Orange Customer Communications – the Ups and the Downs

// August 5th, 2009 // Mobile


I just received the following SMS from Orange, which they no doubt felt was extremely helpful:

Hello. From 7 Sept making & receiving roaming calls in zones 3-7 will have a min 60 second charge then charged per second

I do like the idea of at least proactively telling your customers when you unilaterally renegotiate the fees you charge them, but as a Londoner my initial reaction was “They’re going to charge me for taking calls outside of zone 2??” This is relatively pertinent as I’m going for a dinner in Putney tomorrow…

A note for non-Londoners: the city is divided into zones for public transport purposes, and anything outside of zone 1 is pretty much not really London.  Arguably even west zone 1 doesn’t really count.

London transport zones

A note for Americans: public transport is a novel system enabling movement around a city without driving a car, leading to a much more compact urban design where every shop doesn’t need a vast car park in front of it, and walking from shop to shop is achievable and encouraged (keeps the weight down too).

You can kind of understand the concept of non-London being roaming, because there’s no need to go there most of the time, but it does seem a little cheeky as the regions are often quite pleasant in the summer and they are technically also part of the country.

Another note for foreigners: unlike most countries, the UK’s first city takes a disproportionate share of everything as the governmental, administrative and business capital of the country; it can make a claim to be the cultural capital too, though some of the other cities could try and argue that one. People outside London tend to resent it for that, and Londoners tend to ignore them because they’re not in London.

This post has meandered some way off topic, but at the start I mentioned a text message from Orange.  My point really is that sending out something like that was pretty meaningless, and actually only caused confusion.

How was my roaming billed before?  I remember before the EU got involved it used to cost me more than a quid just to pick up the phone in Estonia, and a number of telephone salesman got extremely rude responses because of this.  Apparently it ought to be cheaper now, but talk of per second billing just encourages me to say less even though actually it probably means it’ll cost less, maybe.  Fundamentally, does anyone care enough?  If you’re on a business phone you just talk, if you’re not you get the hell off the line asap. It’s nice to know that there is a mathematical function applied to come up with the cost, but if it can be changed unilaterally like this and requires counting of seconds it’s unlikely most people will bother to worry about the details.

Possibly the zones are tied to DVD region zones? At least I’d have some hope of knowing what they meant that way.

Data Bundles

On to more of a successful communication from Orange.  Yesterday they rang me up for a halfway contract review (9 months to go – I much preferred the old style 12 month contracts, but apparently to get an N96 I had to plump for 18; how they must be laughing).  Apparently, we could save over £50 a month if we got data bundles.

This makes complete sense – we have testing SIMs downloading apps all the time, and Ben and I also use data a lot – but it’s somewhat ironic as 9 months ago we actually signed up for “unlimited” data bundles.  A few months later I called to ask why we were beiong charged so much for data when we were on unlimited bundles and they denied any knowledge of such a thing, saying we could add bundles if we wanted for something like £30/month/SIM – pretty ridiculous.  They had some other prepay bundles which were slightly more expensive per Mb than the usual per Mb charge, and that was it.  We declined.

Fast forward half a year and Orange data bundles are back, and fairly cheap.  We now have them, allegedly (I’ll be checking in a few months) and will be saving money, all at Orange’s recommendation.  This is a vastly more helpful and welcome communication than the news that Putney will incur roaming charges.

App Testing

Orange also have a testing centre, where you can borrow their handsets to test your apps.  We looked into it for FrontlineSMS and found in the UK there was not one phone from the last two years.  Plenty of old phones are still in circulation – that’s why we always support them at Masabi – but plenty of new ones are too!  Why do they bother?

On the other hand, they will now test and sign any Java apps they really like for their App Store, free of charge.  That’s a huge boost, as thusfar operators have tended to view the QA and signature steps of an app store as a means of revenue generation, gouging the developers at every step. There are alternative ways to explain what they do, but it’s hard to see it any other way if you’re not an operator yourself!

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