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Thanks, O2, for being deliberately vague and annoying

5 April 2013 by superlative

A couple of weeks ago I realised that I suddenly had no mobile reception at home. I live in a basement flat, so reception can always be a little bit patchy, but this was different – there was absolutely none at all.

I’m currently a giffgaff customer, which means that I use the O2 network but I pay my money to giffgaff. I’ve been pleased with giffgaff overall – after a few problems getting my number ported over to them, my service has been very good and they’re very cheap. I don’t blame giffgaff for my coverage problems, as they don’t maintain the infrastructure; that side of it is up to O2.

I rooted around a bit online and found the O2 webpage where you can check if there are any problems in your area, and sure enough it told me ‘We’re currently working on a mast in your area’. So I stuck with it for a bit, but after a couple of days there was no improvement and I started to get huffy.

I asked the O2 Twitter account if they had any information, and they requested that I send them my postcode so they could check. When they came back to me they said ‘We’ve upgraded nearby sites to increase signal and we’re putting long-term steps in place to restore service.’ Oh right, I thought, they’re doing some upgrade work, and once they’ve finished I’ll be back to normal, possibly with better coverage than before, because it’s been upgraded.

Except I won’t be because it hasn’t. I found out yesterday that what’s actually happened is my nearest O2 mast on top of the Royal Sussex County Hospital has been decommissioned to make way for a new helipad they’re building there. O2 hasn’t been successful in getting planning permission to build a replacement mast nearby, so all they have been able to do is boost the capacity at their other nearby masts to try to compensate for the big hole that’s been poked in their network coverage.

So when they said ‘We’ve upgraded nearby sites to increase signal and we’re putting long-term steps in place to restore service’, they weren’t lying, but what they actually meant was ‘We’ve decommissioned a mast; we’ve tried to compensate from other masts (but that obviously isn’t doing very much, as loads of people in Kemp Town now have no network); and we’re looking into a replacement but have no idea what or where that will be, or how long it will take to get planning permission for it’.

So that’s a bit shit really. They skirted round what the real explanation was, and have left anyone who asked them hanging on thinking that their network coverage would be restored within a few days. I can’t see them being able to sort this out in anything less than a few weeks, and it may even be months. So what are people meant to do in the meantime? A mobile phone really does depend on having a network connection, otherwise it just becomes a very small tablet computer that magically transforms into a phone once you get the bus to a different part of town.

I’m quite annoyed with them, because they were deliberately vague to try to delay any loss of customers. When I asked them about their lack of clarity, they replied ‘unfortunately we didn’t have this information [about the mast being decommissioned] at the time’. Oh REALLY? It wasn’t struck by lightning. It was dismantled, and it belongs to you. You must have known that was going to happen, and you must have known you had no location for a replacement mast. Did you tell anyone? Your own customers, or giffgaff so they could tell their customers? No. You switched it off, waited for people to start complaining, and then fudged a response.

I think that’s very poor. If a service you provide is going to be significantly disrupted and you know about it in advance, the least you can do is tell people. It’s just treating your customers with respect. But they haven’t done that, and now I’m most likely going to have to leave a network I was otherwise happy with and transfer back to Orange (/T-Mobile/EE/can you PLEASE just pick a fucking name and use it?).

Poor show, O2. Very poor.


  1. Alfie says:

    F’ing furious with O2 and its disingenuous updates. I have been told that the issue will be sorted “very shortly” but, for the very reasons you have listed, I’m not holding my breath.

    Thankfully, my contract came to an end recently so can go elsewhere. Question is which other provider offers as good a service as O2 USED to offer? I tried Vodafone and it was awful – they even wanted to put a 3G booster in to my home. If they want to pay me £100 a year for becoming a mast for them, be my guest, otherwise sod off.

    Anyway, how does Orange perform in the Kemptown area? Or 3? If you’ve had experience or have friends who can recommend a provider, it would be most appreciated.



  2. superlative says:

    I used to be on Orange, and the signal in Kemptown is OK. They have masts nearby, so even though I live in a basement flat I can get a signal in most of my home.

    Before I switch I’m going to check out Virgin, which uses the T-Mobile network (and because Orange and T-Mobile are one network now you can use either if you’re a customer of Orange, or T-Mobile, or Virgin). I just want to see if the T-Mobile signal is any stronger. You can get a free pay as you go SIM from both Virgin and Orange, so I’d recommend doing that and seeing what works best for you before you commit to another provider.

  3. Alfie says:

    Thanks for the advice – much appreciated.

  4. Lucy Basterra says:

    Well this explains it then. I have a Giff Gaff/O2 phone which mysteriously stopped working a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want to change networks because GiifGaff is SO cheap. SO annoying but I have absolutely no faith that you will get honest/accurate info from call centre staff anyway- that just say what will passify/get you off the phone quickest which usualy has very little to do with fact. GGGGGGRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

  5. superlative says:

    O2 claims to be putting a temporary mast in somewhere in the hospital grounds soon, so you may find this resolves itself. I’ve already changed network so it doesn’t help me.

    The annoying thing is apparently the hospital gave O2 18 months notice of the need for that mast to come down, so O2 just put a date in their diary and removed it. But the work on the helipad hasn’t even started yet, so it didn’t actually need to come down when it did, and O2 didn’t apply for planning permission for a new mast anywhere during those 18 months. So all very annoying really.

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