The Saga of getting a BES data plan in the UK
Some of you may remember my first attempt at getting set up with a pair of mobile phones upon arriving in the U.K.
I ended up signing up with CarphoneWarehouse and took out a couple of Orange contracts. £75/mth x 2 for 1000 minutes of any time talk.
For 9 months, both my gf and I have used these plans (she gets one phone, and I get the other), but I'm getting sick of my Treo 650.
I decided to call Orange up, and ask if they could upgrade me ahead of schedule since my average bill was approximately £225-250/mth (lots of long distance to North America).
They said no, which they were within their rights to do, so I bumped both my Orange plans down to the bare minimum (you can do this with them after 6 months of service). I will just ride the remaining of the contract out, eating the £60 it will cost me.
You would think I would learn not to get bitten by carphonewarehouse again... but noooo... I went straight back.
I asked for a BES capable blackberry plan, pointing out there were two different types of blackberry plans. BIS or Internet Service, or BES, which allows me to connect to an exchange server.
The idea was to connect myself to my work BES server and get all the blackberry goodness of synching email, calendar, gal lookups, and MDS data services.
I told the guys that I specifically did not want the BIS plan, since this would not allow calendar syncs and GAL look-ups. They assured me all was well, and sold me a blackberry 8700g with a voice/data plan of about £90/mth.
So far so good, and I waited patiently for my service to become active. Eventually I got GSM and gprs (small gprs means voice) connectivity. However, I could not connect to GPRS (big GPRS means data).
I called them up and asked them to activate my data plan, and they said all was well, and just to wait it out till end of business day.
2 days later, I still did not have data. I called them yet again, and this time the guy detected the issue and promptly activated my data plan.
A couple of hours later, it was time to connect to my BES server. I went through enterprise activation, and managed to get everything synched up. I was happy as a pig in shit, and everything worked beautifully... until...
Another 2 hours passed, and my blackberry started not to receive any mail. Sending was also not possible and it said "Device blocked."
I called up my IT dept and asked them to reset my BES account and to send me the activation info again. They did so dutifully, and I factory flashed the device. When the device registered with the network, it automatically went into BIS mode (consumer, non Enterprise use), and would not connect to BES. The reason is that the network does a sweep of all the blackberry devices and blocks BIS devices from talking on BES. This can take between 2 hours and 6 weeks depending on the audit frequency. Everything will work fine till the network kicks you out.
I called the data support team for carphonewarehouse, and they stated that the device was blocked because I wasn't on a BES plan. I asked them to switch me to such a plan, and I was willing to pay. However, they don't sell such a plan.
I figured what the heck, and asked a few questions, thinking about keeping the BIS plan. I asked how often the system would poll my exchange server via OWA (I have no POP connectivity). The fellow did no understand and kept stating that the email was directly pushed from my exchange mailbox straight to the device. I reminded him that I did not have any forwarders in place, and my exchange account had no awareness of BIS, and that this pushing could not happen automatically. I stated that the intermediary system has to poll my exchange server every so often, and then gather the changes, and push it out to the device. I wanted to know the polling interval. He responded... "Call it what you want, I call it push, you can call it pull" and hung up on me. Now, this was their advanced blackberry data support team... there goes my faith!
Wonderful. I let a couple of days pass and started researching other BES options. I called Carphone and tried to cancel my contract, but they would not do so since once signed, it was final. I figured I'd get it sorted on the weekend by going to the store itself.
I then tried calling O2 directly, asking them to sign me up on a new contract for a BES plan. They never heard of such a plan, but offered to put me through business services.
The business services fellow mentioned that the only way to get a BES data plan was to meet with an advisor in person to discuss my needs, and he would drive up to where I work, and we could have the meeting there.
I stated that I was not interested in such a meeting, and I knew exactly what I wanted, and if he would start the contract up, it would be great. O2 cannot do that. I asked them to call me back with a meeting time before end of day. No call even till today... yet... I let it slide.
Before going into town today, I called another company, Scancom, asking for what I needed. The guy took my number down and said he would call back in a few min. No call... even now.
In the mean time, I went into an O2 store, and asked the sales fellow to set me up on a business contract with voice, and then add the BES data plan. We spent 3 hours calling various different numbers, and chasing various people to get this done. Ultimately, they still wanted to send out a rep to come meet with me to discuss my needs. I kept trying to explain that I wanted a handset, and a voice plan, and along with that, a BES data plan. They refused to do it without meeting with me.
I asked them to take my details down and to call me on Monday to set up a meeting. My intrepid sales guy then came up with an idea to call somebody who could possibly get this done. After some discussion, he smiled and said it was possible. This is now almost 3 hours into my visit.
I went off to Carphonewarehouse to cancel my contract. They were actually quite decent to deal with and after I explained the situation, were willing to cancel everything. It was the first they had ever heard of BES. However, the guy I dealt with today to cancel (same guy who sold me the phone) should not have said it was BES capable when selling me the plan in the first place.
Went back to O2, and the sales guy had a glum look. They could not do it... without a meeting... I said ok, I would come back on Monday to the store and we could call the meeting people and set up an appointment.
I then went to t-mobile. That guy knew about BES and BIS, but said I had to bring in my company incorporation papers, etc and only then he could set me up on a plan that has BES data. This was because only business plans can have that. I am on a work permit, and cannot have my own numbered company while here.
I tried to explain my needs. I wanted to pay for the phone, and the data plan, and my work had already provisioned my exchange mailbox for BES access. He said no, and I walked off.
I then went to Vodafone. The sales guy was really cool, bubbly, and engaging. He wasn't too familiar with what I was aksing, but went off and got the business manager. The business manager wasn't too sure either, but he told the bubbly guy to go ahead and make it happen.
Less than 10 minutes later, I had a new contract, a new phone, and a BES data plan. Vodafone apparently does not care to see incorporation papers, and put me on a business contract.
I happily went home... put in the SIM card, powered on the device... I got GSM and GPRS signal instantly without having to wait 2 days like from carphonewarehouse. And... BIS activation, not BES! Grr...
I called Vodafone business support, and apparently I get assigned my own rep. They were really helpful, and while on hold with them, they re-activated my device properly. I could see the reconfig and reboot on my device while my sales rep was on the other line with blackberry support.
YAY... So I start the Enterprise Activation process... ERROR - Contact System Admin.
I called back business support, and asked for my blackberry support guy. Even though not his duty to do so, he helped me to reconfig my BES account, and re-initialize my device to talk with my exchange server.
After a factory reset, and a couple of reboots, all was well and my device was happily activating.
Moral of the story:
1. Avoid CarphoneWarehouse. This is the second time I've been bitten. Never again, although in the end they took responsibility and did the right thing. They still don't know anything about the products they sell.
2. Avoid O2. Too many special departments, too many different plans, too many restrictions... and nobody knows what the hell is going on. Wanting to meet an account manager in person to get a bloody data plan for a blackberry... wtf.
3. Avoid T-mobile. The homosexual sales guy had no interest in helping me out.
4. Vodafone. - Great service, great plans, few restrictions, and the best support! None of the other data support guys knew anything about what they were talking about, and one of them tried to teach me about email. Those who know me in person will laugh at how ironic it is for somebody to try and tell me how corporate email works.
Interestingly enough, all the 4 stores are within 50 meters of each other... however, the Vodafone store was the absolute busiest.
It was never this hard to buy a damn phone in Canada, and I've had a blackberry since the year they came out with the 850!
After having said all this, I bet my blackberry will stop working shortly.
What are your experiences with bad mobile phone companies?
I had a very swift and enjoyable exeperience with BIS, BES and T-Mobile, although I did register as a business customer.
Did you ask the sales guy at t-mobile if he was gay?
In the UK some people may appear to be gay but are in fact rather straight.
Well, that is a parable of our times. Ever since phones began morphing into little computers, poor product knowledge at retail has been the weakest link, and is now holding back the take-up of smartphones and PDAs amongst prosumers and SMEs.
I'm glad to hear you ended up with UK Voda. Where BB is concerned, both at the retail level and in data support, they're the only game in town.
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