I'm an Ex BT telephone engineer, pre Openreach, and spent many years installing and repairing telephone lines in the Southampton and Eastleigh areas, after training. Working as a BT engineer taught me a lot about the telephone network in general as well as installing drop wires, internal cables and telephone sockets for customers.

I started working for British Telecom (BT) back in the early 90s after a friend, who was already a BT engineer, mentioned that they were looking for adult staff. After successfully passing the interview and practical test, I started my BT engineering training which included going to a centre at Shirehampton near Bristol for a BT pole climbing course. Climbing telegraph poles can be dangerous so it's good to get the proper training.

After my initial training I joined an 'uplift' group which was formed to carry out preventitive maintenance of the overhead BT cable network. A lot of the drop wires in a particular area were becoming quite corroded and the DPs (distribution points) at the top of the telegraph poles were in need of replacement. We would replace the corroded drop wires with a newer cable known as drop wire 10 and run the cable directly from the DP into the customer's house. We would also replace any internal cables as needed and fit a new BT telephone socket known as an NTE5.

I certainly enjoyed my time on the BT uplift group but what I really wanted to do was to join the line maintenance team. I'd become quite good at diagnosing and repairing faults with telephones and phone lines so made it quite clear to my manager that this is what I wanted to do.

BT engineer training centre in Staffordshire

I did get sent to the BT training centre near Stone in Staffordshire once or twice. I think that it was near a village called Yarnfield but it's a long time ago now. I also remember there being a pub called the labour In Vain. The pub sign displayed a white couple with a little black boy in a bath tub. Whether they were trying to scrub the black boy white is open to debate but I bet someone has complained about the pub sign being racist.

I didn't have to wait long and was soon teamed up with a local BT engineer, he picked me up from the local telephone exchange and we went off repairing phones and phone lines. Once the manager was happy that I was sufficiently trained I was given my own yellow BT van and I was sent off on my own.

Working on the British Telecom (BT) phone network

Now that I was a fully trained BT engineer I started to get a good working knowledge of the telephone network in Southampton and Eastleigh, although I only dealt with the overhead and internal side of the network.

I became quite used to climbing telegraph poles and changing drop wires when necessary as well as carrying out internal cable repairs or rewires. If I found that I didn't have dial tone at the DP (distribution point) on the telegraph pole or the connection point on the wall of some one's house then I could pass the job back to the underground network engineers to repair.

After I'd been at BT for a few years they decided that all of the telephone engineers were going to become multi-skilled. By this I mean that we were all going to be trained to do each others work.

BT sent us on various training courses and we learnt how to install new telephone lines and also how to work on the underground (UG) side of the phone network. I really enjoyed my time as a BT engineer and repairing faulty telephone lines for customers.

Openreach

Openreach was formed in 2006, after I'd left BT, and they are the people who install and maintain the phone lines for customers that use the BT telephone network. If you're having a new telephone line installed, or have reported a fault on your line that requires and engineering visit, then it's likely that an Openreach engineer will be contacting you.

Independent Ex BT / Ex Openreach Telephone Engineers

I've noticed quite a few former BT and Openreach engineers who have started up their own independent telecoms businesses. I assume they will be great for dealing with internal wiring problems, moving telephone sockets and adding new extensions. I'm sure they'll even move your master BT socket for you although they're not really supposed to do so.

They may also be able to repair noisy lines and slow Broadband problems if the faults are internal.

Many independent telephone engineers are also likely in to install ethernet networking cables and sockets so that you can have hardwired broadband in rooms away from a network switch or your router. It was known as cat5 and cat6 cabling in my day but I'm sure it's a higher number now :)