A Telecommunications Noob’s First Few Months in the Industry

Written by Elliott Radford

When I started in my role at Techland back in June of 2022, I was a self-diagnosed telecommunications noob. I’ve picked up a lot over the last few months and was encouraged to write about my experiences, so here it is! My current, very limited, understanding of Telecommunications by Elliott Radford.

While working in the Warehouse for Pragma, a PBX to me was “that irritating little black box that always needs updating before sending it out”, but I now know it to be “that integral little black box for customers to manage their own calls to the PSTN”. However, what the PBX really is was the gateway to what I’ve come to refer to as ‘Acronym Hell’ – or just the Telecommunications Industry to someone who isn’t as dramatic as myself. 

The first few weeks of a new role are always unusual. You’re not yet practised enough to take on any of your new responsibilities solo but also can’t fill every moment with training. In the moments between training, I sought out YouTube videos on Entry level Introductions to Telecoms and ended up down quite the rabbit hole. Spoiler Alert: There aren’t many videos out there for people with absolutely zero experience in telecoms! 

I would start by searching ‘What is a PBX’ and begin watching the video while making notes. The explainer would say, “Well, you’ve got the PSTN”, at which point I would have to pause the video and search for a new video “What is the PSTN”. A few minutes into that video, it was paused, and I was searching “What is ISDN” … quickly I asked colleagues for some of their time to give me a real bare-bones introduction to all of this new terminology which was massively helpful. Big shoutout to Gareth Nunn and Tom Wiles for taking the time to go through this at a true entry level. 

One of Techland’s many areas of expertise is SBC (Session Border Controllers), so I was keen on understanding more about these. I now understand these to be an amazing Swiss Army Knife type of kit that sits on the border of a network performing tasks such as protecting the internal network from malicious DDOS intrusion but also ‘translating’ the SIP language of hundreds of the worlds PSTN’s preventing a PBX from having to certify itself against all of these. 

This reminded me of a fictional creature from one of my favourite books, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, called the ‘Babel fish’ (Picture above). When placed inside someone’s ear- this creature translates any language, instantly allowing the user to understand anything it hears. It’s the kind of thing Duolingo shareholders wake up in cold sweats from nightmares about, only to be lovingly reassured by their partner, “Don’t worry darling, the Babel fish isn’t real”. 

In a way, an SBC is a bit like the Babel fish… Both sitting on the border translating for the Person and PBX, preventing them from having to learn hundreds of languages or needing to certify their PBX against all the PSTNs out there. I am pretty proud of this comparison! You could even say that this whole blog post was merely orchestrated for me to be able to publish it online before anyone else does…. 

I’m excited to continue with my dive into the Telecommunications Industry! I’m sure that in a year’s time, my acronym glossary will be bursting at the seams, and the Babel fish analogy will have been adopted internationally as the best way to bring a Telecommunications Noob up to speed on what an SBC can do for a phone system.  

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