Friday, September 5, 2014

Escaping from o2 to 3 in Edinburgh

Since June the quality of service from o2 in central Edinburgh has declined dramatically. At times I have been unable to send texts or make calls. The data connection regularly drops to G or E even though the signal is strong. Outside Edinburgh there have been similar problems with data connectivity between Edinburgh and Livingston patchy and unpredictable. One direction it can be 4G all the way and in the other only G. Other users have been reporting this on Twitter for the past few months, with Tescomobile and Giff-Gaff customers visiting the Edinburgh Festivals complaining too (they both use the o2 Network).

The problem seemed to start when o2 introduced 4G. I understand that they did not gain any additional spectrum and have had to implement this on their old 900MHz band. It could be that this has been more technically challenging than they expected or there may be compatibility issues with some handsets. It is not very clear, but an inability to send texts at certain times has been another factor that caused me to go looking for another provider. On one occasion I was unable to make any outgoing calls so couldn't contact my kids, who were on their way to meet me.

My iPad has 3G capability and I have a PAYG SIM card in it from the the 3 network. Over the past year I have noticed that in some places the 3 network gives me 3G, but o2 does not. These places include Kirkwall in Orkney and Cowdenbeath in Fife. I have never been in a place where o2 had a signal but 3 did not, but I have been in places where neither had a signal but Vodafone did. The problem with Vodafone is that they charge a lot for data and their actual data speeds don;t seem to be as good as o2 or 3 in the tests I have read.

So after several months of difficulty with o2 I decided to switch to 3 simplay because it could not be any worse. I went into the shop and bought a SIM card on a 12 month contract for £15 a month. This gives me 200 minutes of calls with unlimited texts and unlimited data. It also includes calls to 0800 numbers and 20GB of data per month plus calls home free of charge from selected countries (although not many in Europe). They allow the use of the WiFi hotspot but with a limit of 4GB per month.

I got the PAC code for my number transfer and did it the same day in the shop. Two days later it had not worked so I phoned up and it turned out it hadn't been actioned. They did this on the Friday and on the Monday my phone went dead. I put in the new SIM card and was able to make calls (with my correct number showing in caller ID) but not receive incoming ones. By the end of the day this had fixed itself, although the phone identity in settings is still showing the temporary 3 number. The period of no service during the change over was about eight hours.

The results so far are promising. At home and in central Edinburgh I am getting 4G with download speeds of 31mbps and upload of 15mbps. However, this often reverts to HSDPA, which is giving me 15mbps download. In comparison I was getting 21-24mbps on o2 4G (when it worked). Driving to and from Livingston I have a strong signal all the way with data showing as H the whole way there and back.

Overall, it seems like good value and the coverage is better in the places I use it. Coverage in rural areas might be a challenge though.

Oh, and Hutchison 3G is a Scottish company registered in Glasgow.

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