Apple iPhone XR is struggling with the O2 UK network

One of Apple’s slightly less expensive smartphones is repeatedly losing its connection to the O2 UK network.

According to the Beeb, a bunch of O2 customers were reporting their iPhone XRs being cut off from the network over the festive period, some of them several times a day. As is increasingly the way of things, much of the corroboration for the claim was taken from Twitter, with one beleaguered tweeter saying he had been enduring this connectivity blight since 16 December. Another was reduced to buying a second hand iPhone 7.

“We’re working closely with our partners to resolve an intermittent issue affecting some of our customers using iPhone XR,” an O2 spokeswoman told the BBC. “We thank any customers affected for their patience.” The spokewoman apparently went on to say something to the extent of ‘have you tried turning it off an on again?’ which the affected users presumably had.

Apple also responded to the Beeb, saying it was aware of the issue and that it was working on a software patch to fix it. The bloke who has this issue since 16 December says O2 told him it was Apple’s fault but neither company has formally confirmed this as far as we can tell. If this is the case then the least Apple could do is make a public statement to that effect.

O2 UK reports steady customer and revenue growth

The UK bit of Telefónica has reported healthy Q3 2019 numbers, with all the key metrics headed in the right direction.

Total revenues at O2 UK grew by 4.1% year-on-year, operating income was up 5.7% and the total customer base expanded by 5.6% to 34.1 million. O2 also reckons it has the lowest contract churn in the sector at 1%. Having said that the net adds were fairly flat, maintaining its mobile customer base at 26 million.

“Our Q3 performance continues the strong momentum we saw in the first half of the year, powered by a relentless focus on our customers through award-winning coverage and great offerings such as flexible Custom Plans and limitless data,” said Mark Evans, CEO of Telefónica UK

“We’re moving at pace with our 5G rollout, already live in six UK cities rising to twenty by the end of the year. 5G offers critical support to the UK’s digital economy, supporting jobs and growth. That’s why we welcome Ofcom’s recent statement updating the rules for the planned auction of more 5G airwaves. This will help operators to deliver greater value and better connectivity to the public.”

The other thing O2 seemed keep to flag up was its involvement in a scheme to test driverless vehicles in London via its recently launched 5G network. The project is being run by an organisation called the Smart Mobility Living Lab and it seems to have a fair bit of industry and public sector buy-in.

“At O2 we’re determined to help businesses of all sizes realise the potential of fifth-generation mobile technology,” said Brendan O’Reilly, O2’s CTO. “We know that the transport sector is going to be one of the key beneficiaries of 5G – and that the technology has the potential to reduce traffic congestion, as well as making journeys safer and more enjoyable.

“That’s why we’re excited to be working with the teams at the Smart Mobility Living Lab, who are driving forward our understanding how this next generation technology will fundamentally change the fabric of the cities in which we live and work as well as creating entirely new methods of travel.”

O2 UK launches 5G network with no tariff premium

As the last UK operator to switch on its 5G network, O2 seems to be trying to make up for lost time by charging its customers no premium to switch from 4G.

The ‘new’ tariffs are the same as the old ones – i.e. you get the same amount of 5G data as you would 4G data, including an unlimited tier coming it at 40 quid a month. Initially only the following cities will have access to O2 5G and only in certain parts: Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds. That will grow to 20 towns by the end of the year and 50 by the summer of next year.

“Today is a significant moment for our customers and our business as we switch on the O2 5G network,” said Mark Evans, CEO of Telefónica UK. “We’re launching with a range of tariffs that make it easy and fair for customers to access 5G, with flexible plans that cost no more than 4G. We’re also switching on 5G in important parts of towns and cities first, places where it will benefit customers and businesses most.

“I believe 5G is going to revolutionise the way people and businesses use mobile connectivity, unlocking huge possibilities for our economy and society. No one in the country has all the answers today, but I’m excited about getting it into the hands of our customers and working with leading partners to help shape the future of 5G for the next generation.”

Here are the tariffs, with the second one including some kind of virtual reality music service:

O2 UK 5G launch tariffs

Custom plans along with O2 Priority are important features that resonate with its customers,” said analyst Paolo Pescatore. “These will be paramount in the future in maintaining its customer centric leadership in the U.K. Expect content to feature more prominently in the future as it seeks to broaden O2 Priority for customers.”

The decision to charge no premium for 5G seems sensible as there is little incentive for them to pay it while the network rollout is still in its infancy. Instead 5G will become table stakes over the next year or so and the usual differentiation challenges will apply. Whether or not VR music will be a significant one remains to be seen.

Telefónica pulls its SOCs up with Nokia’s help

Operator group Telefónica is changing its UK Network Operations Center into a Service Operations Center to show how customer-centric it is.

That was the distilled message from a press launch in central London this morning, co-hosted by its vendor for this project – Nokia. Building a SOC will allow O2 UK to make customer-led, as opposed to engineering-led, decisions about its network, we were told by Brandan O’Reilly, the CTO of O2 UK.

Telefónica has apparently already got started on this process in some of its other markets, including Chile and Germany, but this is a first for the UK and also the first time Nokia has been the vendor. So this seems like a big deal for them – hence the press event.

Tim Smith, VP of Nokia Software Europe, explained its SOC platform aggregates and standardises the various network data feeds in order to be able to compare and optimise them. It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to network management and AI seems to play a big part, as you might expect.

A lot of the questions from the grizzled telecoms hacks in attendance focused on what specific benefits a SOC offers over a NOC and how they might be measured. While reduced churn is an obvious way to track ‘customer delight’, as Smith put it, Telefonica has its own metric called NCX (Network Customer Experience), which is currently at 79 and O’Reilly hopes will jump by at least a couple of points as a result of this shift. Here are the canned quotes from the press release.

“Telefónica has always aimed to offer the best possible experience to our customers which a reactive network monitoring approach to operations could never guarantee,” said Juan Manuel Caro, director of network and IT operations at Telefónica. “With SOC we have already transformed this in three of our markets reaching the next level in automated customer experience management, granting us flexibility and adaptability that serves as a key differentiator. Nokia’s solutions and services will allow us to achieve this goal in a competitive market like the UK.”

“Telefónica is pioneering the transformation toward customer-centric operations with the deployment of Nokia eSOC,” said Bhaskar Gorti, president of Nokia Software. “Nokia is proud to support Telefónica’s digital transformations and SOC deployments across the globe and with the flexibility to adapt to existing ecosystems in local markets.”

This all seems like quite a lot of effort to go to just to labour the ‘customer-centric’ concept that has become endemic to the point of cliché in the business world. But to be fair to both companies they are at least announcing concrete measures being taken in pursuit of that aim and thus holding themselves publicly accountable for delivering it.