O2 Network Threatened By Mass Protest

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The stability of O2’s mobile network could be tested to the limit if a mass protest by O2 users, furious at the scrapping of unlimited data deals, takes place

Users upset at O2’s announcement last week that it is scrapping its unlimited data deals could potentially cripple the network if a mass protest takes place.

Last week O2 said that in light of the traffic overload from bandwidth-hungry smartphones, it was launching its new mobile data pricing model on 24 June – the same day that O2 starts selling the fourth version of Apple’s iPhone. Instead of unlimited data, users will be offered smartphone tariffs ranging from £25 per month, for 500MB of data, to £60 per month for 1GB.

However the move has upset many O2 users and some have apparently decided to do something about it. According to the website TNW UK, a protest called O2 Data Day is being planned for 24 June. Apparently, organisers are encouraging O2 customers to consume all of their mobile data allowance on that day, to show how angry they are at the change.

Mass Protest?

“The general feeling on the whole matter is that O2 have been both hasty and unthoughtful in their decision to introduce a cap onto their data plans,” said Arron Hirst, one of the main backers of the protest, speaking to TNW UK. “While customers understand the network is buckling under the amount of users using data on the network, it begs the question why O2 can’t simply upgrade their networks to counterbalance demand.”

On Twitter, the hashtag #O2DataDay protest seems to be gathering momentum, despite being rejected by its creator.

However Hirst has denied that the protest intends to bring down the O2 network.

“If that happens as a side-effect of the hashtag it will only strengthen the point of the customer… As I understand it, the purpose of #O2DataDay and what it originally stood for, was to show O2 UK that customers have a voice and they won’t just sit down and take whatever tariffs O2 think we’ll sign up for, especially when referring to contract based tariffs,” Hirst was quoted as saying.

O2 will be concerned if the protest does manage to gather significant support.

Bandwidth Strain

In December the mobile operator suffered a number of embarrassing network failures in London. The operator was forced to admit that the crash was caused by the bandwidth strain from the increasing use of smartphones.

O2 had promised in November last year to spend hundred of millions of pounds overhauling its much-criticised mobile network in order to give it ’significant headroom for mobile data’ and to meet the rising demand for mobile broadband.

However, this may not been enough to avoid mobile data outages, after analyst firm Informa warned in October that mobile data traffic is set to increase 25 fold by 2012, and said that mobile operators need to take action in order to imminent data traffic jams.

The arrival of Apple’s popular iPad is also expected to contribute to the strain on networks, as the device is a very efficient consumer of network bandwidth.

“We’re introducing a more transparent way of charging our customers for data that reflects changes in people’s behaviour; a model where people who use the largest amounts of data will pay for it,” an O2 spokesperson told eWEEK Europe UK. “Most people will pay the same and get a better service and experience.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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