After barely a month at Orange, I'm heading back to Three. Call me Mister Indecisive, but I'm starting to wear out the UK's number porting infrastructure. Since switching to Orange PAYG, I've had a bit of a nightmare setting up the account, and finally once set up, I'm just not happy with the quality of their network.
Now, let me make this clear: this has nothing to do with cell towers, pips, or coverage maps. Orange has a pretty consistent quality of cellular coverage. The problem is what happens after that. Now, I don't actually make or receive that many calls: I'm mainly an internet user. Unfortunately, when I see five pips on my iPhone screen, that's not a measure of the quality of the Internet connection. The strength of signal to the nearest cell just determines how well you can communicate with that cell; it doesn't give any clue as to whether the route to the big wide Internet is over a fast link or not.
Every time I've tried to use it in a five-pip coverage area, I've had network timeouts, hourglassing, etc. Today, while trying to figure out where to catch the bus home (oh, and thanks Stagecoach for the "helpful" notices about the roadworks in Cambridge city centre) it was so bad I finally went back to the Apple Store to nick some free Wifi.
My main reason for leaving Three was that I felt their network could be better. After leaving O2 for the same reason, I assumed that Orange's heralded network would be worth the difference in price. In addition, Orange offer BT Openworld access, so it all looked a bit nicer than Three. However, it turns out the BT Openworld / Orange setup not to be as seamless as O2's equivalent offering, so I never really got it working as well as I'd like.
The biggie, however, is the customer service. Orange's PAYG customer service is poor. I'm not going to reiterate the troubles I spoke about in the comments for the previous post in this series, but it's just weak. Things take ages to activate, and the web interface is crap.
Anyway, opposite the Apple Store I was wifi'ing outside, there's a Three Store. Inside there was a helpful (and, incidentally, astonishingly hot) assistant who got me quickly signed up for a Three one-month rolling contract with a gig a month of Internet. That'll do nicely.
So, next thing is to PAC away from Orange. Call 450. Okay, looks like they're going to charge 25p to talk to someone: I bet that's against some of the PAC rules. Not a problem, though: I've got a good £13 of credit left to burn on this soon-to-be-cancelled account.
They ask the reason why. I tell them. I get the "Orange has the best network" line, at which point I explain that I'm not talking about cellular coverage, but the internet connection from there. I'm then told that Three piggyback their data and service over Orange anyway. Um, I think not. Sure, Three fallback their 2G service to Orange, but I'm pretty sure they have their own 3G network. Three aren't an MVNO, you know. (I'm wondering if Three know that Orange is effectively slandering them...)
So, Orange will be posting me a PAC code, rather than texting it to me like the other networks. Oh well, I wouldn't expect anything else... everything else with Orange takes a %§@!ing age, so why not this too?
Back to Three then. While they're by no means perfect, they're certainly cheaper than Orange and as far as I can tell, better in most ways.
- Orange bollocksed up the account setup, leaving me out-of-pocket for credit.
- They then argued with me about it.
- A ridiculously antiquated backoffice that takes about 48 hours for a phone call to appear on their records.
- A terrible web interface for accounts.
- One evening stuck in the middle of nowhere with no ability to make calls due to their cock-ups.
- Charging 25p for the privilege of asking them to correct their errors.
- Internet service that's not any better than O2 and certainly not better than Three.
- Taking ages to offer a PAYG micro-SIM to iPhone 4 owners in the first place.
- Weak third-party wifi service.
- Charging me 25p for a PAC code and then posting it rather than texting.
- Talking balls to me about Three, implying that Three's basically an MVNO.
- Texting me promotional messages from an account that won't accept STOP, and then expecting 25p to call to cancel (although, to their credit, their Twitter team fixed this for free)
- Still sending promotional messages after the stop, for up to 28 days apparently.
- Oh, and some more stuff that I'm really sick of remembering.
Gits. Everything bad I've said about Orange still applies. I am, however, very glad I got my iPhone 4 unsubsidised so I have the luxury of being able to try all the networks. I was tempted to try T-Mobile, but couldn't figure out their iPhone 4 PAYG SIM-only offering: do they, in fact, have one?
Three, here I come.