3UK Plans for the future

February 1st, 2010 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Last week I attended an event hosted by 3UK.  In attendance were a variety of 3UK staff from Marketing & PR, Products & Services, Customer Services, and the Networks team.  I had a chance to chat with people for each area and was able to ask a wide range of questions, especially those that you had added as comments to my request last week.  As a result, I’m able to provide a glimpse into what 2010 holds for 3UK (although nothing truly exclusive and brand new was announced, there was some useful information provided)…

Please read the questions and answers after the break…

So, in no particular order…

1. I asked if 3UK have any plans for a femtocell solution similar to the Vodafone Sure Signal.

In a word, no.  3UK are concentrating on improving their network for everyone such that femtocell solutions are not needed.  They commented that many of their customers are not high spenders, and can’t afford a femtocell solution on top of an ADSL line; and even some of their customers don’t even have a home phone line, making 3UK‘s priority on making the network available to everyone understandable.  They also felt it was a bit off charging customers to buy a solution to fix network problems!

2. In terms of the network, where are they?  What are the plans to improve coverage in rural areas? What about signal dead spots (notably Manchester and mid-Wales)?

The network improvements continue, and they have so far only been dealing with the more rural locations, and with good reason.  The  highest spec replacement equipment (which can deal with really high call and data volumes, and a key component of their network replacement for cities) has only just been delivered by Nokia.  As such, all the network work so far has been the more rural locations, and not where they have really high capacity needs in metropolitan areas.  They can now continue their work with this kit, which should help Manchester, and they felt the overall programme of work should be complete by around October time.  Oh, and they haven’t forgotten about mid-Wales either.

3. The coverage map doesn’t show enough detail, especially around planned outages, and there’s only a couple of days warning of outages.

I spoke to a very senior person in 3UK about this issue, and he confirmed that he is well aware of how annoying this all is.  There are lots of changes going around behind the scenes, but one of them will be to improve the planning of outages to allow the information to be provided to everyone much earlier than currently, and he was confident that this programme of activities would also be able to offer the customer better information on network problems in the future.

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4. Why do 3UK charge for Facebook SMS, and not have these come out of inclusive text allowances?

I got a very candid response, and basically, it’s not something many people have asked about before! As with many things, they made it chargeable when they first offered it to see how popular it was, and if enough people ask for it to be taken from the inclusive texts, then they will.  They did feel that more people were using either Facebook clients or the mobile Facebook website, rather than texts, but would listen to customer feedback on this point.

5. The perennial problem; customer service quality…

Again, a candid chat with a member of the 3UK Customer Services team confirmed that they are well aware of the issues, and feel some of them are caused by the process limits they place on the call centre staff (the other key issue seems to stem from the call centre not listening to the actual problem).  They are 6 months into a 2 year improvement programme around Customer Services, and believe that things are, and will continue to improve.

6. What are they doing about the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic firmware problem that prevents the use of the new free Ovi Maps?

Since Nokia announced the new Ovi Maps clients, they have been working directly with Nokia to understand the reasons for the minimum firmware requirements, and 3UK had already received from Nokia a new firmware with all the 3UK customisations required for release.  This would be tested with some urgency, and so (assuming there are no problems) this will be available as soon as both companies are in a position to release it.  The testing takes at least a few weeks, so you’ll need to wait a little longer, but it is on the way….

7. What new phones are on the horizon?

Now, this is never an easy question for a network to answer.  One thing 3UK acknowledge is they need to add a “Coming Soon” list of handsets to the website, and this should appear quite soon.  In terms of devices that I saw that are not yet formally available on 3UK, I saw…

  • Samsung Galaxy (Android device)
  • Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10 (Another Android device)
  • Sony Ericsson Vivaz (capable of recording 720p HD and running Symbian)
  • a new-ish Nokia touchscreen (likely to have been the Nokia 5230)

In terms of already released devices, I saw lots of HTC Heroes, a Nokia 6700 Slide, and a BlackBerry or two.

In conversation, I understand 3UK will have 6 Android devices in their lineup by June this year, and that won’t include the HTC Hero, as by then they will be selling the next HTC device on from the Hero…

I’d like to thank 3mobilebuzz for arranging the event, and all the 3UK people who were there and willing to answer questions!  Finally, thanks to Nick, Andy, Robert, Stuart, Gareth and Paul who raised questions for me to ask, and hopefully I asked all your questions (there wasn’t much discussion over the loss of 3 Like Home, and I can’t see it coming back anytime soon either).


5 Responses to “3UK Plans for the future”

  1. Nick Says:

    On the charging for SMS thing it would be good to see things likely texting the BBC coming out of inclusive allowances too, at the moment if you send a text to for example the 88291 short code you get charged. I’m on an ‘unlimited’ texts package and it seems a bit weird that I can send thousands of texts a month for free but can’t send one to the BBC !

  2. Nick Says:

    I’m glad to hear about them improving rural coverage, what steps are they putting in place to deal with the situation where having put their upgrades into place I still don’t have coverage ?

  3. UK Gadgeteer Says:

    My understanding is that their network upgrades plans cover both new coverage areas, and also providing additional cover for deadspots, but that doesn’t mean I can guarantee they’ll fix your specific location!

  4. Allan Jones Says:

    Interesting article.

    I’m a 3 mobile broadband PAYG customer. Every time I top up my account, I get freebies from 3, which is very nice. However, these freebies include a quota of texts, which are no use as 3 doesn’t allow PAYG mobile broadband customers to send texts. I wish 3 would demonstrate its generosity in a more useful way – for example by allowing me to build up credit for roaming mobile-broadband use abroad. Currently using mobile broadband abroad is too expensive to contemplate.

  5. Alec Says:

    Allan Jones, 3 does allow mobile broadband customers on PAYG to send texts as I do it all the time. I just click on my 3 connection next to the clock and hit Sms Inbox in the box that pops up and then create a new message, off it goes quite happily.

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