Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Thursday 2 May 2013

Can You Hear Me at the Back?

I cannot tell you how lovely May Day in Oxford is with its glorious sunshine (yes I know there’s no guarantee of that) and its Morris dancers, and its revellers and its choristers. 

You can’t beat a full English in the Randolph, either.

What I don’t understand is the apparent lack of any opportunity to communicate with the World.

I wrote yesterday’s blog on Tuesday night, ahead of driving to Oxford very early on Wednesday, but I didn’t want to post it at silly o’clock and mess with my routine, so I thought I’d do it in Oxford.

We were running late by the time we got to breakfast, so I thought I’d do it afterwards, in the hotel bar. I decided I’d just tether my laptop to my phone for a wi-fi signal.

I’ve got a smart phone. The World and his wife have smart phones. If you want to do business on the move it’s not a bad idea to have a smart phone... Or that’s the theory, at least. I can, so I’m told, e-mail from anywhere, use the internet, blog, tweet and generally interface with the World. That’s a good thing. I’m a writer; I need to interface with the World, and, often the computer offers me the only interface with the World I’m likely to get, if you don’t count the post man.

I went into the bar, after breakfast, turned on my computer to post my blog, and got out my smart phone to tether the signal. Except... There was no signal... anywhere in the bar. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t a signal anywhere in the hotel.

It didn’t matter, there’s a big Waterstones not far way, with a coffee shop. We decided to pop in there to post my blog before having a wander around the city. It was a beautiful day, after all, and there was no reason to be cooped up. 

Yeah, you’re right, Waterstone’s didn’t have a 3G signal either. In fact, none of the cafes and coffee shops in Oxford could muster a signal from the ether.

Oxford has a World ranking of 2 in the University Hit Parade, making it the second most important university town on the planet, so you’d think communications would be pretty high on its list of priorities. I’m absolutely sure that it is. Vodafone clearly doesn’t feel the same way. Shame on it!

X Marks the spot on Broad St where I found a signal!
My husband, who is endlessly patient with my OCD ways walked me down Broad Street towards the Sheldonian, and there’s a bench, almost opposite the theatre where I finally managed to get my signal, tether my laptop to my phone, and post yesterday’s blog.

I don’t expect my service provider will offer me a refund for the inconvenience caused to me yesterday, or for the time spent tracking down a signal. It has a contract with me. I agree to pay it money to provide me with a phone signal and a 3G connection. I should get a constant, seamless supply of both. Frankly, in the twenty-first century, it isn’t rocket science. In my own home, I cannot get a continuous phone signal... A PHONE SIGNAL for crying out loud; it breaks up and it drops out, and I’m left frustrated and anxious, walking around the house looking for a sweet spot, or I’m left with the land line. I have a mobile for a reason!

While I’m on the subject... Why can’t my service provider access any available signal and route it to me. If my service provider paid a premium surcharge on all the bandwidth it had to ‘borrow’ every month, it’d soon get it’s arse into gear and find a way to give me what I’ve paid for.

Funny that Vodafone calls itself my ‘service provider’ and fails to provide the service it continues to charge me for.

One more time everyone... As if it makes a difference... I’m berating VODAFONE! I don’t believe their service is good enough, and I would not recommend that you use them.

You see... I should have known... The daft spelling of the company name should have driven me hard into the arms of a different service provider at the outset. Sadly, I’m not sure the outcome would have been very better.

This morning, I’m using the free wi-fi provided by the Randolph Hotel for its guests. It’s reliable, it’s costing me nothing, and the password is appropriate and even a little bit of a joke. Huzzah!


  1. yeah. I don't know if it's like over here, but it's a lot like politics. you end up choosing the lesser of the many evils.

    but then again, they know their customers well, and the sheer power of customer inertia often trumps their inability to provide what they said they would. it's a population game (somewhat like some peoples dating habits) in that there's always another potential customer.

    of course the long term evidence shows current customers you already have are worth more money than the new customers you're trying to get. in the end, I recommend making the changes you need to get what you want, rather than expecting those who aren't paying attention and don't care anyway ... to pay attention or care ;)

    p.s. free wi-fi pwns! we're lucky enough to get free wi-fi on campus here at (pause for effect) Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand! *shakes pompoms*

  2. It's difficult enough at home, (well the geography is challenging) but I expected to get a good signal in Winchester. Apparently not. One of the most expensive places to live outside of London and some days you could only get a signal on the top floor sat under the window. Crazy. I notice there was no reduction in my bill...

  3. If you do consider switching, try and get a deal were they include wifi hotspot coverage, as there are more and more of them poping up in towns and cities now, most companies use them to supplement data coverage. A friend was at Oxford working at the library there for a few years and she told me that the data coverage in the town is horrendous anyway, but many bars and restaurants offer free-wifi to customers, but don't advertise the fact (students have taken the piss with it in the past) so its worth asking next time you are having breakfast there.

    I live right on the edge of the borough, where the dull cancerous city ends and the countryside begins and I get 4 bars on 3G when walking around the local area. Which promptly disappear the second I get anywhere near the city itself, let alone around the shopping centre. Given that data is such a big business now, I'm surprised how few facilities are set up for it around commuter heavy areas.

    It just seems like a missed opportunity to me.

    A cottage industry of wifi coverage in historic towns like Oxford, a subscription plan or just a one off visitors pass for say 10-15mb. No big powerful masts that need to be erected, no hacking out bits of buildings of taking chunks out of the landscape. Just discrete wifi repeats and boosters running from a standard power socket. Its not rocket science.

    *Scratches chin* hmmm, wireless data & rocketry, why does that sound familiar?

  4. Sadly its not something limited to Vodafone here in Oxford. Simply put, a plethora of very thick, stone walled buildings, and the protection of the skyline meaning that phone-masts are thinly spread means that getting reception is pretty challenging wherever you are in Oxford (especially inside). I feel for you though, it can be extremely frustrating at the best of times.