Categorized | Life

Your Wireless Future

Posted on 05 October 2008

In the 1960s, the future was plastics. Today, the future is wireless. This industry is poised for growth like no other. Experts everywhere firmly believe that–despite shrinkage in some other industries–wireless will continue to hum.

Heady predictions were commonplace in March 2001 at a cellular communications conference in Las Vegas. Executives, vendors, suppliers, and FCC officials marveled at the girth and growth of their industry. More than 70 percent of all Americans now have a choice between at least five competing mobile phone providers. This kind of technology barely existed five years ago.

A Brief Primer
Does a hot new industry, one that edges e-commerce ventures and dot-com conglomerates out of the spotlight, really need employees? Yes! But first, potential job applicants have to familiarize themselves with the territory. So here’s a brief look at the news from the Las Vegas conference:

  • In 2000, cell phone subscriber revenue in the US hit $45.3 billion. Mark Tuller, vice president at Verizon Communications, predicted that consumer demand upon the wireless spectrum would exceed existing supply over the next three to four years.
  • The industry will need twice as much spectrum by the end of the decade, according to Tuller.
  • By 2004, there will be 203 million wireless phone subscribers, up from a current level of about 107 million.

This is good news for providers and even better news for jobseekers. A healthy market means prolonged industry growth. And now wireless prophets are touting the next best thing: Third Generation (or “3G”) Wireless. The first generation was analog voice and the second was digital–3G is the hybrid of digital voice and Internet access, accessed through an appliance-sized handset.

If you want to start addressing those cover letters right now, concentrate on the major players: AT&T Wireless, Cingular (a joint venture of SBC Communications and BellSouth), Sprint, VoiceStream Wireless, and Verizon. These companies are all waging war for the massive 3G market.

And the big guys don’t operate in a vacuum. They’re supported by a host of vendors and providers from all over the world. At the March conference, executives from smaller telephone companies and equipment manufacturers outlined billion-dollar plans to upgrade their networks and systems.

The Ground Floor
It’s still early in the game for 3G. The major wireless wannabes lobby regulators, lawmakers, and administration officials for spectrum licenses. They want to improve existing wireless service, wipe out service disruptions, and further develop content. While one part of the aisle lobbies, the other side improves service. According to one analyst from the Yankee Group, we are far from providing flawless wireless service right now.

To remain competitive, wireless firms must constantly improve signal transmission and service. So, the argument goes, they have to be on the prowl for new talent. According to Alan Glou, a Boston-based executive search professional, there is great opportunity in the wireless industry for people with or without technical backgrounds.

“If you have no technical background,” says Glou, “you must be willing to learn. A service history with one of the providers, such as Mobile South or Verizon, is very helpful. But the most important thing is to show serious interest.”

Those with backgrounds in microwave technology and wireless engineering are in great demand, says Glou. Other experts believe that candidates who know wireless Internet transmission codes and technologies (like Bluetooth) have an excellent chance of working on a major 3G launch. Undergrads and graduate students should try to get research grants to pursue wireless or microwave study.

Internationally, much of the wireless manufacturing and deployment will take place in China and Europe. “Someone with a cultural understanding of these areas will be very valuable to wireless firms,” according to Glou.

Industry Evolution
As 3G continues to evolve, however, plenty of new opportunities will spring up here in America–even in companies outside the wireless industry. More and more Internet users are becoming untethered; companies will have to make their sites phone- and PDA-friendly. In some cases, that will require displaying information in slightly different ways. In others, they may have to build additional sites for the wireless crowd.

What’s the bottom line? The wireless industry has to allocate resources and hire additional people to get the job done. Those who want to join the revolution should sign up now.

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