Monday, March 14, 2011

Why Are UK Mobile Operators Such A Washout ?

Now we all know that Big Telco is in trouble, especially in the UK. Everywhere else in the world they've moved into quad play, launched TV services and made tracks with broadband, but in the UK they keep on having to subsidise ever more sophisticated consumer devices.

In the process, they've commoditised their core market, they built walled gardens and then watched the likes of Apple and Google take away any chance at increasing ARPU.

In most cases the reaction has been underinvestment and desperate attempts at price gouging over SMS, data and overseas roaming, the few last vestiges of pricing where they have any margin.

But, the inexorable growth in data made me have some sympathy for the predicament. Until today.

Vodafone's data coverage on my iPhone in central London has always been poor, bordering on abysmal. There are whole stretches of London from the West End to Camden to Hampstead where there is no 3G at all, and when there is it trickles like a 1990s modem.

But more recently, my phone reception has disappeared with increasing regularity. I've been off grid this morning at home for hours - and I can literally see their cell base station on top of the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead from where I'm sitting.

Vodafone is the biggest TV provider in the UK that never was, and now it's easy to see why. They can't even run their core service with any reliability.

So, bye, bye Vodafone. The only question is, where should I go ? The 3 dongle I have is brilliant in central London, but pretty useless outside, Orange (or Nothing Nowhere as they will soon become) is the only network that gives me coverage in Wales, but their service and everything else about them is soooo annoying. O2 perhaps ? I admire their announcement to launch a free WiFi network, but this will only be useful in palces where I already have free WiFi coverage, I suspect.

It's at time like this you realise what a class act Sky is. Now, that's an idea - perhaps I should wait for their mobile service...