Talk of labor shortages has almost hit the same volume as reports about 5G rollout plans. The current pools engineering and technician labor, it seems, is already being outstripped by the demands to densify the wireless and fiber network. Roaming Networks, a Serbian ICT system integrator that provides consulting, design, implementation, integration and maintenance services in the fields of radio and microwave access networks, passive optical networks, transport and access systems, IT infrastructure and data centers, security solutions and IP networks and infrastructure, has set up shop in the United States and it aims to help.
Five years ago, when new management took over Roaming Networks in Belgrade, Serbia, the decision was made to expand the business into new markets, as well as to broaden the portfolio of services. Since then, it has expanded into Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Austria and Germany. And most recently Roaming Network expanded into the United States with a partnership and then purchase of Orchard Electric in Chicago. Today, it has more than 500 employees in six countries.
Until April, the company worked under the name Orchard Electric, but now it is operating under the name Roaming Networks. It has three crews working on AT&T/FirstNet sites in Indiana partnering with a general contractor that is tied to a turf vendor.
Fred Teichman, who has worked for Fullerton Engineering, LEMCON USA and American Tower, joined Roaming Networks nine months ago to put crews together and assist them in understanding the telecom services space in the United States. And through the visa process, they began to bring their workforce over to America.
“We are not stealing workforce from our competitors. We are bringing over a trained workforce from Serbia,” Teichman said. In Serbia, Roaming Networks has developed a workforce through relationships with technical high schools and universities and developed their own program called “Engineer of the Future.”
The initial tower technicians were American and included employees from Orchard Electric. “We do need a U.S. workforce to mentor the Serbians on safety requirements, the scope of work, and close out procedures,” Teichman said. For training in the United States, Roaming Networks uses eSystem Training Solutions, a local CITCA and the general contractor.
It is a long and costly process to bring foreign specialized workers to America. Several different visa types are available and they all are issued for one to three years. If an employee obtains green card they can stay up to 10 years. No matter what engineering skills the Serbs have, they are also certified tower climbers.
“The shortage in tower technicians provides fuel for us to convince the government officials in charge of the visa process that the need for these workers is there,” Teichman. “Because there is so much demand right now, it supports the fact that we need a workforce to come over, which improves the visa process.”
Roaming Networks now provides site acquisition, construction, integration and engineering, with global agreements with Ericsson and Nokia. And tower building has been added to the young company’s objectives. Bidding on a raw-land build is occurring right now.
“We are also working with six different engineering companies,” Teichman said. “We use a hybrid approach, providing a certified climber and a drone operator. Drones are phenomenal tool to be able to catch the visual aspects, and we never fear they will replace climbers.”
A multicultural Experience
Teichman now works with a number of foreign nationals with names like: Dagan Dordev from Belgrade; Vladan Kedic from Obrenovac; Milos Maksimovice from Prizren. It has exposed him to a new, different culture.
“The best part has been meeting the people. It has been exciting and overwhelming at times,” Teichman said. “I am blessed to work with people who are humble and hardworking and just want to get things done.”
Even though there is some language barrier, Teichman said he feels comfortable and has blended well with them. Google Translate is now his favorite app on his smart phone. “In a very short period of time I have developed a high level of trust in them,” he said. “It has been lot of fun getting to know each other. There is a learning curve to understand the culture differences.”