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Blackford Village Locals Furious After Loss of O2 and Vodafone Mobile Signal

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 (9:40 am) - Score 1,386
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Residents of Blackford village in Perth and Kinross (Scotland), which is home to ‘Highland Spring’ water, the ‘Tullibardine’ whisky distillery and sits right next door to Gleneagles (2014 Ryder Cup), have vented their frustrations after suffering a year of problems with their local O2 and some Vodafone based mobile reception.

The local community councillor, Katherine Huggett, told ISPreview.co.uk that the situation began approximately one year ago after nearby Auchterarder suddenly lost its Vodafone signal due to an unspecified dispute between the operator and a local land owner. “For an unknown reason the land owner backed out of its agreement with the company and the mast had to be removed,” said Katherine.

The situation forced people in Auchterarder to switch over to O2, which was now the most viable mobile operator left in the area. But during September 2014 Blackford suddenly also lost its O2 signal, which affected other local communities and occurred while the operator was conducting upgrade work in order to improve service for the 2014 Ryder Cup event that was only a stone’s throw away.

The event came and went, but half a year later and locals still struggle to get a viable mobile service from O2.

Katherine Huggett told ISPreview.co.uk:

We still have no signal. Residents around Gleneagles who were promised an improved service didn’t get that either, but if you want to send an email from the 9th hole you will have excellent reception.

Today in a phone call [to O2] I was told that they had improved things for the Ryder cup and had no plans to fix anything. Every phone call gets a different response. If you use my full postcode *** *** you will see that there is a suggestion we get 2G outdoors only, but if you use the same postcode in service checker it gives 2, 3 and 4G reception levels as good.

Every phone call someone gets another variation on the story. 12 months ago I could make and receive calls inside my stone built house with 26 inch walls! Needless to say I currently have no reception. It is varying between no service available and no network. Even when it connects the signal vanishes before you can use it.”

The local community recently conducted a mobile phone survey for the PH4 area of Perthshire, which questioned some 139 of Blackford’s 600 population about the quality of their mobile service. The study found that the majority of the community rely on O2 (or a company who uses the O2 network) for their mobile service (i.e. over 70%), while Vodafone came second with 14%, EE was third on 10% and Three UK served just 5%.

Overall some 106 respondents reported that they now have no service, which showed that 83% of O2 customers have been left without working phones for calls or texts (i.e. 2G service has been lost). A smaller but noticeable number of returns were made by Vodafone customers indicating a drop in service level as well. The study also produced some interesting output by reflecting what responses the mobile operators had given after customers complained.

Local Mobile Survey – Operator Responses to Complaints

The most reported response was “please bear with us we are trying to fix it”. That however does not sit well with the “no-one else has reported it” that was the second most common response … with finally it being suggested that no service had ever existed or it was not their problem!

Again O2 top the list of the range of responses and misinformation. Comments showed customers had complained online and in stores, [while] SIM cards have been replaced without any improvement in service and replacement phones purchased with again, no change.

95% of respondents report that the service improves as soon as they leave the community [and] 84 people have looked at or are looking at changing their service provider as a result of current problems.

The problems with the networks are causing problems for 39 people whose job is within the community. This is a mixture of people who work from home or attend properties within the community for a variety of reasons including healthcare. They report clients unable to contact them, frequent missed calls and lost texts.”

Meanwhile O2’s spokespeople are informing all who enquire that they “carried out upgrade and maintenance works in the PH4 area to improve service for our customers. These works finished on February 20 [2015] and an engineer has since visited the area to carry out live testing which confirmed that service has indeed improved in the area and that customers have access to 2G, 3G and 4G“.

Never the less locals continue to report problems, although O2’s statement also said that they’re currently putting “plans in place to improve our network coverage in the area” (no further information about what those plans are or when they might take place is currently available). But confusingly Katherine reports that O2 yesterday told her that they now have no plans to fix anything.

The problems come at a time when both the Government’s Mobile Infrastructure Project (MIP) and its new geographic coverage commitment with mobile operators (here) are both working to improve signal reception across the country, although in some cases the progress has been far slower than hoped (here).

At the same time the Government has proposed a revised Electronic Communications Code (ECC), which could make it easier and cheaper for operators to build new masts (here). The new ECC rules, if approved, would also be designed to tackle situations like the Vodafone dispute mentioned earlier in this article. In the meantime the problems in Blackford remain.

We should also mention that O2 and Vodafone have a network sharing agreement, yet O2 is also in the process of being gobbled by Three UK and they have a conflicting network sharing agreement with EE, which itself is being gobbled by BT. One big headache.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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7 Responses
  1. Given Vodafone’s payment record to suppliers (120 days after the end of the month in which the invoice was accepted – not submitted – is its standard) it does not surprise me one bit that the landowner decided he had had enough of them.

  2. Avatar Stephen

    I’ve seen a couple of sites in Aberdeenshire where 02/ Vodafone have been served notice by the landowners too. On one hand it could be beneficial to their customers as the plans seem to be to upgrade 2G sites to 2/3/4G in places that would otherwise come very low down the rollout priority list. On the other hand, if applications are not granted planning permission then it will no doubt cause a lot of problems to the locals.

  3. Avatar DTMark

    Based on a certain amount of supposition, isn’t the residents’ primary complaint with the local land-owner and not Vodafone?

    We can get an O2 H+ signal now for the first time and I can see a 4G signal is also present.

    If that didn’t come about as a result of a new transmitter, it might be because the power levels at the nearest one have been turned up.

    Given that it doesn’t benefit operators to leave big and fillable gaps in between transmitters, I wonder if our gain is someone else’s loss.

    • As a customer your primary complaint is always with the company that holds your contract, which in this case is the mobile operator and it’s their responsibility to ensure continuity of that service.

    • Avatar DTMark

      It’s a fair point, however in the past, I’ve read stories of people losing the signal with their chosen network at home and who are told that 1. There’s not a lot that can be done, and 2. You can’t end your contract early because it’s a mobile service. It may not work in one specific location any more (e.g. at your house) but that is not a network fault per se because it works “everywhere else”. Customers seem to be able to get that decision overturned but not without a certain amount of pressure being brought to bear.

    • Avatar AlecR

      Mark, Froyle has O2 3G now?

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