/ Technology

Were you affected by the O2 network outage?

Tens of millions of O2 customers were left without access to the network yesterday after a UK-wide outage. Were you affected by the downtime?

We’ve discussed whether we spend too much time our phones before, but do we realise just how dependant we are on our devices until the service is suddenly withdrawn?

When I woke up yesterday I had a notification on my phone I’d never seen before – it said that there was no access to data ‘in my area’.

We explain your compensation rights

I was in a bit of a hurry to make the train (no delays yesterday, you’ll be amazed to hear), so I didn’t really take too much notice of the problem. I then connected to the train’s wi-fi, so things carried on as normal as far as I was concerned.

When I reached the office I was surprised to find the data situation still hadn’t been resolved, but connecting to the work wi-fi soon solved that potential problem. So it wasn’t until a bit later on that the ongoing issues had an impact.

Making plans without a phone

I was off to a gig with a friend last night, and we ended up with a last-minute spare ticket. We offered it around to a few friends before leaving, but completely forgot that if anyone said yes we wouldn’t be able to arrange a time or place to meet them due to the lack of phone service.

O2 stated that the outage wasn’t impacting on voice calls, but that wasn’t the case for me – I had no network at all until late in the evening.

This led to a conversation I’ve had a few times before regarding social organisation – how did anyone manage before smartphones!?

I play football every Saturday which requires communication of the time and place every week, plus confirmation from a minimum of 11 people that they can actually play.

Smartphones have revolutionised the way things like this can be organised – I’m amazed when I think that prior to phones a manager would have to ring round each individual player’s landline – and hope they were in/picked up the message! Not to mention that they’d have to do it all over again if there were any changes.

Our response

With consumers more reliant than ever on acceess to the internet in their day-to-day lives, we’re calling on O2 to ensure that no-one is left out of pocket by yesterday’s outage.

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services said:

It’s right that O2 compensates its customers for the frustrating network failure suffered by millions of customers. Anyone who suffered out of pocket expenses should make a claim to their mobile provider.

In addition, O2 needs to give its customers reassurances that it is taking measures to stop this from happening again. Connectivity is now such an integral part of our lives, it is time for the regulator to consider whether it should introduce automatic compensation for the inconvenience caused by severe outages

Were you affected by the network outage yesterday? If so, did it disrupt your day-to-day life? And is the sudden loss of the service an example of how over-reliant we are on the internet and mobile networks to go about our daily lives?


The compensation offered to prepaid customers is zero. They are given a discount only if they give O2 more money; that’s not compensation at all. They should be given free credit, provided that they have used the service in the last week or so, which would avoid credit being given to dormant accounts who were not affected.

And what about the hundreds of thousands of customers of virtual networks such as giffgaff, which all use O2’s network? How will they be compensated?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

were the Ruskies involved in this outage?

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I keep a spare phone in the car in case I leave mine at home or there is no signal. To help with the latter problem, it’s on a different network.

I agree with the proposals made by Alex Neill, mentioned in George’s introduction.

Apple’s latest iPhones are dual SIM – one eSIM (for which EE is so far the only UK supported network) and one physical SIM slot. I currently use Three (paying 1p/2p/3p for data, SMS and calls). Once Three supports eSIMs and Apple release the next iPhones (both of which should happen by September 2019), I plan to use Three with the eSIM and O2 in the physical SIM slot to ensure maximum coverage in the UK, and given that O2 has reduced its charges to the same as Three. When abroad, I shall use local SIM cards in the physical SIM slot.

There are several phones with dual SIM slots available which presumably could solve some problems. It is very useful if you often travel out of the UK to another country.

Cubot is one provider.

Patrick – yes, it’s true that there are plenty of dual SIM phones on the market, but if one has reasons for staying with iPhones (not least the difficulty in transferring years of one’s data and purchased apps between iOS and Android), then Apple’s introduction of dual-SIM iPhones in September was a significant development.

And not before time!

George – before the mobile …

You might like to know that ringing friends to discuss the next match is no hardship. And if you organise it properly the calls are spread between several people and they report back to the manager. Amazingly easy and perhaps a wee bit more personal than a text.

In my day there was a season’s fixture list showing all the games lined up and a list of the away grounds. Games always started at the same times and it was the players’ responsibility to turn up at the appointed place in time to get ready for the kick-off. There was never any deviation throughout the season from the listed fixtures nor from the K-O times.

If anything, modern communication systems have made it far too easy to rearrange things.

Not often, George.

I am writing about my school days rather than as an adult player. If the prevailing bad weather conditions were set in for the weekend [as in 1963 for weeks on end] the school would cancel the fixture and you would find out on the Friday prior. Otherwise, you got to the ground if you could and if the match was called off because of frost or snow then you did PE in the changing room. In those days [late-1950’s to mid-1960’s in my case] not everyone had a phone at home so there was no question of ringing round. There was no social media or e-mail system to communicate alterations so everything had to follow the fixture list. I don’t believe any matches were rescheduled and there must have been some agreed mechanism for allocating points to abandoned fixtures to normalise the league tables.

Another difference is that most families did not have a car so we mostly travelled on bikes or public transport and some of the away fixtures were several miles away. Our home fixtures were about eight miles away from the school since our sports ground was in the leafy suburbs. Parents were not expected to attend so no touch-line nonsense. Different times, different world.

I think groundkeepers are more precious these days and declare pitches unfit for play to save them having to patch them up. If it rained we got wet and the goal area got churned up [heavy leather boots with long studs in those days as well].

And sodden, heavy, mud-encrusted leather balls = brain damage for those forced to head those lumps of lead.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I agree with George, the simple answer is yes, I do believe we have become over reliant upon both the Internet and mobile devices which have the power to disrupt our lives without any prior warning or notice when they malfunction.

Commercial technological companies are flooding the market with ‘must have’ updated models with overrated claims of what amounts to an added gimmick in order to feed the appetite of those who have developed an addiction to the computer in their pocket, which has evidently now overtaken the one in their head.

Communication is essential in today’s society to be able to understand and relate to some of the highly complex issues we face on a daily basis and no doubt technology plays a pivotal role in providing this, but it’s vital to remember that our own brain is still (or should be?) the instigator that initiates everything we do and a technological device is just a conduit that provides information and transmits messages on our behalf and cannot always be relied upon without some sort of human intervention.

Google for example, are well aware of the dangers of overstepping the line between using technology as a force for evil as opposed to a force for good and this message was very well portrayed in an interview with its then Vice-President, Bradley Horowitz and Eckhart Tolle, spiritual teacher, author and academic, who was invited by Google to an open meeting at Google HQ to establish the ethics of future technological progress and where it is heading.

The whole meeting is on YouTube, is easy to locate but it’s very long and not everyone’s choice so I will not provide a direct link, but Bradley Horowitz seemed quite enlightened and enthralled by the whole procedure, as was everyone else in attendance.

I was only affected in a small way by the outage of O2 and giffgaff.

I think the incident serves to show that many of us take all our infrastructure services for granted and don’t make any contingency plans for service outages.

…news just in is that I have been offered compensation by giffgaff 🙂

I heard Dom Joly being interviewed on Radio 4, talking about how he was going to cope (or not) with not knowing what Piers Morgan was up to on Twitter, and having to read a book to pass the time. 🙂

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Are you sure he was joking?

Perhaps he was, but it is a fact of life that so many people nowadays are so used to getting all their information and updates from their hand-held device that they have no fall-back position if it does not function. Some people cannot put it down and are checking every minute whether they have missed something. If they are waiting or travelling or in some other passive state they spend their time flicking through messages and pictures that they have seen before. It is no exaggeration to say that a functioning phone is an integral part of their being and that their relationship with it is very up front and personal. The real or imaginary connection that it gives is the most valued thing in their life and they are desperate without it. This is a serious state of affairs, not to be mocked really, and does have implications for the way society develops. There probably is a withdrawal symptom arising from unexpected lack of access. I expect psychiatrists are already onto it.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Thank you Duncan – and looking at the fees chargeable by psychiatrists in the USA [in your third link] it might have been a more lucrative profession. However, it doesn’t take a psychiatrist to spot the obvious, and it’s typical of America to get hold of a problem, turn it into an anxiety, label it as a syndrome, and then set up an expensive system for relieving it.

Unlike with alcohol, narcotics or gambling addiction, I don’t think ‘cell phone addiction’ should give rise to such harmful medical or psychological consequences, and the social consequences of mobile phone use and withdrawal, albeit potentially serious, are not on the same scale as with drink and drugs that quickly wreck other lives as well as those of the addicts. I expect the problem is more acute among those who already have some pre-disposition to irrational or compulsive behaviour for which the smartphone provides a new channel.

I remember when every serious networker and social integrator had to have a Filofax personal organiser and if they lost or mislaid it they would go into a dumb funk until they found it again or replaced it. It was the loss of their world, and the outage of a mobile phone network clearly has similar consequences. Despite the digital alternatives, Filofax is still a popular medium for rapid access to stored data that you can look at while making a phone call. Sometimes the free, passive, at-a-glance, non-advertising, and unhackable [generally] presentation of information beats the computer however small or large. What it lacks in interactivity it makes up for in accessibility.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Unfortunately there was a problem with the link, Duncan.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I’m going to stick with carrying a sun-dial and compass with me rather than a hair-spring full Hunter.