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EE, Britain’s first 4G mobile network, admitted a "teething problem" after it was branded a “rush job” by customers who complained of difficulties obtaining SIM cards, connecting to the network and dealing with “confusing” customer service systems.
The network was introduced last week in a blaze of publicity, after EE, a company formed as “Everything Everywhere” by the 2010 merger of Orange and T-Mobile, stole a march on rivals by reusing surplus 2G airwaves. Its 4G network offers mobile internet access in major cities several times faster than via 3G technology, but early adopters are now reporting frustrating teething troubles.
Andrew Grill, the London-based chief executive of Kred, a social media firm, described his problems in a widely-shared blog post. He first attempted to join the network on launch day, last Tuesday, by visiting an EE store in Kensington High Street but was denied after 40 minutes by an “address check error”.
The next day he bought an EE contract and Mifi personal hotspot over the phone without a hitch, but when it arrived, the box contained a T-Mobile SIM card, incapable of connecting to the 4G network. EE promised to send another, which arrived on Saturday, but turned out to contain another useless T-Mobile SIM card.
This time customer services advised Mr Grill to visit an EE store to get a replacement SIM, which he did, only to be told they were out of stock. Customer services said he had instead been sent a third SIM by post and that there had been a “few problems” getting customers connected.
“The back end systems were clearly not ready,” said Mr Grill, who had still not received a working SIM on Monday afternoon. “It does feel like a rush job.”
“Every customer services person I spoke to said they really didn’t know how everything worked yet.”
Mr Grill said his frustration was compounded by his attempts to contact EE via Twitter. Mobile networks, have become known for offering customer servces via the microblogging service, but his messages to @ee were met with suggestions he contact Orange or T-Mobile accounts.
The blog post he wrote describing the frustration received record traffic and attracted a series of similar stories from other early adopters.
“A complete customer service and branding/platform disaster,” said Kate Hedges, a travel writer. “No service since Saturday. Hours on hold with each player in this disaster. Each company blames the other.”
Twitter was also buzzing with complaints about the availability of SIM cards and problems dealing with customer services.
"In a small number of instances in week one, a gap in a process on SIM distribution has delayed customers in accessing the EE network," he said.
"We have now identified the teething problem in this process and a dedicated team has resolved all issues it created on a customer-by-customer basis."
Mr Grill has also been offered a meeting with EE executives to discuss the problems.
EE's rivals - O2, Vodafone and Three - are due to introduce competing 4G networks next year, after an auction of radio spectrum that has been vacated by shut down of the analogue television, which was completed last month.
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