No phones about it

As Chief Technology Officer (CTO) here in the Brideau  household, one of my first projects was to investigate the phone situation.  This task included both mobile phones and landline information.  The cell phone companies here are different than back in the States (except for T-Mobile), but the landscape is the same: each of them has their own set of pros and cons.  After two days of speaking with multiple sales representatives at each store, I had a recommendation that I could push up the chain of command for the President’s ultimate approval (she agreed).  We chose Orange.

The choice was actually simple based on the criteria we had established.  Although we already had pay-as-you-go phones that worked here in the UK (see below), we I wanted a much more functional handset ASAP.  This meant that I couldn’t really wait for the Nexus One to finally be released, or wait for the eventual iPhone 4.0.  I had also convinced myself that the Android (Google) operating system is going to be huge and surpass any Windows mobile or Apple OS.  Each carrier only had 1 or 2 Android phones to choose from so I picked a few favorites.  Chelsea’s decision was much easier, she wanted one that was small, functional, and cute.

The picture above shows our phones from the US on the left, our original cheap phones here in the middle, and our new phones on the right.  I have aligned them so that each pair are in the same order with respect to who they belong to.  Are Chelsea’s on the left or the right?

You can see from this picture that our new phones are touchscreen, and not much bigger than the other ones we had.  Unfortunately, you cannot see all the cool functions we gained with our first “smartphone” purchases.  I can’t believe it took a gadget lover like me this long to get a phone capable of more functions than calls and text messages.  I’ll never look back.

We each got a free phone, 200 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited calls to each other, (and I added 500MB mobile internet) for about $60 a month total.  Another reason we chose Orange, was that along with the competitively priced plans we wanted to bundle home broadband.  The advertisement promised home broadband at 20Mb speeds for an additional £8 – sounded pretty good.  Little did I know that it would take nearly a month to sort out home broadband, at 3 times that price per month.  This is a really long boring story that I will try to sum up quickly.

The logo above is from what I have determined to be the worst company in the UK.  BT stands for British Telecommunications, which is the privatized former state telecommunications operator in the UK.  What that means in layman’s terms is: they own everything.

Almost all of the broadband providers here are DSL, meaning the data comes in over a phone line.  Therefore in order to set up broadband, you need to have an active phone line.  That means a £12 a month “rental” fee to BT just to use the line with no services.  Then you need to pay for the broadband service, and everything is provided wholesale by one company, Openreach (also part of the BT group).  Openreach will only lease their services to companies like Orange, which is why we pay Orange for service.

Our problems came up because the people living here previously left without canceling their broadband account.  I had to activate our own phone line, cancel their broadband signal, and then activate our own broadband signal.  Seems like an easy process, but it took ~20 phone calls (some of them escalated into arguments) to both BT and Orange to get it sorted out.  The problem with owning everything and  being a large company is that you can’t possibly get your arms around everything, meaning they have no idea what is going on.

Anyway, I won’t waste any more time ranting on this process.  It took WAY too long but I’m sure everyone is happy we got it all figured out finally.

*Edit* After some encouragement, I might just rant a little more after the jump (thanks David).

I find it completely unacceptable that it took nearly a month in order to get broadband in our flat.  Especially because the required infrastructure was already in place.  We have the phone line that was capable of handling dsl, because broadband was on the line.  That meant that an engineer didn’t have to come out and do anything, just a few clicks on the computer side of the signal.

The main problem I ran into was everyone I called refused to take a few minutes out of their day to help me out – both BT and Orange passed me back and forth claiming the problem was with the other party.  The only thing I heard was how  much people can’t help me.  I actually had this conversation with one guy at BT:

Nick: I got a message from Orange saying there is a block on the line, could you please figure out the reason for the block and remove it

BT guy: I don’t see a block on the line

Nick: I just had this conversation with another BT representative, who told me there was a block on the line.  Please check again.

BT guy: Oh right, there is a tag on the line, but that needs to be resolved with Openreach.

Nick: ok, please give me their number

BT guy: Oh no you can’t call them, they only deal with companies like BT and Orange.  You’ll have to call Orange and have them call Openreach.

Nick: Yeah I just got off the phone with them, they said the problem was on your end.

BT guy: Well it sounds like the Orange representative doesn’t want to do their job.  They just have to call Openreach and fill out some paperwork.  Its not that hard they should know how to do it.

Nick: Ok well if its that easy, can you just do it for me please?

BT guy: No, you really need to call Orange and have them do it

Nick: Sounds more like you are the one that doesn’t want to do their job

BT guy: click.

It literally took me about 20 phone calls to find someone with a positive statement telling me how they were going to help me.

On the subject of cell phones, one representative told me that service in the UK is amazing, and “the Brits have really embraced the mobile”.  This interest should only benefit the consumer, as we get better plans, better phones, and great coverage.  The problem is, our phones still don’t work in our flat, and mine is spotty at work.

I would compare Orange to Verizon.  I am however a little disappointed in the coverage.  Is it better than the USA?  Sure.  But covering a country the size of England would be like Verizon only covering the state of Alabama.  If that is all they had to cover, don’t you think I would be able to get service in my sub-basement?

Well, thank you if you made it this far.  I actually really like our new phones, and am glad that we have broadband.

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4 thoughts on “No phones about it”

  1. I take it the British don’t have anti-trust laws. Definitely either an inefficient and/or bloated system.
    Isn’t this blog also about beer? When is the Brideau scale coming out for local English pints?

  2. I was always a hater of Orange- long story, but never liked them. I’m an O2 girl myself, and they always had superb coverage. But that doesn’t help you much. The best (read only) way of dealing with big companies like BT is to ask to speak to the persons supervisor. Before you even BEGIN a conversation, get the supervisor, especially after call #3. The person on the helpline doesn’t give two shits what your problem is. Their supervisor might. And according to lots of my non Brit friends who moved to Britain, EVERYTHING is so much more difficult there. But then when I moved here it took two months to get cable- just saying. 🙂

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