Wireless Communications Technician

Chmn: Mike Powers, Michigan Tech University [email protected]

WCT 2005

Listed below are the major categories, Items and Competencies descriptions of knowledge and skills required for workers in the field of wireless radio - RF communications. This list is the final step by NCEE in outlining a course of study for educational institutions and for potential examinees seeking to become RF wireless and 2-way radio communications technicians. NCEE approved these competencies on September 25th, 2003. Re-approval took place August 12th, 2004


NCEE seeks comments and suggestions, especially adding competencies aimed at new technology in this field. Also, working technicians, service department managers, product makers and educators are encouraged to review the listing and join in the efforts to present the most practical course outline possible for educators. NCEE seeks individuals from organizations concerned with electronics education to serve on this specialty committee during the 2004/2005 year. Send your comments or agreement to participate as a WCM (WCT) committee member to: [email protected].




The following is a listing of each topic considered necessary to be included in a course of study directed towards the education of workers performing installation, maintenance and repair of mobile and fixed radio communications systems.  There are 26 general categories of training.  This COMPETENCY listing is the syllabus, or identification of each individual subject, in which the technician must be knowledgeable and skilled.


Technicians seeking the ETA, USMSS or ISCET Certified Electronics Technician specialty are required to also have a basic education in fundamental electronics.  That basic knowledge is assessed in the Associate CET examination.  The Associate CET exam, plus the WCM or USMSS wireless communications specialty examination go together to form the complete journeyman CET exam.



1.0          RADIO THEORY

1.1                Describe electromagnetic transmission and reception theory

1.2                List common radio frequency bands

1.3                Draw a basic block diagram of a radio transmitter and a receiver

1.4                Define bandwidth and describe common radio and TV channel limits

1.5                List the functions of receiver stages

1.6                Describe frequency tuning or channel switching methods

1.7                Explain the function of different types of amplifiers

1.8                Name ten major events or personalities in radio history



2.1                Identify the components below, their symbols and usages:

2.1.1            Microphones & speakers

2.1.2            Rheostats & potentiometers

2.1.3            L R & C

2.1.4            Batteries

2.1.5            Transistors

2.1.6            Integrated Circuits

2.1.7            Special IC circuits

2.1.8            Relays and thyristor switches

2.1.9            Motors and generators

2.1.10         Fuses & circuit breakers

2.1.11         Power supply components

2.2                Describe common types of electronic displays



3.1                Describe basic AC and DC radio power supplies

3.2                Draw a basic audio amplifier circuit

3.3                Identify and explain the purposes of RF and IF stages

3.4                Compare AM and FM audio detectors

3.5                Explain AVC (automatic volume control) and AGC (automatic gain control) circuits and their operation

3.6                Name the major segments of a transmitter carrier generation circuit

3.7                Explain how various modulators are used in transmitters

3.8                 Explain what each of the components of a transmitter power output circuits do

3.9                Draw the circuit for an operational amplifier and explain its operation

3.10                Define gain and explain how it is measured

3.11                Define bi-directional amplifier and explain where they are used

3.12                Explain the purpose and concept of PLL (phase locked loop) & VCO
       (controlled oscillator) circuits


4.0                ANTENNAS AND TOWERS

4.1                Explain wave propagation and its relative speed in air or cabling

4.2                Describe reception theory and mobile antennas

4.3                Draw polar patterns for different types of antennas

4.4                Define antenna gain and explain why it is important

4.5                Draw the circuits for antenna combining networks

4.6                Explain how diplexers and duplexers are used

4.7                Define cavities, circulators and isolators and show where they are used

4.8                Explain the purpose and methods of grounding communications products

4.9                Explain lightning protection devices

4.10              Describe base station antennas

4.11              Define receiver multi-coupling

4.12              List radio tower components and installation practices

4.13              Explain tower safety and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Agency) contractor regulations


5.0                CABLING & CONNECTORS

5.1                Describe coaxial cable characteristics

5.2                 Properly install coaxial connectors, jacks, plugs, explaining crimping and preping

5.3                Explain cable routing - bend ratios - pulling tension and building cabling regulations

5.4                Explain the purpose of NEC (National Electric Code) Art 770

5.5                Compare proper and improper impedance matching principles

5.6                Define ground loop and name common causes and effects

5.7                Define balanced/unbalanced pairs

5.8                Explain line loss for different types of cabling

5.9                Explain the importance of proper cable termination

5.10                Explain the principles used in Frequency Domain Reflectometry

5.11                Compare Time Domain Reflectometry with FDR

5.12                Identify N, UHF, Mini UHF, BNC, TNC, SMA, 7/16 DIN fittings

5.13                List common color codes for telephone wiring.



6.1                Identify diagram symbols used in communications radio service

6.2                Trace power and signal paths in a radio receiver and transmitter

6.3                Describe the purpose and locate schematic test points

6.4                Estimate normal signals and voltages expected at schematic locations

6.5                 Describe the purpose of flow charts



7.1                Explain and demonstrate the proper usage of basic hand tools

7.2                 Describe and demonstrate the proper usage of soldering irons and aids

7.3                Explain how de-soldering equipment and aids are used

7.4                Define flux and explain its purposes

7.5                Define cold - defective solder joints and list reasons they occur

7.6                Describe methods of replacing surface mount components

7.7                Describe wire wrap replacement precautions

7.8                List proper equipment care routines

7.9                Explain how hot air bonding equipment is used


8.0          SAFETY

8.1                Define ESD (Electrostatic Discharge)

8.2                List safety precautions when handling fiber optics cabling

8.3                List hazards potential when using power tools

8.4                Define First Aid and explain precautions uncertified people should abide by

8.5                List fire potentials in electronics technician work environments

8.6                List electrical shock potential peculiar to electronics workers

8.7                Describe transmitter RF (Radio Frequency) exposure hazards

8.8                Describe ground faults and devices to preclude shock hazards

8.9                List Beryllium hazards

8.10                Explain ladder precautions and lifts dangers



9.1                Describe antenna grounding conventions

9.2                 Name NEC lightning protection rules articles

9.3                List ground fault protection devices

9.4                Define grounding blocks and show how rods and proper wire sizes are used

9.5                Explain how equipment protection is enhanced with the use of MOVs


10.0                MATHEMATICS AND FORMULAS

10.1                Convert dB (decibel) readings to dBmV and microvolt levels

10.2                Explain and compare dBi, dBm, dBw, dBd terminology

10.3                Demonstrate proper use for scientific calculators

10.4                List numbering systems commonly used in technician work

10.5                Convert frequency to wavelength and vice-versa


11.0                INTERFACING

11.1                List expected signal levels into or out of interconnected products used in radio work

11.2                Define impedance matching and explain impedance mismatch

11.3                Identify common connectors used in two-way radio work

11.4                Explain signal conflict and list detrimental effects


12.0                DIGITAL CIRCUITS

12.1                Draw the symbols for digital gates and their truth tables

12.2                Compare common memory devices used in radio communications

12.3                Explain how tuning is accomplished in radio receivers and transmitters

12.4                Describe how microprocessor controls are used in radio

12.5                Compare RAM - PROM - EEPROM - ROM

12.6                Describe how DACs (Digital to Analog Converters) and ADCs are used

12.7                Define modems and explain its purposes


13.0                COMPUTER APPLICATIONS

13.1                Demonstrate the ability to use:

13.1.1           Word processors

13.1.2           Data bases

13.1.3           Spread sheets

13.1.4           Internet

13.1.5           Parts procurement services

13.1.6           Virus eradication systems

13.1.7           Diagnostic programs

13.1.8           Utility programs

13.1.9           Laptop with Com port, null modem, terminal software


14.0                MOBILE SYSTEMS

14.1                Describe base simplex operation

14.2                Explain how mobile relay - simplex/duplex works

14.3                Compare remote control and manual control systems

14.4                Define RF link and explain its purpose

14.5                Explain paging systems communications

14.6                Describe trunking  (single/multi-site)

14.7                Compare conventional single and multi-site communications systems

14.8                Define simulcast systems and list their purposes

14.9                Define satellite voting systems and show how they are used

14.10                Compare wireless data systems with two-way voice communications

14.11                Define CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System) and describe its operation

14.12                Define and list how Digital Coded Squelch (DCS) is used

14.13                Explain the differences between point-to-point and point-to-multipoint transmissions



15.1                Explain the applications pertaining to two-way radio for the following:

15.1.1         Satellite

15.1.2         GPS (Global Positioning System)

15.1.3         High speed telephone

15.1.4         Telecommunications

15.2                List potential interference to or from 15.1 items


16.0        FCC - FAA - OSHA - NEC

16.1                List the general topics contained in CFR 47 Part 15 (CFR is Code of Federal Regulations)

16.2                Explain basic FCC (Federal Communications Commission) rules pertaining to two-way communications

16.3                List FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) rules pertaining to communications systems

16.4                List OSHA safety rules for contractors and workers at heights

16.5                List NEC (National Electric Code) provisions applicable to radio, antenna, cabling workers

16.6                List licenses required for radio stations and technicians



17.1                List common RF transmission band assignments or allotments

17.2                List competing services encountered by radio workers


18.0        TEST EQUIPMENT

18.1                Explain the functions of a Communications Service Analyzer

18.2                Describe how the TDR (Time Domain Reflectometer), OTDR and FDR are used

18.3                Define SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) and show how SWR and watt meters are used

18.4                Compare S/N and C/N

18.5                Demonstrate how dummy loads - DMMs (Digital Multimeters), logic probes, pulsers, and signal generators are used

18.6                Explain SINAD/AC voltmeter/distortion analyzers and audio generators usage

18.7                Demonstrate how spectrum analyzers are used

18.8                 Identify common RF test cables and converters used in 2-way communications

18.9                Describe how variable power supplies are used in service technician work



19.1                Describe techniques for localizing circuitry defects in communications equipment

19.2                Demonstrate how to use block diagrams and test points

19.3                Explain how to perform power measurements

19.4                Explain how to use heat or cold to locate intermittent circuitry problems

19.5                Compare PC board and surface mount component replacement techniques

19.6                Demonstrate how to use frequency measurement equipment

19.7                Define overdrive and explain its causes and effects


20.0                BUSINESS RADIO NETWORKS       

20.1                Demonstrate proficiency in operational characteristics of 2-way radio communications systems

20.2                List technical characteristics of working communications systems

20.3                Explain programming characteristics of system receivers and transmitters


21.0                INTERNET APPLICATIONS

21.1                Demonstrate parts, literature and product information/ordering via Internet

21.2                Access troubleshooting and diagnostics software


22.0                MODULATIONS SCHEMES

22.1                Describe AM (Amplitude Modulation) methods and limits

22.2                Describe FM (Frequency Modulation) methods and deviation limits

22.3                Explain the principles and advantages of single sideband - SSB (Single Side Band)

22.4                Define TDMA (Time Domain Multiple Access) and describe the concept

22.5                Compare CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) with TDMA and FDMA modulation schemes

22.6                Compare FDMA with TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and CDMA

22.7                Define and describe QPSK (Quadrature Phase Shift Keying)


23.0                CONTROL SYSTEMS

23.1                Describe how tone control-systems operate

23.2                 Define SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) and explain its purpose

23.3                 Explain how remote control-operation is accomplished


24.0                WORKPLACE PRACTICES

24.1                Explain work area environment concerns for technicians

24.2                Explain RF monitoring and its purpose

24.3                Explain billing procedures for repairs and important factors

24.4                Perform productivity calculations for yourself and the total shop


25.0        LINE SWEEPING

25.1              Explain the purpose & theory of line sweeping

25.2              Describe the functions of BIRD and ANRITSU brand test equipment used in line sweeping head-end sites

25.3              Explain proper documentation in transmission sites



26.1              Define de-sense and explain the causes

26.2              List reasons for spurious emissions

26.3              Explain Site compatibility and reasons for site incompatibility

26.4              Describe co and adjacent-channel interference

26.5              List interference detection methods

26.6              Define inter-modulation and list causes


This competencies listing is compiled to serve two purposes:

1.  To provide educational institutions with the material they need to construct a study outline for any course of instruction in wireless communications.

2.  To provide a guide for those studying to sit for the ETA, USMSS, ISCET or other exams for this specialty.


Project Manager 2005, Mike Powers, Michigan Technological University, [email protected]
Project Manager 2004, Mike Powers, Michigan Technological University,
[email protected]

Project Managers 2003, RLG - ETA - USMSS, [email protected]


Recommended Course Addendum:


Please send suggested edits or proposed changes in content to:  [email protected].