Friday, September 01, 2006

To "3" or not to "3".....

After returning to Ireland last year I hobbled along on an O2 pre-pay account for a while but earlier this year I decided it was time to get a "real" mobile phone account.
I checked out a few of the different offers online and in some of the local mobile phone shops (did anyone ever notice that 2 out of three of these are smelly, grotty little establishments?).
I eventually ended up in a shiny 3G store where is was assisted in my selection by a friendly member of staff. I had a look at the different phones on offer and being a bit of a techie decided not to go for the blingy skanger phones and to opt for the Nokia 6680 instead. The best subscription offer at the time seemed to be by "3" who were relatively new on the Irish market but seeing that they already operated in several other countries it seemed like a thrustworthy enough company.
I use my mobile phone a lot so I opted for one of their top-end business packages giving me 500 inclusive minutes and 500 SMS messages. I was also lookig forward to using the 3G capabilities of the phone using it to access website and email "on the go" at a reasonable speed. the fact that it had dual cameras potentially making video-calls possible also seemed like a big plus...

Since then 3's service has been nothing but a big dissapointment. Let me list the problems that I have encountered so far:
  • First problem that I encountered was that some people while trying to call me from non-Irish networks (i.e. abroad) could not get through to me. They just got a recorded message stating that the person they were trying to call was not available. Not even the option to leave a voicemail. The message was clearly coming form 3's network as it was the same one people would get when I switched my handset of. 3's customer support puts it down to a coverage issue even though it happened in a wide variety of locations with excellent coverage. All "evidence" points at a roaming agreement problem.
  • Sometimes when I tried to make a call I would get no ringtone after dailing the number. I presumed that I was not making a connection and blamed it on either a network or coverage problem. Until I discovered that the call was actually being made and that the recipients phone would ring and that they could hear me clearly when answering the call. I on the other hand could not hear anything. Someone tipped me to switch the phone to "offline" and back to "general" when this was happening thereby forcing the phone to re-associate with the network. This indeed solved the problem and clearly indicated a network problem. 3's technical support put it down to either a handset or a coverage problem...
  • When sending an SMS message to anyone outside Ireland they would receive this message over and over again sometimes for days on end. When I spoke to three they stated that this was a fault with the receipients network and that there was nothing they could do. The fact that this problem has appeared on various forums as a typical 3 problem clearly indicates otherwise and I strongly suspect that 3's crappy roaming agreements are to blame.
  • Another issue is 3's credit management policy. Apparently it is their policy that "new" customers are only allowed to run up a bill to a certain amount before they are blocked from making calls that are not covered by their free minutes. They seem to start with the limit set at €50 or some ridiculously low amount. The fact that I have always promptly paid my bills and that each bill comes to something between €200 -€300 making me a substiantial customer still doesn't make any difference. I recently was stopped from making any calls while on holidyas because my bill had exceeded €125. The fact that I was not informed of this when I signed up pisses me off even more..
  • Their dismall 3G access. Now this one really puzzles me; why do I not get unlimited access to any website or web based resource that I want? Or why can I not access my own email addresses and am limited ot the stupid moronic "3-mail"? I do not want to have my 3G access limited to options to download ringtones, wallpapers or watch re-runs of some crappy soccer footage. What I want is full mobile Internet access. I do not mind paying for the time spent accessing this but I resent having my access limited to moronic content. Why do 3 go through all the trouble of providing 3rd rate content when there already is a huge amount of high quality content availabe. Save yourself the costs of providing and managing this content and just provide unlimited access. Please...
  • I also discovered that 3G access only works while in Ireland. Even on one of 3's other networks abroad. I was in the UK connected to 3's network there but could not access their 3G service (I was hoping that it would be better than the Irish 3G network). No luck. Up popped a message stating that "packet data services were not available. When I called support I was told that for the Irish subscribers their 3G service only works while on the Irish network.
All this has made my time with 3 the worst mobile phone service I have ever experienced. the fact that their support staff seem to be distinctly in-competent and consistently blame every problem on anything but 3's network does nothing to aleviate this experience.

As you might guess; I am talking a walk down to my local 3G store soon to have a look at some of the other providers. Suggestions are welcome...

05/09/06 **UPDATE**
Yesterday I decided to give "3" one last chance to solve all the problems that I am experiencing. I emailed their customer support department explaining about my problems and provided a link to this blogpost with a estimate of the number of hits it is getting. I put it to them that this would be a good opportunity to create some goodwill as I would post about their efforts to solve my problems.
What happened?
No response to my email but two hours later my phone goes completely on the blink and I can't make or receive anymore calls.
Coincedence? You tell me....

08/09/06 **UPDATE**
I've just received a call from a 3 customer service representative. Apparently it "had been brought to their attention that I was experiencing some problems with their service"....
I had to list all the problems I have had so far again. In response I got the usual pass-the-buck story. It was probably due to either my handset, the coverage or both. When I explained to them that this was not the case and that this had been discusses over an over again the customer service "body" couldn't come up with any other suggestions...
All she could do was to increase my credit limit (again). I was also told that the credit limit was in place to protect customers from themselves and that they would always operate a credit limit system no matter how long someone had been a customer. This contradicts what I have been told before.
I was also told that I SHOULD have been able to use the 3G network while abroad and that my problems connecting to it were probably due to a coverage issue. Yeah right...

When I suggested that, in order to get rid of the handset issue, they send me out a new handset I was told that they could not do this. I could only upgrade to a new handset if I extended my contract by 12 months and if this would not solve the problems I would have to pay a very large cancellation fine to terminate my contract!
Unbelievable....

Instead they offered to send me a refurbished Nokia 6680 to replace my current one.... So if this doesn't solve the problem I will be stuck with a refurbished phone while I paid for a new one....

Continued here..

E.

6 comments:

weareborg said...

I echo your sentiments wholeheartedly.
I too went for 3 as they seemed the best deal at the time.
The bouncing of sms messages does not only happen with roaming. Texting from 3 to vodafone caused some of my receipents to receive more than 50 messages. When I confronted 3, they blamed vodafone..
Ridiculous! THEY are the new network so the onus is obviously on them to sort out network agreements BEFORE they go live to the public.

I am now happy with vodafone and with my new Nokia E61 which I recommend unreservedly.
I forsee Three as a company dropping their walled garden but sadly, for many, it will be too late.
The Irish market is different than even a UK one, being much more insular and, in a way unforgiving of networks as they vie for our money, and must be treated differently as trends change.

When will they realise that they have to treat new customers with some respect. We are not all technophobes but we know when we are being led up the (walled) garden path.

James said...

I'm in the exact same boat. Problem is I got the Nokia 6280 which Vodafone do not support, and they say it might not work properly on their network. I'll have to speak to o2, but I don't know if I have any options for switching at this stage.

Anonymous said...

While your latest update is interesting it sounds like your very paranoid...sorry man :)

Anonymous said...

This is JUST a comment, but I thought I would let you know that their service in Denmark is ok, or at least on par with the other operators.

Anonymous said...

Hey very good blog,was considering 3's network based on the handsets they have. They currently have the best selection, while Vodafone and 02 are have a very poor selection. I recently moved from Vodafone to Meteor. From my experience Vodafone (bill) have the best network by miles but they are very pricy, O2 are very pricy and don't have a great network (on bill at least), Meteor (pay as you go) best value but terrible network. If you want the best network in Ireland go with Vodafone, but you will have to pay for the privledge. I think we irish customers get screwed either on service or price. Don't seem to be any best of both world's in Ireland at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I purchased a Nokia N70 in the 3G shop in August, and fell for the same misadvertising / discounted phone prices. My only problems so far are in relation to internet access (when they only mean access to the handful of sites they have selected), and email access (by which they secretly mean access to 3g mail only). Despite being quite a Techie, I have now given up trying to get around both problems, and am in the process of trying to get out of my contract, even if that means a big cancellation fee. Frankly, the whole think is misleading advertising, and I shall be making a complaint to the relevant bodies.