Thursday, April 28, 2011

Optus dropouts enrage iPhone users but company says window tints are to blame

TELCO giant Optus has failed to reach 200,000 Australians while infuriating potentially millions more whose phones are dropping out across Australia's major cities.

An investigation by The Daily Telegraph revealed Optus iPhones constantly drop out or simply do not receive calls all over Sydney.

It has prompted an angry customer revolt against an atmosphere of consumer uprising in the 22,000-strong class action against Vodafone.

In online forums, some have even suggested Optus' coverage is worse than its beleaguered rival.

Optus announced in May 2008 it would increase coverage to 98 per cent of the population by 2009 and reception speeds to 42MBps by 2010. On the back of this it sold hundreds of thousands of iPhones, even outselling its larger rival Telstra.

But its promises are now in tatters. Speeds are up to 80 times slower and the carrier reaches only 97 per cent - more than 200,000 fewer people.

And for iPhone 3G users only 80-85 per cent of people are covered - although Optus says its fourth generation coverage reaches 97 per cent.

The Daily Telegraph tested an Optus iPhone 3G in varied buildings and conditions in suburbs on all sides of the CBD, including Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Erskineville and Balmain, in an apartment building, a house, a backyard and an office block.

In each the signal failed, the phone did not receive calls or was so distorted as to be useless. Online forums that have sprung up recently reveal the story is the same around Sydney and other capital cities.

Optus has acknowledged it is trying to improve coverage in the CBD but also blamed "environmental factors" such as window tints.

It also said "some handsets are not necessarily the best phones for coverage and performance".

The handset used by the Telegraph is a typical iPhone 3G, which Optus heavily subsidised in an effort to swamp the market. In the quarter of the iPhone's launch alone it added more than 180,000 subscribers.

The company website admits it has failed to meet this target: "Join the Network that Reaches 97% of Australia's Population Today!" it states.

As for 42Mbps speeds, the website admits typical speeds are up to 80 times slower, with a typical speed of 512kBps and 3MBps for the fastest devices. Optus said it was working to improve its coverage and its speeds were still competitive.

"We've invested $2 billion in our mobile network over five years and we have more than doubled the capacity of our network for our nine million mobile customers," a spokesman said.

"In an independent study in March the Optus Mobile network demonstrated strong and consistent performance for customers in Sydney."