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514 posts

Ultimate Geek

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#261600 5-Dec-2019 18:45
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As I mentioned in the Apple Watch Cellular thread, I was unable to find a Spark plan that met our use case, several data SIMS in tablets and laptops and my wife and I sharing data on our iPhones. But it's amazing how inventive you can be when you want something badly enough, so my wife agreed to port to 2Degrees so we could share her plan data on our data devices. That left me to go for Spark's Unlimited plan so I could have the Apple Watch cellular.




At lunch time today I headed into a Spark store and the sign-up process was a snap, or at least, it seemed that way. I decided to go with eSIM on my iPhone 11 Pro Max because that left the physical SIM slot free for a second carrier, and to activate SIMs for data devices like iPads where texting isn't possible.




I've used eSIM before with various apps including tMobile in the US, where the entire process is controlled through an app. Spark uses QR codes as do several other carriers around the world.




Since I am totally blind, I quizzed the rep about the process, because all QR codes I'm aware of need to be scanned...that's what you do with QR codes right? He assured me no sight would be necessary and that I could tap the code in the email. On this bases, I walked away with an eSIM in the email with no temporary number, but which I was told would be active when my port from Vodafone was complete.




When I got back to the office and researched this further, I found I was indeed right and that it was pretty difficult for a blind person to scan that QR code.




I phoned Spark and asked me if they could simply email me the manual data for me to type in, something I have also done several times elsewhere. Spark said they weren't able to do this, and that my best bet was to visit a Spark store again.




So, at the end of my work day, I headed off in an Uber to a Spark store where I expressed my concern that if I lost Vodafone service on my physical SIM without being able to activate the eSIM, I would be without cell service altogether and for me that poses a genuine safety risk. I wouldn't be able to make calls, get info about my location or access the service I use to get assistance in unfamiliar places. I suggested the way around this would be for Spark to assign me a temporary number so we could get the eSIM activated, then when the port was complete the eSIM would acquire my Vodafone number.




In-store, he set this up in the system and scanned the QR code, saying it would be active shortly. In retrospect, I should have hung around until it was, but I did verify in settings that a secondary carrier was now present with Spark's name on it.




I soon got an email from Spark saying my service was active and giving me the 027 number that had been assigned to my eSIM temporarily. The only trouble was, I was still getting no service. Going into the appropriate settings, I could see that a SIM number had been assigned, that Spark 40.0 carrier settings were active, and all looked good. But despite reboots, no service.




I spent over an hour with Spark explaining my situation and frankly, helping them troubleshoot by suggesting that they should compare the SIM my iPhone was showing with the SIM number in their system for the service.




In the end, I was advised to, you guessed it, visit the Spark store again.




Apart from the cost of doing this, it's time I don't have so I have cancelled my service and have everything crossed that the port doesn't happen. If it does, the nightmare may only just be beginning.




I was disappointed that several times after explaining the situation over the phone, I was asked if I could just scan the code again. It was as if they either didn't believe that I was blind or didn't understand what being blind meant. In many other countries, carriers have customer service reps trained in accessibility. Sadly, not here.




It's unfortunate that some Spark staff appear not to know how eSIMs work or how to activate them. It's also a shame there appeared to be no way for me to simply get the data manually.




I still don't know why, given that an eSIM was clearly installed, I had no service on the temporary number.




I do hope another carrier gets the cellular Watch soon.


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1267 posts

Uber Geek
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  #2369007 5-Dec-2019 19:24
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I feel your pain. I've had a nightmare couple of days trying to stop a port from Vodafone to Spark, but they tell me it's impossible to stop once requested, even though it takes a week to do so there is plenty of time to prevent it.

540 posts

Ultimate Geek

  #2369053 5-Dec-2019 20:04
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A week to port a cell number? Have things changed since porting first came available? I ported voda to then telecom when I was first able and it happened in less than a day, something like 4 hours?


1267 posts

Uber Geek
Inactive user

  #2369101 5-Dec-2019 20:26
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A week to port a cell number? Have things changed since porting first came available? I ported voda to then telecom when I was first able and it happened in less than a day, something like 4 hours?

Yes porting can happen in 4 hours, I've had it take less (90 minutes), but if you buy online it takes a week (7 days), unless (I don't know, just assuming)... You ring them to say the phone has arrived... And they put it through then.

'That VDSL Cat'
11693 posts

Uber Geek


  #2369216 5-Dec-2019 21:23
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A week to port a cell number? Have things changed since porting first came available? I ported voda to then telecom when I was first able and it happened in less than a day, something like 4 hours?



Not to down talk another provider, but there is one out there undergoing alot of changes, unfortunately their Porting systems are broken more than working if my inbox is anything to go by..




@jmosen will pass your feedback along, I do apologize for the experience, that's not the usual experience at all...



#include <std_disclaimer>


Any comments made are personal opinion and do not reflect directly on the position my current or past employers may have.

6109 posts

Uber Geek

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  #2369304 5-Dec-2019 23:03
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That's a terrible experience, made worse because of your accessibility issues. Very poor, Spark.

514 posts

Ultimate Geek

Lifetime subscriber

  #2369861 6-Dec-2019 23:06
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You know...I really, really want that cellular Apple Watch!




Just an update on this. This morning I wrote a complaint to Spark with a lot more detail than I provided here. It was handled quickly and with a lot of empathy and a genuine desire to help.




Basically we wiped the previous order clean and started again. In the end I did take one more trip to a different Spark store, this one I will name, out in Porerua at North City. I had superb service from the woman who assisted me. I don't have her name but she took the time to get it right not just by scanning the QR code, which I notice a few sighted people seem to have trouble getting right the first time, but also by checking carefully that the systems were showing the correct SIM being assigned to the correct device. It took a while, but I was happy to take the time in exchange for such a thorough job.




The result is that my number has now ported without a hitch.




While I'm grateful that Spark at least has prioritised eSIM when other networks haven't delivered them yet, I hope in time they might build on that leadership position by integrating the downloading of the eSIMs into the Spark app. It would be a pretty slick user experience to be able to sign up, pay for, and download your plan from the app. I've used this on T-Mobile in the US and it's effortless.




I've been around IT long enough to know that sometimes, stuff just happens. And I've also been around customer service enough to know that how an organisation reacts when stuff happens makes all the difference. I finally feel I've had a good outcome, so thanks to all who made it happen.




OK, off to order a certain gadget whose NZ launch I've been anticipating for yonks.


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