You Are Being Watched Vodafone

For the last week or so, 3G coverage from Vodafone has been VERY spotty in my area, after being almost perfect since my switch from Telstra a couple of years ago.

Despite the cries of “Vodafail” from many customers, I’ve not experienced any significant issues in my time with the carrier.

With respect to the current issues, I gave them a little time to address the problem, as there were outages already listed in my area linked to the apparent problem, so I figured they must be onto it.

Noting yesterday that the fault listed on their website had changed status from “Open” to “Closed”, I found it curious that the problem was apparently not resolved at all.

I queried this with Vodafone’s Twitter service account, and I’ve been providing them with descriptions of the problem, screen shots, and other observations to help them along.

It has been showing all the classic signs of a congested cell. The phone dropping to “SOS Only” quite often, and not being able to make or receive calls.

There are times when you seem to have five bars of service, but not being able to make or receive a call, send or receive SMS messages, and unable to use 3G data.

There are times when there a no signal bars at all, but the service appears to be connected – (the “3G” indicator being shown, as below) – but still not being able to do anything in 3G mode.

From time to time, things seem to work okay – so it definitely appears to be a congestion issue, else it would a problem all of the time.

For the record, 2G services appear functional, but that’s no good when you’re paying for a 3G service.

The issue was referred to their network guys for investigation – one of whom contacted me this afternoon to advise that it was indeed a cell congestion problem, and that three new towers were to be deployed in the area.

They decided that since yesterday huh?

He confirmed that “an increase of subscribers in the area” was the root cause of the problem.

Given the rate at which Vodafone has been losing customers of late, an “increase” in subscribers should be something they are celebrating – but I digress.

Here’s the kicker though – he said it would take until April to rectify.

April? Four months?

That is 16% of my 24-month contract period, and I can’t have a properly functioning service whenever I’m home?

I’m usually relatively even-tempered when it comes to problems with telecommunications services. Given I work in the industry, I appreciate that things do go wrong, and they can be difficult to resolve…

…but FOUR months?

I really hope this doesn’t turn into a long running saga, but I’m putting this out here now – because it could easily become one.

The most curious thing to me is that yesterday they declared the issue resolved, yet today they need three more towers. Given that subscribers in the area are apparently “increasing”, surely they already knew this was coming? It wouldn’t – (or shouldn’t) – be perfectly fine one day, and this bad the next.

Apparently, the network was upgraded in the area a little over 12 months ago:

Given the current status of services in the area, I’m somewhat less than convinced.

Somewhat a lot.

It doesn’t seem to add up.

Lease some coverage from other carriers perhaps?

You’re being watched Vodafone – so you better come up with something a little better than your current response.

And before April, thanks.

  • PointZeroOne

    See if you can get some free months or something?

  • Had similar problem, VF told me the problem was that my HTC Desire HD couldn’t connect to their new 850 mHz network. Offered to cancel the rest of my contract (6 months) if I signed up for another 2 years with a new phone that is compatible. Made no difference. Also, had no coverage in a town where their coverage map said there would be. I had faith, but have been let down too.

  • Pingback: Who Now The What Now Vodafone?()

  • Lucie

    Hi Michael,

    I am the Social Media Manager here at Vodafone Australia and I came across your blog post in my daily digest before Christmas. It is a very thorough account of your experience with us and it raised some concerns for me specific to the information and
    explanation we gave you.

    Last week I did some behind the scenes digging to see if
    I could give you some more clarity on the issues you’ve raised here and this is what I came up with –

    1. What has happened in the Norlane 3214 area in December to cause your disruption?

    There was an outage on 14/12/12, and again on 17/12/12,
    which interrupted the 3G Transmission signal to the local site and area (2G not interrupted). Both outages were resolved within 24hrs. As a result, the limited remaining 2G signal would become heavily congested during the 3G outage.

    2. You were told that the congestion was caused by an increase of subscribers, this is correct.

    In addition to the two outages in December, the Norlane 3214
    area is having issues with congestion due to heavy traffic. Congestion is not limited to increase in subscriptions, there are other factors that such as network traffic and usage, along with customer demands, network capacity in a location and so on. The Network planning team have already identified this area as
    needing expansion, due to heavy traffic. It sounds as though this was not adequately explained to you over the phone and I am sorry that this was your experience, it should have been made clearer.

    3. When will the Norlane 3214 site’s congestion be fixed?

    There are known congestion issues causing degraded
    performance at this site. The planned upgrades and expansions are currently scheduled for April / May 2013.

    4. Why will it takes 4 months to fix the congestion?

    Being in Telco I am sure you know the careful planning that needs to be in place in order to minimise service disruption to customers during the Network rollout & improvement project. This this takes time and currently the planned completion is for April/May this year.

    5. The website showed the issue as resolved however you were
    told by care that it wasn’t and 3 more sites are required to free up the congestion. Why?

    The website showed the resolution of a short-term outage,
    exacerbated by an pre-existing congestion issue. Again, this was not made clear to you. It should have been made clear that whilst the short term outage was resolved (reflected on the outage board on the website), in fact there was a longer term fix in place for the area (deployment of more sites) that would be rolled out
    in the coming months.

    6. Your device shows 5 bars of service and at other times 3G
    signal however the phone won’t work in these modes.

    The bars on screen indicates signal strength, not coverage
    availability. This means that if you’re in an area where there is Vodafone coverage yet the site is congested ‘bars’ will still be present, as there is a signal. This explains why you can see ‘bars’ on your phone yet you cannot connect to the network with standard voice calls or data since the site is congested.

    I understand that your experience would have been very frustrating but I hope these answers give you the clarity you have been looking for.

    I also followed up with our Social Care team and understand that we have offered you six months credit. I’m really pleased that we were able to provide you with a positive outcome whilst the upgrades are completed.

    Lastly, thank you for taking the time to share your experience, we are listening and we really do value your feedback so we can
    improve the service we offer to all our customers. I hope you’ll keep us posted on your before and after Vodafone Network experience once our deployment in your area is complete.

    Thanks again Michael and happy new year!

    Lucie Snape (Vodafone)

    • Thanks Lucie for taking the time and effort to provide such a detailed response.

      Indeed, working in the telco space myself, I appreciate that you can’t just plant a tower and turn it on…my only curiousity at the moment – (outlined in a follow up post I made today) – is that things have markedly improved, without the addition of new towers.

      Things aren’t perfect yet, but the difference isn’t just slight.

      I would hope that a company with the profile of Vodafone should be able to more accurately predict ares where network congestion is expected to become an issue BEFORE they become an issue.

      ie: if the need for the three new towers was anticipated four months ago, there would have been no such service interruptions.

      I find it difficult to conceive that this “popped up” as a surprise capacity issue.

      A national carrier really needs to be on top of these sorts of issues a lot more proactively.

      As I have discussed in my follow up post, I have gratefully accepted the credit to my account. I have no plans to leave Vodafone.

      I’m just speaking out to hopefully provide the feedback you guys need – (and often, probably don’t receive) – to get on top of such issues.

      Thank you again…

      • Lucie

        You’re very welcome! Your point is a fair one so, I’m asking some more questions about how congestion is flagged and will let you know what I come up with. Stay tuned…

        I read your follow up post yesterday, thank you and I am really happy to hear that you’ll be staying with us, we want you to be happy you stayed too, and that’s our goal with all our customers.

        I’m pleased you spoke out. Feedback like yours is invaluable which is why we have a team dedicated to social media monitoring and care, to offer support and resolve issues as they arise. It’s also critical to take on board what we hear in social and use it to improve how we do things so we’re delivering the best experience possible. After all, our customers are the reason we come to work each day!

        Thanks again Michael and I’ll let you know how I go with the congestion question.

        Have a great day!

        Lucie (Vodafone)

        • Lucie

          Hi Michael,

          Thanks for your patience whilst I got the information I needed to address your questions. Have a read through and let me know if you need anything else. Thanks !

          You asked: Do we accurately predict areas where network congestion is expected to become an issue BEFORE they become an issue?

          “I would hope that a company with the profile of Vodafone should be able to more accurately predict areas where network congestion is expected to become an issue BEFORE they become an issue. ie: if the need for the three
          new towers was anticipated four months ago, there would have been no such service interruptions. I find it difficult to conceive that this “popped up” as a surprise capacity issue. A national carrier really needs to be on top of these sorts of issues a lot more proactively.”

          Answer: We use prediction models that are triggered on utilisation and planned growth in the area. We do pull from our international group experience, yet Aussies are unique (as we know!) and we have our own usage patterns so whilst useful for our prediction models we have
          to combine both the international experience and learnings with a localised lens to predict traffic and growth. We predict based on the previous 12 months growth however as with most predictions, we can’t guarantee that people will behave the same way year on year. We are always optimising our planning models.

          You pondered: “Strangely, over the last week to ten days, while the problem still exists, things have noticeably improved… While I’m not
          complaining about the improvement – (there is still a way to go) – it makes me wonder about the initial “we need to build three new towers” claim. Fact? Or just a bit of customer service spin? Four months or three weeks?”

          Answer: There could be a number of reasons you noticed a difference in the service and below is an explanation of the factors that would have played a role..

          A new site 3G 2100, was turned-on in the area in mid-December, however with the two outages on 14/12 & 17/12 you may not have noticed the
          difference immediately.

          We can see that congestion on the site reduced in late December with a small drop in demand visible on 22/12/12 (likely due to the commencement of VIC school holidays), followed by a larger drop around 28/12/12. We usually
          see a reduction in metro traffic and increase in rural and holiday destination traffic as people move to holiday destinations during school holidays periods.

          We can confirm that the three new sites (not towers) are still required in the area to ease the congestion, so it’s not customer service spin
          it’s been identified as a genuine requirement.

          In addition, the site that provides dominant coverage to your residence is also planned to have a capacity upgrade. The exact date of
          this upgrade has not been confirmed but I can certainly let you know as soon as it’s locked away.

          I hope this helps to answer your questions and please do let me know if you have any more.

          Thanks Michael and have a great week.

          Lucie (Vodafone)

      • Lucie

        Hi Michael! It didn’t help that I responded to myself! Please see below the below 🙂