Tag Archives: O2

The Problem with Migrations

Back in the early days of ADSL access to the Internet in the UK, migrating always used to be a pain, and invariably the end user ended up being without their broadband service for a period of time whilst the migration occurred as you waited for the old provider to disconnect you from their service and the new provider to connect – all of which was pretty ironic considering that both providers were just reselling the same product provided by BT Wholesale.

All of that was supposedly solved with the arrival of the Migration Authorisation Code introduced by Ofgem and BT initially as a voluntary process, but made compulsory from February 2007. The process is intended to smooth the transition resulting in a loss of service for at most a few hours. The process is supposed to go as follows:

  1. User obtains MAC code from old provider
  2. User gives MAC code to new provider when opening new account
  3. BT Wholesale make the switch
  4. Old provider closes old account

The whole idea is that the process is supposed to be simple for the consumer, but it doesn’t always work like that.

There are a number of issues with the system, often with obtaining the MAC in the first place, but twice in the last week I’ve come across issues with the process with two totally different providers.

The issue hasn’t been with the physical switches, both of which occurred without a problem, the issue has been with stage four of the process – in both cases the old providers have failed to pick up that the MAC code has been used, and have carried on trying to charge. In both cases the providers in question, O2 and PlusNet have said that the account should close automatically when the code is used, but in both cases they have quite happily carried on charging despite the connections having been swapped – in the case of O2 almost three months previously.

The problem seems to be a disconnect between the accounting systems and the physical systems. In the case of O2 I had already discovered that O2 didn’t bother to take most of the information that BT Wholesale provide to resellers – indeed it was one of the reasons I terminated the account. With my current connection from Zen Internet I can see all of the line status information from their customer portal, including details of the current line speed, dates and times the line speed changed and so on, and their helpdesk can see when the router was connected and when it was disconnecting. The O2 team had nothing, certainly not the BT Wholesale information, and not even basic connection information – the most they could see was that the router was currently connected – their suggested strategy was to watch the lights on the router to see whether the line was staying connected. The lack of information seems to follow through to their account system as well – whilst BT Wholesale have available details of MAC codes being used, it is incumbent on the provider to actually look at the information. When I phoned up about the account problem and spoke to someone in O2 billing, he all but admitted that they didn’t check anything like that and that I should have been advised to phone up and chase up the transfer after it had been made. The one consolation with the O2 problem is that whilst I had multiple phone calls, and a lot of time spent on hold trying to get to the right team to sort it out, they at least have a freephone number on which to call.

Today I found we had the same problem with the Church broadband account, which again we recently switched. The process went through smoothly, but PlusNet have failed to pick up on the change and are charging anyway. It is somewhat more of a pain to sort out as their billing system has already raised a direct debit instruction and they cannot retract it, but again the point remains that the PlusNet systems are not using the available information about the use of the MAC code, and it seems to be incumbent on the end user to chase up. The downside here is that PlusNet use an 0845 number, and with their high volume of calls at least two-thirds of the call was spent on hold.

Both O2 and PlusNet are large ISP’s, with generally good reputations, but both seem incapable of completing what should be a relatively straightforward task of transferring a user under the industry agreed process. Having been bounced around by both their customer service teams I am left wondering whether I’ve just hit bad luck, or whether everybody else has different expectations of good customer service. If that is the case I’m left wondering what one of the providers with poorly rated customer service would do!

The lesson from these cases of course is once you’ve completed a migration, always phone up your old provider and tell them, because it does seem that these two at least can’t really be bothered to check the BT Wholesale information themselves.

Where can you find Michael Jackson Moonwalking?

Now maybe I could understand not being able to pull the printed version of the summer arts guide that was published yesterday. But I do think the Independent could have shown a little tact and diplomacy in rewriting the online version, which currently is highlighted on their front page right alongside a report about the ongoing aftermath of the death.

Since I assume that at some time they will sort it out, below is a capture of the page.

Where can you find Michael Jackson Moonwalking?

A Week of iPhone 3G

I’m just coming to the end of my first week with an iPhone 3G. Unlike some I didn’t sample the whole queuing and activation chaos last Friday. I managed to get one of the limited stocks that O2 had available online last Monday by getting in within the first hour before they had all sold out. That’s not to say that getting the phone out of DHL, the courier O2 used, was without incident. Beth was in Reading anyway, so said she would pick it up on the way home, the key thing being that she didn’t have the card as she wasn’t going home first. No problem, all she needed was the parcel number which we could get off the tracking site, and then we looked up on the DHL site and got the address of their depot over in an industrial estate near the Madejski Stadium, and looking at their opening times they were open until 7pm. So Beth went in on the way home, and handed over the parcel number – “Not this depotâ€? came the response, all the inland deliveries go through a separate depot on the Basingstoke Road, and that one closed at 6pm. Beth had just enough time to nip across and pick it up, and brought it home.

If you’ve been reading the computing sites you’ll I’m sure realise that activation was a bit of a problem, and it was much the same here. Although I could connect to the regular iTunes store the special activation service was totally snowed under, as a result activation had to wait until Sunday when we were back from our weekend away, where it connected first time. The one final part of the jigsaw, porting my number across from 3 was pretty painless too, although there was the inevitable attempt to try to tempt me to stay despite me repeatedly saying that I was moving for the iPhone 3G, not because of their prices. The number swapped over smoothly on Wednesday, and seems to work fine for incoming and outgoing calls.

So what is the iPhone 3G like in general use? I can’t really compare it with the original iPhone as I’ve never used one, my primary comparison is with my old Nokia N73. The expectation was that the iPhone 3G would be a similar experience to browsing on my iPod Touch, which it is as long as you can get good reception or a Wi-Fi hotspot. The internet experience is streaks ahead of what was possible on Nokia N73, and is actually usable for more than just simple page browsing. For example I ran through the Royal Mail parcel redelivery site on the iPhone 3G this afternoon and everything worked fine – I doubt you’d be able to do the same on the Nokia N73! Phone call wise the iPhone 3G is fine, although if you were making a lot of calls I suspect some sort of proper headset would be essential. Text message wise it is pretty good too, giving you an iChat style conversation screen. Although the touch screen puts some people off, having got used to it with the iPod Touch, I haven’t had any problems and certainly have no issues doing what I need. If anything the lack of the keypad gives the screens much more space to use making them much more straightforward than the usual nested menus that have to be navigated with up/down cursor keys on a more traditional phone.

Stability wise the iPhone 3G is way better than the old Nokia N73, which even after a couple of firmware updates still crashed or locked up with depressing regularity. So far with the iPhone 3G the only problem I have seen is one which the iPod Touch exhibits from time to time whereby the browser crashes.

But what about the new features? The App Store and the GPS? Taking them in reverse order, it is important to note that this is an Assisted GPS – as such it’s not going to replace a proper specialist device like a Garmin eTrex – it occasionally has problems getting a fix, and there is precious little feedback compared to a specialist device. Accuracy wise on some informal testing it managed to place me pretty accurately in our back garden, although not exactly. Trying it out at the church it was also in about the right ball park, but not spot on. Having said that, it does what it is intended to do, and allows location based apps such as Vicinity to come up with it’s local information – great if you’re in a strange town and need to find a convenience store. I’d be intrigued to see how a full blown navigation system works in a car – my thought is that the reception isn’t good enough to work accurately enough.

This brings me quite neatly to the applications, and certainly from what I’ve seen there are some good little applications around. The aforementioned Vicinity is certainly recommended, especially if you’re often on the move and need to find your way around a strange town. Another fabulous little app that makes use of the Assisted GPS is Exposure Premium (also available in an advert supported version) which provides a nice interface to access Flickr pictures, but it’s real party piece is the way it uses Assisted GPS to pull back pictures taken close by.

Various established services have provided free applications to access their services, so we have a nice little Facebook application, versions of Shozu and Shazam, and a version of the fantastic Evernote that will quite happily allow you to photograph documents with the camera on the phone and then search the text in it – handwriting included!

There are one or two novelty applications amongst the freebies too. Check out iPint which uses the accelerometers in the phone to simulate a pint glass. Another novelty is one for all the budding JediPhone Saber – which turns your phone into a light saber. Both are pointless but fun, and do show what can be done with the accelerometers in the device.

Not all the freebies are novelty applications. Apple themselves have produced a little tool called Remote that gives you remote control over either your copy of iTunes or your Apple TV. There are also some free games, Tap Tap Revenge for example will be familiar to fans of Guitar Hero

Gaming wise, the accelerometers are seeing a lot of use. Some, like Cro-Mag Rally use them a simple game controllers. In others, such as Motion-X Poker they are being used to simulate a real experience, in this case throwing dice. Finally you have games like Trism which takes a familiar puzzle game concept, and turns it on it’s head – literally – by the addition of monitoring which way up the phone is being held.

So was it a good upgrade? Definitely. As a phone and mobile internet device it is fantastic, streaks ahead of anything else in usability, especially for mobile internet. The addition of the App Store really opens things up and shows what can be done with the platform – certainly putting it up there as one of the best mobile application platforms around.

Rip-Off Britain? Not With The iPhone 3G

One of the favourite descriptions of the UK, especially amongst it’s inhabitants, is Rip-Off Britain, indeed there is even an entire website devoted to the subject. Whilst there are loads of things that cost more in this country, hence why we quite often go shopping when we visit Canada, it is not everything that is cheaper abroad.

Thanks to the massive competition in our domestic mobile phone market, the deal we are being offered on the 3G iPhone seems to be one of the best around, indeed it seems positively generous compared to the deals in in Canada where there is no competition at all in the market, and New Zealand where there are only two players.

In the UK, on the higher cost plans we’re getting the phone for free, down in New Zealand users of every plan have to cough up for the phone. Both the operators in Canada and New Zealand are applying hard limits to data – over here we have unlimited data usage.

Not surprisingly it doesn’t take much to find potential purchasers in the two countries who are less than happy. About the only complaint I’ve heard over here is that users are tied to O2

“We’ve Just Updated our Computer System Sirâ€?

I should know when a customer service agent assures you that the computer system has just been updated, and the weird letter you’ve just had from the company in question is just an isolated incident, that it’s just the agent trying to be optimistic, and pass the thorny problem on to someone else a couple of weeks down the line…

A couple of weeks back I had a letter from O2 stating that there would be a change in my direct debit details for my next bill – now it has to say that this came as a bit of a surprise as I haven’t had any bills from O2 for about a year since we switched away onto 3. The letter unfortunately didn’t have much information on it but I spent a while on the phone with the customer service agent whilst she checked various systems and found that my account had been closed, and that there were no other accounts in my name listed on the system. She finished up with the immortal phrase “We’ve just updated our computer system sir, the letter was obviously sent in error and you shouldn’t receive any others.â€?

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though when another envelope from O2 popped through the door – this time a bill for 98p for one of the phones on the account they closed last year. So, onto the phone to customer service again, and this time I ended up talking to somebody in cancellations, who initially tried to put me through the standard cancellation process that I had completed last year, after a bit of grumbling about that – they of course hadn’t billed me on this account for the past twelve months – he disappeared off to investigate the old system, before phoning me back to explain the problem.

It seems that the cause of the letter and the new bill is indeed the switch to the new computer system – although in fact it goes back to whoever closed my account not having done it correctly in the first place. The phone that has reappeared was one that I got as a result of a special offer years ago that after an initial purchase price had no line rental charge, and only charged for calls, which Dad was using as an emergency phone up until he to switched to 3. The key limitation was that it was linked to my main account, so if for example I closed my account it would close also – which is what happened last year when I closed the account. I did check up on what would happen with it when I closed the account and was assured that it would close as part of the standard process as it was associated.

It appeared that this is what had happened – I’d received all the final bills, and no further bills for any of the phones – what appears to have happened now is that they didn’t properly close the linked account, but that it hadn’t been being billed. Perhaps it’s been producing an ignored error for the last twelve months, I don’t know, but when the account was moved across to the new system, the moving process appears to have generated a new full account with no record of the link, and this is what has started billing. The phone itself is long since recycled, the 98p is actually an itemised billing charge – to tell me that there were no calls of course… Anyway, O2 are going to refund my 98p, and have closed the account again, without all the usual requirement for notification by letter – generous considering that they already had that last year. Hopefully this should be the last I hear from O2 – at least until I give into temptation and buy an iPhone.

Are You Going to Get an iPhone?

Much as expected, this mornings ‘surprise announcement’ from Apple revealed that in the UK the iPhone would be exclusively on O2 and available through the Carphone Warehouse.

In terms of pricing the handsets will sell for £269 and will not be subsidised. Users will have to sign up for an 18 month contract which will cost either £35, £45 or £55 a month. All the contracts will include unlimited data, plus free access to the 7500 wi-fi hotspots operated by The Cloud. Other important points to note are that this is the same iPhone as in the USA – so no 3G. The phone will operate on the older GPRS system, making use of EDGE where available – currently only about 30% of the country.

That is certainly going to make things interesting over how the phone will sell and who will buy it. The majority of phones in the UK are subsidised, so comparatively the iPhone is a big outlay. The free wi-fi is nice, but in comparison to the high speed connection I can get pretty well anywhere using my 3G phone it is a definite step back. Certainly a quick straw poll around here has found that the lack of 3G is a definite sticking point for the UK techie. However much the funky touch-screen attracts them, over here 3G is a big issue.

However, where it might sell is with the fashion concious who are only after a phone. Certainly the hype and the unique look may well find a lot of users going out just to have the latest and greatest phone. Even without 3G it is still perfectly able to make phone calls, and works fine as a music player – it’s just that I don’t think you’re going to find too many of the techies queuing up for it come November 9th. I’m sticking with my Nokia.

Crippled

Last week I was speculating over whether I could use the new iPod Touch as a PDA. Unfortunately, having read the Ars Technica review it seems not – although it regards the browsing support as better than the Nokia N800 it confirmed that the calendar function on the iPod Touch has been crippled, giving it the read only functionality available elsewhere in the iPod line, rather than the full read/write calendar available on the iPhone. I assume this is in part to try and protect the iPhone market, but then as a result I’ll probably not buy either, so there are some customers that they’ve lost through this. Bizarrely it is only the calendar application that is crippled – contacts does allow you to edit records.

Anyway, hype is building up in anticipation of the expected iPhone launch tomorrow in London. The Guardian today reports that O2 have got the UK rights, with Orange and T-Mobile getting rights in other European markets.

Interestingly it seems that Apple played off the four major networks in the UK against each other, so that at certain points all of them thought they had an exclusive deal. Vodafone walked away when they realised that they couldn’t get a Europe wide deal.

Interestingly Carphone Warehouse is on board to sell the iPhone through it’s stores, so perhaps Apple aren’t as confident in the O2 retail network. There is also a good deal of speculation as to quite how O2 hope to make any money out of the deal at all since Apple have retained the same stringent controls over pricing, and also upgrading their network to support EDGE – unless of course the other big announcement tomorrow will be a 3G iPhone… Now if I were an American early adopter and they did that I’d be really annoyed!