Get connected: graduate engineer career guide to the telecoms sector

Keeping the country online amid constantly changing technology is just one of the challenges in this innovative and fast-paced industry.

Why work as a telecoms engineer?

You can play a key part in connecting the country

/m/m/u/Phone_concert_camera___credit_Ian_T_McFarland.jpg
The telecoms sector has to keep us connected wherever we are.

Whether it’s watching the latest series of Breaking Bad online, or checking Facebook through our mobiles, being connected has become crucial to all our everyday lives. As a telecoms engineer you can help provide that connectivity by bridging the digital divide across the UK through technology and infrastructure.

Telecoms is a growing sector with great prospects 

The UK telecommunications sector has about 8,000 companies who employ over 270,000 people. Overall, the market is estimated to be worth around £45 billion. This figure is set to grow as the government backs key projects to ramp up connectivity in the UK.

It is fast-paced and innovative

/g/x/b/BT_haptic_technology.jpg
The industry relies on keeping up-to-date with rapidly changing technology.

A career in the industry will be perfect for people who enjoy a varied workload and a constantly changing environment. As technology develops at a rapid pace, telecoms becomes more competitive and engineers in the sector have to have their finger on the pulse. It also offers a wide range of career options in terms of the skills required and the roles offered.

What does the sector do?

Essentially, the telecoms industry allows people to communicate. Key employers include BT, Vodafone, Inmarsat, Arqiva, Sky, Virgin, EE, Ericsson and consultancies such as Accenture and IBM.

It develops the infrastructure that keeps the world connected

/g/a/i/BT_broadband_installation.jpg
Engineers are needed to devise ways of connecting remote locations.

For instance, Arqiva works at the heart of industries including television, radio, mobile, satellite and smart metering. ‘One of the most exciting projects we’re currently working on is rolling out the infrastructure for the UK’s first nationwide Internet of Things network,’ says Matthew Brearley, managing director of people and organisation at the company. ‘This means a myriad of machines will be able to communicate with each other, from smoke alarms to agriculture machinery.’

It is introducing the biggest broadband network in Europe

The UK Government has made it a priority to improve the country’s broadband infrastructure by next year. £530 million is currently allocated for introducing superfast broadband across the UK as part of the strategy on the future of Britain’s superfast broadband. A variety of technologies will be needed for the upgraded infrastructure covering fibre, existing copper, mobile and wireless.

It is helping to drive forward cloud computing technology 

Cloud computing is a growing sector. The ability to send data through the cloud provides huge business opportunities, and the more people use it, the more engineers are needed to maintain the services. Key developments in the UK include the G-Cloud Programme. This is a scheme that aims to encourage for government-wide adoption of cloud computing.

What kind of jobs are on offer?

/r/x/q/BT_telecoms_engineer_Gigabit_Passive_Optical_Network.jpg
Telecoms engineers tend to work with increasingly specialised equipment throughout their careers.

Jobs vary by industry sector and company, but in general, they include research and development of hardware and software as well as devising ways to improve installation and solving problems when things go wrong. Some companies with large networks and data centres also have opportunities to develop infrastructure.

Team work is vital, as is a personable attitude as many of the roles can be client-facing. Most graduates who work for equipment vendors often start in a technical role with either software or hardware and then become more specialised.  Work could include creating new products, testing services, setting up networks and supporting customers.

And where are they?

As connectivity is needed across the UK, jobs in this sector can be spread all over the country. Arqiva, for instance, has various locations around the UK. Some of its larger offices are based in Winchester, Hemel Hempstead, Chalfont and London, but they have a number of manned sites from Inverness in Scotland to Cornwall.

A number of projects are currently underway that will require skilled engineers in the near-term. One particularly exciting project has been announced by London-based group Inmarsat, who is planning to link aircraft to the internet using modified cellphone towers on the ground.

Meanwhile, Vodafone has announced it is moving its global innovation centre from California to London, as it seeks to benefit from a wealth of technology skills and talent in the UK and Europe. Stefano Parisse, Vodafone’s consumer services director, said: ‘Establishing a new hub for Vodafone in London will bring our product development team closer to the customers it serves. It will allow us to draw on a vast pool of technology talent in the UK and Europe and simplify our development process.’

Carillion has also recently been awarded a £500 million contract extension with BT to deliver a broadband infrastructure projects across 33 local authorities in the UK over the next three years.

If you want the inside track on engineering jobs in other industries, take a look at our full list of sector guides.

For more student careers news and advice follow us:

fb-icon twitter-icon linkedin-icon