Vodafone data: Now the equivalent of One2One GRPS

Whatever happened to Vodafone?

Once the shining beacon of technical capability, Vodafone’s data connection appears to have regressed in performance to the point where it’s virtually indistinguishable from One2One at the height of it’s popularity.

One2One was the previous name of T-Mobile. All those years ago. Those were the days. Do you remember them? One2One grew fast by adopting the cheap-as-chips methodology. Pile’em high, sell it flipping cheap. For a long period, the company achieved phenomenal success in the UK giving away free off peak calls. Folk loved it. They absolutely loved it.

Yes, you could hardly get a signal, especially during off peak if you were unlucky enough to live in a fairly built up area. But that didn’t matter. It was free. The poor performance was built into the service offering. What do you expect when it’s FREE, eh? People still lapped it up. They called again. Or re-sent text messages. A 3 hour conversation blighted by disconnections was, as they say in Scotland, nay bother.

I was a customer on-and-off. I was never one of those folk attracted to the free evening and weekend calls concept. I was focused on quality. It really bugged me that when you put your hand over your One2One Motorola, the signal bars routinely dropped from 5 down to nothing. When my friend on Vodafone did the same thing with the same phone, there was no difference in signal strength. I went straight out the next day and got myself a Vodafone connection.

For the longest time I’ve been pretty content with Vodafone.

In recent months things have deteriorated for me.

First, I moved to a new area. The signal there reminds me of my experiences using mobile in the Isle of Lewis (a Scottish Hebridean island, West Coast): As long as you can see the cell mast, you have reception. The moment you can’t see it, you won’t get a connection. Fair enough. Unfortunately that’s the deal for me in Hampshire.

At the railway station where there’s a big mast, I can get data connectivity.

After the High Street ends, there’s no point bothering to check your email or do anything. You just get errors on your device(s) until you get into WiFi signal at home. Pointless. There is absolutely no point in allowing my device to display ‘E’ — or worse, the vacant ‘o’ — unless you’re going to try and use the bearer to do something worthwhile.

The fact that I am routinely struggling to get 10 or 20k a second download on a Vodafone 3G (THREE FLIPPING GGGGGGG!) connection makes me wonder what the hell you’d actually get if the E connection was ever able to achieve throughput.

In today’s always-on iMessage world, shite connectivity plays havoc with interactivity, especially if you’re using an iPhone or another device that just can’t handle British networking bollocks at it’s best. How many of you have been caught out by iMessage telling you it’s ‘sending’ a message whilst your phone reads ‘E’? Is it fluck. Generally my Vodafone iPhone has to default to SMS as the bearer and then pop up a bullshit little red circle with an exclamation mark to highlight that the owner was an idiot for insisting on relying on Vodafone to get the message through.

I don’t know what Vodafone has been playing at recently.

I wonder if there is actually a marked issue with their network? The sort of thing that has technicians at Big Red shaking their heads and hiding under the covers every evening. I’m sure the huge rise in enterprises all of a sudden adding data connections for all their employees hasn’t been helping matters. An iPad running a Vodafone SIM used to be a credible service combination. You’d never expect it to function faster than 3UK on a good day. But you selected Vodafone because of the reach, the breadth, the consistent performance. It might feel a wee bit slower than 3UK… but at least you got through, perhaps a second or two later than 3UK might have achieved it. But without the worry of whether you had decent 3UK signal.

It’s certainly possible that Vodafone has done nothing to their data network to warrant my experiences. It’s possible.

It’s not just me. Anecdotally, throughout the city I am encountering Vodafone customers who have to smile apologetically at me when they try to show me something on their device. More often than not, I spot a horrid ‘E’ on display. The 3G icon is the worst though. You never know if it’s real. And even then, getting anything downloaded is a pain.

A super use case for me is when someone sends me a photo in an email. Let’s assume the photo is 1,800 kilobytes. That can often end up taking five minutes or more to arrive for me on a Vodafone connection.

On 3UK we’d be talking seconds. Four or five seconds, seven seconds top. On EE, it’s near instantaneous. You just need to allow the time for the DNS call, resolution and connection to open up.

Has Vodafone overloaded their network? Have they sold too many data connections? Are they just too popular for their own good, especially in the saturated London environs? Are they spending too long messing around with 4G to bother with their 3G world?

What’s your experience been recently with Vodafone?

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  • chrispatten

    Much as I hate Vodafone I don’t think its just them. In East Belfast I’m getting very patchy coverage on both. Large parts of mid Ulster have always been devoid of any coverage and there are no mountains to explain it. Worst of all, voda cs (masquerading as director’s office) told me tough luck when ROI networks roam in to NI footprint. ‘Strongest signal, that’s the way it works’. It seems they’ll make us pay until the EU stops them.

  • Gabriel Brown

    I’m in London and Vodafone has been dropping off the last couple
    of years I’d say, anecdotally, especially where it’s busy. I guess this partly popularity,
    and partly, I guess, that they’re running an old network which they will (hopefully)soon refresh as part of the LTE rollout.

    It will be really interesting to see how much of a push Vodafone
    and O2 make into suburban areas and countryside with 800 MHz LTE to compete
    against EE at 1800.

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    It’s also going to be interesting to see how long it will take.

    When did EE launch 4G again, end of October last year? Will it take these guys until then or later to actually get something out the door?

  • Ilma

    Here here. Vodafone data connectivity is basically c**p. I live in Cambridgeshire, and despite the Cambridge-London train lines being some of the busiest in the country, trying to get a data connection on the train is a futile exercise. At home, I had to get a Vodafone SureSignal box to get a decent signal, which I refused to pay for. I am seriously considering churning to Three (H3G), whose 3G+ signal gives a faster connection than even my BT broadband (I can plug a 3G USB dongle into my non-BT router and have it use that instead of the DSL line). EE is the other option. Vodafone certainly need to up their game on data connectivity.

  • Gabriel Brown

    A few months here or there won’t matter that much. More important will be the scale of ambition with 800 MHz LTE. The U.S. carriers have shown you can build-out extensive coverage quickly. Let’s hope VOD and O2 show some ambition, as EE has done.

  • Gabriel Brown

    Seems obvious you should move to Three, no? They have the biggest, fastest 3G network, I think.

  • 186k

    It’s always tricky trying to extrapolate from anecdotes but there was a recent survey on network quality that yielded poor results for Vodafone, which they subsequently tried to rubbish…

    http://www.itpro.co.uk/mobile/19953/vodafone-rubbishes-reports-its-network-inferior-london

    Vodafone UK are doing a hell of a lot at the moment

    - Integrating the perennially trouble CWW

    - Establishing a network sharing venture with their main rival – O2

    - Rolling out LTE

    I wonder whether this extraordinary workload is resulting in “drop balls” on the network front?

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    It certainly feels that way for me. It’s increasingly difficult to rely on their data connectivity :/

  • Ian Paterson

    I was with EE and moved to Vodaphone about 5 months ago ( a “friends” recommendation!), enough time to totally agree with this article. Appalling data speed at most times, 3G, Edge? does`nt seem to mean a thing to Vodaphone.and know I will have to pay more to move back to EE and can`t wait to do so..

  • Barry-Jon

    But they’ve always delivered the reliability we expect! At least that’s what their tube ad says!

  • Steve

    I moved back to Vodafone when I joined my new company and I can’t believe how poor the signal is with an iPhone. I was on EE with my previous company and normally got a reasonable signal in London, but sitting in my office in the City I can not hold a signal despite having a booster about 10 metres away. I hope that my organisation changes provider soon as the coverage is so poor

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