously invest in imparting new skills and education to their employees to keep them abreast with the latest in the industry.
There is money too
The engineers in telecom sector get packages depending upon the nature of their job, type of organisation and industry environment.
Sinha explains, “There are many segments within the telecom world. One is a vendor company, another is an OEM company and then there is a service provider company. So they all have different kinds of pay packages to offer. For a fresher, the package may vary dramatically from as low as Rs 100,000 per annum to as high as about Rs 500,000-600,000 per annum. It depends upon the location, the type of company and the type of job you are doing.”
“The telecom world is also penetrated by the IT world. So there are other people also who can get into these jobs. There is enough competition, but there is no limit of financial growth for the right kind of people,” he adds.
How to begin?
The industry hires people from various engineering and management disciplines. For example, a telecom infrastructure provider (tower company) would need engineers from disciplines such as electrical, civil and mechanical. However, the bulk of technical requirements for the active telecom infrastructure are fulfilled by electronics and communications engineers, who work on a large number of electronic elements that form part of a telecom network.
Usually, these engineers know the basics of telecommunications engineering. But, they can be groomed further to specialise in individual job functions through on-the-job training or through some focused vocational training provided by institutions like Cognitel.
With technology shifting towards an all-IP network and the growing need for mobile applications, you need to look for ways to complement your existing curriculum with courses in new technologies like advanced data networking and applications development. These can be explored as electives if offered within the same institute or as a specialised training outside.
Last but not the least is the requirement for managerial talent. There are a few MBA schools offering specialised courses in telecom management, which can be considered as a starting point for those keen to join the industry in managerial cadre.
Where are the jobs?
There are immense options for freshers. If you have an understanding of how the telecom industry works and broad-level experience, the horizon gets broader for you.
You can work for:
1. Telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone
2. Telecom equipment manufacturers such as Nokia Siemens Networks, Huawei, Ericsson and Cisco
3. Passive infrastructure providers such as Indus Towers, Viom Networks and Bharti Infratel
4. Value-added services companies such as OnMobile, Comviva Technologies and Hungama
5. Service vendors such as GTL and Innovis
6. Network operation and management companies such as Colt Technologies
7. System integrators such as Accenture, IBM and Tech Mahindra
You can typically join the industry as a graduate engineer trainee. Thereafter, you can move to many different roles including project/operations management, product technical support, network management, solution architect and R&D engineer. There is also scope for rotation across these areas.
The following are broad functional requirements in the industry:
1. Network planning and optimisation. This involves designing a telecom network with the use of industry-standard tools, maps and processes. It also includes a regular benchmarking of network performance and network optimisation to meet the growing need for more coverage and capacity.
2. Network deployment. The job involves installation, commissioning and integration of telecom infrastructure components. Apart from technical knowledge of products, this function provides an opportunity to learn how to manage projects and teams.
3. Network operation and maintenance. Any telecom infrastructure cannot perform at its optimal capacity until it is given the best operational support and maintenance. The job of the operations and maintenance engineers is to monitor, troubleshoot and analyse the operations of the deployed telecom network.
4. Equipment testing. This involves testing of telecom equipment like base stations, transmission equipment and core network equipment.
5. Value-added services. This involves integration of new-age services like mobile commerce, entertainment, IPTV, gaming and multimedia into the core telecom network.
What the industry demands
A fresh graduate is likely to be offered the role of a base transceiver station engineer, drive test engineer, RF engineer, operations and maintenance engineer, switch engineer, GNOC engineer, etc. Usually, these jobs require a lot of travel depending upon the requirements of projects and vendors. Companies prefer candidates who have practical knowledge and are ready to be deployed in various functions. Hence those who have undergone some training or internship programme and have hands-on exposure are preferred.
The author is an assistant editor at EFY