Telecommunications – A Global Market
Ask industry leaders and educators to speculate about telecommunications in the international marketplace and the answer is crystal clear: the future couldn’t be brighter. For James Poynter, president and chief executive of GN Nettest, a world leader in fiber optic testing, there is only one cloud on that otherwise sunny horizon: “The largest problem is finding enough quality people.”
Fortunately for Poynter, his company is based in Utica, New York, in the geographic center of New York State, and virtually in the shadow of a fertile training ground for telecommunications professionals – the State University of New York (SUNY) Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome. The college has developed renowned bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in telecommunications: graduates from such programs are consistently lured by telecommunications companies making generous job offers.
Those opportunities come with relatively high salaries, and promises of advancement and international travel. According to experts, graduates from telecommunications degree programs are in extremely high demand, and can expect to be hot commodities in a global market that is growing faster than even the most enthusiastic forecaster might have predicted. Patrick Fitzgibbons, PhD, associate professor of telecommunications at SUNY Utica/Rome, suggests that two simple truths summarize the status and future of the industry: “It’s everywhere, and it just keeps growing.”
“The ubiquitous nature of the industry is phenomenal,” says Dr. Fitzgibbons, “You just can’t escape it. Every time you use a telephone, send an e-mail message, surf the Internet, listen to the radio, turn on the television, send a fax or page someone, you’re dealing with telecommunications, directly or indirectly.”
Typical consumer users only touch the surface of the telecommunications industry’s reach. The industry’s impact infiltrates the very foundation of many nation’s economic development plans for the next century, and thereby holds one of the keys to the quality of life for future generations of people.
Poynter, whose company does about 50% of its business outside the United States, explains that China’s investment of tens of billions of dollars in telecommunications technology over the next few years is essential for the nation’s development as a world leader in the global economy. “[Chinese leaders] first must think about an infrastructure; if they can develop and implement an effective infrastructure, they can get into any kind of business. You can open a service business by putting in a telephone line, open a factory by putting in a telephone line… If you can’t communicate, you won’t have buyers and sellers.”
The global market in telecommunications will continue its tremendous expansion, with nations such as China and India leading the intercontinental investment in telecommunications products and services.
The World Bank estimates that telecommunications infrastructure investments in developing countries alone will need to total $60 billion annually for the next five years to implement necessary upgrades of telecommunications networks. Growth will continue across all continents, according to US Industry and Trade Outlook. For example:
- In Europe, the growth rate of 5% annually is expected to rise to about 10% with the introduction of competition in basic telecommunications services;
- In the Asia-Pacific region, currently the world’s largest single market for telecommunications products and services, investments over the next five years could exceed $300 billion;
- In Latin America, the marketplace is enormous, greater than Europe and growing faster than Southeast Asia;
- In Africa, the number of telephone lines will increase dramatically over the next five years, with Southern Africa promising the greatest expansion due to its commitment to economic development.
Professional Opportunities Abound
What does this global expansion mean to aspiring professionals? Glenn Miller, chairman of the International Communications Association Academic Development Committee, the world’s largest telecommunications association, says that the worldwide marketplace offers virtually limitless possibilities for students who plan to enter the field. “Anyone attempting to be a professional in the telecommunications industry must have an international perspective,” says Miller.
The ICA formally recognizes 32 undergraduate and graduate programs in telecommunications, and Miller suggests that students seek out programs that prepare them for the rapidly expanding and ever-changing industry. “In the next 5-10 years, there will develop a great degree of specialization,” says the ICA chairman. “There will be a few generalists, but many more will be concentrating on particular areas, such as regulation and policy, network management, network design, network support… and those are just from a user’s view – telecommunications suppliers and carriers may have another view.” Miller advises students to develop language skills – “English has become the language of choice in the industry” – and enhance their understanding of various cultures.
Choosing a Program
Regarding the choice of college programs, Miller suggests, “Carefully evaluate programs and pick one where others have had success. Look at universities and colleges with high ratios of counseling and placement.” Dr. Fitzgibbons has learned firsthand the value of career services for his students, and he and his colleagues have consistently used their contacts in the industry to assist their students’ networking efforts. The result has been that students consistently have several job offers from which to choose, often months prior to graduation. Consequently, success breeds success, as those graduates move on to leading positions in their organizations and in the telecommunications industry. They are then able to advise aspiring professionals looking for the college program that meets their needs.
Dr. Eugene Newman, associate professor of telecommunications at SUNY Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome lectures to a class in the college’s telecommunications program. Graduates with bachelor of science and master of science degrees have many opportunities from which to choose, as international companies seek to fill professional vacancies with students graduating from highly-acclaimed telecommunications programs.