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WIRELESS JOB GROWTH RATE ON STRAIGHT UPHILL CLIMB

NEW YORK-Last year, companies involved in various aspects of wireless communications generated 16,000 new jobs in the United States at all levels, and that number is expected to grow by an additional 20,000 this year, according to Christian & Timbers Inc.

The wireless-related businesses affected include carriers, equipment manufacturers, semiconductors and outsourced systems, including billing and systems integration.

“No doubt, there is a happy story to tell here,” said Steve Mader, managing director of the Boston area office for Christian & Timbers of Burlington, Mass. “The growth is going straight up.”

Christian & Timbers is an executive search firm that specializes in communications/telecommunications and computers/information services. It is retained by companies on a confidential basis and paid in advance to recruit incoming top managers at the chief executive officer, vice president and board of directors level. Typical core sampling techniques in the employee recruitment business assume a 20: 1 ratio between the number of lower-tier jobs created for each new top-level post created, Mader said.

Last year, about 800 top-executive-level jobs were newly created, either as additional positions at existing companies or as first-time top-management posts at entities making the transition to a full-fledged company from venture-capitalized firm. This year, it is anticipated that an additional 1,000 new top-executive positions will be created.

“The only place we see consolidation is on the carrier end; but when they do-like Arch Communications-they consolidate financially, with a centralized overhead, back-shop and billing operations,” he said. “But when you look at the markets it serves, Arch has a management team at each location, although the local managers are not designing or running the systems.”

Wireless communications companies are outsourcing “most dramatically” systems integration, a sector in which there is significant growth, he said. Outsourced customer billing is another strong growth area.

Based on lengthy and detailed interviews with 550 different executives, Christian & Timbers identified four key trends, Mader said.

“Wireless developed as a voice transmissions technology, but it is moving into data. It is interesting to see the data communications providers worrying about getting left out if they’re not in wireless.

“The equipment makers themselves, like Motorola [Inc.], Nokia [Corp.] and [L.M.] Ericsson, are hurrying to get out end-user products, the voice-data phones.

“The carriers, which are hurrying to meet FCC license requirements, are putting pressure on equipment providers for infrastructure.

“The semiconductor field-Application Specific Integrated Circuits-is a huge growth market. But it is also strictly a market-share business because wafer fabrication is really expensive, so you won’t make money if you’re third or fourth. If you have wafer manufacturing capability, you must make a run for it. In the end, ASICs end up driving the whole [wireless] industry because the specific applications reside in the chip,” Mader said.

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