Vodafone NZ’s stuffed network

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 29-Oct-2010 20:32

It's not very often I get annoyed enough to write nasty things about a company, but Vodafone deserve an award right now for running NZ's worst performing mobile network.

There appears to be a major fault that's been affecting the Vodafone network for a number of weeks now and I'm interested in feedback from others who may be experiencing the same issue.

I use data on a daily basis on my Nokia E71. What I've noticed with increased frequency is 3G data retainability issues with data sessions randomly stalling. This becomes obvious when applications such as Gravity (a S60 Twitter app) refuses to update. Once the data session is stalled (but still active according to the phone) you can't send or receive data. The issue also affects voice calling and SMS messages. SMS messages sent while the data session is stalled will sit in the phone outbox and any inbound voice calls will go directly to voicemail. Inbound SMS messages are also not received by the phone

Fixing the fault is very simple. Ending the data session by closing down the application using the data session or manually ending the active data session results in SMS's being sent again and the ability to receive calls and SMS's instantly resuming. If you want a more drastic fix you could just power cycle the phone, but it's certainly not needed, unlike the last time a virtually identical issue existed when GPRS was enabled in the network in 2002 and a power cycle was the only fix.

I've now encountered this issue in various parts of Wellington and also in the Auckland CBD which probably excludes the fault from being  on a single RNC

Totally unscientific studies based around twitter feedback and friends experiencing the exact same issue shows it's not an isolated issue and that I'm not the only person encountering this fault. I suspect however that this issue is totally unrelated to the large number of people complaining about huge delays sending and receiving SMS messages on the Vodafone network.

If you are experiencing any of the above I'd love to hear from you and have created a thread here on Geekzone where the issue can be discussed. Vodafone are seemingly in denial of this issue so it would be interesting to see how many others are experiencing it.

Other related posts:
Skinny takes FUD to new heights with Vodafone GSM network shutdown billboards.
Are Air New Zealand about to dump their Premium Economy Spaceseat?
Will the iPhone 6 work in New Zealand?

Comment by scottpalmer, on 29-Oct-2010 20:42

You haz friendz?

Comment by brookwarner, on 29-Oct-2010 20:50

Totally having the same issues, and yes @Vodafonenz seem to be in denial. I've been told it's an iPhone issue, and then recently been told it's just my iPhone that's the issue. I don't believe either. There was a similar thread somewhere on geekzone regarding this issue. A vf rep commented and said that they are "looking into it" but it's not resolved for me. Sometimes I can get everything to work again by switching my 3G off, but not Everytime and this is a real pain.

Comment by sakura59, on 29-Oct-2010 20:53

I have the same issues with my Nokia E71 using TweetPro60 and Facebook for E71. Have to constantly shut the apps down and then re-load them. 

Comment by PIERCD, on 29-Oct-2010 21:01

That would explain the symptoms I have been seeing on my Galaxy S, randomly I will just not receive calls and seconds later I receive the missed call text.  I have good reception all this time, I may tray disabling mobile data see if that fixes it.

Comment by alasta, on 29-Oct-2010 21:05

Denying obvious infrastructure issues is generally symptomatic of an organization that has no genuine interest in investing in their operations. This may be because the management are too sales focussed to be able to see the big picture, or it may simply be that they are not intending to stick around for the long haul.

Comment by paradoissm, on 29-Oct-2010 21:36

I have been experiencing the same issues since connecting, in Wellington it seems to come back after about a minute but then call/sms seems to be out, however in Tauranga it was much more of an issue with a power-cycle necessary. I put it down to the fact that I shouldn't be using voice on my data-only connection but it appears to be more depth than that. When it is working it's very good and very consistent but will then stall for no apparent reason at all. I'll be keen to see how it performs in the new Android device (Huawei u8120 aka Vodafone 845) I wonder what I can get from the diagnostic port on this ZTE data stick modem?

Comment by daba, on 29-Oct-2010 22:49

Having similar issues on my iPhone... I haven't noticed calls going to voicemail, but again, I hardly ever get calls. The only way I've found to fix it is to turn on flight mode and then turn it off again after about 20 seconds. :(

Comment by Alex Taylor, on 30-Oct-2010 09:30

Completely anecdotal but I've had a couple of times where someone will call me and they hear ringing noises but my phone doesn't indicate an incoming call, I get a text a little later about the missed call. Additionally, I have needed to power cycle to get my data connection active a couple of times. I'll be a little more vigilant with when's and where's.

Comment by Linuxluver, on 30-Oct-2010 14:14

I've noticed I have to re-register on the Vodafone network to restore 3G function if I move between Birkenhead, Glenfield and Rosedale. I have a Samsung Galaxy S now but had seen similar problems with my Nexus One for a couple of weeks prior to replacing it. To confuse things further, I often walk from Rosedale to Beach haven and there are a couple of 3G blackspots I pass through on the way (Sunset Rd, for about 100 metres, between 100 and 200 metres east of Glenfield Rd is one of them) where I consistently lose 3G coverage every time, no mater what. Overall, the service is good...but it isn't 100% good. Is anyone's? :-)    

Comment by Charles, on 30-Oct-2010 17:13

I've been having the same problems in both Auckland and Wellington with my E71. One of my colleagues in Wellington has had the same issue too, except with an iphone4. Within half an hour on Friday he got 6 "missed call" text messages, but the phone never rung once!

Comment by rawsoncj, on 31-Oct-2010 10:53

Regularly seeing this issue on my iPhone 4 throughout NZ, but mainly in Palmerston North.  I can have 5 bars of 3G service indicated in my status bar, but Mobile Safari and other data-intensive apps won't connect unless I cycle Airplane Mode.  Strangely, the official Twitter iPhone app always seems to connect just fine, so I've had numerous instances where the only thing I was able to do with 5 bars of 3G is chew out Voda NZ's shoddy service over Twitter.

Comment by Zeon, on 31-Oct-2010 11:41

I thought I was the only one!

Comment by lotech, on 31-Oct-2010 13:30

I'm also having this issue on my iPhone4, cycling Airplane mode does indeed fix it but it happens multiple times a day.

Comment by robbyp, on 31-Oct-2010 13:56

Switch to the XT network. It is far better and newer network. You know you want to.

Comment by ajw, on 31-Oct-2010 17:07

If able why not jump ship to another provider, living in the Wgton region I am now on the 2 degrees network and happy with the service provided. I do hope 2D provide nationwide service as soon as possible over their own network.

Comment by ahmad, on 31-Oct-2010 19:34

I'm glad you said it because someone might listen. Whenever anyone else provides solid evidence of issues it is usually ignored.

Comment by harrylin, on 1-Nov-2010 08:06

Especially when I use push notification and background Skype on iPhone, the data session always stalls.

Comment by Mbaguley, on 1-Nov-2010 13:22

Hi Guys
Rest assured Vodafone are definitely investigating this issue at the highest priority. We have been monitoring data over the weekend. Im happy to keep you posted or alternatively please call our call centre on 777 who will advise.
Michelle Baguley at Vodafone

Comment by Slartibartfast, on 1-Nov-2010 17:02

Thank goodness! I thought it was my iPhone 3GS and was ready to throw it against a brick wall and try the iPhone 4! Glad i don't have to. I have trouble as well when I want to use Safari and the phone pops up telling me it has found possible WiFi networks. If I say no to the WiFi connections I am then told I can't connect to 3G for some reason. Also when I am on 3G it is s-o-o s-l-o-o-o-o-o-o-w-w-w.... Come on Vodafone! The Telecom netwrok is eating your lunch and 2 Degrees is snapping at your heels!

Comment by android lover, on 6-Nov-2010 09:20

I've been having the problems for ages and had been thinking it was my phone (HTC Magic) I frequently need to put the phone in airplane mode and then out of that again to restore the 3G connection. I have had numerous instances where the phone has not rung and I just receive a txt telling me i've missed a call.

Comment by BlakJak, on 7-Nov-2010 08:31

Worth adding to the 'me too's, I have an iPhone issued by my employer, the original unit they gave me (iPhone 3G) got so bad I couldn't rely on it and had to get it replaced, the new one (3GS) is only a little better; seem to get voicemails telling me i've missed calls when the phone hasnt rung, regularly simply get 'call failed' trying to place calls, and regularly find SMS messages wont send despite plenty of signal.
Also trying to navigate across town yesterday using the GPS/Google Maps app was impossible, I wound up with a blue blip moving about a grey screen, as maps couldnt load.
Have been a strong supporter of voda for >10 years but actually find myself considering a switch to XT.

Comment by Michelle, on 7-Nov-2010 15:10

Wow, great to know it's not just me. Recently upgraded to a Samsung Galaxy, and almost straight away started having problems. Friday was a great one - about 2 hours with no email reception, texts kept failing and then after re-sending they would eventually go, suddenly get a bunch of texts at once, with about an hour delay, and when I rang back about a text was asked why the call went straight to voicemail - odd considering I was in the wellington CBD with perfect reception, and not on the phone or any apps at the time - was actually waiting for the call that didn't arrive.... When will Vodafone fix this, or at least communicate what they are doing??? I can't switch to xt right now as just signed up to a new plan when I upgraded my phone.....

Comment by Sarah Putt, on 9-Nov-2010 11:56

Hi Steve Just posted this article on Computerworld site: http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/news/vodafone-acknowledges-fault-with-3g-network

Comment by puggy, on 9-Nov-2010 13:19

Damn, finally something has been done, I have been asking fo about the last month for something to be fixed and keep getting told that it is an issue with my iPhone so went back to my N95 and same issue, would start to load things then just hang or worst yet driving in the car on the motorway and evey day have 100% reception but no data could transfer.  I have brought a Galaxy as kept getting told that it was an issue with my hand set.  But same thing with the Galaxy.  Now I am really pissed to hear it was VF all along and not just my handsets, I even asked for credit and got told no as it was a hand set issue, I have even broguht a new phone.  VF need to listen to their customers more often rather than sitting the glass their palace downtown.  Steve you are a legend for getting action.

Comment by Abhi, on 9-Nov-2010 13:45

thanks so much for raising this issue, face this problem all the time. initially thought it was a problem with my iphone 3g but same issues with iphone 4

Comment by dw, on 10-Nov-2010 11:25

BTW, this is not a new issue with their 3G network - I've had this issue with three different iPhones (one a 2G model) and a Vodem, for the past 2 years. At first I thought they were just gating iPhone traffic to manage their bandwidth but it does seem much more widespread

Comment by Luke, on 10-Nov-2010 12:40

I too have been experiencing these issues on my iPhone in central Wellington, but for considerably longer than a couple of weeks. Missed calls and missing txts started around a year ago, and have intensified over the last six months to include numerous dropped calls. I've spoken a couple of times with the support people, who put me in touch with the 'iPhone team' - they said there were no known network issues and told me to restart my phone. I have also been into the Vodafone Lambton Quay store, where they replaced my SIM and hard reset my phone: issues are still reoccurring. To be honest, I've been seriously considering moving to XT because of this - which means taking the entire business with me. Would love to see this resolved Vodafone, along with a little communication while you work...

Comment by Debra, on 13-Nov-2010 10:30

Just upgraded from iPhone 3GS to iPhone 4 on Thursday. Had barely any issues with my iPhone 3GS (maybe 1 or 2 failed text messages in a month) but currently experiencing extremely frequent failed texts AND interrupted data sessions (i.e. whatsapp, internet browsing). I have to reset my 3G for messages to send through and to receive messages! Wonder when they will fix this....

Comment by brent, on 25-Jul-2011 16:40

having exactly the same drama on an unlocked motorolla defy. I run it in 2G only mode now as its 80% morereliable, and if i want data I go thru the settings menu to set network selection back to manual. Unfortuneately on android ive found that all the apps seem to want data, so this solution kinda fixes the extreme data rapeage problem(using in excess of 100mb a day without using any net!!!) glad im not the only one, what can i say, F U vodafone! changing to 2 degrees along with everyone i can show, no more dropped calls will be tolerated.

Comment by Fly, on 19-Nov-2011 18:29

Same problem in Auckland - botany - CBS - wynyard quarter and grey Lynn. In my case Ive noticed that I can't call or recieve calls from (get the missed call texts) other Vodafone nos but can make calls and receive from telecom xt and landlines. 777 staff are useless - say they will arrange for a technician tO reset the relevant cell site within 2 days and the tech will call me - I've never heard back. As soon as im out of contract I'm going to telecom. I had the same problems with data and calls not connectIng with orange in London. Came back to nz in late 2008 and have had same issue with voda ever since. Thought it was crappy Nokia n95 (orange ended up replacing mine about 3 times and even gave me a free crackberry - which I promptly resold- networks always blame the handset - which in my case is lame cause the handsets cells frOm the network! Let them blame the handset and then make them replace it under the cga - point is you're not getting the service you signed up for - from a consumer perspective it doesn't matter whether it's the handset or netwrk - it's their problem either way

Comment by Simon, on 13-Feb-2012 11:32

Perhaps this is not directly relevant to this issue but I wanted to add what I think is an important note - network performance in a major emergency situation: My wife has a Vodafone phone, I use Telecom. I've noticed the Vodafone network seems far more robust than Telecom in the immediate aftermath of each of the Christchurch earthquakes. For example, after the first of the 23 Dec 2011 earthquakes my Telecom phone was completely unusable. The network was completely tied up. On the other hand, when I used the landline at my office to call my wife's Vodafone mobile, I got through to her right away. I suppose you could say that since we were 8 km apart at the time the difference in performance of our two phones might have been to do with location rather than the networks we were connecting to. However, I work in central Christchurch and there are very few people around these days; maybe one of two buildings occupied on each block. So there shouldn't have been a heavy load on the cell towers around my work following the quake.

sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems.

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at stevenbiddle@gmail.com