Is that legal?

I was quite shocked when someone, the other day, said to me "is that legal?"

I was with some friends in a restaurant, and to be honest I forget who it was that asked now, as most of my friends are more tech-savvy than that. I said "The O2 data here is crap, I'll switch this to vodafone", and this caused some surprise and cries of "is that legal?"

This was one of those rare occasions where the automated switching did not cope as there was just enough O2 signal to hang on. If I had lost coverage all together the SIM would have switched profile to an EU identity and connected to the strongest operator (in that location it was Vodafone). But the O2 was hanging in there with really almost unusable data. Switching to Vodafone worked a treat.

When I left the restaurant and got a good O2 signal the SIM switched back.

The roaming profile costs more. We have the pricing sorted at last, and we should be shipping the SIMs tomorrow, finally. The O2 profile on O2 in the UK is still only 2p/min, 2p/text, 2p/MB, and we charge only £2/month (+VAT). The EU profile anywhere in Europe, including UK operators, is 10p/min, 5p/text, 10p/MB (+VAT). It is not as cheap, and applies both ways, and is on top of any on-going call charges for any SIP provider used, but it is pretty nice being connected wherever you are. To be honest, 10p/min is not that bad really when you consider what mobiles cost a few years ago. I only wish we could get the data rates down more - though we should be getting proper fixed IP and L2TP on that some time. Even what we have now for data is unfiltered.

But I was, none the less, shocked at someone thinking I was making some sort of illegal hack. The idea of changing to another mobile operator in the UK is so ingrained as being "impossible" that it caused that reaction. No wonder David Cameron was calling for intra-UK mobile roaming recently.

In fact, I am tempted to send him one of our SIMs to play with. Maybe he'll calm down, as actually forcing roaming is not necessarily a good idea (who would bother to invest in totally not-spots knowing all other operators benefit?).

So, yes, quite legal for my mobile, on a Bracknell phone number (which you can call and text), to be on any of the UK operators and working perfectly, and I can still see it on the busy-lamp light on my desk phone and seamlessly jump the call to and from that desk phone as I like as well as recording the call.

I watched some of the first couple of series of 24, and the excellent spoof set in the 90's! You would think that the prime minister would have some slightly better comms kit, just maybe.

The technology works well - and it is surprising so many companies (and even politicians) are so far behind the times.


  1. I would have thought that operators with masts in "not-spots" would benefit from letting other operators share the mast as it would generate income for the operator through roaming fees from other operators. I'd prefer a system where all masts are shared by all networks in the same way that electrical pylons are shared between all electricity companies - you would still deal with your chosen operator as they would still compete by offering different "packages" but you would not have the annoying situation of "emergency calls only" in some areas.

    1. I personally think all "infrastructure" (masts, electrical pylons, gas pipes, telephone cables, "cable cables", gas pipes etc) should be owned/maintained by the government or other similar "independent" third party (similar to the National Grid) - that way, they'll be no conflict of interests (BT Wholesale preferring BT Retail), people would be able to pick and choose a lot more, increase coverage of services ("cable" and mobile) and and it'll help put smaller companies on an open footing. *sigh*

    2. That's right: as long as the interconnect pricing is set sensibly, covering a notspot would be a source of at least some extra revenue for that operator, over and above the usage their own customers get. Right now, any operator would have a thought process akin to "should we stick a base station on this island? Well, it'll cost us £x, and we'd only handle Y calls for our customers in a week"; add roaming, and that last bit becomes "we'd handle Y calls for our customers, plus another Z calls for everyone else's" - a clear improvement, perhaps enough to tip the scales in some cases.

      With the merger of T-Mobile and Orange to form EE, plus the infrastructure sharing agreements between EE and Three and between O2 and Vodafone, we're probably going in that direction anyway: once that's fully in place, your nearest EE mast will also be your nearest Three mast anyway, making the distinction much less significant.

  2. What a bizarre question to ask - has he never been abroad, where you'll often be confronted with a choice of roaming partners?

    I'm looking forward to getting my roaming SIM - could someone please make sure it goes via the trimmer to be a nano-SIM this time? (Good timing: I've just got the mobile dongle I plan to hook to Asterisk and an SMS relay of some sort.)

  3. Is it possible to order one of these yet? All I want it for is mobile data in an iPad 3. I'm going to Frankfurt in December on holiday and I don't have anything that will roam. I have a Three data SIM in my iPad (1GB for £7.50 a month) but I'm told international roaming is disabled on the data SIMs (why they would do that is beyond me). I've used a Vodafone phone SIM in the past in the iPad to roam when abroad but with all the inclusive call minutes and texts that I don't use it's quite expensive so I got rid of it.

    1. The O2/EU voice SIMs do work in an iPad and are shipping now (just order on web site). It is 10p/MB which is not cheap, but it does seem to work. I'll be testing myself elsewhere in EU next week.

    2. I've been paying £25 per month for a Vodafone Red SIM for the last year that I've used twice. The £300 I spent on that before I ditched it will buy a fair amount of data even at 10p/MB.

  4. You mentioned in an earlier post that these SIMs were coming out with IP addresses that geolocated to strange locations (i.e. outside the UK)? Did you resolve that? If not, where do they show up?

    I'm asking partly because I'm interested in the service, but also because I have a Tesla Model S which comes with an included 3G data service that Tesla have negotiated pan-EU with Telefonica. I've noticed that websites, streaming services etc all think the car is located in Spain and I'm wondering if the in-car connectivity is provided through the same service you guys are using.

    1. Ha, yes, it is data routing outside EU even, but that should change in a few months and be our IPs.

  5. Might be also worth mentioning to MoneySavingExpert http://blog.moneysavingexpert.com/2014/07/22/the-trick-to-access-every-networks-signal-from-your-mobile/?_ga=1.228250845.1711692562.1400844741 as they've just covered this - quoting higher alternative prices then yourselves ;)

    1. I see it's already mentioned there now - I misread the A&A job title as "meeting room survivor" there. Too many PHB experiences?

      There's actually lousy coverage from both Three and O2 in my home (well, there was until I got hold of a Three femtocell) - I'll want my handset set up to 'roam' onto WiFi anyway when at home, though.

      Do the A&A SIMs support 4G as well as 3G when available? (There's a good Three 4G signal at one end of my building now, but no signal at all at the end my office is in... No idea what the O2 coverage is like there yet.)

  6. My O2EU sim has just arrived but I just needed to check the settings - I notice that if I use the "SIM Tool Kit" app it gives me a basic menu:

    Country Selection: "UK" or "Roaming"
    Set Global Fallback: "Enabled" or "Disabled"

    Presumably if I leave it set to "UK" then it will use the O2 network, but will it automatically "Roam" if I go somewhere with zero O2 reception?

    I tried selecting "Roaming" from the menu but that seems to "force" it to roam even when I have a good O2 signal.

    I'm not totally sure if it will only "roam" if I manually select "roaming" from the menu, or if it smart enough to roam when "uk" is selected from the menu but I go somewhere with no O2 coverage.


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