Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Daiwa EuroTelcoblog No. 35, Thursday 25th March, 2004: Orange email debacle (original email blast 11:38 AM Thursday, 25th March, 2004)

Orange email debacle

Investors, or potential investors, in France Telecom (rating 4 UNDERPERFORM) might be interested to know that Orange UK (to which I subscribe) has had no outgoing email service for six days. I have had incoming email service over this six day period, as well as web browsing, IM and MMS capabilities, so there's clearly an outgoing mail server issue unrelated to the GPRS network itself. Yet another call to the Orange GPRS support desk this morning confirmed that the problem still exists and there is no estimated time of resolution given by the technicians at Orange Internet. I just tried to log-in to the Orange.net email page over a fixed line connection, but the link appears to be broken.

Those familiar with the "five nines" concept of service reliability (where the network or service should function 99.999% of the time - i.e., down time is only 5 minutes per year) will recoil in horror at the realization that, based on this week's performance alone, Orange.net is at 98.352% reliability and heading down fast. Sure, I could synchronize the phone to another webmail account, such as Yahoo!, but a) why should I have to?; and b) the people I really want/need to communicate with will use the Orange.net account to email me, because they assume (wrongly, in this case), that I will always be able to access it on the move.

We must ask, given all the lip service flying around the sector with regards to "seamlessness of customer experience" and "device-independence" of converged services, what could possibly account for a six day outage on a conventional email platform, especially when we're talking about one of Europe's largest ISP families? This sort of unfathomable customer service failing is why companies lose customers, and why consumers either fail to take up services offered by telcos, or alternatively, decide on a more reliable/satisfying platform for email and information services, relegating the access provider to "dumb pipe" status. Orange would make data revenue from me even if I did use third-party email on my handset, but my sense of connection with the Orange brand, and my goodwill towards the company, would not improve from where they are currently - which is at a very low level, and falling in tandem with the decline in service reliability...

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