back to article Wheels come off O2's data network

UK operator O2 is having data network problems that are making it impossible for most users to access the internet, as well as preventing data-based applications such as MMS. Despite initial reports that the problem was down to congestion in the London area, it now seems that the whole network is refusing to carry packet data …


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  1. Tom_


    How long does it have to be broken before we start getting refunds on our unlimited data plans?

  2. allthegear

    not here

    huh? - I've been using data on my iPhone all afternoon, whilst outside of a wifi connection no problem...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not noticed

    I dont think that this will make much difference to my Iphone 3G connection in docklands.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Money Off...?

    Since O2 are no longer providing the "unlimited" data service which their contract with me specifies, will myself - and others in a similar situation - be given money off our bill as way of a "we're sorry, and we value your custom" ?

    Will they f...

  5. BeefStirFry

    Customer Service..

    Try calling customer services, its great... they reel off a long script which you can tell they've been working on all afternoon...

    Best part is when they say "Its at our highest priority to fix, hopefully should be in the next 24 hours..."

    I can't wait to go back to Orange once this contract is up...

  6. QuiteEvilGraham


    Had to borrow the WiFi in my local to find this out.

    Would an apologetic SMS have killed them?

  7. Matt K


    It was fairly temperamental late this morning, but I've had no problems since with email or web surfing over 3G or EDGE on an iPhone in London.

  8. Chris Morrison
    Thumb Down


    Do openreach engineers use O2? I've been waiting in all day for one to come and customer services say his phone aint working.

  9. Chrome
    Thumb Up

    OK here

    Just tested (16.43) here in rainy N Wales and it seems fine... Hey, something here works better than in a big city! I feel so proud (and kinda depressed)

  10. Anonymous Coward

    oh dear

    Im glad im not the only one having these issues, although its pretty bad i have to read about this on el reg instead of the o2 website.

    Im affected all the way up north btw.

  11. Steven 23

    Bigger Problem

    All our companys O2 mobiles as well as BT landlines are playing up. 50% of the time when you ring one it says "this number does not exist or is unrecognised, goodbye"... fantastic.

  12. King Edward I


    ...Comes as a bit of a suprise to me, as I'm typing this on my O2 mobile phone. Either I'm one of the lucky few, or the problem is not that wide-spread 'cos I've been using the mobile internet all day.

  13. Andrew Katz

    O2 - Best customer service

    I called O2 a few months back to complain about crap coverage and data rates.

    The guy at the call centre said "Yeah, it is crap, isn't it. That's why I'm with Orange".

    I then asked him whether there were any plans to increase capacity.

    "Of course not, " he said", there's a recession on. All infrastructure spending has ceased for the foreseeable future".

    Well, at least he was honest.

  14. Annihilator

    Not just me - phew

    That will explain my "unable to activate cellular network" errors I've been facing all day.

  15. Sampler
    Thumb Up

    Alright here

    Up in the Leeds/Bradford border - my HTC Kaiser and the guy with an iPhone next to me have no trouble.

  16. Mike 119

    ? <-- that was a title

    Absolutely no problem here.

  17. Vince

    Working fine here (better than normal in fact)

    It's processing data just fine on 2G GPRS at least with an N97 and has done all day (I could go upstairs 2 floors and get 3G to check, but can't be arsed), that's down in Devon mind...

    Actually, I was thinking it was faster earlier, maybe if loads of people can't get online, the iPhone chumps won't be consuming so much....

  18. ed 26

    Re: Openreach

    No they use Voda...One of their engineers had to borrow my phone (O2) in our datacentre when they were running in the fibre (6 months late....) Oh the irony

  19. swaygeo

    No data, just adverts...

    No internet down on South Coast in Sussex, but ironically I have just been sent a text by O2 to try their mobile broadband...

    ...I'm thinking no.

  20. TimBiller

    Broken here too ...

    ... up in sunny Nottingham. Oh well, back to wifi.


  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    my iphone stopped working about 11am this morning (london), when I rang o2 about 2:30pm I was told a software upgrade was being performed and so they could only do basic enquiries

  22. Shirtbuttons

    Quick fix?

    Try this:-

    To do this, do as follows:




    Cellular Data Network;

    Change APN from TO

    If you wish to send MMS also you need to do as follows:




    Cellular Data Network;

    Change MMS from TO

  23. simon_b
    Thumb Down

    Been out all day

    Here in sunny(?) west Essex last e-mail sync was 10.30 this morning. Voice OK though.

  24. Chris Dickens


    I've just been down the local O2 show to complain about this - they said restore the damn thing to fix it.

    Now, I read this on here - how can the damn shops be so useless as not to know. Now I have to wait god knows how long for the damn thing to reload everything knowing that it still won't work anyway.

    I hate O2, even more than usual today.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    You can get around this by changing the Cellular Data APN from back to

    Works for me.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Down and out in Glasgow City Centre

    Using iPhone3GS and can't get a connection on EDGE or 3G in either Safari ( & or Mail.

    Get the error message: 'Could activate cellular data network'

    Was working about an hour ago.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    Great, so now my backup internet that is my iPhone is useless while my landline is recovering from being zapped by lightning last week.


  28. David Unsworth

    Working for me!

    Working fine for me on my iPhone and has been all day. I'm in Leeds.

  29. Jaymeister


    It's working for me and has been all day and I utterly hammer my data connection so would have noticed...

    Maybe this problem is more localised than it at first seems...

  30. Rob McInnes

    That just might

    blinkin' well explain why I've spent all afternoon playing with every setting under the sun to get my phone working! I thought it was an issue caused by O2 forcing a "connectivity update message" on me last night! Internet and MMS that had been working for years (literally) suddenly stopped working today (well, MMS is still fubar, but I can live with that).

    However, I'm online again and I've been connected for the last few hours with no problem, streaming music (so I'd notice an interruption in service). That's in Folkestone, for what it's worth...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Decided to jailbreak my iPhone this afternoon and got the "could not activate cellular data network" error afterwards. Thought it was to do with this, and have just restored it to a non-jailbroken version. How annoyingly timed this was.

  32. Scoopz
    Thumb Up

    There's a temporary fix but....

    I got my data working again by going to settings->general->network ->cellular data network

    Change the APN for data from to then turn 3G on and off and it should let you back online with your iPhone. It won't help with visualvoice mail or MMS (i don't recommend touching the APNS for them) but it will get you back online for email, web, etc.

    WARNING - I've been told by O2 that by doing the above, I might get charged for any data going through the APN as this isn't part of my unlimited iPhone tariff. I asked if they were being serious, one APN is down and they'll charge me if I use another working one but he said I *might* get charged.


  33. Barracoder

    I cry

    All 3G access completely out in Docklands, as far as I can tell.

  34. greenmantle

    here too

    Central london still not working at 17:41... Bet no refund ;-(

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    No idea what 02 are up to...

    ... but I, and everone else in the office on 02 here in Kingston had about four hours of "network busy" messages yesterday afternoon when trying to place voice calls too.

    Paris, because she goes down frequently as well, of course.

  36. Mark61
    Thumb Down


    Even when roaming, you end up connecting through an O2 APN. And yes, in the NL, my O2 data service is kaput.

    I pay £50 for 50mb of access when roaming. Wonder if I can haggle a rebate seeing as I'm actually paying a sizeable wedge...

  37. Ian 16


    Strange ... Vodafones GPRS network was having sporadic outages last week too...

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Broken in....

    ....Cambridge at present

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    As they don't have the N97 they're off my migration path from Orange (who should have the N97, but are still screwing about with the firmware) already, but it's nice to know O2 are as crap as everyone has said.

    So which should I go to out of Vodafone and T-mob?

  40. Robin Weston

    thank god...

    No joy today in Bolton or Preston, on contract. As for all the doom sayers - this stuff happens once in a while. I'm calm about it all... mind you if it had stopped me checking on the cricket scores yesterday....

  41. Anonymous Coward


    Oh no! How WILL all those with oh-so-fashionable iFones EVER download their pointless apps without a data connection? IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!

  42. Tristan

    Norwich & norfolk out

    Between me and a friend driving down to diss today we've tested about 5 cells - all down, but it's only the access point - if you jump onto it works (albeit slowly.)

    Personally I'm rarely far from a Wi-Fi!

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Switch back to the old APN and it is fine

    I was getting the "unable to activate cellular network" message here (in Edinburgh).

    The issues seem to be caused by the APN.

    If you go into Settings->General->Network->Cellular Data Network and change the APN for Cellular Data from "" back to the old "", then it works fine.

    Other O2 customers are reporting the same thing on their own forums:

    But O2 are recommending against this change (via twitter) for some reason.

  44. Mark C Casey

    Not here

    I'm in Leeds here and it has been flaky all day. Unable to connect in to works VPN on the iphone to check my work email. (I have to use wifi to do that at the moment)

    Plus I got a text message from work complaining that they can't connect in to the vpn because all the sales guys use iphones and the vpn to check their email etc.

    O2's data network has been pretty flaky the last few months.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    o2 Fail

    Just got off of the phone with some chap in O2 Business support, apparently this could take up to a week to fix.

    Following O2 on twitter it said that there had been a fire in a London sub station.

    Checked about getting money back and they said if its a long outage they might refund a portion of the cost.

  46. Professor Quatermass
    Jobs Horns

    On the 24 to Hampstead and ...

    ... I thought my iPhone had given up the ghost. No, it seems that O2 have just crapped out. "Unable to activate cellular network" is the most irritating error known to humankind!

  47. Yombidu

    Excellent service as always

    Nice to see O2 are going out of their way to notify customers via their website. I've spent ages cursing and diagnosing the settings on my handset and it was their fault all along!

  48. Tech Hippy

    Depends which APN you use

    Lost my data connection at 14.30 in Stevenage.

    Just got home and reconnected by switching APN from (faster, password) to (web, web). Pay monthly customer.

  49. Havin_it


    Perhaps unrelated but... was using JoikuSpot to tether my lappy at about 4pm and every page I pulled up on El Reg had everything on the page except ... the actual article text!

    Is this O2, Joiku or your latest scheme to derange my fragile mind?

  50. Apocalypse Later


    So that's why I my new mobile broadband gizmo apparently wouldn't install all morning. It's typical, but I always forget- the system is always down when you are trying to install. It gives you lots of practice running through the settings over and over though, trying to figure out which one you mucked up.

  51. DennisCB


    I'm a Pay-As-You-Go customer. After i have finished rolling around the floor in histerics i think i might ring someone up ant tell them about it.

  52. Claire Rand

    same here

    Stoke-on-Trent and Barnsley both down, did wonder what was up. though I have to say, didn't exactly spend *long* wondering.

    an irritant, but a minor one if its less than a day or so, if it starts to get to about a week I'd expect O2 to make a gesture of some sort, credit for extra SMS or calls maybe, something that won;t cost them much but is at least partly useful.

    no SLA on this sort of account, but I'd assume business customers may be checking their contracts a bit more. but a good will gesture would be a reasonable expectation if this occurs too often or goes on too long.

    but what would be seriously unexpected: a description of what the problem is, without any BS attached. if someone pulled a plug by accident *say so*, I'm more than happy to deal with a company that has occasional issues but is honest about it, and is willing to fix issues.

    The day my iPhone loosing its data connection for a few hours or a couple of days is *critical* to me is the day I need to re-evaluate my life.

    we managed without these things before, and until our dear leader mandates everyone must carry a mobile to allow us all to be tracked, i.e. until the day O2's network going down results in *me* being fined I'll cope.

  53. Anonymous Coward

    Darker forces at work here

    I think, that its actually some evil force of nature that is seriously peeved off at the complete disregard O2 has to its customer loyalty, and i forsee that as each any every one of us comes up to the end of their O2 contract and gets informed that, nope, no more loyalty discount and that free upgrade is now going to cost you £90, they too will join the dark side and leave O2s bubbles...

  54. This post has been deleted by its author

  55. Stuart Oram
    Thumb Up all fine for me - non-iPhone, always used that APN.

    Probaly just idata affected??

  56. Anonymous Coward

    No different to normal is it?

    And there was me thinking that the usual outgoing calls failing, incoming calls going straight to voicemail, and "retro" internet speeds (if a connection can be made, it usually reminds me of the early 90s) was business as usual.

    Once my 12 months of free web and wifi is up, I'm off.

  57. Ashley Adams

    Ahh its not just me!

    This afternoon my connectivity stopped working abruptly with the message "unable to activate cellular network" as others have experienced. However one of my mates also with a 3GS on Simplicity was working fine.

    As some of you have found out, changing the apn settings to does fix the issue. Mine was originally set to for everything as after lengthy experimentation this is the only apn where the tethering setting won't 'mysteriously vanish', presumably when it does some sort of eligibility check. This was confirmed when I pointed out to my mate that tethering had gone on his even though he had been using it previously.

    As its some sort of network glitch ill probably change my settings back to when its all fixed. In case anyone is unsure about billing.., both wap and mobile appear on my itemized bill as zero charge.

  58. captain kangaroo


    It's responses like these that make me think that a lot of NON TECHNICAL people read the register.

    Because most of these responses are so short sighted and narrow minded.

    Therse in particular.

    1/ Refunds - Get a life, really. People like you suck

    2/ Fail - That's so Lame [sic]

    3/ Anyone knocking callcentre staff, seriously, you've seen Resevior Dogs, right...You really think they give a shit, paid what they are. MD complaint, now youre talking. Get in there...

    4/ Upgrade the network - as was mentioned. There's a recession on, nothing's getting upgraded.

    5/ Anyone knocking o2 - No i don't work for them. But Apple chose o2 for the stability of their network. Ask anyone in national networks. Whatever o2's network is, it's stable. V******* T-***** (haha), would have all suffered this yonks ago, multiple times.

  59. Cliff

    O2 bad for data anyway

    I needed a 3G SIM (besides my T-Mob G1 contract) for a project recently, I had the pick of the networks, but no time to do any research. O2 shop lady told me their £7.50 PAYG bolt-on was "unlimited" internet. Turns out she was right, for very small values of "unlimited" - 200Megs a month is pretty weasely for "unlimited" in my book, when the same gets me 15 times more with T-Mob. The internet outage is doing you guys a favour in terms of overage costs, don't moan!

  60. Jonathan Cohen

    @captain kangaroo

    @captain kangaroo

    "Anyone knocking o2 - No i don't work for them. But Apple chose o2 for the stability of their network. Ask anyone in national networks. Whatever o2's network is, it's stable. V******* T-***** (haha), would have all suffered this yonks ago, multiple times."

    ROFL... Really? Have you never used ANY other UK network? (Hint: there are 5 UK 3G networks and O2 came last for 3G coverage (by a long way) in the recent official Ofcom survey). In addition, my own experience is that they're the only UK network to suffer from "network busy" for voice calls - not seen these on the other networks (7/7 type events being an exception) in 10+ years.

    Oh right and:

    1.) If I've paid for something I expect it to work. It's people like you that allow the networks to claim limited data plans as unlimited.

    2.) They have.

    3.) I feel pretty sorry for call centre staff, but they've got no excuse for mistreating the people that pay them (their customers).

    4.) Funny, the other networks seem to still be rolling out new coverage and services.

    Ironically, O2 is the one reason I would never own an iPhone. I might buy an older 3G version on Orange or Vodafone though.

  61. whitespacephil

    @Captain Kangaroo

    So what you're suggesting, Mr Kangaroo is that only non-technical people would complain?

    Perhaps that's what is wrong with this industry; the techs (and I do count myself as one) accept that products will be dire and that call centre (and probably helpdesk staff) will be unresponsive.

    Well frankly, I'm disappointed in you. I demand my own staff and products and service to be impeccable. We meet and exceed our SLAs without fail, we deal with complaints or issues in a collaborative manner, without slighting our company.

    As for your statement regarding the failure to upgrade a network in a recession: that's a very short-sighted view for a network that clearly does have a issue.

    Anyway, you might want to rethink your view of those who you consider to not be as technical as you. You might also like to take a look at your own industry practices and wonder why everyone in your company hates the IT service that you provide...

  62. Robin Weston

    @me yesterday afternoon

    Well i'm getting annoyed now. Outages do happen, and if it's a short while, i'm happy for it to just get fixed and nothing more be said. What's getting my goat is the poor communication from o2. Ironic isn't it.

    As far as i can deduce there are two issues, which may or may not be related. The substation fire knocked out some cells in London, hence the first recorded announcement I got when I rang them- the problem was limited to London, so... I held as I'm in Lancashire to be told yes there's a problem with data, and no, we don't know when it'll be fixed. So I ring again late last night, and the message is now that they're suffering network congestion- which again doesn't explain my problem of one apn working and another not, no point holding as i don't have 24hr customer service. So more rooting about online to discover that o2 haven't commented since the end of office hours yesterday, now that's not good enough, i'm sure the network faults team work 24 hours, and even that they an eta for a fix now, shame we mere customers can't be told until el reg gets onto the press office again this morning!

  63. ElNumbre

    .Re: Openreach #

    BT Engineer's use the BT Mobile MVNO which offers connections on both the Vodafone (primarily) and O2 networks. The O2 is a hangover from BT's past, but a useful one. We as a customer of BT Mobile find this useful as each network has coverage in different areas, the hardest decision is deciding whats best.

  64. Dangerous Dave

    o2 = useless

    Mine stopped working yesterday afternoon, thought nothing of it and left it. Tried again last night and still wasnt working. Tried wi-fi, that wouldnt work either. Did a factory reset on the phone (SE c905) and updated to latest firmware. Requested settings from O2, applied them and still no good.

    Tried again this morning at work (other side of Leeds, also different wi-fi network), nothing again on 3G/HSDPA or Wi-Fi, though calls and texts are working. MMS isnt working either obviously. It's showing the HSDPA symbol to show as being connected but mobile internet just errors. Assuming my phone was b0rked, i called O2 and explained my situation

    I was told there had been a fire at one of the sites yesterday lunchtime and there was nationwide outage on the GPRS/3G network. According to the woman in the call centre this will also be affecting my ability to connect to my wireless networks at home and work (yeah, right *sigh*) - after questioning why a national mobile network is brought to its knees by an incident at a single site, i was told to call back later as they cant do anything further until the network is restored. fair enough, but it still doesnt explain why my wi-fi is fudged as well, it was working yesterday morning and still is for my laptops etc.

    And why does the guy with an iPhone at work still have a working 3G connection? how strange...

  65. RegReaderInLancs
    Thumb Down

    Mostly ok

    In Horwich, near Bolton, Lancs.

    The APN seems to be working normally here but the ones (WAP and streaming) are down.

    This is at 10.55 on 22/07/09.

  66. Ray Anderson
    Thumb Up

    O2 data problem is not very widespread

    At Bango we monitor traffic across thousands of mobile sites. Hourly mobile web traffic levels are about 4-9% less than the same period last week so there may be a problem but it is not widespread.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Iphone killed the network

    I've been predicting this for ages.

    My O2 phone (voice and text) works ok so I don't care all that much.

    If people abuse unlimited data this is the result.

    Evil Steve because its all his fault.

  68. Rob 37

    Back again

    Works for me again at 11:20. One thing is that they kept saying it was only an issue for pay monthly customers, but that's rubbish. I'm on PAYG - - and it's been down throughout.

  69. Georgees

    Just after...

    My friend txt me asking if I got his MMS.

    I asked him to send it again, then saw this story.

  70. Matt K

    Deja vu?

    Unless it's just me, it seems to be happening again. Can't get data access at all despite having a strong signal.

  71. Mark Avey

    Yep, it's down again

    Looks like it's countrywide again from the forums and the O2 site is also down.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Broken again?

    Yup, looks dead to me...

  73. Barkin

    Hamster Died

    It would appear that the hamster has died again oh well.

  74. woz

    Deja vu indeed

    Yep, I've been getting the dreaded 'Could not activate cellular data network' for the last hour.

    Signal strength @ 5 bars 3G, but not a dicky bird when it comes to data access.

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