For the last few months the service I’ve been getting on my Orange mobile phone has been getting progressively worse.
A few months ago I couldn’t make phone calls at all for about half a day and nor could I receive any. #1 son’s phone was the same, so was Mrs Sane’s and so was the work phone I had – all on Orange. All the phones had a full signal but they wouldn’t make or receive calls.
I called Orange off my landline (an expensive call) and they couldn’t tell me what the problem was. The work phone came back on before our personal phones – to be expected, they use QoS on their network. But this was the first indication that something was going seriously wrong with Orange’s mobile phone network.
Since that time, the service has become increasingly poor. When trying to make outgoing calls I would often get connection errors, network busy messages or just simply timing out without making the call or displaying any errors. This could happen with a poor single or with a full 2.5G signal. I took Orange’s advice to change the phone from 3G to 2G temporarily and this improved the service greatly but I use a lot of data so it wasn’t a proper answer to the problem and when it started happening even with 2G manually selected, I decided enough was enough.
Over the past few months I have spent hours on the phone with Orange trying to get to the bottom of this problem. Several times I told them that if they couldn’t fix the problem it was fine but that I expected them to end the contract early so I could change to another provider. That’s pretty much where the sympathy ended and I had some interesting conversations with people at Orange about this. During one call I was told that there was no real difference between 2G and 3G data connections – in reality it’s between 1.8mbit/sec and 3.6mbit/sec, depending on the state of the network where you are. On another call I was told that it was impossible for Orange to cancel my contract early and when I pointed out many times that the terms and conditions they continuously quoted at me as an excuse to keep taking my money without providing the service I was paying for said that they could, in fact, cancel my contract whenever they wanted for whatever reason they wanted, the woman hung up on me.
The problems happened mainly in busy built up areas, generally not rural or sparsely populated areas. It also generally happened during the day, not at night. I’m not a mobile phone network engineer but I’m a pretty techy person (alright, I’m a geek) and over the last few years I’ve gained quite a lot of knowledge and experience of networks and communications infrastructure. To me the cause of the problem was pretty obvious – not enough capacity – but trying to get someone at Orange to admit that their network wasn’t able to cope with demand was a seemingly impossible task.
But it wasn’t impossible because, with the help of a couple of nice men from Orange’s off-shore call centre in India, I managed to get a call escalated to Orange’s networks department and on Saturday a very helpful man from Orange called me, discussed my problems and agreed that it was lack of capacity on the network and that it couldn’t be fixed. He agreed that the iPhone was the trigger that has brought the network to its knees just as it has done with O2 and said that it may get better when they start merging their network with T-Mobile in a year’s time but they just don’t know at the moment.
It was a refreshingly honest admission from Orange and they agreed to end my contract immediately, allowing me to change providers. Co-incidentally, there was an announcement on our company intranet today that Orange have come clean to my employer about their network problems and staff are even being offered second phones on a different network by the company where problems are particularly bad. It may just be a co-incidence but could my call on Saturday have been the trigger for an open admission by Orange that their network is basically buggered?