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Radio and Telecommunications Equipment Installation and Repair Careers and Jobs

Career and Job Highlights

  • Employment expected to fall.
  • Applicants trained in electronics and possessing computer skills should have the best opportunities.
  • Hours on the weekend and holidays are commonplace; workers may be on call 24/7 for emergencies.

Career Overview for Radio and Telecommunications Repair Technicians

To transmit communication, telephones and radios must rely on a diverse array of equipment. Telephone signals are routed to their destinations by electronic switches. Telephone calls are directed to single destination within an institution by switchboards. The signals of mobile phones and radios are relayed to their endpoints by radio transmitters and receivers. Information such as data, graphics, and video can be transmitted over the new computerized telecommunications equipment. Radio and telecommunications installers and repairers work behind the scenes to create the backbones and ensure the operability of these networks.

Central office installers are in charge of installing switches, cables, and other equipment in central offices. As the name implies, central offices are the hub of a telecommunications network, and are built on a foundation of switches and routers which send packets of information to their destinations. The line forming the backbone of the network are fiber optic, though copper lines still connect houses with the central office. The move to fiber optic lines has helped improve switching equipment. Fiber optic lines have a greater transmission capability, and thus one fiber optic line can easily replace several copper lines. Fiber optic lines are also aided by the advancement in packet switching equipment, which is allowing more and more information to be carried on one line. Gigantic amounts of information can be directed thanks in part to the switches and routers that have the ability to transmit, process, and amplify information.

As telephone switches and routers have become more reliable, maintenance has become easier. Problems are reported by these new telephone switches which monitor themselves. It is even to possible to make repairs on select switches from remote locations. Repairers will consult the manufacturer’s manual when a problem occurs.

Individual components of telecommunications equipment are tested by repairers when a problem exists, and a diagnosis can be made from the results if one has a good understanding of the relationship between the software and hardware. Frequently network analyzers or spectrums will be utilized to find the malfunction. By distributing a signal through the equipment, a network analyzer can identify the location of a distorted signal. The repairer can then rely on the nature of the distorted signal to lead him to the problem’s source. Small simple tools such as pliers and screwdrivers may be used to make the necessary repairs by taking out the bad parts and installing new ones. Newer boards and parts were created to make for easy removal and replacement, making repair on the equipment much easier than in the past. The software may need to be updated as well, which repairers can take care.

Private branch exchange switchboards (PBX) are installed by PBX installers and repairers and can relay incoming, outgoing, and interoffice calls within certain location or organization. Before switches and switchboards can be installed, the equipment must be hooked up to power lines and communication lines, and frames and supports must be installed. The power source is then tested, as well as the connections to make sure that everything is functioning properly. It is also important to install power systems, alarms, and telephone sets. Advancements in technology have brought us computerized switches and switchboards; certain programs must be installed by workers to make various features accessible. A feature that can help decrease costs is PBX switchboard programmed to send calls over various lines at different times in the day. Typically, complicated programming is done by computer specialists and not repairers or installers. Lastly, the worker must check to ensure that the new equipment has been installed correctly and working as designed. PBX repairers will take care of any problems that arise by locating the origination of the problem, be it in the PBX system itself or in the lines that are maintained by the phone company.

PBX installers are forced to keep up with the constant advancements and improvements that are made in technology. Rather than going with PBX systems, a lot of companies are deciding to put in voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) systems. PBX and VoIP systems run in a similar fashion, but VoIP harness the power of a company’s computer wiring system to provide Internet access, network applications, and telephone communications. Some phones have their own unique Internet protocol (IP) addresses, and can be used or on any port in the system while maintaining the same number.

Station installers and repairers, telephone—otherwise called telephone installers and repairers or telecommunications service technicians—carry out installations and repairs of the wiring and equipment associated with a customer’s telephone system. By hooking a customer’s telephone wires to the main service lines, installers can create a telephone or digital subscriber line service. Underground conduits and telephone poles house these lines. At times it is necessary for the installer to scale a pole in order to connect the lines. After the lines have been connected, a test is run on the line. If a malfunction happens, a repairer must decide where the problem is, be it on the customer’s premise or on the main lines, by testing the lines. If installation and maintenance problems cannot be resolved by the repairer, a technical service center should be contacted.

Radio mechanics normally carry out installation and maintenance of radio transmitting and receiving devices. These devices include non-mobile devices set on transmission towers as well as portable equipment like radio communication systems found in vehicles. Work on cellular communications towers is not provided by radio mechanics. Problems are observed by the newer equipment that monitors itself and signals the mechanic when service is needed. As problems are noticed, mechanics will check out the equipment, looking specifically for broken parts or loose wires. Signal strength, transmission capacity, interference and signal delay are tracked by electrical instruments. Additionally, mechanics use basic tools to remove and install parts and to adjust the equipment as necessary to keep the device working properly.

Career Training and Job Qualifications

Applicants need postsecondary training in electronics, as well some knowledge of computers. Applicants need to have training, whether it be from equipment and software manufacturers, trade schools or the more traditional 2 or 4 year college programs. Another valuable experience looked on highly by many employers is military experience related to communications equipment. Normally, a repairer starts out as a line-installer or telephone installer in the telecommunications industry and then is promoted to central office installer or another more complicated job.

Normally employers will provide new employees with some form of training. Training could involve classroom education in electronics, software and communications systems as well direct real world experience by helping another more experienced repairer. Repairers will be sent to training sessions and gatherings in order to stay up to date on service procedures and new equipment. With the increase in complication and introduction of new equipment from companies occurring almost constantly, the amount of knowledge necessary to perform installations and maintenance has increased significantly.
The companies themselves often train workers on select equipment. Repairers must constantly be learning and obtaining the necessary certification to keep up with the advances in technology which bring improvement in switches, routers, and other equipment.

It is important that repairers have good color perception, as different wires are different colors. A worker’s sense of hearing must be sound as well, in order to determine the differences present in different tones found on a telephone system. Those who must climb up poles and towers must be physically fit. Repairers that work solo must be responsible and capable of working without a supervisor nearby. Some workers will interact with customers and thus need to be able to communicate well, have a warm personality, and dress and groom professionally.

Some repairers with a lot experience and training can become specialists, helping to identify and solve problems encountered by others, or they might participate in the design process with engineers and help form maintenance guidelines. Due to their great experience with the devices, repairers might also become sales reps for the manufacturers. Those with great leadership abilities may move to supervisory positions or management. Of course, there are also those who start their own repair shop, wholesale business, or retail outlet for electronic equipment.

Job and Employment Opportunities for Radio and Telecommucations Repair Technicians

Though companies will always need installation work done as they upgrade their systems, the need for maintenance work done by installers and repairers will decline and advances in technology will allow equipment to monitor itself and diagnose problems, and because the new equipment being installed has a greater capacity and thus limits the number of devices needed. Many companies are utilizing new wireless systems in service vehicles to replace the need for two-way communication and onsite radio mechanics. As companies become more reliant on wireless systems and telecommunication systems that monitor themselves, the need for radio mechanics will decrease. The best job opportunities for installers and repairers exist for those who have been trained in electronics and possess some computer skills.

Obviously, the opportunities that exist will vary by one’s area of specialization. Opportunities will exist for those with knowledge and experience in today’s technology, as the use of VoIP, advancements in services like video on demand, and other new services begin to demand the attention from central office and PBX installers. In order to reach the high data transfer rates necessitated by these services, new optical switching and routing equipment must be installed. Connecting customers to the central offices will also require that improved switching and routing equipment be installed. The effect of automated and more reliable equipment which eliminates some jobs will be countered by the need for new installations and upgrades to switching equipment.

Competition will be present for station installers and repairers. Installation and maintenance of consumer’s telephones will also be reduced by the presence of prewired buildings and newer more reliable telephone equipment. Some businesses and homes will need to upgrade existing internal lines, as well as any fiber optic lines present, which should help offset some losses in employment. The use of pay phones is also on the decline, due to the rise in use of mobile phones, which is causing a decline in opportunities for station installers and repairers since a big portion of their job is installing and serving pay phones.

Historical Earnings Information

Median hourly earnings of telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, with the exception of line installers, were $22.78 in 2002. The middle 50 percent earned a range of $18.07 to $26.38. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $13.27, while the highest 10 percent earned $29.09+ . The median hourly wage for the wired telephone industry was $24.07 in 2002.