TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Consumer Reports Story on Cell Phone Providers

Re: Consumer Reports Story on Cell Phone Providers

Alan Burkitt-Gray (
Sat, 1 Jan 2005 18:21:29 -0000

Marcus Didius Falco <> wrote: "There's
also the issue of how much roaming the carrier will permit. In
England, using Virgin, I had trouble in Port Isaac, but friends using
Orange had no trouble at all."

Works differently here in the UK. Each of the four GSM licensees (O2,
Orange, T-Mobile, Vodafone) has a national, UK-wide, licence, with
obligations to provide coverage to virtually all the population (98%
or thereabouts) as a condition of the licence.

If you're an Orange UK customer, in the UK your phone just works on
the Orange network, and won't roam to any of the other three, except
only for emergency calls using the 999 or 112 codes (similar to North
America's 911). Outside the UK your phone will roam onto whichever
network is strongest when you switch it on at the airport, and
normally stay there unless you lose signal and then your phone scans
for another. That means operators are very keen to build base stations
covering airports, as they can win the business from international
tourists and businesspeople: airport operators extract an appropriate
amount of revenue, I think. It also means that an Orange UK phone
won't necessarily roam to Orange France, though phones sold by Orange,
Vodafone etc are usually programmed with a preference list of
international operators.

Virgin Mobile UK, as in the US, is a mobile virtual network operator
(MVNO): here it uses T-Mobile infrastructure, so will only use
T-Mobile base stations in the UK, but will select whatever's available
outside the UK. Virgin in the US uses Sprint, and in Australia it's
Optus I think. So in Port Isaac, Orange clearly has a well sited base
station; T-Mobile does not.

Incidentally, that's not untypical of T-Mobile: we're a BT Mobile
customer, also an MVNO using T-Mobile infrastructure, and coverage
inside my home is poor. We also have a Virgin Mobile pay-as-you-go
phone for the children, but that doesn't help any as it's on the same
network. However BT is planning to port its service to Vodafone later
this year: I will look forward to that.

Alan Burkitt-Gray
mobile 079 6202 1330 international +44 79 6202 1330

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