Apple's iPhone carrier woes extend to the UK with O2 3G outage

Update ribbon (small)

2:30 pm EST December 21, 2009 · UK-based carrier O2 is now saying, through its Twitter feed, that the fault related to iPhone data service outages throughout Britain has been fixed. Customers may continue to see some delay, however, before their service is fully restored.


As of late Monday afternoon in the UK (late Monday morning in the US), a data network outage continues to impact O2 network customers -- specifically those using Apple iPhone 3G and 3G S models. O2 acknowledged the problem yesterday via Twitter, and once again this morning.

"We're sorry that some mobile customers have had problems with data today -- these services will be back up tonight," read the company's first official tweet on the subject at 8:00 pm GMT Sunday night. Then at about noon GMT Monday, this update: "We apologise to customers who cannot use data at the moment. We have a fault with the allocation of IP addresses which we are fixing."

Based on customer accounts on Twitter this afternoon, UK time, it appears the router that grants mobile Internet users their IP addresses is failing, resulting in the phone bringing up the message, "Could not activate cellular data network." Some users do report their service coming back intermittently.

O2 users have apparently been reporting occasional troubles with service throughout December, although this is the longest stretch for which the problem is unresolved. In the intervening period, some O2 customers were evidently given some creative suggestions by customer support.

Galaxy Yorkshire DJ Adam O'Neill tweeted to his fans during a broadcast that O2 technical support asked him to swap out his handset with a friend's, to see if he has the same trouble. (Maybe that was a suggestion for O'Neill's audience as well.) "Idiots," O'Neill writes. "Once again, O2 are proving they can't run anything. All the 'data' parts of the iPhone are screwed. Deffo gonna leave them now."

One can only imagine the earful that listeners in Leeds are getting from Adam-O now.

Perhaps the highest-profile celebrity to be joking about the issue on Twitter this afternoon was Star Trek's new Scotty, Simon Pegg. At first he noted he was unable to connect to the 3G network, but when his service was restored, he began consoling others, including family members, that the matter may be well in hand.

"How quickly we learn to rely on things we don't understand," Pegg wrote to his fans. And to his family, he put on his best Glaswegian accent in a note to his sister, Kate: "You could try and fix it yerself lassie but yeh cannae change the laws of physics!"

The O2 outage could have been a moment for Vodafone, the latest UK carrier to get the iPhone in its arsenal, with its first sales coming in January. But that carrier (the part-owner of US-based Verizon Wireless) announced its fees today, and they were generally received as non-competitive: For the iPhone 3G, Vodafone will charge £30 per month for a two-year contract, but with an initial sign-up fee of £59. That's the same monthly fee as Orange has been charging since last month, when it became the first UK carrier outside of O2 to carry the iPhone...but Orange does not charge the £59 up-front fee.
For the top-of-the-line 16 GB 3G S, Vodafone will charge £30 per month for customers willing to pay an up-front charge of £149, or £45 per month for no up-front charge.

That's all good news for Orange, as it may end up being the hero in this entire affair, and the rallying point for iPhone users all over Britain. Or as Simon Pegg intentionally toyed with the phrase this afternoon, "Is the net finally fulfilling its potential as a raleighing point for expedition and revolution?"

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