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.