The telecommunications(telecoms) industry is the communication by phone, radio, internet and the business connected with it.

You are able to read this article thanks to the infrastructure that has been built by the telecoms industry.

In this brief article, we’re going to explain how the telecoms industry operates, the key players, and how you can increase your chance of starting a telecoms career. This article will focus on the UK telecoms industry.

The UK Telecoms Industry

Tracing its roots back to 1846 with the formation of the Electric Telegraph Company(ETC) – the world’s first public telegraph company, the British telecoms industry has seen many companies, both public and private, come and go in the 120 year history.

With the invention of the telephone in 1876, the telecoms industry reached its second historical moment as the need for telephone infrastructure was crucial across the country. To fulfil this need, the National Telephone Company(NTC) was formed.

National Telephone Company Building – Birmingham,UK

As the NTC continued to grow the UK infrastructure, a monopoly had formed and in the early 20th Century, the progressive Liberal government nationalised the telephone companies under the 1911 Telephone Transfer Act. This act saw the telephone industry be taken over by the General Post Office(GPO), the precursor to the modern Post Office.

In 1969, the Post Office Telecommunications, a division of the nationalised Post Office was formed to focus solely on the expansion and improvement of the UK telecoms services. 

The modern telecoms industry began to take shape in the early 1980’s with the passing of the British Telecommunications Act(1981), when the new Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher decided that the British telecoms industry should be fully separated from the Postal Office.

Thus, the most famous name in telecoms was born – British Telecoms or more commonly known as BT.

As a key component of Thatcherism, the Conservative government believed in privatising key national industries in a push for more free market economic policies.

This meant that BT was to become a public limited company(PLC) and the shares would be sold to the public. On 6 August 1984, BT was officially incorporated as a PLC and was no longer a nationalised industry. 

BT continued to be the biggest player in British telecoms and had significant control on the UK industry as a whole.

In 2005, a few years after the formation of government regulators Ofcom; BT Group agreed to create a separate division which would focus on providing equal access to BT’s network. 

Ofcom argued that BT had too much control on the telecoms network and they were not giving fair access to other telecoms businesses that wished to provide services to customers. 

This meant the introduction of Openreach.

What is Openreach?

Openreach is a separate division of BT Group PLC and is now the most influential piece of the British telecoms industry as it maintains, expands and operates the network for 665 Communication Providers.

Some of the most recognisable providers use the Openreach network for their services; these include Sky, BT and TalkTalk.

Openreach’s job is to make sure that these providers have equal access to the network, in order to create a competitive market for the customers.

Does Virgin Media use Openreach?

No, Virgin Media has their own cables and network that operates their telecommunications services. 

Virgin Media was formed in 2005 after the merger of NTL and Telewest into NTL:Telewest. A year later, the company purchased Virgin Mobile UK and licensed the Virgin brand name for their telecoms services, thus becoming Virgin Media.

As Virgin Media do not operate on the Openreach network, they do not reach as many households/areas as other providers and are currently only available in around 52% of UK homes.

This is set to change as Virgin has been working hard on their network expansion, with thousands of new homes each week. 

How to start a career in the Telecoms industry.

Now we understand how the industry operates, let’s talk about how you can start your own exciting career in telecoms.

For the purposes of this article we will be focusing specifically on becoming a Telecom Engineer, but there are many other potential avenues into the industry.

Message us for more information.

How to become a Telecoms engineer.

There are two paths towards becoming a Telecoms engineer, depending on your previous work experience. 

  1. Apply directly to trainee engineer roles
  2. Gain accreditations in Telecoms to compliment your current skills.

Applying directly to trainee engineer roles

For those who have no experience in a related field to telecoms engineering, then you need to apply directly to the trainee engineers roles offered by the companies.

The courses offered by the companies are perfect for beginners as they will guide you through every step of the way and train you up to their required standard of engineers.

Gain accreditations in Telecoms to compliment your current skills. 

This approach is best suited for individuals that have previous experience in related fields and wish to transition into Telecoms. 

Here is an example.

Chris is 33 and has 10 years experience of being an electrician but thinks it’s time to move into another field. Due to the close relationship between electrical work and telecoms work, Chris would only need to gain a few accreditations to become a qualified Telecoms engineer. 

After looking through several potential roles, he realises he needs to gain his N23 and N26 accreditations to be considered for the position.

Thankfully, there are many training centres up and down the country that will allow Chris to earn the required accreditations for the role.

Once he  has completed the required course – typical accreditation course is <1 week – Chris would be ready to start applying for the available jobs.

Note: There are dozens of accreditations related to Telecoms so please make sure you’re completing the right course for your job. 

Here at Fastnet, we are partnered with all the top training centres and we can help you gain all of the required accreditations you need at a reduced rate. 

Please contact us for more information. 


With a long and rich 180 year history in the UK, the telecoms industry continues to play a pivotal role in the way we live.  As the world becomes more interconnected with an increased reliance on digital tools, the influence of telecoms looks set to grow even more.