The Orange T-Mobile merger lacks key ingredients
‘Everything Everywhere’ is among the daftest names ever given to a UK company but the merger of Orange and T-Mobile is bearing small fruit for the mobile network’s user base. They can now share cell signals as long as they sign...
Getting into the cell-sharing club requires users to do a number of things, starting with that sign-up process through the Orange and T-Mobile websites. I suspect this is driven more by the parent company’s desire to monitor take-up than any technical need but it’s simple enough.
Handsets need to be set to ‘automatic network selection. (most will already opt for this by default), and to have the phone set to allow ‘data roaming’ in order to stop annoying roaming notifications.
On that subject, actual 3G data roaming is not part of the deal. The two networks will not allow data package integration until an unspecified point next year. Everything Everywhere has yet to explain how the currently competing packages will be dovetailed with one another because it’s pretty clear that the company will no longer be able to offer competing deals and get away with it.
As to using phones interchangeably - the SIMs themselves - forget it. The two brands remain distinct. A locked Orange phone will not work with a T-Mobile SIM and vice versa.
That raises the odd situation where the UK ends up with four major networks, but one of which has two sets of users whose hardware is incompatible with one another. This is the major reason the two networks are being run by a merged parent - there is literally no easy way to merge two different physical networks in the short term.
Everything Everywhere is keen to present this as a merger that benefits ordinary users, but what’s driving it in the short term is really a bit of head-office downsizing with a reported 1,200 jobs due to go out of a workforce of 16,000. Others could face re-applying for their jobs.
Isn’t cell signal sharing a good thing? Probably, but in the locations where overlap occurs most frequently, cities and large towns, the benefits seem modest. Both networks already have plenty of capacity in these places.
This unorthodox merging of two networks could work well for mobile users in the long run, but it will need more than base-station piggybacking to be worth it.