back to article Vodafone silences punters in mini-mast upgrade bungle

Vodafone customers relying on Sure Signal boxes for mobile connectivity have been hit by an update that left them less connected than ever. The boxes are femtocells – small cellular base stations – hooked up to punters' broadband connections to boost Voda's phone network in areas with patchy coverage. Not every Sure Signal box …

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Anonymous Coward

O2 & 3 give away femtocells for free.

Vodafone just keep telling customers to buy them, no matter how much they complain about the poor signal. One even offered me a discount which made the final price more expensive than walking into a store and telling them how long I had been a customer and getting a long service discount.

But then the ones on the end of the phone often require the problem to be explained to them several times. I lost count of the number of staff who I had to tell that the problem was not a fault with my device as every vodafone handset in my property only gets a signal when leaning out of a window.

It may help if the support people shared the same first language at the people they are trying to support.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: O2 & 3 give away femtocells for free.

Vodafone do seem particularly hard of thinking when your problem is even slightly off from their limited script library

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Re: O2 & 3 give away femtocells for free.

I am apparently in am excellent Vodafone indoor coverage area. Am I heck. I too had to go near a window to get decent signal and I was fobbed off with the device and sim card being faulty excuse. It is the first time with any network I have had signal problems in the areas I live and work so I felt I had cause to complain.

It was only when I contacted their excellent tech team via twitter that I got any decent customer service and got a Sure Signal for free. I said bluntly I wouldn't pay for it, especially having to use mine and my broadband providers infrastructure to do operate it. I now have full signal throughout the house and I'm really pleased. Shame they can't sort the rest of the network out, I'm still miffed at myself for switching from Virgin just to get my mitts on an S3 quickly, the t-mobile orange combo provided excellent coverage (at least for me) wherever I went.

Moral of the story, if you need a sure signal and don't just want your own personal base station as a new shiny then get in touch with their tech team.

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FAIL

Re: O2 & 3 give away femtocells for free.

3 doesn't give away femtocells for free unless you meet their strict policy. They wouldn't even sell me one, so I moved back to Vodafone. I'd have stayed with 3 if they'd listened...

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Silver badge
Megaphone

Re: O2 & 3 give away femtocells for free.

"It may help if the support people shared the same first language at the people they are trying to support."

Agreed. Vodafone's offshore customer support is shit. if you can speak to somebody in the UK or Ireland then they're (IME) pretty good, and helpful, and usually sort things out, but when you're on to Toadafone's India call centres then the staggering uselessness and unhelpfulness needs to be experienced to be believed. The other night I was trying to sort out a billing issue for a contract agreed over the phone, and the halfwits In India repeatedly asked me to send them a screenpint or scan of the contract, and kept wittering on about VAT (which had nothing to do with the issue) etc.

Oi! Tossers at Vodafone, I'm paying you and arm and a leg each month for several phones, and I don't want to deal with your cheap and crap offshore "support" centres, not now, not ever. I don't want them "improved", I don't want you wasting money on "consultants" or "research" into the service level, just fucking accept that I'm paying the bill, and I don't want offshore service. I just want to speak to somebody who understands what I'm saying, culturally understands me, and has the ability and enthusiasm to resolve technical or billing issues.

And whilst you're sorting that mess out, you might want to sort out your rubbish IVR that doesn't cover enough eventualities, and means that whenever a customer gets through to a human being (wherever they are located) there's a good chance that ciustomer is already fuming.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: O2 & 3 give away femtocells for free.

A friend tried to get a free femtocell from Three but after making several calls and just getting the run around he gave up. Lesson he learned is they do not really value his custom even though he had two contract phones with them and he's now switching to Vodafone. So don't assume you will just call them up and it arrive in the post the next day.

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Re: O2 & 3 give away femtocells for free.

"Vodafone just keep telling customers to buy them, no matter how much they complain about the poor signal."

Yes, when I emailed them to complain that myself and everyone I know on Vodafone could never get a 3G signal anywhere in Oxford - inside or outside - and for them to please not bother suggesting buying a Suresignal box as I can use wifi when at home/office and it really doesn't help me when I'm in town and wanting to check the price of something.

Sure enough, on the 2nd or 3rd email, that was their suggestion. I don't think the support guy even understood when I asked if the cable I'd be trailing everywhere I went would pose a trip hazard.

Other than that, their only other advice was that I should reboot my phone or try another SIM as the computer said I was in an area of excellent coverage.

Now with Orange, which has pretty good signal here and at least (unless you have an iPhone) provides an app for free that basically does the Suresignal thing in software over wifi, so I get a good signal when indoors at home/work too.

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Anonymous Coward

Femtocells would've caught on quicker if calls were discounted (else it's like paying twice) and the Femtocell was renamed 'The super awesome box of greatness' or something.

Whoever called it a Femtocell made it sound like something that should be sold by Ann Summers

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Anonymous Coward

Pretty sure they are discounted - when they first came out they were more like £150-200. So selling for £50 is probably discounted - probably also explains why they are locked to one network - well I've never seen one that is unlocked / works with all networks. My sure signal has been working for about 2 years now - in all that time I have rebooted it once when it seemed to lose connection - compared to not having a decent signal I'm happy to accept that.

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Anonymous Coward

Calls through a Femtocell were discounted, not the box.

Effectively you're kind of paying twice for the routing else

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Anonymous Coward

OFCOM

>probably also explains why they are locked to one network

Or it might be because the network operators get stroppy and call in OFCOM when someone else starts transmitting in their spectrum?

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Coat

1MB/s?

"Vodafone recommends a minimum of 1MB/sec"

Really? 8Mb/s seems quite a high minimum recommendation for voice.

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FAIL

Re: 1MB/s?

I believe they meant 1Mb/s

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Gold badge

Re: 1MB/s?

I think that's still too high. I think that 0.5Mb/s is still fairly common upstream, and normally you want a phone call to be bi-directional. It's strange too considering that ISDN only gave you 64kb/s and that has no compression at all, and ISTR that GSM only had a datarate of about 14kb/s for calls (including various coding / error corrections).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 1MB/s?

The typical GSM voice codec runs at 9600 bits of user data per second, doesn't it?

64kbit/s for a voice call seems a bit excessive, but twas ever thus with modern technology.

The same copper pair that originally gave you 3kHz of voice bandwidth in due course could be used for 128kbits of ISDN or two whole voice calls.

Then along comes the miracle called ADSL and magically the data rate goes up to a handful of Mbit/s. But try and use it for VoIP and it's ... still only two calls.

Maybe it gets better with VDSL?

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FAIL

Wouldn't notice..

My sure signal is so bloody useless I probably wouldn't notice if the update simply switched it off..

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wouldn't notice..

Either it's faulty or you are holding it wrong. When mine is off I get 0-1 bar 'near the window' - with it on I get 5 bars all around the house. You would know if it was working.

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Silver badge

Re: Wouldn't notice..

Ditto. Mine regularly drops out and doesn't renegotiate.

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8Mbit to carry a 9600baud GSM audio signal? HMmm....

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Anonymous Coward

It's 1Mbit/s and that is probably very optimistic as you are correct that a voice call would never need that much - but it can also be used for data and also with multiple devices.

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Thumb Down

I was SO SO glad to get rid of that rubbish piece of junk a few weeks back when I moved to T-mobile.

£50 for the privilege of getting an occasionally usable signal as opposed to no signal at all. And STILL using my minutes and data allowance despite all the data going over my own internet connection!

What a rip off and such a sorry excuse for their dreadful network coverage in my city.

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Anonymous Coward

And I had shoddy coverage with T-Mobile - no network is 100% - live with it. Around here I have had Orange (dreadful), O2 (dreadful) and Vodafone (poor indoors, fine outside). The femtocell solves that issue. Lovely to think you would get great signal everywhere but it's just not realistic. Same thing at work - building must be made like a faraday cage as no network works well - we get a sure signal and people are switching to voda as they get full signal now.

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Holmes

Question

Why, instead of flogging femtocells, don't they just give you a VoIP client and run a gateway?

Since pretty well everyone with home broadband has wifi, it would seem to be a no-brainer. Those without wifi could be sold a wifi access point instead.

Oops - just realised the answer to my own question: dumb phones won't be able to run VoIP clients. Would still work for the new generation of smartphones though, surely?

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Re: Question

Would kill your battery using Wi-fi and an always on app for VOIP calls all the time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Question

Would all need setting up / usernames / passwords etc. With the sure signal all you do is register the numbers that you want to use with it and works with almost all phones (think they have to be at least 3G capable) but certainly a lot easier for users to setup and use.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Voda offshore customer support

Well, owing to the failure of the offshore email-based support to follow what I was asking (I was arguing for £1 off my bill per month, based on what I was being billed and what I'd been quoted being different) ... and ended up getting the VAT-exclusive price less my pound as the VAT-inclusive actual price to pay. I'm not complaining.

But they clearly have a lot of pricing flexibility...

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Silver badge

So...

So you have a patchy network and you expect me to pay you for a box to cover the gap. Then you charge me for the minutes I use on your network, even though I've provided the initial route all the way to your backbone via my ISP?

Can't for the life of me see why it didn't catch on.

We do actually have one here in the office (a few directors are on Voda) and even before the update it was a moody box of annoyance. No complaint so far today, but I'm sure they'll come soon, they always do.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So...

When it's in use it uses bugger all of your broadband - so yes you are saving them the cost of getting it onto their network but they still need to route it and pay the interconnects etc. For the benefit of getting full signal (and it's just not realistic to expect a radio signal to work everywhere) it's well worth it.

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Anonymous Coward

All networks have poor signal here so getting a Vodafone Suresignal was a blessing - yes it took a few hours until it started working (but they said it would) but since then we get basically full signal all around the house. It would be lovely (if unrealistic) to think you will get full signal everywhere - some people live in the middle of nowhere, some buildings have thick stone walls, metal frames and people live in basements etc. - with the Suresignal it solves all those issues.

I paid £50 for mine but gladly - over a couple of years it's insignificant. I'm not saying other people have no had problems but for us it's been perfect and I'd rather stick with Vodafone as their outdoor coverage is generally better and I prefer to support UK companies.

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Just a shame Vodafone don't return the favour to the UK!

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Anonymous Coward

For those not on o2 or on Voda, there's a device called Cel-Fi that works pretty well for boosting a 3G signal without requiring an internet connection.

It consists of two small boxes - just put one in a location (e.g. attic or bedroom) that has at least 1 bar of 3g signal, then put the other in a 3g blackspot and it will fill in the coverage gap with a great signal. It's turned our household 3g not-spot into great T-Mobile coverage, and unlike a femtocell doesn't go off every few days, doesn't need device numbers to be registered and can support multiple phones at the same time. Not cheap but works really well - I held off buying one for ages until the Register did a review but gave up waiting and am pretty happy with the unit now I've bought one.

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"Not Cheap"

£450 might be worth it if it's your only means of getting Internet access, but it would otherwise buy an awful lot of call diversion to your landline...

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Silver badge

a Sure Signal box could take six hours to boot up

Bloody hell, and I thought the Livebox was slow...

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Anonymous Coward

Kinda more surprising that people actually managed to use the Vodafone forum, it's full of bugs that make registering or logging in a bit of a lottery

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Flame

O2 Free Box

On O2 the "Free" BoostBox is actually £150 + VAT, either in cash on your bill or taken out of your handset upgrade pot.

Not sure if I'm a valued O2 customer but I did my best to complain loudly enough about the lack of coverage at home.

No decent reception from any network here, so better than nothing.

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