Installers and service technicians of radio and telecommunications equipment - What do installers and service technicians of radio and telecommunications equipment do? (2023)

Installers and service technicians of radio and telecommunications equipment - What do installers and service technicians of radio and telecommunications equipment do? (1)

Telephones, computers, and radios rely on various devices to transmit communication signals and connect to the Internet. From the electronic and optical switches that route phone calls and data packets to their destinations, to the radio transmitters and receivers that relay signals from the radios in planes, boats and emergency vehicles, complex equipment is needed to keep the country connected. The workers who set up and maintain this sophisticated equipment are called radio and telecommunications installers and service technicians.

Telecommunications installers and repairers have a range of skills and abilities that vary depending on the type of work they do and where they do it. Most work indoors.

Central office installers and repairers - telecommunications equipment installers and repairers who work in switching nodes called central offices - perform some of the most complex tasks. Switching hubs contain switches and routers that route information packets to their destinations. Installers and repairers configure these switches and routers as well as cables and other equipment.

While most telephone lines connecting homes to central offices and switchboards are still copper, the lines connecting central hubs to each other are fiber optic. Fiber optic lines along with newer packet switching equipment have greatly increased the capacity of each line, allowing more and more information to flow over the lines. Switches and routers are used to transmit, process, amplify and route huge amounts of information. Installation and maintenance of this equipment requires a high level of technical knowledge.

Nevertheless, the increasing reliability of switches and routers has simplified maintenance, as new self-monitoring telecommunications switches can now alert headquarters repairmen of failures. Some switches allow workshops to diagnose and repair problems from remote locations. In the event of a breakdown, the repairer can refer to the manufacturer's manual for maintenance instructions.

As cable and telecommunications technologies converge, the hardware used in both technologies is becoming more and more similar. Distribution centers for cable TV companies, similar to a headquarters in the telecommunications sector, are called headends. Headend technicians do much the same work as switchboard technicians, but they work in the cable industry.

When problems arise with telecommunications equipment, telecom repairers diagnose the source of the problem by testing all parts of the equipment—a process that requires an understanding of how software and hardware interact. To pinpoint the problem, repairers often use spectrum analyzers, network analyzers, or both to detect any distortion in the signal. To repair equipment, repairers may use small hand tools, including pliers and screwdrivers, to remove and replace faulty components such as circuit boards or wiring. Newer equipment is easier to repair because entire boards and parts are designed to be quickly disassembled and replaced. Repair companies can also install updated software or programs that maintain existing software.

Another type of telecommunications installers and repairers, PBX installers and repairers, set up PBX (Private Branch Exchange) exchanges that forward incoming, outgoing and internal telephone calls within a single location or organization. To install circuit breakers and switchboards, installers first connect equipment to power lines and communication cables and install frames and brackets. They test the connections to ensure that sufficient power is available and that the communication links are working properly. They also install equipment such as power systems, alarms and telephones. New switches and switchboards are computerized, and workers often have to install software or program hardware to provide certain functions. Finally, the installer performs tests to verify that the newly installed hardware is working properly. If a problem occurs, PBX service technicians determine whether it is located on the PBX system or originates from telephone lines maintained by the local telephone company. Newer installations may use Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems – systems that operate like a PBX but use the company's computer wiring for Internet access, network applications and telephone communications.

Telephone exchange installers and service technicians—commonly known as home installers and service technicians or telecom service technicians—install and repair telecommunications wiring and equipment at a customer's home or on-site. They install phone, VoIP, Internet and other communications services by installing wiring in the home or connecting existing wiring to outside service lines. Depending on the service required, they may configure the TV function or connect modems and install software on the client's computer. To complete the connection to an external service line, the installer may need to climb telephone poles or ladders and test the line. Later, if there is a maintenance problem, station repairmen test the customer's lines to determine if the problem is in the customer's premises or outside service lines, and attempt to fix the problem if it is inside. If the problem is with external service lines, telecommunications line technicians are usually called in to fix it.

Radio mechanics install and maintain radio transmitting and receiving equipment, except for cellular communication systems. This includes fixed equipment mounted on transmission towers or tall buildings and mobile equipment such as two-way radio systems in taxis, planes, ships and emergency vehicles. Aviation and marine radio mechanics may also work on other electronic equipment in addition to two-way radios. Newer radios are self-monitoring and can alert mechanics to potential faults. When malfunctions occur, these mechanics check the equipment for faulty components and either repair them, replace a part, or modify the software. They may use electrical measuring instruments to monitor signal strength, transmission bandwidth, interference and signal delays, as well as hand tools to replace faulty components and adjust equipment to operate within required specifications.

In 2020, telecommunications equipment installers and service technicians held approximately 195,800 jobs. The largest employers of telecommunications equipment installers and service technicians are:

  • Telecom - 65%
  • Electricians and other electrical contractors - 14%
  • Professional, scientific and technical service - 3%
  • Wholesalers, durable goods - 3%
  • Cable TV and other subscription programs - 2%

Some telecommunications technicians provide in-house installation and repair, while others work in central offices or electronic service centers. Installation of equipment may require climbing roofs and ceilings, and climbing ladders and telephone poles.

Telecom technicians sometimes work in cramped, uncomfortable positions, bending, stooping, crawling or reaching high to get their work done. Sometimes they have to lift or move heavy equipment and parts. They can also work on the equipment while it is on, so they must take the necessary precautions.

Injuries and illnesses

The work of teletechnicians can be dangerous. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers have one of the highest injury and illness rates of any occupation.

Common injuries include falls and strains.

To reduce the risk of injury, workers wear helmets and harnesses when working on ladders or elevated equipment. To prevent electric shock, technicians may disconnect power to equipment being repaired.

Work schedules

Most telecom technicians work full time.

Some companies offer 24/7 repair service. Telecom technicians in these companies work in shifts, including evenings, holidays and weekends. Some are on call 24/7 in case of emergency.

As telecommunications technology becomes more complex, the level of training required of installers and repairers of radio and telecommunications equipment has increased. Most employers prefer graduates with higher education in electronics and computer skills. The education required for these positions can range from a certification to a 2- or 4-year degree in electronics or a related field. Training sources include 2- and 4-year college programs in electronics or communications technology, military experience in radio and electronics, trade schools, and programs offered by hardware and software vendors. Training requirements are higher for installers and repairers in central offices and those working in non-residential premises.

Many employees in the telecommunications industry will advance into this profession and gain experience in less demanding positions. Experience as a telecommunications installer or substation installer is, for example, a help before you move on to switchboard installer and other more complex tasks. Military experience with communications equipment is also valued by many employers in both telecommunications and radio repair.

Newly hired mechanics usually receive training from their employers. This may include formal classroom instruction in electronics, communications systems, or software and informal hands-on training to assist an experienced service technician. Large companies may send repairmen to outside training sessions to familiarize themselves with new equipment and service procedures. As the sophistication of networks - often containing equipment from different vendors - has increased, so has the knowledge required for installation and maintenance.

Aerospace and marine radio mechanics must be licensed by the Federal Communications Commission before they can work on these types of radios. This requires passing several exams in radio legislation, electronics basics and maintenance practice.

Computer skills, mechanical abilities and problem solving skills are highly valued by employers. Repairmen must also be able to distinguish colors, as wires are usually color-coded. For jobs that require climbing poles and towers, workers must be physically fit and not afraid of heights. Repairers who independently carry out tasks at the customer must be able to work without close supervision. For employees who have frequent contact with customers, a nice personality, good appearance and good communication skills are also important.

It is a profession where technology changes rapidly. Employees need to keep up to date with the latest equipment available and know how to fix it. Telecommunications equipment installers and repairers often need authorization to perform specific tasks or work on specific equipment. Certification usually requires attendance at classes. Certain certifications are required to enter the profession; others are aimed at improving current skills or advancing in a profession.

The Association of Cable and Telecommunication Engineers and the Association of the Telecom Industry offer employees certificates in this area. Telecommunications equipment manufacturers also offer training on specific equipment.

Experienced mechanics with advanced training can become specialists or troubleshooters who help other repairmen diagnose difficult problems, or can work with engineers to design equipment and develop maintenance procedures. Home installers can move on to computer network cabling or work as an installer and service technician in a central office. Because of their knowledge of equipment, repairers are particularly well-qualified to become manufacturers' sales representatives. Employees with leadership skills can also become maintenance managers or service managers. Some experienced workers open their own workshops or become wholesalers or retailers of electronic equipment.

Employment of telecom installers and repairers is expected to show little or no change between 2020 and 2030.

Despite limited employment growth, an average of about 21,500 jobs for telecommunications equipment installers and service technicians are expected annually over the decade. Most of these redundancies are expected to be due to the need to replace workers who move to other occupations or leave the labor market, for example by retiring.


Employment is expected to decline in telecommunications, the industry that employs the majority of these workers. Consumers are increasingly demanding wireless and mobile services, which often require fewer installations, than landline services. This change in demand is expected to limit opportunities for telecommunications equipment installers.

The median annual salary for telecommunications installers and repairers was $60,370 in May 2021. The median salary is the salary where half of the workers in a given occupation earned more than this amount and half earned less. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $36,360 and the top 10 percent earned more than $82,660.

In May 2021, the average annual compensation for telecommunications equipment installers and service technicians in the leading industries in which they worked was as follows:

  • Telecom - $61,070
  • Cable and other subscription programs - $59,910
  • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services - $53,710
  • Retail wholesalers, durable goods - $48,950
  • Electrical contractors and other electrical contractors - $47,530

Most telecom technicians work full time.

Some companies offer 24/7 repair service. Telecom technicians in these companies work in shifts, including evenings, holidays and weekends. Some are on call 24/7 in case of emergency.

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