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The lessons we've learned from Asda's network migration

Friday, May 2nd 2014 by Cable.co.uk
The lessons we've learned from Asda's network migration
For many Asda Mobile customers, the migration from Vodafone to EE's network has been a bumpy ride.

Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) play an important role in the UK's telecoms market. With a slim four cellular networks – EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone – for consumers to choose from, much of the country's competition comes from leaseholders like Virgin, BT and Tesco.

Indeed, some of our supermarket chains have launched particularly well-liked mobile services. Most recently, the Phone Co-op put its cards on the table with a new prepaid SIM it claimed would "challenge the industry with a more equitable charging structure".

However, for all the good MVNOs do, they're not immune to network problems that can cause frustration among customers. Right now, Asda Mobile is in the middle of such a debacle.                              

The Walmart subsidiary offered mobile plans as a Vodafone MVNO up until October 2013, at which point it started migrating all UK customers to EE's network. Theoretically, this shouldn't have been too much of a problem for subscribers – the 4G pioneer has one of the UK's most expansive mobile infrastructures, having merged the Orange and T-Mobile networks back in 2010.

However, problems quickly arose. Asda told customers they needed to apply for PAC codes in order to complete the migration with their existing phone numbers – otherwise, they would have to start from scratch with a new one.

Unfortunately, right up until the MVNO's 30 April deadline, subscribers found it extremely difficult to get in touch with the company through the helpline provided, meaning many PAC codes went undelivered. They reported being put on hold for extended periods and in some cases being cut off entirely.

It's worth pointing out this is the same process a customer would have needed to go through in order to leave Asda, meaning any cancellations through this critical time frame would have hit similar setbacks.

In response to these problems, the MVNO has now given subscribers another month to request a PAC. This might go some way to remedy the loss of goodwill incurred over the mishandled migration, though Cable.co.uk understands some customers have gone on to cancel their accounts following the fiasco.

So what lessons can we learn from Asda's mobile migration woes? Mainly, they teach us how important it is that adequate customer service is put in place, but also that network changes are communicated properly to consumers. It's not every day that mobile phone owners are asked to acquire a PAC code, so should Asda really have expected them to appreciate the urgency from day one?

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