What happens when you contact iiNet with a problem?
After speaking to a friendly customer service representative (CSR) your issue can usually be fixed on the spot.
But sometimes the situation is a little more complex than first appears. So some detective work may be required. In some cases – a lot more detective work.
In this article, we take you on a journey that reaches from Cape Town to Perth and outback Western Australia, crossing the paths of multiple iiNet departments… leading to a very unexpected outcome.
It started with a phone call…
Earlier this year, we got a call from Julie, an iiNet customer for nearly 13 years. Based in Perth, Julie traveled to Onslow on a regular basis but found her mobile phone had no coverage when she got there.
Where is Onslow, you ask? It’s a coastal town in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, approximately 1,300km north of Perth.
Julie spoke to Lisa, one of our CSRs based in Cape Town who was on the case and asked for more info. Julie was happy to oblige with a map and photo saying, “I would have gotten closer photos, but it’s snake country in there, so these will have to do.”
The problem was that someone had taken up residence at the mobile phone tower: an eagle with an elaborate nest. It was something the locals had been aware of for some time. Julie said, “The initial discussion was that they used to get Optus coverage but now do not, due to the eagles nest. They all seem to know about it. I don’t know what types of mobiles they had, neither how long the nest has been there.”
iiNet’s mobile phone service is based on the Optus’ network and after some initial enquiries, Lisa realised that this query was getting into some interesting territory and required some eyes on the ground. So, her internal enquiries made it to Marcus – iiNet’s Group Mobile Product Manager – who looks after our mobile products as well as managing the coverage in regional and remote areas.
Time for some detective work
Like an episode of The Wire, Marcus was on the case and told Julie he would follow up with his Optus counterparts. Julie knew she was in good hands. “Thanks Marcus, you’re a good man,” she said. “May the force be with you.”
The WA Optus network team checked on the Onslow “bird tower” and reported back to Marcus that no alarms had been activated and the site was taking call traffic as per normal.
Marcus knew that the bird tower was one of three Optus towers in the area that serviced customers for Optus and iiNet. The other two were at Landsdale and Greenwood.
Getting a bit technical, the bird tower was 3G 900 MHz only, meaning that it only supported handsets that used this frequency. For example, newer phones from the last few years would be fine. There were no 2G (older style mobile) or 3G 2100 MHz towers (like what you find in the city) in Onslow, however there were at the Landsdale and Greenwood sites.
The plot thickened when network records showed that Landsdale and Greenwood were Julie’s two primary serving towers when she was outside the Onslow area. In other words, the bird tower in Onslow was not providing a service for Julie but it was for others. So if the tower and the eagle’s nest weren’t the issue, what was?
Looking at network records, Marcus discovered that Julie was using an iPhone 3GS. A model that was not compatible with the 3G 900 MHz frequency (only with 2G and 3G 850 MHz and 2100 MHz). He also saw that Julie’s previous mobile was an LG GS290 which is a 2G (GSM) only handset.
This information cracked the case wide open. Regrettably neither handset was compatible with the Optus 3G network in Onslow. That’s why Julie was getting very poor or no coverage at all. With or without the bird’s nest – the problem lay in the lack of compatibility between Julie’s mobile phone and the servicing towers in the area.
So, the only way for any customer in the area to receive signal is to have a mobile phone handset that runs on the 900 MHz 3G frequency. Instead of Julie having to go out and buy a new phone straight away, Marcus suggested that she use a trial handset from iiNet to see what the experience was like.
Case closed with a happy ending… for all
Julie thanked everyone for their help getting to the bottom of her trouble. She’ll be trialing a handset in Onslow soon.
In the meantime, the Optus team has done their own digging. Apparently, the tower in Julie’s original photo was actually a Telstra (850 Mhz) tower and the Optus tower was located to the right (the main image featured in this article). There was a nest on the Optus tower but because it was above the panels there wasn’t any service degradation. Optus has since been to the site and verified that the site works with a 900Mhz handset.
And the eagle wins in this story too. As part of Optus’ commitment to the environment, the welfare of wildlife is taken into consideration and Optus are currently building a new tower for the birds – right next to their current home.
All’s well that ends well. Marcus hung up his hat and the case of the Mystery of Bird Tower was closed.