Tech Book Review: Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers by Eric Coll


Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers by Eric Coll is the official textbook for the Teracom Certified Telecommunications Network Specialist (CTNS) course. To be more accurate, the book has roughly 85% of the text found on the CTNS course. The illustrations, diagrams and examples in the course are all in the book and it's not an exaggeration to say that you can pretty much accomplish the whole CTNS course with the book in hand.
 

Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers is a high-level and basic overview of telecommunication technologies. There is a little theory and absolutely no math involved, which makes it perfect for technical writers and IT employees who work more on the physical side of the telecommunications industry. Moreover, the author uses plenty of interesting background stories such as that pesky 2G and 3G standards controversy, AT&T's dominance and the problems related to ATM. Eric Coll doesn't make the mistake of straying far from real-world telecommunications in his writing. Discussing the OSI layer in a telecommunications book is pretty risky since the framework has changed drastically over the years. If you aren't working in the telco industry, you'd probably disagree with his explanation. However, if you read the text and keep in mind that the book is written for workers in the telecommunications industry and not the software/hardware industry then you will see the logic of his approach.
 
The online CTNS course mirrors all the text of the book.

The book is easy to read and some sections would be familiar to ex-AT&T employees who have worked onsite or in the backend of networks. Once you reach the chapter on frames, MPLS and carrier networks, the descriptions become repetitive but only because the changes in data communications changed gradually (hardware names and processes) but the obvious elements remained consistent. Contrary to what Internet tech news sites report, technology and standards don't change overnight, but happens over a long period of time - consumers only see the surface of what changes occur in any service or product.

Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers is a great reference book even though much of the later chapters may not actually describe the status of telecommunications today. In fact, the book's strength is its ability to describe previous standards and older implementations in the industry. Since it's for "non-engineers" it's a very high-level overview and never goes too deep for a casual reader to understand. Teracom Training, the company behind the book, has been around for awhile and having completed their CTNS course, I can testify they may be a bit behind in some sections of the course. Nevertheless, it's a very friendly book and you won't waste your time if you go through it.

Kindle release

Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers by Eric Coll is overpriced at $49.99 from the Kindle Store. The textbook, on the other hand, is at $122.96 for 362 pages from Amazon. Considering that there are plenty of books on telecommunications that give more bang for your buck, Teracom should considering cutting the price, particularly the ebook version.
 
Take note that the Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers doesn't open on the Kindle app for Windows Phone 8.1 and the table of contents won't display in the Kindle app for Windows 10 devices. You navigate using locations, which isn't ideal. Thankfully, the ebook works fine on iOS and Android devices.  The ebook is published by the Teracom Training Institute and also available from Google Play Books and iBooks.

Alternatives

Telecom, Datacom and Networking for Non-Engineers focuses on real-world telecommunications without the math and sciences behind it. For a heavier and far more technical reference, try Fundamentals of Telecommunications by Roger L. Freeman or Introduction to Telecommunications Network Engineering with Tarmo Anttalainen. Both books are immersive, comprehensive and rewarding for those with a background in higher math and physics, while giving an overview of the practical implementation of the theories.

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