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iPhone 4’s faster CPU will fix O2’s slow network

…according to Carphone Warehouse that is.

I currently have an iPhone 3G, originally purchased through Carphone Warehouse and on the O2 network, the contract for which expires in less than a month. I haven’t bothered pursuing a new iPhone 4 for a number of reasons, the greatest being that although I could have paid £40 to get out of my existing contract, my shiny new iPhone 4 would have still been on the O2 network for at least another 18 months.

iPhone SpeedTest Screenshot on O2 networkSo what’s wrong with O2’s network? Well, two things mainly:

Data Speed

Or more accurately, the lack of it.

I’ve found O2’s 3G coverage to be patchy at best, but really that isn’t the issue here. There’s no point having a 3G connection between your phone and the local base station mast if the connection behind that appears to be running on wet string.

On a DSL/Broadband connection I would expect to see ping times less than 20ms rising to around 100ms on a mobile connection but not 8 seconds! – see speedtest.net screenshot to the right. Note also the measured 0kbps download speed.

Prior to getting an iPhone 3G, I had been with Vodafone and Orange and only switched to O2 in order to get the iPhone. I regularly tethered the phones on Voda/Orange (all GPRS only) to my laptop and never experienced the slow speeds on O2 that are more the norm than the exception.

Now, at a stretch, O2 could be forgiven for being caught out by the huge rise in mobile data that the iPhone and other smart phones have created; that wasn’t yesterday, however, and from my experience O2 do not appear to have invested sufficiently in their network infrastructure to cope with the increased demand, choosing instead to apply data caps. Although, at only 200MB average per month, I would not be affected by the caps, that’s no help if you can’t transfer that data at a usable speed.

Failed Calls/Calls wrongly sent to Voicemail

More worryingly are the problems with good old fashioned voice calls. It is not uncommon to require half a dozen attempts to place a call and incoming calls will often go straight to voicemail despite having a full network signal. Several work colleagues (both iPhone and non-iPhone) confirm similar experiences with calls on O2. Again this suggests that either the local base station or the network is swamped, so despite a full radio signal, there is no slot to make/receive the call.

Given all this, I decided to be patient and switch networks after the contract expired. Note that this is based entirely on mine and my work colleague’s personal experiences, others’ experience may vary.

Early Upgrade offer

All the above is basically background to the following:

This morning I received a call from Carphone Warehouse (020 8617 5910) offering an ‘early upgrade for loyal customers’. Although I had already chosen to wait, I decided to listen to what they had to offer. I happened to mention that whatever I upgraded to, it wouldn’t be on the O2 network.

“Why not?” I was asked.

I explained about the slow data network (we never got around to the issue making/receiving calls).

“Would you be upgrading to the iPhone 4?” (of course I would)

“Well the iPhone 4 has a much faster processor than your 3G so speed won’t be an issue”

What?! Were they seriously suggesting that a faster CPU in the phone could somehow make up for slow connections within O2’s network. This was one new feature Steve Jobs obviously failed to mention. Despite explaining that no matter how fast the CPU speed it could not make up for the slow connection, and that by their argument my WiFi speed would also be slow (it is not), they kept blaming the speed of the CPU in my iPhone 3G. The sales bod even went away and returned to say that her manager said the same thing. I wonder whether they realised that they were effectively saying the iPhone they had supplied was not fit for purpose.

I smelled a rat. Which network I choose is surely my choice. “Why are we even discussing O2’s network?” I asked before deciding to end the call, “Thanks, but I’ll leave it until my contract has expired when I’ll be shopping around”. “OK, I’ll leave it a few weeks before calling again”. Despite that CPW rang me twice again the same day!

Only after the call did I realise what was going on. Although I purchased the phone through Carphone Warehouse, my contract is with O2, not Carphone Warehouse. CPW are therefore not in a position to release me early from my contract, unless of course it was being sanctioned/offered to them by O2. No wonder they were so defensive about O2’s network, the early upgrade offer would no doubt have been dependent on staying with O2.

I will likely be switching to Vodafone or Orange but this phone call is discouraging me from doing it through Carphone Warehouse.

Update 9th August

Yet another call from CPW (unanswered). I made a comment on twitter to which CPW’s twitter account replied. I have sent them a message through their website requesting that the calls cease.

Update 10th August

Despite an email reply assuring me that I had been removed from their marketing lists, I was called again last night at 20:25, not what I would consider a reasonable time of day for a marketing call, and again this afternoon.

  1. Andy
    February 5th, 2011 at 14:23 | #1
    Using Google Chrome Google Chrome 9.0.597.84 on Windows Windows 7

    I’m having your exact same issue regarding incoming calls on O2 using my LG GT540. It’s been off for repair once because of some issues that I thought were the phones fault, but it would appear not after doing some more searching. I live less than 50m away from my O2 mast (in fact I can see it from my window) and I still have these issues.

    O2 need to get it sorted because it’s very inconvenient…

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