Telecommunications includes voice, video, and Internet communications services. Employment will grow because technological advances will expand the range of services offered. With rapid technological changes in telecommunications, those with up-to-date technical skills will have the best job opportunities. Average earnings in telecommunications greatly exceed average earnings throughout private industry.
Whereas wireline telephone communication was once the primary service of the industry, wireless communication services, Internet service, and cable and satellite program distribution make up an increasing share of the industry.
The largest sector of the telecommunications industry continues to be made up of wired telecommunications carriers. Establishments in this sector mainly provide telecommunications services via wires and cables that connect customers’ premises to central offices maintained by telecommunications companies. The central offices contain switching equipment that routes content to its final destination or to another switching center that determines the most efficient route for the content to take. These companies also maintain the cable network that connects different regions of the country as well as foreign countries, and forms the backbone of the industry. While voice used to be the main type of data transmitted over the wires, wired telecommunications service now includes the transmission of all types of graphic, video, and electronic data mainly over the Internet.
These new services are made possible through the use of digital technologies that provide much more efficient use of the telecommunications networks. One major technology breaks digital signals into packets during transmission. Networks of computerized switching equipment route the packets. Packets may take separate paths to their destination and may share the paths with packets from other users. At the destination, the packets are reassembled, and the transmission is completed. Because packet switching considers alternate routes, and allows multiple transmissions to share the same route, it results in a more efficient use of telecommunications capacity as packets are routed along less congested routes.
The transmission of voice signals requires relatively small amounts of capacity on telecommunications networks. By contrast, the transmission of data, video, and graphics requires much higher capacity. This transmission capacity is referred to as “bandwidth.” As the demand increases for high-capacity transmissions—especially with the rising volume of Internet data—telecommunications companies have been expanding and upgrading their networks to increase the amount of available bandwidth.
Cable and other program distribution is another sector of the telecommunications industry. Establishments in this sector provide television and other services on a subscription or fee basis. These establishments do not include cable networks. Distributors of pay television services transmit programming through two basic types of systems. Cable systems transmit programs over fiber optic and coaxial cables. Direct broadcasting satellite (DBS) operators constitute a growing segment of the pay television industry. DBS operators transmit programming from orbiting satellites to customers’ receivers, known as minidishes. Establishments in the cable and other program distribution industry generate revenue through subscriptions, providing Internet access, providing phone service, and advertising sales. They also charge fees for pay-per-view or video-on-demand programs.
Wireless telecommunications carriers, many of which are subsidiaries of the wired carriers, transmit voice, graphics, data, and Internet access through the transmission of signals over networks of radio towers. The signal is transmitted through an antenna into the wireline network. Increasing numbers of consumers are choosing to replace their home landline phones with wireless phones. Other wireless services include beeper and paging services.
Resellers of telecommunications services are another sector of the telecommunications industry. These resellers lease transmission facilities, such as telephone lines or space on a satellite, from existing telecommunications networks, and then resell the service to other customers. Other sectors in the industry include message communications services such as e-mail and facsimile services, satellite telecommunications, and operators of other communication services ranging from radar stations to radio networks used by taxicab companies.
[ Excerpted from Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2008-09 Edition - Telecommunications ]