The rollout of 5G networks in India has made telecom engineers — who are responsible for designing, overseeing and installing equipment and facilities for telco networks — a hot property in India today. As more firms push to set up 5G applications, private networks etc. they are looking to hire these engineers, signaling a change in industry trends with the rollout of next generation services.
Industry experts say that India has always had such engineers, but they had taken the back seat as firms pushed to acquire individuals skilled in Android development, artificial intelligence and more. Now, however, salaries for Radio Access Network (RAN) engineers, radio frequency (RF) engineers etc. are growing steadily. In outlying cases, salaries of a RAN engineer can go up to ₹50 lakh per annum, said some experts.
Unlike trends seen in the last two years, most telecom engineers are skilled in different forms of electrical engineering, as opposed to Android developers etc. who specialize in aspects of computer science. For instance, RF Engineers specialize in electrical engineering and work with gadgets that send and receive radio signals.
Experts said that a telecom engineer who has added skills in computer science has even more lucrative prospects today.
“With additional certifications the salary scale of a 5G engineer with niche experience can grow by double digits and any mid-to-senior professional can expect a 35% to 45% hike,” said Munira Loliwala, business head, diversified engineering at staffing firm TeamLease Digital.
According to data from Teamlease, in the last two years the average salary of a RAN engineer with 3-5 years has grown to between ₹3,00,000 and ₹7,00,000 per annum, from an average salary of ₹2.5-5 lakh before the pandemic. Likewise, senior engineers now get anywhere between ₹6,00,000 to ₹9,00,000 lakhs, up from ₹4.5-7 lakh. Testing engineers, who check various aspects of a network, now get an average of ₹4,00,000 and ₹5,00,000 and up to ₹8,00,000 and ₹9,00,000 for senior roles. Such professionals can expect a 35-45% hike in the coming months for new roles, the data said.
Loliwala said there’s been a 98% hiring growth for network engineers in mid and senior levels in the last two years. She added that more than half of all hiring requirements in the telecom sector came from sub-sectors like mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and white space spectrum (TV/broadband) this year. Demand also comes from fintech and healthtech sectors, which are deploying new use cases after 5G.
“Medium-sized businesses in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kolkata also accounted for nearly half of all hiring in the sector and Chennai, Hyderabad and Chandigarh are other upcoming destinations for hiring,” she added.
Sekhar Garisa, chief executive of job platform Monster India, said companies like Ericsson, Nokia, Dell and Intel are increasingly recruiting telecom engineers skilled in radio frequencies, network security etc. in large numbers. According to the Monster Employment Index for October 22, the demand majorly comes from Bengaluru.
Further, Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst at research firm techARC, said that with 5G, telecom engineers will also need to acquire skills in newer user interfaces, cybersecurity and more, as “5G networks will demand a more fine-grained programmability to handle both the volume and variety of services”, which firms plan to provide on 5G.
Several institutions are also putting plans in motion to upskill existing engineers. The Telecom Sector Skill Council (TSSC), which is responsible for skilling telecom professionals in India, is also working towards building skill infra. It plans to start at least 10 new centers of excellence (CoE) across the country over the next 2-3 years, with help from partners.
Arvind Bali, CEO, TSSC said that over one million candidates have been trained through TSSC’s courses as well and its existing CoE at the the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Patna Campus, has already begun training professionals in 5G courses.
“We expect demand to come from engineering, polytechnics, and diploma colleges,” he said, adding that “the highest paid jobs would come from those taking up certifications in fields such as data science, AI, ML, IoT, Blockchain, 5G Open RAN and many others”. Vikram Malhotra, senior director, Qualcomm Technologies, said that more than 12,000 engineers from around the world have signed up for 5G courses on the company’s Qualcomm Wireless Academy, which provides certifications in 5G technologies.