Can we have our roaming back, please?

Can we have our roaming back, please?

Summary: As Britney Spears can testify, some things can be brought down all too easily by their own popularity -- as Vodafone's not-so-merry Christmas shows.

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As Britney Spears can testify, some things can be brought down all too easily by their own popularity -- as Vodafone's not-so-merry Christmas shows.

ZDNet Australia has had heard from several readers complaining of unreliable roaming service and, in some cases, no roaming service at all -- problems which rather unfortunately coincided with the holiday period. Apparently, the trouble was caused by a large number of Vodafone users who took a holiday at Christmas.

It's not just all those lucky enough to be abroad who experienced ups and downs with their service -- those locally enjoyed the festive fun with all manner of text problems. Vodafone customers -- a couple on the ZDNet Australia staff -- reported dropped calls, coverage problems and issues with sending SMSes abroad. I say issues -- I mean complete inability to contact friends and relatives outside Australia.

Vodafone's problems weren't just confined to this side of the Tasman either -- reports have also come in of text messages going into several hours of hibernation over New Year's Eve before being delivered, in some parts of New Zealand.

The root cause for both the New Zealand text problems and for the roaming stuff-ups seems to have been the catch-all "network congestion", according to Vodafone -- shorthand for too many people on the network trying to do too much at the same time.

Over the roaming issues, Vodafone pointed the finger at friend, rival and supplier Optus, saying requests for more capacity had gone unheeded. Not our fault, said Vodafone.

Not because you inadequately forecast the demand during the period? queried ZDNet Australia. Not a chance, said Vodafone. Not us, guv.

I'll leave it with you to figure out whether or not Vodafone should have predicted people would go on holiday during the holiday period. But the repeated network problems that see New Year's Eve text messages delivered late, calls unable to connect and all-round network shoddiness as the clock strikes midnight, every year, regardless of operator? I would be tempted to call that inadequate forecasting.

If mobile networks' best men and women can't figure out they need to boost capacity for New Year's Eve, they should be hung by their heels and have some sense beaten into them by irate mobile users. Of course you're going to need a dirty great wedge of increased capacity every New Year's Eve. It's a fact even more predictable than Home and Away plotlines.

So, it's unlikely operators are surprised by demand, and yet networks take a dive with all the regularity of Italian soccer players. Is that inadequate forecasting? If it's not, then it certainly smacks of old fashioned stupidity or crappy customer service, which I would venture, is somewhat worse.

If it's just a question of economics -- shoring up the networks to a sufficient degree for a period of a few hours is simply too costly -- then I suggest it should be weighed against the negative feeling generated by poor service. Either that, or send each and every Vodafone customer a few bucks to make up for the annoyance.

Only don't send it by text eh?

Topics: Telcos, Networking, New Zealand

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Talkback

9 comments
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  • Roaming in the US and Worldwide

    Jo,
    The problem is greater than you discuss in your post. Vodafone users in the US have not had roaming support since the day before Christmas. There is a bigger problem that Vodafone will not discuss.

    Here is excerpt from email received
    from Vodafone when I started complaining that I had no roaming capabilities before Christmas.

    This was one of the first responses:
    Dear John,
    Thank you for your query.
    We wish to confirm that we are currently experiencing an outage with roaming in the USA. This is affecting most American networks that Vodafone have an agreement with. We have checked your account and confirm that it is correctly set up for Global Roaming.
    Be assured this is being addressed as a matter of urgency. Unfortunately we have no ETA as to when full service will be restored.

    Vodafone regret any inconvenience caused by this disruption.

    Then this one that says the problem is worldwide. This was in response to a rather emotional and angry email just before New Years Day.

    Dear John,

    It is always disappointing when a customer is unhappy with any aspect of our company as Vodafone prides itself on offering the best Network and services.

    Vodafone is currently experiencing outages with roaming in most countries.

    Vodafone regret any inconvenience caused by this disruption.

    Please be assured that your feedback has been passed on to the relevant department for their collation and reporting purposes.

    Once again, thank you for highlighting this matter. With your valuable feedback you have given Vodafone the opportunity to improve our business for the future.

    Jo, there appears to be no end to this, it is worldwide and Vodafone appears to have said nothing publicly. I can send the actual emails from Vodafone so you can see what I said and their response.

    You can imagine how angry Vodafone customers are who are using the Vodafone service from overseas? Not happy at all!

    John Treloar
    anonymous
  • Vodafone roaming

    My Vodafone Australia phone has not been able to roam in New Zealand for the past 5 days (due to "No Access" in high coverage areas). When it has managed to connect to the network I haven't been able to reliably make calls or send text messages.

    I do note that Vodafone Australia have charged me for text messages that my phone says failed to send and were not received by the recipient...
    anonymous
  • This is planned - not an accident

    Jo,
    The irony of the situation is that this is indeed a planned occurrence. Vodafone AU have a consistent and firm policy that they buy enough capacity only for normal operations. This policy is inclusive of both inter-carrier connections and their own internal network. Every network contains a great deal of redundancy for normal operation in case of the failure of part of the network. Vodafone launch into the holiday season with considerably less capability than they need to handle peak traffic and rely on using this redundancy to handle the extra traffic. Of course, doing this means that if a component fails, the customers are impacted as the redundancy is gone, used up in handling the extra traffic.
    My guess is that something failed and their skimping has come home to roost.
    anonymous
  • not anything new

    vodafone's roaming issues have been occuring for over 2 years... this isn't anything new... it gets a temporary fix and then that fails and the customers are back to square one...

    anyone who has been unfortunate enough to attempt to roam on china mobile will know what i mean...
    anonymous
  • NZ Blog about it

    NZ customers in Auzzie were stuffed too...

    http://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=40&topicid=18088
    anonymous
  • Vodaphone international

    My daughter lives in the Channel Islands and we made the mistake fo switching to Vodaphone, checking first that we could send text messages to the Channel Islands. No we couldn't, Vodaphone only had an arrangement with British Telcom that didn't extend to Jersey Telecom. But it was all our fault for not asking!! We had to go to the Telecom ombudsman to get our money back. Beware of taking Vodaphone outside of your own backyard.
    Ken Galbraith
  • Vodafone global romaing

    Shoddy from a great "international" company that prides itself on it's service. The inability to contact a 12 year old son on a tennis tour in Australia due to Vodafones' inability to predict demand at Christmas time-unforgiveable really!
    anonymous
  • Dollars and Sense

    I would hazard a guess that at the end of the day, Vodafone would have lost only very few customers over this, and would have saved significant amounts not purchasing excess capacity that would be sitting idle today.

    Backhaul capacity cannot be purchased for 24 hours unfortunately...
    anonymous
  • Vodafone can't roam

    I was explicitly told when I purchased the Vodafone plan that Yes it had roaming and Yes it worked in China. Im in Shanghai (part of China) and I have a very very silent phone. Thanks Vodafone, I will remember to use you to prop the cat door shut next time I go on a business trip.
    anonymous