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Hear from one of our spectrum colleagues for British Science Week

Published: 23 March 2022
Last updated: 16 March 2023

This week is British Science Week – an event aimed at celebrating the worlds of science, technology, engineering and maths.

A lot of Ofcom’s work takes place in these fields, and we have a diverse range of colleagues who help to carry out important work using their backgrounds and skills in science and technology.

This week we want to shine a light on one of our team who works in one of these roles. Janelle Jones is one of our spectrum planners in the programme-making and special events (PMSE) team. The team helps to make sure some of the UK’s biggest sporting and cultural events go smoothly, by attending venues before and during these events, making sure equipment such as wireless microphones, cameras, in-ear monitors and walkie-talkies work smoothly.

Let’s hear a bit more from Janelle about her background and the role she currently carries out.

What’s your career background?

I was born and raised in a very small town in California. Fresh out of high school I worked for the Secretary of State’s office, while simultaneously working on my Bachelors Degree in Liberal Studies. Then, I received my teaching credential and went on to work at a public charter school before packing up my life to move to the UK.

What brought you to Ofcom?

When I turned 26, I got married, and somehow, we got a wacky idea to move to London (where my husband was born and raised). We thought we’d just be here a year, so I didn’t spend much time working on transferring my teaching qualifications to the UK and instead picked up a temporary position in the Spectrum Licensing team with Ofcom.

Working in this team opened my eyes to an entire realm of work I didn’t even know existed. Before I knew it, I’d been living in the UK for six years and worked my way up the ladder into a permanent and important role in the programme-making and special events team at Ofcom.

What does your job involve?

Imagine yourself at a festival. You arrive, and walk through the gates, the ticket and security team check you in and check your baggage. You notice they have a small device in their ears - a comms system allowing them to hear instructions from their director about anything they need to be aware of on their shift. You guide yourself through the festival ground and find yourself at an empty stage, show about to begin! A few wireless microphones, a few guitar microphones and musical equipment litter the stage.

As your favourite band walks out, you see on the big projectors light up, highlighting the lead singer. They have a microphone attached to their face and an in-ear monitor in their ear. You notice the show is being broadcast live to audiences all over the world. You catch a quick glimpse of a camera man with a wireless camera sweep across the stage getting close ups of the band members. You see the LED screens light up with drone shots of the audience. Instead of all this equipment transmitting the sound or vision signal through a cable, we now live in a world where these services have been made wireless.

This wireless equipment that makes these amazing events take shape operate on carefully chosen airwave frequencies. My job is all about gathering the requirements of all the wonderful and talented suppliers and broadcasters who cover these events, and plan and coordinate the spectrum so all of that equipment can be used in operation simultaneously and in harmony.

Photo of Janelle using the spectrum analyser.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

PMSE is a small team of roughly nine people, five of whom plan and coordinate the frequency spectrum for every single event that uses wireless equipment (such as wireless microphones, in-ear monitors, wireless cameras, audio links, talkback) for the entirety of the UK – which as you can imagine is quite a large task. I enjoy seeing the final result of all the hard work that’s involved with planning large scale events and know that my team was instrumental in making that event come to life.

What’s the best thing about working for Ofcom?

The people! I think this is probably a very common answer among my colleagues when asked this question, but it’s undoubtably the best thing. You get to collaborate with so many sectors of the organisation, so you’re constantly meeting passionate, energetic, and interesting people in your day to day. I can honestly say I think my PMSE team feels like a second family.

What do you think the future holds for the sectors we regulate?

Just in the few years I’ve been in this role, I’ve seen a large shift in the demand for our spectrum. As services like 5G and broadband become more desirable and necessary to live daily life – I mean you can barely even order from a restaurant anymore without scanning a code and using Wi-Fi services to order your food. With the shift in demand, we’ve seen the PMSE sector lose spectrum/need to shift our spectrum to other frequency bands. With this shift, I think it will be paramount to focus on how we can use the spectrum more effectively and share the spectrum with other technologies.

Finally, what would you say to encourage women to pursue a career like yours?

Spectrum historically has been a male-dominated profession. I think I’m a prime example that you don’t have to have a background in radio engineering to work in the radio world. People have so much knowledge and enthusiasm within the industry and I’ve found myself, in just six years, connected to a network of people who love to share with anyone what they do.

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