iPhone: Orange vs O2

Based on Ofcom’s December 2008 3G coverage maps, expect to see Orange adverts in the near future featuring solely this…





Have a look at the full OfCom report on 3G coverage on their site.  Official announcement from Orange here.

UPDATE NOV ’09: Table comparison of O2 vs Orange pricing here from Pocket-Lint.

For related stories on this topic, click here.

By Max Tatton-Brown

Max Tatton-Brown is founder and MD of Augur, and has written for publications including the Guardian, Sifted and TechCrunch.

12 replies on “iPhone: Orange vs O2”

That’s not suprising at all to anyone with an O2 iphone contract. They are rubbish, and even where the map shows coverage there frequently isn’t any. It’s about time O2 lost their exclusive deal, and also about time they were called to account for selling contracts that are next-to-useless in much of the country, even in places where the map is purple!

O2 and Voda agreed to share 3G infrastructure in the UK. I think they’re doing it on a site-by-site basis but it could colour in O2’s map quite quickly. Orange will naturally pick up T-Mobile’s masts real soon now. There is probably more overlap than they would like, but they also pick up some additional backhaul that might come in handy.

O2 spent too much time and money on getting an EDGE network for the 1G iPhone but have done nothing to improve their 3G coverage. Without being harsh, it’s time Apple moved on.

Suspiciously my orange phone and internet work slower than 3. and neither work in the little village I come from which is coloured purple in the Orange (and o2) map.

Wonder what 3 map looks like.

The OFCOM map is almost a year old, O2 have been spending money like crazy to update their 3G network this year AND have the better frequencies for 3G penetration, so whilst the orange map may look good, wait until you try to use it indoors….

Hi "Moose", thanks for the excellent comment- I heard a similar thing from @Gazimoff (who I'd love to hear from too if you're lurking out there.)

Do OfCom release new maps again this December? Could be one to watch…

The trouble with comparing coverage maps is that they don’t give you the full picture. There are other factors to consider, such as the capacity behind the coverage and the number of users depending on the coverage. It’s probably best if I explain using an analogy.

Imagine if you’re flipping through a catalogue of cakes. The photo of each cake is taken from directly above, and the lighting is arranged so that the cake casts no shadow. All the photos are scaled so that the cakes appear roughly the same size.

The problem that you get is that a fairly thin fruit flan looks almost identical in size and shape to a banoffee cheesecake or even a triple-layer chocolate sponge cake. But even worse, what if you thought you were getting the chocolate cake, only to find that it was a cheesecake with a bit of cream and dusting on top?

We’ve all experienced similar problems to this with voice, where we’ve had signal but been unable to make a call because the “network is busy”. It doesn’t happen as much these days, as voice networks are fairly mature and the infrastructure is pretty much static. The same thing can still happen with data though as networks are developed.

Going back to our cake analogy, suppose you bake your cake knowing that the people who come along to eat it have fairly small cake forks and only take small bites.

They graze along quite happily, knowing that there’s enough cake for everyone. Then someone brings out a fantastic new solid silver cake fork that lets you eat cake more quickly, but also makes the cake taste so much better.

All of a sudden you start running out of cake far too quickly. Customers get hungry and start to complain. But baking more cake to meet demand takes time- there are ovens to buy and chefs to hire- and there’s no magic cake making tap that you can just turn on.

Knowing that you only have a fixed pot of money with which to make more cake, would you open up more cake outlets elsewhere in the country, or would you focus on increasing the output of your existing cake shops in order to meet growing demand for your cake?

Surprisingly, networks are quite similar to cake. There are two elements to think about when using data: coverage and capacity.

Coverage helps to inform people where they can access the network, while capacity describes how much network there is for people to use. The trouble with the Ofcom maps is that they don’t show this further dimension and as a result, you might end up sharing a very thin flan with a lot of hungry customers.

Absolutely the best analogy I’ve ever heard, bravo 🙂

As a matter of interest: looking at these maps, why is it (apparently) so important to have 3G coverage off the coast of Britain? Is there much call for data services for yachties and/or herring gulls?

@Mat Maybe the signal is able to travel further without any buildings etc to absorb/ deflect it? @Gazimoff would be the man to ask, I’ll tweet in his direction now.

That’s basically it. It’s a bit like a torchlight – it tends to get blocked by buildings, hillsides and so on. Out at sea there’s nothing to interrupt the signal, so cellsites based in costal cities such as Brighton tend to have some overspill.

A bit like a torchlight, the signal strength could be dimmed so that it doesn’t seep out across the water, but then it would struggle to penetrate buildings and provide indoor coverage. It’s a difficult balance to reach.

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