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NEW DELHI : Hiring for tech roles in the telecom sector is gaining pace as telcos prepare to launch 5G services for consumers and enterprises.

Network engineers, software developers, cloud specialists, data analysts and test engineers are in high demand to support 5G deployment, said Sekhar Garisa, chief executive of Monster India.

According to Monster Employment Index for July, published on 8 August, hiring in the telecom sector has grown by up to 15% from a year earlier. Garisa said that 78% of the job postings in the telecom sector in July were for the above-mentioned roles.

India’s telecom sector currently employs close to six million people. According to industry estimates, there is a significant demand-supply gap in the market for such skills.

Deval Singh, vice-president and business head at TeamLease Services Ltd, estimated the gap at 28% currently.

Another specialist staffing firm, NLB Services, is expecting almost 40-45% growth in job opportunities in this sector in FY23. Sachin Alug, CEO of NLB Services, said demand for mid-level employees, including those with 4-8 years of experience and strong tech skills, is higher.

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“There are a lot of emerging opportunities in network upgradation and migration, private 5G for enterprises, IoT, augmented reality, virtual reality, network infrastructure, and network security," he said.

A telecom executive, said requesting anonymity, that network engineers and other tech-related roles are required by telcos to help re-configure networks for deploying 5G. This is because, in the beginning, telcos will use a lot of the existing 4G infrastructure in their 5G networks, taking advantage of the new technology’s backward compatibility.

“In non-standalone (NSA) format, the RAN (radio access network) part upgrades to 5G, while the core remains LTE, whereas in standalone (SA), both RAN and core need to be upgraded for 5G," said Charu Paliwal, telecom analyst at Counterpoint Research. She said that hiring would grow as OpenRAN comes into the fray.

OpenRAN is a relatively newer technology, which allows telcos to depend more on software, and use equipment from multiple vendors to deploy their networks. Globally, companies like Dish Network of the US and Japan’s Rakuten Mobile are banking on this technology, as is India’s Reliance Jio, among others.

The technology will also allow telcos to deploy more artificial intelligence (AI) systems within a telecom network, especially for maintenance.

Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing are other use-cases for which skilled tech employees will be needed.

"It is easier to deploy private networks, but when it comes to macro level public networks, deploying Open RAN at mass level can be difficult. Since it is a new concept, you will need skilled people like network engineers and architects," Paliwal said.

Paliwal also said that with the emergence of advanced use cases like private networks, network slicing and more would need skilled manpower. Network slicing, for instance, is a method through which telcos can use software to create multiple virtualized networks on top of the same physical infrastructure.

“After the rollout of 5G, both tech and telecom companies will hire engineers to develop 5G use cases, such as network management, testing, and software development," said Priyanka Anand, vice-president and head of human resources, South East Asia, Oceania & India at Ericsson. Ericsson has stepped up upskilling programmes to fill tech roles after 5G rollouts. The company has set up a 5G Academy for employee upskilling for 5G tech.

TeamLease’s Singh noted that associated segments would also require additional tech roles. This includes telecom equipment and infra players, mobile virtual network operators and more.Singh added that the approval of the production-linked incentive scheme in telecom would spur hiring, too, as firms ramp up manufacturing here.

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