back to article Sure Signal not so sure

Vodafone's Sure Signal is supposed to provide connectivity to the disconnected, but for the last few days the service has been far from sure despite relying on customers paying twice. Punters who shelled out 50 quid on the promise of getting a connection over their own ADSL line, where no wireless service was available, have …


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  1. Richard Gray 1
    Thumb Down

    The past few days???

    This has been going on for weeks!! with intermittant drop outs. No pre warning of schedualed down time. Last time it went out I spent 20+minutes just trying to get through to the suresignal support..

    It is a great product when it works, but the implementation has been appalling.

    Find the guy in charge and sack him, get someone who cares about the customers and will keep us informed good AND bad.

  2. technome

    Maybe an isolated case...

    ... but everything's just fine and dandy with mine.

    My flat's in a courtyard off the street (not as desirable as it sounds, BTW) and so there are a huge number of walls for any signal to punch through. I get no reception from any of the networks in the middle of a sizeable town.

    I tried a signal amplifier but ,without access to the roof, the improvement was hardly noticeable. A femtocell is the only answer in my case and my SureSignal hasn't missed a beat since I installed it 3 months ago.

    Claiming that "one is effectively paying twice for the connectivity (once for the broadband, once for the cellular)" is somewhat disingenuous. The cost of my broadband has been unaffected by the addition of a femtocell.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      available bandwidth

      'The cost of my broadband has been unaffected by the addition of a femtocell'

      The cost may not have gone up, but your available bandwidth for other activities has been reduced by the addition of a femtocell, therefore you are 'effectively paying twice for the connectivity'.

      Yes it might be the only solution for your situation, but don't kid yourself into thinking your not paying for it in more ways than the initial/monthly outlay.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The cry of the company that knows its pi**ng people off but does not care enough, well done to the train industry for creating this new get out of all responsibility word!!!

  4. Anonymous Coward


    Vodafone should be referred to the ASA for lying in all of these adverts.

    The truth is that there is no way in hell for any femtocell of any description to work well on a network that is not QoS managed. It is even worse for all the companies that have accepted the idiotic standard which Nokia has railroaded through the 3GPP - basically everyone but ip.access/Cisco.

    So in the vodafone case where the broadband network _AND_ the customer Broadband CPE is not owned and managed by vodafone any claims about the technology working are false. It works only in lab conditions. On a real network - forget it.

    So vodafone should swallow hard and either go for an agreement with Sky(the only non-incumbent player left without a 3ple play) or build its own broadband network.

    1. Gordon 10

      Vodafone already has its own BB network

      They bought B2B unbundler some years ago. Im constantly suprised that they dont bundle it together with their femtocells.

  5. Growler


    Doesn't UMA also offer this facility without the requirement for a £50 femtocell? I'm trying this out for work and it's so easy to use I'm astonished at the lack of decent email-capable handsets (except Blackberrys; and don't get me started about the cost of BES provision!) and that only Orange seem to provide it.

    Why hasn't it proven more popular?

  6. Sampler

    Suresignal Query

    Does this just work for Vodafone? ie could I pay £50 for a suresignal box and then finally have some sort of signal on my T-Mobile?

    1. Bill Ray (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Suresignal Query

      Sadly no - these are operator-specific, and can only be supplied by the operator.

      1. Sampler

        Well that sucks

        So in a shared household you're all supposed to have the same provider to enjoy the service? I have T-mobile, my girlfriend is on Orange - at my folks it's even worse with a mixture of Orange, O2, Vodafone and Virgin for my parents and sisters.

        I presume you have to have an airtime provider provide the backend service to one of these otherwise an independent company could clear-up releasing a cross-network supporting device.

    2. TheGiantSmurf


      Nothing can give you a signal on T-Mobile

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just the last few days...

    The service has been diabolical for the last few weeks.

    I got my unit way back last July and it was the best 160 quid I'd ever spent. Going from a signal-less area to having a full signal throughout the house was fantastic, I no longer had to stand with my phone pressed against the window to make a call.

    Since Vodafone's evidently successful advertising campaign, they have obviously been struggling with their infrastructure - yet another case of a communications company over-selling their available resources.

    I hope the issues are resolved soon as when it works it is an excellent service.

  8. paulf

    My Backhaul

    I like the femtocell idea but not the charging structure. £50 up front for the femtocell then providing the backhaul for free then being charged by Voda as normal for the usage routed through it.

    That just sucks.

    If they provide the cell for free (reasonable considering it is locked to Voda), and usage is billed at half price (e.g. 2 mins of talk but only use one minute from inclusive bundle etc) then I'd be interested.

    That said I'm lucky to be in an excellent coverage area. Someone who has pants coverage on all networks might see this as salvation and those are the people Voda are banking on making money out of with this! But if you've got crap cellular coverage - its likely you have crap broadband too.

    Now if Voda were to offer, for £50, a proper milimetric back haul link to the nearest Voda network POP along with the suresignal now THAT would be worthwhile!

  9. Anonymous Coward


    UMA for the win!!!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. zedenne

        Been thinking about getting this for a while..

        We live in a basement with patchy reception (currently on o2)

        Here are some requirements for you.


        - I run a tech dev and ops team that has a support requirement outside hours

        - Things go wrong that require my attention outside hours

        - Would rather my home phone number is never used so I have the option of being out of touch


        - Is a freelancer and often gets calls about prospective jobs

        - Her mobile number is the one everybody has

        - If someone can't get hold of her they will likely move on to the next person on their list.

        - No work = no money

        1. Richard C.


          Why not just get a VoIP account with VoIPFone or Gradwell and then set the "divert if unavailable/divert on failover" number to your mobile. Then set your mobile's "divert if unavailable" number to your landline.

          At the computer - VoIP softphone rings and can answer, somewhere else then your mobile rings and if mobile is unavailable then landline. People can a single number to call you (either a 056 VoIP number, 08xx non-geographical or an 01/02/03 number if you want) and you get the best of all worlds (except if the VoIP provider goes titsup).

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            I totally agree and you could get an incoming 01/02 number for around £2 to £3

            What about having something like mini mobile/wifi thing in payphones ... oh! no, sorry every payphone around here has been taken away, better put them in street lights

            What about ordering a free o2/orange/t-mobile sim card and seeing if any of them work any better?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Been thinking about getting this for a while.. #

          Not like me to big up BT, but have you considered BT call sign? It gives you another number and a different ring. There is a plug in for phone socket to either allow the call sign or normal phone to ring (called TwinTalk)

          If you look on the net, there are also some free 0844 numbers that have a whisper, so you'd know if it was a call for your or the wife before you press whatever button to accept the call

          Can't say I'm a fan of 0844 numbers either you could get a voip number and redirect it to the 0844 to give the impression your in an office.

          Have you checked to see if another mobile company works any better, you can port a mobile number to another company if you find another works better than the company your using now.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    Sure Signal is completely unreliable, and Vodafone's shambolic arrangements for customer support don't help. Besides the service falling over for days on end, it's impossible to get any reliable information from Vodafone. It takes quite literally hours to get through to them by phone and their online forums are "offline for maintenance" more often than not. The user account is also regularly offline for "improvement works".

    Even when you do get through to them they are no help. A lot of ADSL routers need fettling with in order to work with Sure Signal. Vodafone themselves provide pretty much no help, redirecting people to the "port forward" website which is accessible only to the most technically literate of customers.

    Vodafone really should be hanging their heads in shame at the way they've rolled out SureSignal. If you read the forums their customers have been much more effective at fixing technical issues with routers than Vodafone's own staff. And besides this, they still have the audacity to charge people for a service that hasn't worked reliably for months.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    still sounds good to me

    I'll be jumping ship from O2 when my contract is up because I get no signal in my house despite my wife getting 5 bars of Vodafone 3G.

  12. nigel 15

    Paying Twice - not so sure

    i hear the paying twice, ie using your own ADSL instead of the the vodafone network all the time, and i think it's a complete red herring....

    it clearly isn't cheap or easy for vod to develop, build and test the server side or else it would work. the cost on a per user basis may well be higher than for an average customer using the well established, off the shelf, mast technology.

    realistically nobody is paying on an incremental basis for their marginal broadband usage.

    There is only an advantage to vodafone if they are the only network offering this, once the other networks have it it will not increase their user base. everybody has a phone already, including those who don't have signal. which is probably why they've released it prematurely.

    That having been said it's not the first time vodafone have rolled out a product not fit for purpose and continued to charge their customers regardless, and for that there is no excuse. if they gave their customers a rebate they'd probably be happy.

    but at the end of the day if you have no good signal at home then you are left with a choice, stay that way or get the vodafone Sure Signal. However unreliable it is i suspect a lot of people would still buy it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Is the femtocell open to other users as well as the owner or is it locked to the IMEI/SIM/Whatever of the subscriber?

    I.E. If I were to get one of these devices could any scrote on the same cell network walk past my house and blat my bandwidth?

    1. monty75


      It's limited to the numbers you register. You can register up to 30 vodafone numbers (which can be on different accounts) and up to 4 of them can be using the Sure Signal at the same time

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ahh, I see.

        So I only pay twice for my own phonecalls not every wandering scrotes as well, good oh.

  14. Matt 21

    Some thoughts

    Integrating a network voice service to a traditional phone service isn't that difficult. I've been using Skype for a couple of years with very few problems. In my experience Vodafone IT projects are very poorly managed so I don't think it's a technology issue.

    On the other hand I just let people call my PSTN number if they can't get through on my mobile and visa versa. Problem solved, if I'm in or around my house anyway.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Joe Harrison


    I still don't get it - the whole point of a mobile phone is so you can make/receive calls when you're mobile. Sounds like this femtocell ONLY gives you the ability to use your mobile at home when previously you couldn't... but when you're at home you've got a landline and/or VOIP anyway? What you really want is for your mobile to work when you've popped out to the shops isn't it?

  16. imcdnzl

    Using it since the beginning

    I've used this service since it first launched as no Vodafone coverage inside the house. In the first monthly it was only usable about 20% of the time. It is now usable about 90% of the time and is relatively stable. Would love it to be 100% but great to be able to do work from home now!

    One minor quirk is that the A-GPS gets confused by it, so all location based packages stop working...

  17. Montala

    Exactly what is 'Guaranteed'?

    The picture at the top of the article (taken from Vodafone's current advertising) includes the word 'guaranteed'.

    Despite being asked the specitic question, Vodafone have yet to tell their paying customers exactly what is being guaranteed, as the service is far less reliable now than it was initially.

  18. The Serpent


    Vodafone, via their coverage map, claim to have borderline 3G at my house but definitely excellent 2G in adverse conditions. In practice the 2G is half strength at best, but usually a single bar with drop outs being common.

    Their solution is for ME to pay THEM for a Sure Signal box that uses MY adsl to make up for THEIR shortcomings - where do they get off with that??

    How about Vodafone offer the box for nothing if their customers are good enough to allow use of a private connection and reimburse the customer for THEIR usage of that connection? The only way I'm paying for a Sure Signal box is if I have exclusive use of it.

    1. Adam C 1

      I can see where you're coming from, but...

      You do get exclusive use of it.

      You have to pre-register (Up to 30 I believe..) numbers, and 4 of which you can use at the same time. It's not as if anyone on vodafone can walk by and pinch your bandwidth.

      I do completely see where you're coming from though. We have 4 vodafone blackberries at work and managed to wangle one of these free when we whinged about pish-poor coverage throughout the office.

    2. FiremanSam

      Re: So.. → #

      Get your wallet out then Serpent - you do have exclusive use of it. A Sure Signal box is only available to you and your 29 Vodafone friends with 3G handsets.

      I've used one in my mother-in-law's house with great success (believe me, she'd let me know if there was a problem!). It means she can receive work calls at home, which means she doesn't have to go to work.

      I think the problem alot of people are having is that because they don't have signal problems, they can't relate to why this product is perfect for others.

  19. gfendle


    I actually received a free VSS from Vodafone because of my relentless complaining about the iPhone problems I was having. However, over the last two to three weeks there have been a considerable number of system wide outages that have affected everybody. That much is clear from some of the staff comments on the eForums. To say that a few users have been affected is an outright lie.

    Further, the nature of some of the problems with the VSS can cause your router to reboot. There was a series of outages a few days ago that coincided with my router problems caused by malformed packets sent from the VSS.

    I contacted the ASA and they can do nothing due to the nature of the advertising on the Vodafone site. They advised me to contact Trading Standards, but the TS always advise you to contact the supplier first.

    I checked the VF T&Cs, and it seems to me that they're covered in that guaranteeing something on the website in the way they have doesn't actually mean a damn thing, frankly. They're covered.

    After the last period of outages, and before I contact Trading Standards, I started a topic on the eForums asking for clarification on the nature of said guarantee ( That was on March 13th and there is still no meaningful response from VF on what is information that should readily be to hand.

    With these problems and the abject denial and lies from second line support and eForum staff over ongoing iPhone problems, I deeply regret renewing my contract with Vodafone.

    It's a lesson learned.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's one born every minute

    It's like buying a Tesco Cottage Pie only to get it home and find out there's no potato on top. At which point, Tesco offer to sell you a sachet of smash for even more money. And you, like the fule that you are, agree!

    If you're going to use broadband to make phone calls, can't you use a normal VoIP service, even if it's Skype? And if this service relies on ADSL, then the customer by definition already has a land line. So let people phone that if there's no response on the mobile.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    It's a new technology........

    As the outages have been system wide that tells me that the platform hosting the service is the problem, and as such the supplier of the solution to Vodafone will be under intense pressure to resolve them. Also regarding the "paying for bandwidth" argument - how many of us actually use 100% of our bandwidth? I have a 10mb cable connection with Virgin, 90% of the time i'm using nowhere near that..........I already paid for the bandwidth so I might as well use it for something positive.

    If the entire service was programmed, supplied, implemented by Vodafone I could understand blaming them, but having worked in major industries in the UK for many years I know the vast majority of the time technology is bought in. I remember one supplier once telling me their platform is capable of 2million simultaneous transactions, only after it was implemented and some niggling issues became apparent did they say "it's overloaded, we overestimated and it can only handle 750,000 transactions". There are people on here saying the problems have only been since the service was heavily advertised - which tells me the supplier has possibly "overestimated the capabilities".

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Marketing Con

    So you pay £50 for the privilege of using your own bandwidth to allow you to use your phone and reduce the load on their towers. What a great marketing con.

    Of course its actually totally pointless. Sure buy one for the house and the office, what happens when you go to the local gym or pub, no signal!

    So I guess its designed for stay at works and couch potatoes.

    I guess it fails to work when your bandwidth is saturated when for instance streaming TV or doing a heavy download, so you miss an important text message or phone call just because someone else in the house is downloading..........

    This isn't an answer to the problem of poor signals its a bodge which is probably why only vodafone offer it.

    My house is less than a mile away from a vodafone mast, my work less than half a mile away. Still get an appalling signal. Vodafone suggest a sure signal, Personally I'd prefer to move to Orange who have a 5 bar 3G signal throughout the area.

    1. nigel 15

      @Anonymous Coward - Marketing Con

      really none of what you have said there is true.

      -you might not be using their towers, but developing the server side of this service isn't free.

      -vodafone have excellent coverage in general. if you don't have coverage at home, work or the gym then you're probably on the wrong network, or you live underground. it's designed for people who don't have coverage on any network at home. that's all.

      -you will not miss an 'important text message' because someone is downloading. doesn't happen, can't happen. simply not how 'the internet' works

      lets be clear it's for people with no coverage on any network. not people who don't get good coverage on vodafone.

      you know that lots of modern houses with their reflective wall insulation and metal coated glass have no reception inside at all?

      if you don't want it, then don't buy it. and everyone is happy.

      the problem with this is that it doesn't work properly. that's all

  23. Anonymous Coward

    iPhone - SureSignal - Waste of time

    IPhone is a waste of time - especially on Vodafone. I got a brand new 16GB 3GS to replace my Nokia which works fine at home and work.

    The iPhone was totally useless, tried everything swapped it out at Apple, tried a sure signal but returned that as it only fixed the problem at home.

    IPhones (and many other modern like devices) appear to have an inherent design flaw, that is when held in the hand they lose a couple of bars of signal. I've proved this with 3G's and 3GS's. Placed on a desk they will get 2 more bars on average than in the hand.

    Side by side comparison of a 3G and 3Gs showed that the 3G would get 4 or 5 bars whilst the 3GS would get 2 or 3, pick up the 3G you go down to 2 or 3, pick up the 3GS and it loses its signal and starts searching.

    Vodafone eventually admitted its a known issue, Apple deny there is any issue despite many such cases at Vodafone and on the internet.

    Its a great pity as the iphone would help me a lot (or some similar device) but until I can get one to work as well as a traditional Nokia then I'm steering clear.

  24. Si 1

    Vodafone's vag?

    Vodafone Access Gateway certainly doesn't abbreviate well....

  25. Lawrence 7

    I cant believe...

    I cant Believe People pay for this.

    CAn someone tell me who has a fentocell how you felt when you shelled out for and provide your own extra covrage on top of your mobile phone bill and Internet costs?

    Why would you do that?

  26. Buzzby

    Poor Service on 3G

    I had massive ammounts of trouble on O2. Call set up failures, 50 tries for an o/g call, missing lots of i/c calls. I kept taking phones back, no dice, I swapped phones, same result!

    I ended up making a nuisance of myself on line and on O2's website. I was e-mailed a tel no from O2.

    My problem was I had an old 2G sim that went tit up. A new 3G sim was sent to me, then the trouble started. With the O2 tel no the person suggested I revert the phone to 2G. It worked fine.

    My trouble was only at home, anywhere in the UK or europe 100% ok. Anyway I don't use 3G services so all was fine. This was sorted 18 months ago.

    However talking to a lad this week, where I live, he and his mates, on O2, were still haveing missed calls etc. I told him the solurion.

    This problem is now at least 2 years old O2, will it ever be sorted?????

  27. Catherine Keynes

    What a load of wingeing

    Just think what a Femtocell is: It's a full mobile basestation. In the box is the kind of stuff that cost hundreds of thousands of pounds only a few years ago.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When I buy shoes...

      I don't think of how we let the dinosaurs roam around without footwear.

      If I buy a service I want it - FULL STOP

      Why is it so acceptable in England to give bad service? - use you feet and a bit of pragmatism.

      Move provider or find an alternative solution - even BT

  28. Anonymous Coward


    I just had a gander at the Vodafone forums, this guy's a legend!

    "Day twenty and counting - no contact "

    Beer for his determination.

  29. tebiru


    What they need to do is allow all WiFi-capable phones route calls over any pre-registered network when it is in range. The only reason I can think of for them *not* doing this yet is that the proportion of phones currently WiFi-capable is still relatively small. That should change as smart phones become more widespread.

    1. paulf


      While I kinda see your point on this I can't see it happening. It would require a customisation of the phone's firmware to allow call routing correctly over Wi-Fi, switching to the main cell network when required. When a handset is on the move an active call can be switched between adjacent towers as required (similar to the way an RDS FM car radio automatically retunes when on the move) but I'm not sure if this is possible between GSM and Wi-fi and if it is its probably complex due to the significantly different network topologies, and (as an earlier poster pointed out) the Wi-Fi+IP network wouldn't offer the same QoS as the GSM network would etc.

      The sure signal is an easier solution (when it works) as it just looks like another GSM base station to the handset - i.e. no difficult cross standard hand overs, and no risky operator monkeying around with the handset firmware (which lets face it never has a happy ending!).

  30. Anonymous Coward

    not working again

    Sure signal is down again tonight - the third night in a row this week. It was also down at the weekend and last Friday afternoon. Perhaps Vodafone should curtail their marketing campaign and adding new customers to a service that clearly can't cope with current demand. To cap it all, even their 2G service is down tonight in my part of west London.

    The only aspect of the "sure signal" guarantee is that you can guarantee for sure there won't be a signal.

  31. nsummers

    UMA....not Thurman

    I don't get this SureSignal furore.... We live in a blackspot for all providers. My friend and Neighbour has a Blackberry Pearl with UMA technoloby (Unlicenced Mobile Access). He is on the orange network. He can jump on mine and several other Wireless access points in the village to make phone calls.... I know.. I've used it... No extra box, no 50 quid... and great service. Am I missing something here? Regretably, I have a corporate Blackberry 8900 on Voda. The phone supports UMA, but it will not activate. If you are on Orange, in a blackspot, have WiFi and a handset with UMA, I recommend you try it out. Neil

  32. Mark #255

    still being pushed in the shops

    I dropped into a Vodafone shop last weekend to check the signal strength on Skye (we're going for the Easter hols) for our broadband dongle, and one of these was indicated as the answer to our problems - "just plug this in to your broadband".

    The joker in me (only just) refrained from asking how the box would work over the several hundred miles between my home network and our holiday cottage.

    My geek side wonders how many times you could daisy chain Sure Start boxes to 3G dongles...

  33. Sean Bailey


    'sure signal is down again tonight' - Posted Wednesday 24th March 2010 21:35 GMT

    Your Sure signal is down, mine was working perfectly. I've had two sets of downtime with my sure signal and one was due to my ISP

    To nsummers - Get your main contact to call the corp contact centre with the issue and ask them to contact you about it. They will do their best to sort it.

  34. ConsiderIT

    We almos tbought this

    The offices have very poor signal - nothing at all with O2/TMobile, and usually one bar on Vodafone. We almost bought this SureSignal box to fix that, but after reading these comments and the original news article, we're going to hold off for a few months.

    Making calls outside in the pouring Edinburgh rain is fun, anyway!

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