Telecommunications Installation and Repair Workers - What They Do

Telecommunications installation and repair workers install, test, maintain and repair telephones, telephone switching equipment and telecommunications equipment related to transmission and processing of voice, video signals and other data over a variety of media including fibre optics, microwave, radio and satellite. They are employed by telephone and other telecommunications transmission services establishments.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

Telephone installers and repairers

  • Install, arrange, remove and maintain telephone equipment, wiring and associated hardware
  • Test installed telephone systems to locate transmission faults
  • Repair or replace defective and damaged telephones, wire and associated equipment.

Switch network installers and repairers

  • Install electromechanical, analog and digital trunking systems, circuits and equipment in telecommunications central offices and switching centres
  • Inspect and test trunking systems, circuits and equipment
  • Analyze test results and adjust, change or repair switching system, network, associated equipment and software.

Telecommunications service testers

  • Operate computerized testing systems to conduct service tests on customer lines and equipment
  • Determine the nature, cause and location of service trouble
  • Dispatch appropriate repair personnel
  • Complete test reports and maintain test and service records
  • May assist repair personnel to test lines, circuits and systems, isolate and clear cable faults and verify records.

Telecommunications equipment technicians

  • Install, remove and maintain various telecommunications equipment and related systems such as telex and facsimile machines, teletypewriters, mobile radios, cellular telephones, pagers and other telecommunications equipment
  • Configure operating systems and install software for access to the Internet
  • Inspect and test operation of telecommunications equipment
  • Diagnose and locate equipment faults, and adjust, replace or repair telecommunications equipment.

Job titles

  • mobile radio installer
  • private branch exchange (PBX) installer
  • switch network installer and repairer
  • telecommunications equipment technician
  • telephone installer
  • apprentice communication electrician - switching
  • cellular telephone technician
  • telephone communication technician
  • exchange tester - telecommunications
  • line and station installer, telephone
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is required.
  • Telephone and switch network installers and repairers require completion of an apprenticeship program ranging from three to four years or A combination of over three years work experience in the trade and some high school, college or industry related courses.
  • Telecommunications equipment technicians usually require completion of a college electrical and electronics program and several months of on-the-job training or Completion of a three- or four-year apprenticeship training program.
  • Trade certification for communication technicians is available, but voluntary, in Nova Scotia, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
  • Experience as an installer and repairer (telephone and switch network) is usually required for service testers.

Essential Skills


  • Read warnings, instructions and other text passages on product labels, packaging and computer screens, e.g. scan text on labels to learn about electrical hazards. (1)
  • Read short text entries in forms, e.g. read short text entries in work orders and requisition forms to learn about equipment malfunctions and repair particulars. (1)
  • Read short email and memos on a variety of topics from co-workers, supervisors and suppliers, e.g. read memos outlining changes in Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulations and their effect on operations. (2)
  • Skim bulletins from manufacturers alerting technicians to unusual problems and fixes for specific models of equipment, e.g. repair technicians for wireless telecommunications equipment read bulletins presenting special flashing procedures to upgrade Java-enabled cellular telephones. (3)
  • May read warranties for telecommunications equipment, e.g. telephone repairers read warranty clauses to learn the conditions that must be met to justify equipment replacement. (3)
  • Read servicing and repair directions in telecommunication equipment manuals, e.g. communications technicians review manuals for cellular telephone hubs to learn more about installation and configuration of equipment. (3)
  • May read articles in trade publications to remain up to date with new technology and to find new ideas for troubleshooting telecommunications systems, e.g. service technicians for wireless telecommunications equipment read magazine articles to learn tips on how to test and modify logic boards. (3)

Document use

  • Read part and identification labels to obtain names, dates, specifications and other data, e.g. switch network installers read address labels and identification labels on stacks, shelves, drawers, connectors, fuses and telecommunication equipment, such as routers and processors. (1)
  • Locate data in lists and tables, e.g. communications service technicians locate battery specifications, such as composition, strength and expected service life, in parts lists. (2)
  • Locate a variety of data in forms, such as work orders, trouble tickets, service history records, equipment invoices and expense forms, e.g. telephone installers obtain customers' contact information, equipment listings and job instructions on work order forms. (2)
  • Complete forms, such as work orders and expense claims, e.g. enter dates, times, parts used, work completed and other data on work orders and trouble tickets. (2)
  • Identify the order and orientation of parts in assembly drawings, e.g. line technicians use assembly drawings to disassemble components in the correct order. (3)
  • Identify circuits, electrical and electronic devices, polarities, voltages and other data in schematic diagrams of complex telecommunications equipment. (3)
  • May obtain measurements and interpret patterns and anomalies from graphed data, e.g. telecommunications equipment installers extract distance measurements from optical signals produced from optical time domain reflectometer tests. (3)
  • May interpret scale drawings, e.g. telecommunications equipment installers identify router locations, cable runs and access points in construction drawings provided by city planning departments. (3)


  • Write reminder notes and short notes to customers, e.g. line installers write notes to inform customers of missed calls. (1)
  • Write brief notes on forms, e.g. write descriptions of equipment faults and repairs on work orders. (1)
  • Write short email on a variety of topics to co-workers, supervisors, support technicians and suppliers, e.g. mobile radio technicians write to technical support staff requesting information on specific defects in two-way radio systems. (2)
  • May write longer analyses and reports, e.g. telecommunications technicians describe the design and installation of mobile telephone hubs, including equipment specifications, approximate length of time required and problems encountered. (3)


  • May receive payments and make change on invoices to clients. (1)
  • Take a variety of measurements using basic tools, e.g. measure the length of cable using a tape measure. (1)
  • Maintain inventories of parts, supplies and equipment, such as fibre optic cables, routers and switchers. (1)
  • May estimate distances, e.g. telecommunications technicians estimate the distance to the nearest electrical service point when describing equipment room modifications to electricians. (1)
  • May schedule tasks for installation and repair projects on a daily and weekly basis, e.g. telecommunications installers occasionally prepare schedules for longer projects requiring two or three weeks of work. (2)
  • May calculate material quantities needed for installations and repairs, e.g. telecommunications installers calculate quantities of cable required for new equipment installations by adding the dimensions of cable runs shown on construction drawings. (2)
  • Estimate time required to complete installation and repair tasks. They consider the types of operations, the complexity of the equipment involved and past experiences with similar tasks. (2)
  • May calculate invoice amounts and travel expense claims, e.g. communications technicians calculate invoice amounts by charging for labour at hourly shop rates, adding the cost of parts and adding applicable sales taxes. (3)
  • May use specialized measuring tools, such as oscilloscopes, multimeters and spectrum analyzers to take a variety of electrical and optical measurements, e.g. telecommunications equipment technicians who install high-speed data transmission equipment use computerized test sets to measure bandwidth, optical power and optical loss in fibre optic cables. (3)
  • Compare test results to specifications to draw conclusions about equipment, e.g. telephone service technicians test the current draws and signal strengths of cellular telephones and compare them to specifications in order to diagnose faults. (3)

Oral communication

  • Leave messages for clients and co-workers about questions and details pertaining to repair jobs and to inform them about work completed. (1)
  • Speak with customers about products and services provided by their companies. They discuss equipment features and explain promotions, repairs and warranty agreements. (2)
  • Discuss ongoing work with co-workers, suppliers and support technicians, e.g. discuss malfunctioning computer programs with members of the manufacturers' support teams. (2)
  • Report job progress and problems to supervisors and managers, e.g. inform supervisors about installation challenges and discuss possible solutions. (2)
  • Contribute to group discussions with co-workers and supervisors about work processes, ongoing projects and new technologies, products and promotions. (2)
  • May make presentations about new products to customers and co-workers. They highlight operating instructions and equipment specifications. (3)


  • May encounter safety hazards when conducting service calls, e.g. telecommunication line technicians discover stray voltage emanating from utility poles. They call supervisors to send out electrical utility repair crews. (1)
  • Find erroneous and indecipherable information on work orders, e.g. central office technicians detect faulty pin addresses on work orders when testing lines. They inform dispatchers about the errors and wait for new instructions. (1)
  • Face customers dissatisfied and angry about service received. They listen to the complaints and provide explanations. They report these incidents to their managers to improve the quality of information provided to customers by sales staff. (2)
  • Decide to refuse unsafe work because the risk to their safety and the safety of others is too high. (2)
  • Choose diagnostic procedures and tests, e.g. central office technicians decide to send technicians to external locations to check clients' equipment when responding to disruptions in data transmission. (2)
  • Evaluate the safety of work procedures and equipment for specific jobs, e.g. before using ladders to climb poles on city streets, they consider the time of day and pedestrian and automobile traffic. (2)
  • May evaluate the suitability of products, services, features and options for particular customers. They review residential customers' existing telephone and Internet services and compare them to the needs of the customer. (2)
  • Assess the quality and neatness of installations of telecommunications equipment before leaving work sites. They check the equipment for proper labeling, confirm that cables are properly anchored and connections are tight and review test results. They compare completed installations to the drawings and other project documents to ensure equipment has been installed as planned. (2)
  • May judge the performance of assistants and apprentices. They identify important performance criteria, such as punctuality, reliability, interpersonal communication skills and ability to follow instructions. They recall specific behaviours that demonstrate the degree to which assistants and apprentices meet performance expectations. (2)
  • Plan daily job tasks to accommodate the type, quantity and priority of work orders assigned to them. The work is usually repetitive with some variation due to the range of equipment and system faults they encounter. Occasional rush orders and delays caused by unusual equipment and system faults may force them to reorganize the order of job tasks. (2)
  • Find information about telecommunication equipment installations by reading job orders, scanning project drawings and talking to specialists, e.g. telecommunications technicians search equipment specification tables, study schematic diagrams and review scale drawings of clients' facilities to prepare for installations. They may also speak to project engineers and outside suppliers, such as those responsible for the maintenance of fibre optic networks. (2)
  • Encounter obstacles to the installation of equipment and to the routing of wire and cable, e.g. telecommunications technicians may be unable to enter work sites as planned and need to find alternate contacts to obtain access. They search for alternate routes and review scale drawings. (3)
  • Select repair methods using their observations, test results and experience, e.g. service technicians decide to use the costly option of reloading software onto telecommunication equipment when other repair options have failed. They consider customer complaints, diagnostic test data, warranties and equipment age. (3)
  • Judge the effectiveness of repairs to telecommunications systems and equipment. They confirm that the faults outlined on work orders have been rectified. They compare test results to specifications to ensure the repairs have been effective. (3)
  • Find technical information needed to troubleshoot faults with telecommunications equipment and systems. They take data from tables and schematic drawings in service manuals, locate procedures in bulletins and seek advice from support technicians and analysts. (3)

Digital technology

  • Use calculators and personal digital assistant (PDA) devices to complete numeracy-related tasks, such as calculating material requirements. (1)
  • Use diagnostic equipment, such as oscilloscopes, to troubleshot system faults. (1)
  • May use word processing software, e.g. write, format and save explanations of service operations for customers. (2)
  • May use graphics software, e.g. telecommunications technicians use simple features of diagramming application software to make changes to scale drawings of equipment installations to produce corrected "as built" drawings for client files. (2)
  • May use spreadsheet software, e.g. communications technicians may create tables to document repair histories for radio systems. (2)
  • May use databases to retrieve and print construction drawings. (2)
  • May search service and repair databases for information on orders and parts. (2)
  • May use communication software to exchange email with customers, suppliers and co-workers. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access service manuals, diagnostic reports, troubleshooting procedures and product specifications from manufacturers' websites. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access blogs and Web forums where they seek and offer advice about the installation of telecommunication equipment. (2)
  • May use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by apprenticeship trainers, suppliers, employers and associations. (2)
  • Use application-specific measurement and diagnostic software to troubleshoot and test telecommunication systems. (3)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Telecommunications installation and repair workers typically work alone and beside other technicians doing similar tasks at work sites and service centres. Some workers, in particular those at switching centres and those who are involved in large-scale installations, may work with partners to improve efficiency. They share information in a timely manner with co-workers, including dispatchers, customer support staff, analysts, salespeople and supervisors, to provide telecommunication services to a wide range of customers. For example, they may review operation guidelines for telephone equipment with co-workers or coordinate efforts to troubleshoot equipment and system faults.

Continuous Learning

Telecommunications installation and repair workers need to keep pace with the rapidly evolving technological and regulatory environment in their field. Most often, their learning objectives are set by their managers and supervisors. They learn informally by exchanging information with co-workers during work hours and by reading information provided in bulletins and manuals. Often, their employers require them to attend and pass courses for new equipment and customer service. They may take courses on their own initiative on topics such as two-way radios and optical data transmission systems.