back to article O2 grovels for London network failure

O2 has apologised for the repeated network failures in the capital before Christmas, claiming it was caught unawares by excessive data use. The apology was delivered to the Financial Times so aimed at shareholders rather than customers. It admits that O2 coverage in London has been lamentable since the summer, and promises …


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  1. Jamie Kitson

    Which Applications

    > O2 also reckons it's going to work more closely with handset vendors to address which applications will lead to heavy network loading, but other than blocking such applications it's hard to see what good that's going to do.

    Maybe they'll ask them to compress the data? Or try to profile usage throughout a day and avoid peaks?

    1. Lance 3

      @Jamie Kitson

      It would have to be selective compression as somethings are not latency tolerant. Adding compressions adds latency on both side, plus the additional infrastructure to compress it. It will also have an impact on the battery.

      If they want to block certain applications; port 80 would be a good start. Then they will primarily have email running around their network, much better than that pesky web traffic.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Base Station BS

    I was unfortunate enough to be visiting London during this failure. The problem was not base stations it was in the back end network. I was receiving full signal strength for the majority of my visit but every time I tried to get data access I received a pnp authentication failure.

    1. Cameron Colley

      Full signal but how many "free slots"?

      I'm not technical enough to fully understand it -- but ISTR that each base station can only serve a given number of customers -- due to having to allocate "slots" to them. Perhaps someone in the know could explain, as I can't recall if it works on time or frequency or both?

      Assuming I'm not terribly wrong with the above -- then more base stations would mean more "slots" able to serve more customers.

      As for the cabled backhaul -- yes, that would affect overall speed but should not cause you to be completely without internet unless it becomes completely saturated (which it may well be, but that's another problem).

  3. James Le Cuirot

    A swift kick to Nokia's Semen?

    Don't think that'll fix it somehow.

  4. Robert E A Harvey
    Thumb Down

    Knew it

    3 years ago someone came up with the idea of selling off surplus bandwidth capacity for data. Then the marketing people realised it was a 'product' and started competing for the business with other networks.

    Snag is, they forgot they were trying a bit of marginal revenue from a bit of underused capacity, and they have oversold it /without putting in any new infrastructure/.

    Sound familiar?

    Mobile suppliers really are the pits.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No short term blip here

    There is no such thing as a fix for an underlying architectural problem. Neither the 3G, nor the LTE arch is capable of handling the Internet data users want to suck through them. They were designed for closed-garden systems where most of the network usage happens from IMS controlled services. This rosy closed garden delusion is now facing the ultimate reality check - the user and it is failing miserably as a result.

    So O2/Telefonica should have spent less effort in railroading a broken architecture through 3GPP to the applauses of Nokia (who would like them to BUY MORE STUFF) and actually thought exactly what will happen if the users will actually use the network.

    Hehe... I have been predicting this for the last couple of years and frankly I enjoy every moment of gloating pleasure I am getting from it. O2 should cherish the pain it is in. Not for any other reason - from now onwards it will only get worse. It can of course be solved - if they acknowledge that it is broken and revisit the actual network architecture. It will of course require hiring people who know the other way (TM) and repenting for some of their past 3GPP railroading sins.

    Bwahahaha... Where is my white cat...

  6. Tom_


    It's pretty standard these days for a service supplier to offer a service they can't provide and then give customers the option to pay more to get something closer to it.

    Pretty standard, but still completely rubbish.

    What they should be doing is providing the service that customers are paying for or reducing their claims, reducing the price they charge and paying compensation when there's an outage.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "an additional 200 base stations in London would take relieve congestion"

  8. Fedup with 02

    iPhone user

    O2 has to be the worst in London. My iPhone never loads when you need it and last summer, no-one with an 02 phone could get it to work at Lords during a Test Match! This is just the latest of poor service and I cannot wait to change to Vodafone in the New Year.

  9. Gareth Davies
    Jobs Horns

    They don't need more Base-stations......

    There are plenty of GSM BTS's and UMTS NodeB's out there.

    O2's issue is the state of their backhaul infrastructure. They have not got the bandwidth to the Cell Sites for the traffic.

    They know it and are slowly trying to move forward, but they have changed strategy 3 times in 2 years to my knowledge. (Self Provide/Managed Service/Leased Backhaul).

    On top of this, there is the issue of individual cell congestion, which those 200 or so sites will help with........

    Devil Jobs........cos it's obviously the iPhones fault!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I use a mobile broadband card on O2 every day

    3G data access has been patchy at best for the bulk of this year, and has never got anywhere near its theoretical throughput, while 2G data gets massively flaky around lunchtime, which I presume is down to iPhone users heading for lunch and sucking up all the bandwidth.

    At least O2 is admitting their service is crappy, unlike AT&T in the US...

  11. Ryan 7

    They should stop inserting javascript into every page they serve,

    AND stop cacheing low-res versions of every image.

    We're not on GPRS anymore, Mr.-1990s-network! Total throughput has superceded client link speed as the priority for good user experience, and all your management kit can't hack it. Just push through unmodified data and you won't have to bother with constantly updating your kit to cope with more and more demand!

  12. pctechxp


    El Reg has previously reported that the operators and indeed ofcom are unhappy about publishing transmission site details

    So how can you now suggest sitefinder (which is maintained by a body that would rather the site did not exist) is a reliable source of information?

    I'd also read that article again if I were you as parts don't make sense.

    "Take relieve"

    I could do a much better job and I'm not a journalist.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny that

    Same thing is happening in NYC.....

    So when will O2 stop selling the iPhone in London then?

  14. Mark61


    I'm glad somebody at O2 has finally joined the dots on this...

    - Quite a large number of city analysts probably have iPhones

    - Quite a large number of city analysts work in, err, the City

    - O2's coverage in the City is appalling

    - iPhones used to only work on O2

    Ah. Potential for share price fail as analysts express concerns about network and customer flight when the exclucivity deal goes.

    It doesn't excuse the fact that over the past 6 months O2 have been telling people calling to complain about connectivity that there are no known issues, and proceeding to muck them around by telling them that it's a sim card / handset fault. To my mind that is quite simply inexcusable.

  15. Jessica Werkz

    Will they be using their coverage maps...

    to determine where to put the 200 new base stations?

    I hope not as their coverage maps show our area as having great coverage - Richmond - yet I can barely get a signal.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like...

    ...every mobile network or broadband provider in this country. They don't have the resources, but they'll provide you with a service anyway. I can't wait for the BT Broadband style caps on the mobile network - 'If you keep making calls, we'll disconnect you'!

  17. Patrick 14

    ha ha ha

    You lot think its bad not been able to use DATA. I have problems even trying to make phone calls. And what is really getting to me is the O2 site service checker, the "coverage" is only on street eg NOT in your home. I can get a bloody good 3g signal in my Garden, but unable to get a decent signal at all inside, unless I want to make phone calls on the toilet...And I live in a Bungalow near a Major Town.

    I guess its my own stupid fault I had a K850i on t-mobile but had a iPod touch And when someone came round to do a gas check they had a iPhone and the speaker was loads louder in the touch. Plus it was a phone, so I signed up within days DOH..

    I was also told not to expect to be able to make calls in my home when i called O2 and even orange said the same. God knows how the people that use the Mobile 3g laptop dongles do anything wonder you get a "Free" laptop too.....

    1. Rob McDougall

      got much....

      ...lead paint on that bungalow?

  18. Jason Sheldon

    Hang on a mo...

    What's this £8 "iPhone Bolt-On" compulsory charge I have to pay every month for data access... How can they say they were caught 'unawares'? Don't they know how many customers they have? Surely it's easy to cater for the 'maximum' possible traffic so you AREN'T caught unawares!

    ....and what exactly IS the revenue from the iPhone Bolt-On being spent on - because it obviously isn't bandwidth capacity.

  19. pompeyvw
    Thumb Down

    This problem is NOT only in London.

    Here in portsmouth the problems of 2G data Access and 3G Data access are all too common.

    my friends and I are nearly ALL on O2 a few have iphone a couple with XDA's and a fair few with N95's and other handsets ..

    we ALL have problems with data. and we ALL have problems with Failed calls where if you ring out .. nothing .. the timer on ya phone starts counting but noone there.

    or the other way, you answer a call and there's noone there.

    voicemails left without the phone ringing and droped calls in the middle of a conversaion when you both have full signal ...

    I've put a compaint into O2 and if there's anyone from O2 reading this the trouble ticket is


    I'd like for O2 to fix this soon as over 30 people will move to orange in the new year ...

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Any chance...

    ...we could get any 3G to the rest of the country (or even 2G would be nice) before they start upgrading the network for all those Very Important people in London?

    I seem to have to pay the same bill to O2 as the London-types, but only get GPRS here (even if standing in the middle of the back garden with one leg in the air). Edge is available in the nearest 'big town', 3G only in the cities...

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Not as important as London!

      All you people outside of London and complaining about poor coverage/service please realise how low a priority you are. It is of course the case that London is the epicentre of the (messed-up UK mobile telecoms) universe and the sooner us non-Londoners realise it the sooner we can get on with accepting our substandard service.

      Problem with O2 is not Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), it's O2 themselves. From experience it's incompetence at the engineering level that let's them down. Not quite the shining star of the UK mobile telecoms market.

  21. geoffairey


    It's not just London that is suffering. London is the place I've found the best reception of anywhere. In Manchester it's almost unusable a lot of the time.

  22. Steve 154


    Here's a scenario I experience a few times a week.

    I only go in to London to watch Arsenal. I used to get good 3G coverage, I was able to browse the web before the game, at half time & full time to check the scores - it was great.

    In the past 6 months, it's clear the network infrastructure cannot cope with all the users wanting to use the network. The stadium has around 60,000 people inside so O2 clearly have done nothing to improve their network in the area.

    If I want to make a call before or after the game, I can forget it. "Network busy."

    If I want to use the web from 30 mins before kick off I can forget it. Trying to use the web or send a MMS just before the game, during the game and after the game is a waste of time because the message fails and pages will not load.

    I have to be well out the area before I can actually start using my phone again. Absolutely pathetic.

    1. Benny


      "I was able to browse the web before the game, at half time & full time to check the scores"

      You could of course just watch the match to see the score...

  23. Wibble

    New Year's Eve

    Does anyone know if the New Year's Eve outages are being monitored?

    I'm sure this year won't be just text messages that are be blocked for a few hours:-(

    We need to know which is the best and worst network -- we have iPhone contracts to move from O2 in a couple of months!

  24. Bill Buchan
    Paris Hilton

    Complete rubbish

    They're claiming that us premium rate customers are clogging their network. Diddums. Oddly enough, according to MacOSKen, AT+T have stopped selling iPhones in New York (their own personal network black hole).

    And no - new base stations wont help the existing sites where they have insufficient bandwidth.

    55 or so of us in Southwark Street have been complaining since June and I've copied all the eMail exchanges to if anyone else wants to use some of the stuff I've uncovered.

    You know, it'd be interesting to consider a class action against O2 for this. Because then we could get discovery - and actually find out who was in charge of the 'take the money, don't provide the network' policy...

    Paris - well, because she sucks better than O2..

    ---* Bill

  25. Paul Banacks

    Congestion charging

    "It's pretty standard these days for a service supplier to offer a service they can't provide and then give customers the option to pay more to get something closer to it."

    Yeah, but this is London. Congestion charging is expected part of life.

  26. Portent

    Tell me, Mr Anderson... what good is a phone call if you cannot speak?

    I've had absolutely awful covereage recently. I work in London and a data connection here is abysmal. More often than not it simply won't work. Call quality around Canary Wharf is dire and in many cases, despite several bars, I can't get the call to connect. Others calling me usually drop to voicemail.

    I'm only still on O2 because several family members are and therefore it is cheaper for them to call me. But in all honesty they usually end up calling my work mobile (on Vodafone) to get hold of me and so end up paying a higher rate for the call anyway.

    It's fairly obvious that all those iPhone users are going to use a lot of data. I'm very much on the verge of giving up on O2 and moving to another provider.

  27. Yorkshirepudding

    great oop north

    no complaints here i get excellent coverage around most of the northern province and my o2 broadband is great, at the risk of sounding like a o2 fanboy, ah what the hell

    i heart o2

    1. OrsonX

      YRK to DAR

      - zero signal on train (O2)

      - full signal on my old Vodafone phone

  28. Mark Grady 1

    I may be being cynical ...

    Lots of O2 data users are iPhone owners.

    Nokia is suing Apple over patent infringements in the iPhone.

    Nokia Siemens maintain the O2 network in the UK.

    I know Nokia Siemens is supposed to be nothing directly to do with Nokia's mobile 'phone business, but ...

  29. Anonymous Coward

    Not just London

    I live in Lancashire, and it's rubbish here too. O2's coverage has actually got *worse* since I moved to O2 - how does that work then? maybe they're nicking base stations from us yokels to serve the nobs in the city?

    My contract's up in a couple of months, so I reckon Orange might get a customer back, even if their customer support does stink.

  30. TheSpudMan
    Thumb Up

    oop north

    I leeds we had data outages also - i find the o2 network here 80% reliable. I do often get internal server error pages when browsing the mobile web but as i do not know the technical details of mobile web i cant say if its the provider or the site itself.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    anyone remember...

    a few famous GPRS antennae in the City of London - they (allegedly your Honour) were extremely slow but made a lot of money - the Cityboys didn't care about slow speeds as they weren't paying and left their phones/pda's connected for hours for downloads...

    and the o2 billing system design (allegedly your Honour) that billed in bytes downloaded - the load (number of bytes in a page) was supposed to be supplied by the server where the page was being pulled from eg but these sites used "Chunking" which often did not deliver the "load" value correctly - how did o2 measure that.....your Honour... I shall leave it for the Jury to decide...

    o2 - what goes around eventualy comes around...

  32. MrHorizontal

    Outright Incompetence

    O2 seem to be quite happy hoarding iPhone users vast subscription fees without realising that they have to actually invest in their network and adapt their entire business model to cope with the sea change that Android, WebOS and iPhone OS's are able to do. These devices are by all intents and purposes extremely portable computers that only require data access to the mobile internet, with only a few concessions to existing services like GSM calls (instead of VoIP) and SMS instead of IM.

    It is time that O2 and all the other mobile networks actually realise the day and age of everything-over-IP is here already.

    With Sky having to ditch their satellites (that are overdue to fall out of the sky anyway) in favour of delivering content over IP (hence the real reason behind Easynet's acquisition), with BT already offering a rather feeble IPTV service in BT Vision, Virgin Media having the infrastructure but too stupid to take advantage of it, and needless to say VoIP being a mature technology already adopted by just about everyone except possibly your nan.

    Mobile networks have to realise that they are effectively mobile ISPs now, and that all service plans should be based around unmetered data plans.

    Point is O2 have failed to realise the sea change they need to do in regards to changing their mentality, business plan and adapting their network infrastructure to support the new age of mobile ISP. The concept of pence-per-minute call costs and the ridiculous charges for sending a few characters in SMS is over, and the networks have to realise this.

    No amount of grovelling will help here, because at the end of the day, failure to adapt will result in no O2 at all due it becoming bankrupt.

  33. Eradicate all BB entrants

    Cant wait until the new year.....

    ......when all you whining iPhone owners bugger off to another network. Are you really all that stupid? No matter who got the exclusive contract when the phones came out there would have been network issues. Its o2's fault for not expecting the demand there was on its infrastructure but its mainly yours for running out to buy it 'because all your friends did and they say its cool'.

    Cant wait for the iCar so you can all sit in a jam on the roads that Jobs deems suitable for it to drive on .... muppets

    Mines the one with the pre-order for an unlocked N900 in the pocket

    1. 3G

      That's not the case

      O2 has the smallest 3G network in terms of coverage, but the largest customer base. So when you say "any network who got the iphone would have suffered as much" it's not true. O2 started from a very bad position in the first place and could have anticipated capacity issues and thrown up loads of masts / upgraded the backhaul network over the last few years, but they didn't.

      They sat and watched and haven't put in the capacity, now they have to tell the city that there may be a fallout from this and that it may impact their performance next year.

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