Archive for the ‘Ofcom’ tag
Negotiations of the government and major British networks led to a decision that instead of national roaming main operators promised to spend 5 billion pounds on improving mobile coverage
Recently, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has undertaken to tackle the problem of not-spots in many rural areas of Great Britain. The Department’s initial proposal was to introduce national roaming which meant that consumers would be able to use any available network in areas with low mobile coverage free of charge. Operators were shocked by such an idea and prepared counteroffer as they saw national roaming as a detrimental development that would lead to problems in the industry. Not being able to charge rivals for using their network would mean a great financial loss and would discourage operators from investing in network infrastructure.
After some negotiations with DCMS, main operators, i.e. EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, pledged to invest £5bn together to tackle the problem of not-spots and provide mobile coverage in 90% of the British landmass by 2017. This only includes basic 2G mobile coverage. However, they also promised to increase 3G mobile coverage by 16% so that consumers will be able to access mobile Internet in 85% of the land.
DCMS started to look into poor mobile coverage after many customers criticized four major operators for poor mobile coverage or not having it at all in some parts of the UK. The culture secretary, Sajid Javid, said that both businesses and the government see that mobile connectivity and good mobile coverage are vital for the society and this “legally binding agreement will give the UK the world-class mobile phone coverage”. Javid had to ditch his national roaming plan but securing 5 billion pounds for investment is a great achievement and may make the UK the best-connected country in Europe.
Ofcom’s research revealed that EE not only rules in terms of 4G mobile coverage but also offers the fastest speeds in the country.
Ofcom regularly conducts speed tests to see what the quality of service that operators offer is. This month the watchdog published a research into 4G and 3G performance that checked the quality of mobile coverage of four main mobile operators, i.e. EE, O2, Three and Vodafone. The test was done in five major British cities and included over 200,000 smartphone tests, both indoors and outdoors.
Ofcom checked both download and upload speeds, as well as web browsing speed and latency. All of these factors are important when using mobile Internet, as they ensure the quality of the experience. In terms of download speeds, the average result was just above 15 Mbit/s on 4G which was more than twice as much as on 3G (6.1 Mbit/s). It turned out that O2 and EE offered the best performance, as their average was 15.6 Mbit/s and 18.4 Mbit/s respectively. The result was followed by Vodafone which was just 1Mbit/s below the average and 3G UK was discovered to be the worst performing one with the speeds of roughly 11 Mbit/s. In terms of 3G speeds, again EE opened the list, followed by Vodafone that had just slightly worse result. The last two places were taken by 3G and O2. The results were almost the same in terms of upload speeds. However, the analysis of web-browsing experience showed that Three UK’s network ensures the fastest website loading time.
Ofcom also looked into mobile coverage of these operators. All of the operators showed that their 3G mobile coverage is above 90%, which complies with their terms of licence. In terms of 4G mobile coverage, Ofcom analysed the period between June 2014 and October 2014. The study was based on data provided by operators which was then crosschecked with Ofcom’s own field measurements. The top scorer in this category was again EE. It can boast having 70% of indoor mobile coverage in studied cities, followed by 51% of O2 and Vodafone. Although EE is the best, the biggest improvement was seen in Vodafone’s mobile coverage as it jumped from 37% in June to 51% in October. Due to some technical problems they couldn’t measure Three UK’s 4G mobile coverage but looking at other research one can see that they have the lowest 4G coverage in the UK.
Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive, commented on the research by saying: “Having fast, reliable broadband on the move is vital for many consumers and businesses across the UK. Today’s research shows 4G is providing a significantly enhanced mobile broadband experience to customers, which we expect to be available to 98% of the UK population by 2017 at the latest.”
“Improving mobile quality of service is an important area of Ofcom’s work. Our research both incentivises mobile providers to offer a higher quality of service, while helping consumers choose a mobile package that best suits their needs.”
Government’s poor mobile coverage proposal received heavy criticism from main mobile providers.
On November 5, the UK government revealed its ideas to tackle the problem of poor mobile coverage. One of the main propositions is an introduction of national roaming, which means that consumers will be able to use the network of any provider at all times without any additional charges. While the government’s press release suggested that all legislative changes were consulted with, the comments issued by main operators seem to contradict that.
All operators voiced their dissatisfaction with the idea of national roaming underlining that this solution will not increase mobile coverage or get rid of partial not-spots. In fact, their opinion is that it will be detrimental to mobile coverage and from the consumers’ perspective the quality of service will worsen too. EE also pointed out that national roaming might cause price hikes which are never welcomed by consumers. The response issued by O2 includes a worry about the future of network infrastructure investments should the government’s proposals be implemented. Finally, Vodafone’s comments focused on their customer’s experience as they might be affected by higher rate of dropped calls, worse quality of services like voicemail or even more battery consumption.
Incidentally, not only operators slammed the government’s “poor mobile coverage” proposals. Ofcom has also expressed its doubts whether national roaming is the right solution to tackle the problem of not-spots and poor mobile coverage. Chief Executive of Ofcom Ed Richards said that national roaming would discourage operators from investing in network infrastructure and probably worsen the overall customer experience.
All in all, both mobile operators and telecoms experts believe that the government’s strategy is inadequate. Right now, the ball is on operators’ side because they have to come up with some feasible alternatives to government’s ideas and they don’t have too much time because the deadline is November 26th.
Ofcom decided to punish Three UK for not complying with rules on handling complaints.
The British telecoms watchdog launched a monitoring and enforcement programme some time ago. Ofcom’s initiative’s goal is to watch over how customer complaints are being dealt by operators. Recently, we have learned that they had their first success after investigating Three UK.
The regulator found some issues in Three’s complaint handling processes. As it turned out some complaints weren’t resolved in a fair and timely manner. The main offence was that some customer cases were closed even though they weren’t properly dealt with. Other problems involved situations when customer calls were not registered in the system and as a result they weren’t treated according to the operator’s complaint handling process. Ofcom was also dissatisfied that Three’s customers weren’t aware that they could try to fight for their rights through alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Three UK is obliged by the law to inform their customers that such scheme as ADR exists. Alternative dispute resolution is part of consumer protection policy and it is a free-of-charge method of referring a complaint that couldn’t be resolved to an independent body that could give an objective ruling.
Ofcom decided to fine Three UK £250,000 for non-compliance with approved Code of Practice for complaints handling. The watchdog also acknowledges that Three UK ensured that its complaint handling process will be in line with the legal requirements.
Claudio Pollack, Ofcom’s Consumer and Content Group Director, commented on this situation saying “When things go wrong, customers are not only entitled to complain to their provider, but must have confidence that their complaint will be dealt with fairly.That’s why we impose strict rules on providers on how they must handle complaints.We treat any failure to follow these rules very seriously”.
Ofcom announced that EE offers the best quality of calls in the UK, followed closely by O2
British telecommunications watchdog looked into the quality of service provided by mobile operators. Their study is related to a plan to improve mobile coverage in the UK. Ofcom compiled data provided by such operators as EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, as well as Rootmetrics’ findings and consumers’ opinions.
The overall result says that 76% of consumer are satisfied by call quality provided by their operators, however, people from rural and remote areas are less happy about their mobile services than urban dwellers. Deeper look into quality of calls showed that EE has the highest percentage of calls completed successfully (97%). The second best was O2 with 95.3%, which was followed by Three and Vodafone with 94.5% and 92.6% respectively. In general that shows how high the quality of service provided by British mobile operators are. But yet again there were significant differences between urban and rural areas. This shows that while the quality is exceptional in towns and cities, operators still need to work on mobile coverage in remote areas.
Consumer research conducted by Ofcom on mobile reception led to similar conclusions. Most people don’t experience any problems with mobile coverage, while around one-third said that they have troubles with mobile coverage at least once a week. That figure goes up in the countryside.
Analysed mobile operators have more than 90% 3G mobile coverage which is in line with Ofcom’s regulations. They still intend to improve it to 100% but they also promised to bring 4G mobile coverage up to the same standard. Ofcom is currently working with the Government on expanding mobile coverage in remote areas, so it seems all stakeholders are involved in providing even fuller mobile coverage in the UK.
If you don’t know what is phone locking and which operators do it, you should look at Ofcom’s guide on mobile phone locking.
British watchdog Ofcom released a concise information sheet for consumers about mobile phone locking and unlocking. Obviously, to start off you need to know what phone locking is. It is a capability installed in mobile phones that all mobile operators use to restrict the usage of a phone to their network. Mobile providers have been putting a SIM lock (another name for phone locking) on phones that are bought at a discount when customers sign a contract almost since the beginning of the market. Such business model allows them to get back the cost of the handset during contract lifetime (usually between 1 and 2 years).
As the telecoms market developed this practice was stopped by some operators. Majority of them still put SIM locks on new phones and remove them at the request of a customer at a certain fee. However, as it is currently quite popular to switch an operator, some mobile providers reduced the waiting time and unlock phones before the contract is over.
Analysis of major operators showed that apart from Three UK and Virgin Mobile, they usually lock their subsidized contract handsets. You would expect that if you choose PAYG SIM card then the phone would come unlocked, but that’s not always the truth. Quite the opposite, as only Three UK sells all of their phones unlocked no matter whether you choose PAYM or PAYG SIM card.
This means that majority of consumers have locked mobile phones and as long as they don’t change the operator they usually don’t care about this. But when they decide to move to a new provider, they will have to ask their current company to unlock their phone. Mobile providers are obliged to do so, but they have various policies regarding that. In general, the cost of unlocking your phone would be in the range of £15 to £20, but there are exceptions like O2 which does it for free if you are a Pay-monthly customer. The point at which you can do it also depends on the operator, but the average wait time is 6 months. It turns out that you can remove the SIM lock from a PAYG phone earlier than from a PAYM one. Most importantly you should remember that mobile providers take their time and don’t unlock your phone on the spot. You should expect that it will take you anything between 7 and 30 days before the will do it for you.
Ofcom did a good job by collecting all the data from operators so that consumer are aware of this situation and can expect how much it will cost them and what they can do about it. If you want to check out the whole guide by Ofcom, please visit their website.
After more than 3 years of dominance O2 was dethroned by Three UK as the 3G operator became the least complained about operator in Q1 2014. Most customer-friendly operator
The research conducted by Ofcom checks which operator receives the most and the least complaints from let-down customers. For very long O2 could boast having the title of least complaint about operator in the UK, however, for the first time ever Three UK has overtaken O2. The 3G operator scored 0.04 complaints per 1,000 customers and it’s their best result so far.
If you look into the past we can see that in the span of two years, Three UK improved its customer service greatly as their result from 2012 was almost 0.20. However, there is a general trend in the industry to provide better services and treat customers respectfully so that they are satisfied. The industry average lowered from 0.14 to 0.06 in just 24 months.
The last place in the ranking for some time has been occupied by EE with 0.12 complaints per 1,000 customers. Ofcom explains that those unsatisfied customers usually had problems with changing provider, billing and how their issues were handled. Obviously, the high score of EE may be attributed to the fact that Ofcom counts together complaints related to T-Mobile, Orange and 4GEE.
The telecommunication watchdog is investigating a possibility to lower wholesale cost of connecting mobile phone calls by around 40%
On June 4, UK communications regulator Ofcom put forward a plan to reduce so called “mobile termination rates” to roughly 0.5p per minute (ppm). These rates are the charges imposed by operators for connecting calls to a competitor’s network. The wholesale cost of connecting mobile phone calls is part of their costs that the operators need to consider when establishing retail prices for their customers.
We have seen a dramatic drop of MTRs in the last two decades. In the middle of the 90s, those rates were just short of 25 ppm, and then they plummeted to reach a level of 5ppm in 2004. Since then, the MTRs have been gradually falling. Last time that Ofcom intervened into those rates was in 2011 when they were at 4 ppm which resulted in current market mobile termination rate at about 0.8 ppm. Ofcom’s proposal to cut mobile termination rates to 0.5 ppm expects that such price can be achieved by April 2017. The watchdog goes into a period of consultations which is open until August 13 and then promises to make a decision by March 2015.
Main mobile providers will not welcome another change imposed on MTRs as it affects it business the most. Conversely, consumers should be happy as reduced mobile termination rates is one of the factors responsible for lower cost of call time. For example, we could register a fall in the average cost of call bundles from around £40 to £13 in 10 years-time. Back in 2011, mobile operators were opposing changes in MTRs saying that it will make their business unprofitable. However, now mobile networks and technology are more economical and introducing even lower termination charges is proposed by Ofcom to have more competitive market and provide affordable services to consumers.
Vodafone follows Three UK in their commitment to not impose price hikes during the contract, which is in line with the ruling announced by Ofcom.
Initially the response to Ofcom decision to condemn mid-term price hikes wasn’t the most positive among operators. Some of them opposed it or tried to look for some loopholes to go around it and retain the ability to increase contract tariff costs in the middle of the contract. One of the operators, however, promised to keep a fixed price during the duration of the contract and it was Three UK. Now another operator, Vodafone, decides not to impose any price hikes mid-contract.
The Red mobile provider guaranteed all their customers (not only those that joined after January 23) that the price for monthly allowance won’t be changed, so you know that you will pay the same amount of money throughout the whole length of contract. While this is great news for Vodafone’s users they should remember that the operator highlighted that it may tweak with premium, non-geographical rates as well as cost of data/texts outside the allowance. This means that as a contract customer you should be wary of any changes to rates as long as call non-standard lines or often exceed the allowance, even though Vodafone promised to inform everyone about such changes beforehand.
Vodafone UK officials explained why they made such a promise firstly by revealing that they have asked their customers how they feel about mid-contract price hikes and secondly because they want to show their transparency and fairness. In reality the reasons behind it are not as important as the result of it.
We hope that other operators will take the example of Three UK and Vodafone UK and stop increasing prices of contracts in the middle of it. Obviously such price changes may discourage people from signing a contract and drive people towards simple PAYG SIM card solutions.
The British watchdog has imposed a new regulation to protect customers against price rises in the middle of a contract.
Following a number of complaints sent by upset customers, Ofcom looked into legal and ethical aspects of unexpected price hikes. As a result of their investigation, they published a ruling on mid-contract price changes in October 2013 stating that a customer should have a possibility to resign from a contract without any consequences as long as the price of the contract is being increased by the service provider.
This ruling came into effect on January 28. From now on, operators should inform their customers a month before the contract price is increased. Additionally, such customers will have an option to walk away without any repercussions.
There was a mixed reception of this new ruling by the operators. On the one hand, Three UK and Vodafone promised to comply with the new rules and not to impose any price changes to contracts. They do not exclude changing the price of calls and texts outside your monthly allowance, but whatever you agreed on when signing the contract will be unchangeable. On the other hand, there is O2 which refuses to fully agree to Ofcom’s decisions. This operator said that it will continue to increase the cost of contracts by the RPI (retail price index), which this year equals to 2.7% and it also added a clause in new contracts that would make new customer forfeit their right to cancel a contract should there be a price hike. This move is in direct opposition to Ofcom, but as the new ruling only protects people that have signed a contract post- January 23, there is nothing the watchdog can do about old monthly payers. O2 has decided to enforce a middle-term contract only once in their history. That happened in February 2013, however the operator has already announced that a new price hike is coming this March and according to terms and conditions of the post- January 23 contracts there might be a price hike that reflects RPI each year.
Out of the major operators only EE has yet to comment on the new ruling. Hopefully, the operator will follow Three UK and Vodafone rather than O2. There is a lesson to be learnt from that: even contracts are not set in stone these days, so maybe in terms of telecommunications services it is better to decide on pay as you go SIM card or any other prepaid solution. Such an approach will not tie you to one company for 12 or 24 months and you will be able to choose the most competitive deal as the market conditions change.