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Scope of the Telecommunications Profession


This unit addresses aspects of the following syllabus outcomes:


H1.1 describes the scope of engineering and critically analyses current innovations

H2.2 analyses and synthesises engineering applications in specific fields and reports on the importance of these to society.

H4.1 investigates the extent of technological change in engineering

H4.3 applies understanding of social, environmental and cultural implications of technological change in engineering to the analysis of specific engineering problems

Source: Board of Studies NSW (2011) Engineering Studies Stage 6 syllabus.

Scope of the profession

At any instant in time millions of people can be communicating to each other across the globe. At this same time, unimaginable quantities of data are being moved from computer to computer. Underpinning this communication is fascinating technology that is the focus of the work of the Telecommunications Engineer.

This rapidly growing section of the economy is transforming the way in which health, banking, education, entertainment, retail, library and many other services are provided.

A network strung across the globe called the Global Telecommunications Network has nodes of computers programmed to perform as switches. The links in this network are wires, optical fibres, UHF cables, satellites and radio channels.

Telecommunications Engineers are engaged in the business of designing, improving, extending, maintaining and operating this network.

A Telecommunications Engineer:

A Telecommunications Engineer could have some or all of the following duties:

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Some historical developments within telecommunications in Australia

The Overland Telegraph was one of the pioneering efforts that helped open up Australia. Without it, communication with the colonial centres such as Adelaide and Perth would have taken days, or even weeks, by mail.

Another development, the Pedal HF Radio was developed to provide an affordable communications system to people in remote Australia. Unlike the telegraphic 'dots' and 'dashes', it provided direct voice communication, but it had to be 'pedal powered'. This network was used to operate the Royal Flying Doctor Service (external website) and to provide the School of the Air.

The mobile telephone revolution started in the 1980s and currently 1 in 3 Australians own a mobile phone. The future will see the addition of broad band digital data and the Internet to the mobile phone. The so called, third generation mobile network.

The Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) which followed the telegraph is still the backbone of Australian telecommunications. However, new systems and new features continue to be added to this service to increase capacity, reduce cost and improve the service. Examples of this include: Calling Line Identification, Voice Mail, and Messaging services.

For more information on the history of telecommunications try this link.


One of the key processes in the telecommunications system is the switching of signals throughout the network. Telephony has, until recently, been circuit switched and dedicated between two points. Modern systems use packet switching, where digital information with a specific address is routed through the network by computers in a manner somewhat analogous to sending a number of letters, each containing different parts of the total message, to the same location.

Fibre Optics has taken over from coaxial cable as the standard method of high capacity trunk communications. Fibre Optics is being used for undersea cables and intercity cables. These cables have very high capacity and systems in excess of 80Gbps are in current use. Systems supporting in excess of 1.6Tbps are planned.

As well as voice and data communication channels, domestic satellite systems provide television (PAY-TV) and remote area communications (Mobile Sat). International satellite systems relay voice, data and television around the globe.

The use of the Internet has caused a revolution in telecommunications during the 1990's. The demand has led to the development of an almost universal communication 'language' - The Internet Protocol, TCP/IP. This has enabled different types of computers worldwide to communicate effectively

Television is now catching up with the digital world that has characterised the computerisation of the telecommunications world with TV broadcasting moving to the Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB) standard.

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Question 1

What are fibre optic cables and how do they work? Using resources presented in this unit and your ability to research, analyse the types and applications for Fibre Optics (external website) as an innovation in the telecommunications industry.

The following two photographs illustrate mobile or trailable satellite dishes. These have been used for the broadcasting of information. (external website)

Satellitr dish Trailer


Research on the Solar Car Challenge illustrated should assist you in developing an answer to the following two questions.

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Question 2

Engineers were involved in the design and construction of the dishes. What could have been some of the tasks and roles for the engineers?


Question 3

Suggest other roles undertaken by a telecommunications engineer in the management of the satellite communication system shown above?


Question 4

Use the Resume for a Telecommunications Engineer to track this person's career and answer the following questions (an RTF version of this resume is also available).

What specific engineering experiences has this person had that enhanced this career?


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Question 5

The person referred to in question 4 is a member of the Sydney Division (external website) of the Institution of Engineers, Australia (external website).

How would this membership facilitate a career and help maintain this person's professional experiences?


Question 6

Write an engineering report on ONE of the following aspects of telecommunications engineering:

  1. Telecommunications engineering innovation and its effects on peoples lives
  2. The structure, properties and uses of materials in telecommunications applications
  3. The basic principles of satellite based communications systems
  4. The training and career prospects within the telecommunications profession (check out some university and TAFE College websites by using a search engine on the web).


Other websites to help with your understanding of satellite telecomminications:

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