A couple of months ago I achieved a small personal victory against Orange who finally admitted that their network is struggling and terminated my contract early. They’ve since agreed to pay me a quite reasonable amount of compensation for unreasonably keeping me in contract when they knew they couldn’t provide me with the service I was paying for.
So I changed to Three for a number of reasons, foremost of which was the value for money and the superior coverage. For £32 per month I get a free network unlocked HTC Desire, 500 minutes of any network calls, 1000 minutes of Three to Three calls, 1000 texts, 120 MMS messages and 1gb of data. On the coverage front, I get Three’s network which provides relatively patchy coverage nationally (but fine in the places I frequent regularly) and roaming access to voice and data on Orange – the largest combined coverage of any UK mobile network.
I have been more than happy with Three right up until last Saturday when my phone would no longer connect to Three and was stuck on roaming. I assumed it was a local problem and after a few hours called Three to confirm they were aware of the problem. They said there was no problem, it must be the phone and I should turn it off and take out the sim card, leave it for a few minutes and try again. I left it overnight to see if the problem went away by itself but it didn’t so I tried what I was advised to do and that failed to fix the problem.
So I called again and was told it must be my phone and that there is a known problem with the HTC Desire that can cause it to latch onto a roaming network and be reluctant to move back to the home network. I was told to take my phone to a Three or Carphone Warehouse shop and get it flashed to the latest version of the software under warranty. The phone had updated that morning so I knew it was up-to-date but I reluctantly agreed to do as they said. But later that day I went to a relative’s house and as soon as I travelled away from home, the phone picked up Three again. ”Ah-ha”, I thought, “that proves it’s the network”.
So when I got home I checked #2 son’s phone which is also on Three and his had the same problem. I manually scanned for networks and it would only pick up Three on 2G – scanning with the phone set to 3G wouldn’t pick up Three at all. So it’s definitely the network, without a doubt and I phoned Three back up again. The person I spoke to this time told me that the mast by my house had been decommissioned and that they were currently working on the next nearest to upgrade it to take up the slack from the decommissioned mast. This would take a couple of days, he told me.
Being a naturally suspicious person, I decided to go to the Three shop in town and check it out the following day. I went, they checked and confirmed that what I was told was correct. Brilliant, it’s not my phone and I just need to sit tight for a few days and it’ll be sorted. Except it isn’t sorted because my phone still roams onto Orange as soon as I turn into my street and it’s been a week. I called Three today to find out if the upgrade had been finished on the other mast – yes it has and there are no problems with any of the masts in my area. You know what’s coming next don’t you? I did and I sighed.
The handset faults person asked me for my software versions again and told me that I didn’t have the latest version. I disagreed. So did he. He told me it was my phone and I needed to get it flashed. I told him it wasn’t my phone and explained all the above again and asked him if he genuinely thought that it was all a co-incidence and that two different models of phone had spontaneously developed the same fault which only manifests itself in my street and started when they turned off the mast near my house? He said it could be. Clearly it isn’t. This is what I do for a job – I diagnose and fix application infrastructure faults for a multinational IT company.
The aforementioned handset faults person got his supervisor to phone me back and we went through it all again. He didn’t try and blag me the like his colleague did though and agreed that it was Three’s fault. He offered me a different handset or to terminate my contract without charge. As I’ve already proven it’s not the handset with #2 son’s phone, the only option is to terminate the contract and go elsewhere.
But here’s the dilemma: my phone works in the house, it just can’t get a Three signal so it roams onto Orange. If I’m on a call when I turn into the street it invariably cuts me off as it tries to keep the Three signal for as long as possible and ends up cutting me off because it’s too late to switch the call to Orange. And I came off Orange for a reason – the network is overloaded and unreliable. But I won’t get the deal I’ve got from Three if I go to another network – I won’t get the data, the free calls or the coverage.
Obviously Orange is out of the question so that leaves me with T-Mobile, O2 or Vodafone. We’ve dabbled with T-Mobile and it was nothing special and then they built a new mast at the end of the road and the signal nosedived to the extent that it often wouldn’t work indoors. So that leaves O2 or Vodafone. Having worked for a mobile phone dealer, I know that Vodafone’s upgrades are shit – you have to spend quite a lot of money with them to get a decent upgrade when your contract is up so that leaves O2. But O2 have overloaded their network with free data packages to the extent that their network in London was pretty much knocked out earlier this year for weeks.
So now you see my dilemma, what should I do?