Edit : Vodafone : Happy to Help!
I don’t think most will disagree when I say that the state of mobile network infrastructure in the country is really poor. Post the 3G era most have struggled to make phone calls let alone get impressive data speeds.
We recall the time of 2G, where the network bars were always at full and there was little or no dropped calls.We can safely recall what a challenge it was when we shifted from 2G to 3G last year to enjoy the so called “high speed access on our Smartphones”.
I personally have been a Vodafone user for as far back as I can remember ( Vodafone was called Hutch prior to this and Essar before that) and I never really had a complaint with the services provided. I usually fully exploit warranties and customer care of every product and service to their fullest, to ensure that guidelines of quality of any product or service bought by me are met.
[pullquote_right] the past year had been pure turmoil[/pullquote_right]Vodafone was good to me, their network was strong and at one point of time they even had this wonderful Rs. 1899 plan where there was no limit calling and data usage (2G). However, the past year had been pure turmoil, not only at home but for everyone at the office. With no signal in a place like my bedroom, or my office, making a phone call was like fighting a war on the battle field. I literally can remember twisting and turning my phone to get a good reception, peeping out the window and even jumping out to the balcony for hours to be on conference calls. The call drop numbers were phenomenal, in August itself I had more than 800 calls that lasted no longer than 4 seconds = dropped calls apart from other call drops that happened during a conversation. Not only was it inconvenient it was frustrating.
Although, most of the members in my house use either Airtel and or services like Dolphin (MTNL), I was not keen on switching over my main Vodafone number to another network. But this time around the water had gone through the roof, if that may be a correct term. I was unable to make a sustained phone call on my main number affecting not only personal but work connections as well.
[pullquote_left]MNP came to the rescue[/pullquote_left]Since I need multiple sims for reviews,MNP came to the rescue I switched over one of our numbers to Dolphin and another to Airtel to see any changes in network. After the 10-14 day process I was shocked to see there was really no improvement. Infact it was so bad that Dolphin’s 3G network would disappear while I was getting a call, resulting in a phone crash on the ringer screen.
This is where iGyaan instincts kicked in and I found it as a great opportunity to test the customer service of all three of these network providers. Here is how it all happened in a matter of two months.
1st call Standard customer care numbers:
Vodafone : “We are sorry for the issues faced we will arrange a call back from our network team”
Airtel : “We have not received any other such complaint! please try changing your phone, if the problem persists visit Airtel store to change your SIM”
Dolphin : “Aisa hi hai network sabka kya karein” (Everyone is facing network issues, what can we do ?) [pullquote_right]”Aisa hi hai network sabka kya karein”[/pullquote_right]
While Dolphin’s response was truly expected, Airtel’s was not, especially because their landline customer support is simply awesome.
Two days later on the Vodafone Number I got a call from the network engineer who said : “we are facing major network issues in the area you stay in, and unluckily in your office area as well”. He added “we are trying to set up the tower to fix your home network area, but the office area wouldn’t be fixed by the end of the year”.
As I was not expecting any calls from the other two parties, I decided to make my second call:
Vodafone :”Our engineers have confirmed that your areas are affected by poor networks and our teams are working to fix them soon” He added “the only solution I can offer is that we can send you a replacement SIM card, which might improve your network till this problem is resolved”
Airtel : “If you have changed your SIM and tried another phone I will ask a senior to call you back”
Dolphin : “Sanchaar hut mein ja ke written mein complain kar di-jiye ” (Please visit the MTNL Sanchaar Hut and give a written complaint)
I opted for the replacement SIM card from Vodafone, asked Airtel to arrange a call back and submitted a written complaint at the area’s “Sanchaar Hut” for Dolphin. While Vodafone sent a replacement SIM the very next day, I never got a call back from Airtel. Surprisingly, I did get a call from a Dolphin manager a couple of days later, and he claimed that if I opt for a 2G SIM vs a 3G SIM (since I don’t use data on that number) my network would improve considerably. But, since MTNL is now purely selling 3G sims, he said he might be able to arrange one 2G SIM for me within a week.
[pullquote_left]didn’t expect a new SIM to work[/pullquote_left]Fifteen days later, there was no improvement in the Vodafone Network ( I didn’t expect a new SIM to work anyway) and no call back from Airtel or Dolphin, I decided to make final contact, But this time to Nodal offices of all three.
I wrote up a crisp mail, added all the issues and communications along with my case ID’s and sent individual mails to all three Nodal Offices of the networks. I also marked the Airtel’s mail to their 121 email id.
This is where the picture began to clear up, Vodafone nodal office replied immediately as if it was an automated reply, but it was personal and included all relevant details along with a promise of a call back with a resolution.
Airtel 121 replied stating, that they will look into the matter and come out with a resolution soon enough. There was no reply from Dolphin, and honestly I didn’t expect one either.
Vodafone had escalated my complaint to the Appellate office where a lady named Shweta called me back and offered a resolution : ” We can provide you with a personal network booster which will connect to you cell phone improving the network of your device” she explained. I informed her that many people in our office use Vodafone numbers and we cannot all be linked to multiple of these antennas, and besides I do not wish to convert my cell phone into a land line phone by linking it to a wire.
She then explained that she would speak within the office and try and arrange for a Vodafone Mobile booster for the Home as well as the Office affected. Then began the process of multiple mails between Vodafone and me. Throughout this whole process I was updated of the status of my case, via email or or on the phone by professional people, who spoke well and to the point with accurate information. Soon after the exchanges, a network engineer visited both locations and a week later the installation team came with all the equipment, assembled it at our locations and got the booster running. The booster consists of a antenna on the roof, a network amplifier and indoor antennas which enhance the indoor signal.
[pullquote_right]Professionally wired, carefully cladded and tagged the boosters were installed [/pullquote_right] Professionally wired, carefully cladded and tagged the boosters were installed without affecting the aesthetics of my home or my office. Funnily enough even after all this, there was no improvement in the signal. The Vodafone engineer who came for the installation explained : ” Sir aap do din use karo yeh network pakad lega” (Sir use it for two days, it will automatically register to the network). While I smirked at the thought of the amplifier taking two days to “catch the signal”, I agreed to wait for the said time.
It has effectively been 2 weeks since the Vodafone boosters were installed at our locations, and I can safely say that I have had, but one dropped call. The booster did start to work within two days and has improved the signal to the extent that there are no more choppy calls or “called failed” messages on my Vodafone phone.
I still have not received any calls from Airtel or even a response from Dolphin for my complaints. While the booster has improved Dolphin’s network as well, Airtel remains unaffected, possibly due to different frequencies.
[pullquote_left]Never intended to be a review[/pullquote_left]At the end, this was never intended to be a review, or a bias of any sort. I have hated 3G services from Vodafone and they are still as bad, even with the booster installed. This is because the booster only boosts voice networks and not data, and Shweta informed me that there is no data booster available at Vodafone, else they would have installed that for us aswell. No other provider stepped forward to offer a resolution where as Vodafone installed multiple boosters costing great amounts each, at both our locations. They didn’t charge us a penny and the voice network is now excellent.