Vodafone

Internet speed expectations…

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We all live on the internet now, be it for email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, it is now almost as important as food and water to some people!

So when you go somewhere different, the speed or accessibility of internet access is an issue. I certainly have got to know over the years where the ‘dead spots’ are on the Vodafone network – sadly far to large and numerous in my experience! We have recently moved to EE at work so it will be interesting to see how this compares – I have high hopes!

IMG_2784Part of the reason for the move was to get the higher 4G speeds, and I have certainly seen 50mb download speeds since the move which is pretty impressive by anyones standards.

So, if the mobile networks can provide this for us on average for £10 a month (excluding the handset cost), why is paid wireless in most hotels etc so incredibly poor, and expensive?

This week I have stayed in a Premier Inn, the cost of wifi for 24 hours was £3 – not a lot on the face of it – but see the speed test screen shot, I wasn’t getting much for my £3! Surely it is possible to give a decent connection speed? At home I have 152mb download speeds through Virgin Media – I will let you do the maths as to how much quicker that is…..

My experience of wifi in the USA and even in Europe has always been good, why can’t we sort this out? The only place I have had really good wifi speeds in the UK is on the London underground platforms – and that is provided by Virgin (there is a theme developing here).

We need hotels and pubs to realise that simply ‘providing wifi’ isn’t enough – it has to be useable!

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Social Media – the importance of a good data connection…

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There are certain things in life that we take for granted – the sun rising in the morning and setting at night, England disappointing us at football – you get the idea. And as the world changes our expectations change also, who would have imagined 10 years ago that we would all expect to be able to access mobile data where ever we are to interact with social media (and collect email etc).

The smart phone has become an essential part of so many people’s lives now and we expect it to work all of the time 100% effectively. Apple, Samsung and Microsoft have done their best to facilitate this with their hardware and software – all of which still never ceases to amaze me with what it can do. However there is a weak link in all this…… and that is the networks.

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You can have the best bit of hardware in the world, but if you can’t get mobile data it is about as much use as a brick! My experience at the Test Match at Trent Bridge this week was a classic example. I was intending to twitter via the @InnesEngland twitter account from the match, and I did, but not to the degree I wanted to due to a lack of 3G signal from our carrier Vodafone. I know it wasn’t just me because my colleagues were having similar issues with data as well.

This is not a new phenomenon brought about by the increased use of mobile data, I have found Vodafone wanting on their coverage for many years. They have made some minor improvements, I actually got 3G in my home town of Malmesbury recently for the first time ever. But generally they lag well behind the other networks EE and in particular.

There was a time when the enterprise user was the most important user to a networks data provision, that may still be the case but for different reasons as Social Media usage explodes into that market. Perhaps it is time for the various networks to share their masts and provide the sort of service the rest of Europe already experiences.

My new toy…….. Pebble Steel.

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20140209-132924.jpgI blogged just before Christmas about the Pebble watch, I was in two minds about getting one to try. Basically it is a ‘smart watch’ that acts as an extension to a smart phone (such as an iPhone). It shows received emails, messages, calls,  it can use apps to give bus or flight times, show the weather, act as a gps, show my diary etc – you get the idea.

In the end I held off because I wasn’t keen on the plastic design which would have been rather large on my ‘small’ wrists. However, just after Christmas Pebble announced that they were releasing the Pebble Steel – a much more upmarket design made from steel (no surprise there) – it was more expensive but was also smaller and would arrive with the long-awaited software upgrade to version 2, which would bring further benefits and improvements to its abilities. That was enough for me, I ordered one on-line during the announcement (a Birthday present from my wife). Delivery wouldn’t until mid Feb but I was happy to wait….

Well, I must have been one of the earliest people to order one as it was dispatched on the day of release from the factory in China and arrived on the 31st of January (take note Royal Mail). The software update with the new app store arrived a week later and I have now been using the watch for a week and am rather impressed. I know some people ‘don’t get it’ and think it is just a novelty, but it has already proved its worth – let me explain;

If I am inspecting property as part of my work I tend to have my hands pretty full; clipboard, camera, tape measure as a minimum, my iPhone is consequently in my pocket. Any emails or calls received previously required me to stop, put things down and pull out my phone to see if it needed dealing with. Now I can see who is calling and decide to answer or drop the call from my wrist. I can also see if that email or text is important or can wait in the same way. This sounds a small thing but it can make a huge difference to my time spent on site.

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An example of different screens…

This last weekend in London I kept my phone in a pocket to keep it away from any ‘undesirables’ – if I was on a noisy street that in the past would cause me to miss calls or messages as they came in. Not anymore – a vibration on my wrist and I can ‘filter’ them without having to pull out my phone and draw attention to it.

And the last and perhaps coolest thing is an app I have for the Pebble called Pebbgps, it allows me to get directions from the gps on my iPhone direct to my wrist, so walking across London from A – B was so easy (and it worked really well). Again no iPhone out for someone to snatch.

So all in all a very good piece of kit – it will be interesting to see what Apple come up with in their upcoming iWatch – it will need to be very good to better the Pebble.

Not great being proved right…….

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alan_phone226x282As a family we have ‘suffered’ more than most in relation to mobile phone theft. My stepdaughter has had two iPhones stolen now over the last 6 months, both in Nottingham when on a night out. The first was taken from her in Rock City which apparently is well known as a hot spot for this crime (they are working with the police on the issue I gather).

The second was in a pub in town – in both cases the phone was taken from a closed bag – so we assumed it was professional criminals.

This has now been confirmed by information released recently by the police that shows that teams of criminals are descending on our cities to carry out this crime – to then export the phones abroad (where they are not locked and can be used or sold).

Yes this is a problem the police and venues need to address, but is it not more of an issue for the manufacturers and networks? The ability to reuse the phones abroad is a massive ‘loophole’ in the supposed security provided by blacklisting phones. The networks need a world wide system to block phones – and they need it now.

Fingers crossed – “problem sorted”

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Regular readers of my ongoing ‘experiences with mobile providers’ will be aware of my recent run in with T-Mobile. You will be pleased to hear that the matter has now been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. This is great news, but it is rather tiring having to resort to an email to the CEO to get that resolution!

20121230-111638.jpgThe gentleman I dealt with in the CEO’s office at T-Mobile was very helpful, polite and most importantly was in a position to deal with my problem quickly and efficiently. So, I am grateful for his actions, but really rather aggrieved that it always takes this level of input from me to get things sorted.

Now I accept that these are very large organisations, but that is no excuse for the quality of service failing. I cannot help but point the finger at call centres – they are a great way of saving money, and can work for basic issues. But, if the matter in hand is even slightly ‘off piste’ they just can’t deal with it.

At the end of the day it all comes down to the relationship between the provider and the customer – all business is based on relationships and trust – the banks have learnt this again the hard way over the last few years, and we shouldn’t forget this.

The man from EE did suggest to me that they might be having a ‘few issues’ with T-Mobile since they took them over – I would say that is an understatement – but at least there was an acceptance of an issue – perhaps there is hope for our telecoms providers after all?

Call centres – time for another option?

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I have recently had cause to speak to a call centre in the Philippines – it services T-Mobile and has the usual very polite and friendly staff that one gets in all call centres. So what is my problem? If the service is friendly and helpful why complain?

20121228-120840.jpgWell friendly is all very well, and in my experience the staff are always very apologetic (I only appear to call if there is a problem) – my issue is that they all work from scripts that don’t usually answer problems – they just deflect them! I find that the only way you can get a resolution to a problem is to ask to speak to a manager, and in effect escalate the issue – which is always a major issue for the staff member you are talking to!

I realise that call centres can work for very basic issues – like “how do I do this on my phone” or “why won’t this work on my phone” – but as soon as you throw them a “curved ball” the system can’t cope and they just end up being even more apologetic and friendly!

So why can’t the call centres have an option when you ring up (and they have lots of options!) that is for people like me who only call when they are forced into a corner? The option could be something like this;

“Press 4 if you are at the end of your tether a want to kill someone”

It could work and actually save time at the call centres as well!