Don’t move to 4G on EE just yet – they’re not ready for you (published November 2012)

 In 4G, customer service, fail, mobile broadband

UPDATE: This post was published in 2012. Since then EE has made many improvements, and I have since become an EE Advocate to help them understand the power of social.

Read the original post below from November 2012 below.

I never expected to have to write this post. I actually had another post ready in draft, to be posted on October 30th, the day the new 4G LTE network went live from Everything Everywhere (now known as EE).

In that post, I was going to praise the 4G speeds I was getting all over London and show a speedtest.net grab to prove it. I can’t do that however, because for the last 5 days of my contract I’ve had 0G not 4G. Due to a complete mess outlined below, I still have no service, as shown by the photo on the left.

Since this post went live on Saturday night London time (November 3, 2012), the response from the London Calling community has been amazing.  This post has been viewed over 9,500 times (a record for this little blog) and there have been many comments on Twitter, and it has also been covered in the Telegraph newspaper.

UPDATE 1 : 7th November 2012 –  I met with EE on Wednesday in London about the issues below and it was a very productive meeting. See my quick video update at http://lc.tl/eemeet

UPDATE 2 : 14th December 2012 – I’ve developed an advocate program for EE – read about it at lc.tl/advocates – this should help pinpoint these problems in a more timely fashion and provide direct feedback to EE.

UPDATE 3 : 20th February 2013 – I was asked to appear on Sky News to talk about the 4G spectrum auction in the UK and my experience as an EE 4G user – see my response below.

Late Sunday 4th November 2012, the responses from EE started to roll in.

UPDATE: 20:34 GMT Sunday 4th November: I am in touch via email with Stuart Jackson who until recently was the EE Communications Director. He has just been promoted to Director of the Chief Executive Office, working into EE CEO, Olaf Swantee. Hopefully I’ll be able to update readers with some news on Monday, as I am sure this post will have reached Olaf’s desk (1,500 views and over 100 tweets and retweets and counting in just 24 hours).

UPDATE: 10:08 GMT Monday 5th November: Robert from the 4G Project team calls me direct to sort out the issues. He confirms the SIM card I will receive later today will be an EE SIM and will “activate on 1st attach” meaning it will work when I install it in the MiFi.

UPDATE: 10:43 GMT Monday 5th November: Lucie from EE’s external PR agency gets in touch via my contact form. I respond asking to meet with EE CEO Olaf Swantee. Lucie passes on the request to the EE PR team.

UPDATE: 14:55 GMT Monday 5th November: Howard from the EE PR team contacts me and we started a very productive exchange.  The outcome is they have invited me into EE HQ in London this Wednesday to allow me to meet with some senior EE folks.  This is a very positive step and I would be happy to raise the issues reported below and on Twitter to the team to make sure they are addressed.

UPDATE: 17:00 GMT Monday 5th November: I have now received the correct SIM card and I am enabled for 4G!

You can see me ripping open the envelope and installing the EE 4G SIM in the video below.

UPDATE: 18:03 GMT Monday 5th November: Howard tells me that “Those activation issues have been identified – we’re confident now that the CS and IT teams have worked through them all, and customers are being supported on a one-by-one basis”.

This is great news, and shows the immense power of social media.
I will update you all after my meeting on Wednesday.

So how fast is the EE 4G network?

Read my review of EE on the new iPad – it is really fast!

Initial impressions are very good – the speeds are fast and the latency (delays in getting to the point where you start to load web pages) is similar to that of home broadband – ie around 60 milliseconds, compared to some 3G networks that have latency of 250ms (or 1/4  of a second) or more.

The original post from Saturday November 3rd 2012 continues below…

For my overseas readers, EE is the only carrier in the UK with 4G (and I mean real 4G as in LTE, not the HSPA+ branding that the US carriers have been doing for more than a year now).

As an early adopter, I always expect a few bumps along the way with new technology and so was fully expecting that there would be a few issues, but not as many as I have had in the first 5 days with EE as a brand new contract business customer.

As such, I wanted to warn readers of London Calling and my 7,700+ followers on Twitter that EE is not quite ready, so you may want to hold off until they sort out their back-end and branding issues.

Having been a loyal Vodafone customer since 2005, this is the first time I have used another carrier on a contract basis (and have committed to them for 18 months) so I thought it also a good way of testing out the EE customer experience.

It is a real mess at the moment and every one of their tech support staff I have spoken to have admitted that they have raced to launch the network, and “we’re in the dark ourselves“.

The network launched on 30th October 2012. This was a compromise date as they have been technically ready for a while, but had to appease O2 and Vodafone who are not able to launch until they buy new 800MHz spectrum in 2013.

Tuesday 30th October

I was the first customer at the Kensington High Street store at 10am opening time, all set to be an early adopter of 4G, and get a new 4G MiFi so all my devices could run at 4G speeds while out and about.

Many minutes later, there was some problem, and due to an “address check error” I was unable to sign up at the store, so I left empty handed 40 minutes later.

UPDATE: EE told me that the reason this failed was their credit checking partner Equifax had no record of my two previous addresses – strange as competitor Experian knows exactly where I live (and apparently I have a cracking credit score – when I finally got connected they said they could offer me up to 7 lines my credit was so good).

I persisted in my 4G quest and called EE later that morning and arranged to set up my account (no problems doing it over the phone) and have the MiFi sent to me the next day.

Wednesday 31st October

On time, the MiFi arrived on Wednesday, with a slip of paper from T-Mobile thanking me for renewing my contract. That should have been a warning to me that his process wasn’t going to run smoothly, First of all, I’ve never been a T-Mobile customer, so thanking me for renewing was wrong. The box also contained a T-Mobile SIM card.

As I had contracted with EE, I was expecting an EE SIM. More on their completely confused branding later on. (EE also runs Orange and T-Mobile in the UK due to a merger of the two companies two years ago).

I put the SIM in the MiFi and waited. “No Service” was the message on the screen (and is still there 5 days later). I went by the EE store and spoke to the friendly EE person who tried to sign me up the previous day. He suggested that SIM activations could take “up to 24 hours”, and anyway he couldn’t check my SIM as his systems had crashed.

Later that evening I called tech support, only to be told yes I should wait longer as my SIM was still in the “provisioning phase”, but they would try and hurry things along.

Thursday 1st November

24 hours had passed since I received the MiFI so I called tech support again – only to be told that they did not know what was going on and would investigate.

Later that evening I called back for an update (you know you’re having problems when you save the customer care number in your phone with all of the key presses to get you straight through). I was told that in fact I had been sent the wrong SIM – it was a T-Mobile SIM and not an EE SIM that would be required to provide the service.

They promised to send a new EE SIM, pre-activated to me by post.

Saturday 3rd November

I received the new SIM, and guess what – another T-Mobile SIM. Placing it in the MiFi, the words “No Service” greeted me yet again.

I called tech support – “the SIM is active, but it should be an EE SIM to work properly. We’ll send you another SIM“.

By this point, I had lost all confidence that I would ever get an EE SIM. I suggested that as I was on the way home I would go via the EE store near me and get a SIM card from them in person and have the details provisioned onto the new card.

I checked with the tech support person that I would be able to get a SIM, and she said yes, I would need a “replacement EE SIM” and I would be charged £10.21, but they would refund this. The helpful person told me it was her first day “and we’re very much in the dark ourselves” so I got her to check with a supervisor I could do the SIM swap in store. The answer came back “yes” so off I went to my local EE store for a 3rd time.

Still with me? Good. It gets better.

I arrived at the store, and explained I needed a “replacement SIM”. The helpful chap from Tuesday who could not sign me up in-store took charge. He said that they had no stock of SIMs so could not do this. He did offer to ring other local stores to see if they had stock. The response was that other local stores were out of SIMs also.

I called back customer service, and explained my issue again. Theresa was very helpful and also tried calling other local stores for stock, without luck.

She then dug deeper and told me that the system said that I was to be sent a THIRD SIM, this time “an EE SIM”.

Apparently this had been organised late on Friday night (after the 2nd T-Mobile SIM had been dispatched). She offered that there had been a “few problems” with getting EE SIMs to new 4G customers.

I asked about compensation, and was told I could go to the website, and look for “code of conduct” then fill in a form.

I politely told Theresa that my terms and conditions had changed and I no longer filled out forms, I tweet.

I spoke to her supervisor who did the usual, offering me a month’s free line rental. She could also see there was a note on my account that “the customer will retweet EE when he gets the service working“.

In fact in parallel with all of the activity above, I have been tweeting @EE since this all started – and this is where EE has a massive identity crisis.

Three brands are not better than one

Everything Everywhere (now EE) owns Orange and T-Mobile in the UK. They want to have the EE brand for the 4G service, but they clearly have not told their staff.

I contracted with EE. So I tweeted EE and these are the various responses.

So how am I supposed to know which part of EE (Orange or T-Mobile) to contact – my relationship is with EE!

So really my relationship is with T-Mobile? I’m confused!

Now we’re back to EE helping me (and they were not following so I could not DM them!)

And now back to T-Mobile. My head hurts with all of this branding nonsense.

https://twitter.com/TMobileUKhelp/status/264695081712377856

So their branding, and hence support is in a complete mess!

I’ll let you know what happens Monday and if I get a EE 4G SIM after all.

If EE’s CEO Olaf Swantee is reading this – please contact me to see how you can get me back at the 4G advocate stage (I do really want your 4G service to work!).

I still have my draft post ready about my 4G EE experience, which I had planned to write on Tuesday 30th October.

Will I ever get to test 4G on EE and review the service? Only EE/T-Mobile/Orange really know.

Perhaps my earlier post “The launch of 4G in the UK will be evolutionary not revolutionary” completely spooked them?

Anyone else had a similar experience in trying to move to EE? Please leave a comment below.

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About 

Based in London, Practical Futurist and former Global Managing Partner at IBM, Andrew Grill is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption, workplace of the future and new technologies such as blockchain. Andrew is a multiple TEDx and International Keynote Speaker.