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Telecommunication line installers are engaged in the installation, maintenance, and repair of various communication cables inside and between the buildings.
They handle the termination of the complex cable runs at demarcation points of customers and joining cable to distribute services through neighborhoods and buildings.
Some installers are experts in running cables inside buildings, outlining the shortest and most protected routes through the structure to reach the service points.
Others specialize in the outside wiring, running cables through conduits underground or stringing them between telephone poles.
Line installers are those who make the Internet revolution carry on.
It’s thanks to their effort of running miles of copper and fiber optic cables that web out around the world, we are connected to each other and giants of commerce such as Google, Apple, or Amazon.
Without these cables, there would be no Internet.
Telecommunication line installers handle everything from inches-thick fibers with protective sheathing running below the oceans to thin four-pair Cat 5 leading the network to your office or home.
Telecom Installers Work on Various Tasks in Various Places
Telecom installers can work everywhere.
They may run the last cable mile from a central office along phone poles to your house, or on a seashore helping land massive trans-oceanic communication cables.
This job comes with countless opportunities and experiences.
Telecommunication cables can be of three primary types:
- Transmission lines (e.g., copper cable carrying signals using on/off electrical currents on wire pairs).
- Waveguides (using metallic cable as well to use it to carry electromagnetic wave signals).
- Optical fibers (use lasers to signal through finely-spun reflective tubing).
The installation of every type of cable requires specific tools and considerations.
For example, optical fibers are hard to splice together.
Therefore, the training and tooling to do it are very specialized.
Fusion splicers make an electric arc that melts the glass strands together.
It requires practice and training to do it without blocking light transmission.
Metal cables are easier to splice.
They can be crimped or soldered, but every connection will reduce the conductivity of the signal, so it requires careful planning.
Waveguide cables are susceptible to electrical interference from emissions sources, similar to high-voltage power lines.
They have to be run to avoid these sources or shielded with a layer of woven metallic fiber that encases them in a tubular Faraday cage.
Some cables are strung overhead from telephone poles and are connected by branch lines to the premises of customers.
Telecom installers may have to work high up on ladders or in bucket trucks to string these cables.
They work close to power lines and have to undergo the same safety training as electrical linemen.
More often now telecom cables are being run below the ground through a plastic conduit.
With the digging and earth moving equipment, a trench is excavated down a below freezing level layer.
Then, the conduit of different sizes is laid down and covered up.
Sometimes, to lay the conduit off special machinery is used, which saves time since separate length doesn’t have to be connected.
With fewer joints, the continuous conduit is also less likely to leak.
Cables that are run through conduits are either blown or pulled.
Some of them have messenger lines or were previously run with them, which are light synthetic cords.
A cable is carefully connected to the cord.
Then, the other end is pulled to draw it through the conduit.
Sometimes, to facilitate the pull, gels or other lubricants are used.
This is the most common method to add capacity to older conduit lines.
With a new conduit, installers usually use a cable jetting or blowing technique.
To reduce the force required by pulling and the amount of friction on the cable, installers use compressed air to pull the cable and feed it in at the source end.
This installation technique is faster and less likely to damage the cable.
Telecom installers who work with transoceanic communication cables use even more unusual tools.
They work on huge ships with spools of heavily armored cables and use remotely operated undersea vehicles trenching and burying the cables in shallow waters.
The line is dropped on the ocean floor, with the polyethylene cover, reinforced steel, and mylar insulation to protect the glass and copper inside.
Above and below-water long-distance communication lines have to be laid to operate switching equipment or signal amplifiers located along the line.
These devices are usually low-voltage, 110VAC or lower.
However, installers should be extremely careful ensuring that stray voltage doesn’t ground directly into signaling lines.
If that happened, the equipment would be destroyed.
Becoming a Telecommunication Line Installer
Typically, telecom line installers work for large telecommunication companies or contractors.
Almost all of them get on-the-job training through one to two years of training programs.
At some organizations, they go through an apprenticeship, where new installers work supervised by more experienced installers while learning the ropes.
The salary of apprentices is usually 30-60% of what journeymen installers make.
It takes them about two years to advance.
Unlike other electrical trades, no independent apprenticeship councils apply here because the hiring companies manage the apprenticeship programs internally.
Telecom installers can find employment anywhere in the country.
Communication lines run even in geographically remote regions.
A variety of positions can be found primarily in the urban areas, including inside and outside work.
Telecommunication line installers don’t typically need college degrees.
However, some community colleges offer two-year telecommunication associate’s degrees.
With this education, you can build a foundation for on-the-job training, either informal or apprenticeship.
Telecom certifications are more common.
A range of specialized cabling certifications can be found through the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers.
Another industry trade group, Fiber Optic Association, offers certification for fiber optic cabling.
Salaries and Job Prospects
According to the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics), telecom line installers have a median salary of $52,920.
The salary can vary depending on the specialty and location.
Telecom technicians that specialize in fiber optic connections make significantly more than those who lay cables and do ditch work.
In the following examples, you can see what kind of payment telecommunication line installers can expect.
The data are taken from the job ads of August 2016 and provided solely for illustrative purposes:
- Telecommunication installer in Dubuque – $12/hour.
- Telecom installer with a wireless integration company in Washington, D.C. – $23/hour.
- Low-voltage cable installation technician in Nashville – $21.