Why Telekom.de mobile phone contracts should be forbidden by law
Like most if not all mobile phone contracts, this one I’m using was signed with Telekom.de for a minimum mandatory period of 2 years. When I moved here, what I needed was a fixed line with an Internet connection, but their Magenta something offer included a separate smartphone offer, and we were dumb enough to accept it too.
First of all, I knew Telekom is going to be a bad choice. Their integration of the Festnetz and Mobilfunk sections of the online Kundencenter simply doesn’t exist: there are two distinct sections (Kundencenter Festnetz and Kundencenter Mobilfunk), and there’s even a different Kundennummer for each one–despite the unique login. Moreover, once a Rechnung has been issued, there’s no way I could tell why my Mobilfunk Rechnung is not 19.95 €, but more than that–although I usually know: they somehow manage to bill a SMS (which should be free) as a MMS, at an exorbitant rate of 0.39 € apiece. An international SMS is 0.29 €, which is also a theft.
Since I arrived in Germany, I noticed that no matter what network operator you’re using, the coverage is pure crap when compared to e.g. Romania, and the signal can be lost all the time. For the first day, we had a data-only SIM from Telekom (with a very expensive GB!), but it worked more or less satisfactorily. Then we tried an Otello SIM (Vodafone-based) and, despite Vodafone D2 having a good signal for voice, the data throughput was fluctuating tremendously. The best results were obtained via an Ortel SIM, simply because E-Plus (its carrier) is now part of O2, and the cell towers belonging to both of them can be used by SIMs of either of the carriers. Quite hilariously, the most stable voice signal was (and still is) with my Orange.ro SIM used in roaming–because it can use either of O2, E-Plus or Telekom.de (Vodafone D2 is the only one left out).
But a more serious problem affected the Telekom.de SIM card from my mobile. Most of the time, after I visit the underground EDEKA Baisch supermarket from LEO Center, I lose the signal. No problem, my phone will reconnect once I’m again at ground level, right? Well, in 80% of the cases… WRONG!
I suspect the cell tower doesn’t like the way it “loses” me and, as a consequence, after taking me again into account (and despite the powerful signal), it refuses to serve me both data and calls (SMS included). So instead of this:
…what I see is this:
Ignore the second SIM: when it’s the Orange.ro one, the “R” is because it’s obviously in roaming; and when it’s the Ortel one, the “R” only shows up when the current cell belongs to O2 insead of E-Plus. Either way, the data is bound to SIM1.
So the first SIM seems to be OK, but the maximum data speed is not shown. This is the clue that voice calls can’t reach me! (I can’t have any data either, and I can check this by trying to update a widget or to open Google.) The only fix is to reboot the phone or to disable the SIM, and enable it again after 10 seconds or so (or to enable Airplane mode for at least 10 seconds). Unacceptable!
The problem is even more severe when I am at home or in a place with Wi-Fi and the Telekom.de tower suddenly decides “it doesn’t like me,” refusing to serve me any phone calls. As my data is on Wi-Fi, there is simply no way to tell whether I am reachable by phone calls or not, as the icons are identical in both cases!
Indeed, SIM1 doesn’t show the possible data speed as long as it doesn’t need data. Therefore, being connected to Wi-Fi hides from me the fact that, despite being connected to a cell tower, it refuses to serve me!
At first, I thought there is a bug in my phone’s “radio” driver. But today I am using a different, much newer smartphone, and it happens again! And only with Telekom.de!
Sure thing, despite this phone having a different SoC, both are MediaTek-based. But the “Baseband version” is much newer, from 31.03.2016. The protocols used by Telekom.de should be compatible with everything–not just with the latest iPhone, Galaxy S6/S7 or Nexus phones.
Here’s one more proof that this is a Telekom issue, not a MediaTek one. When you go by S2 or S3 from Hauptbahnhof to Flughafen/Messe, during the travel through the almost continuous tunnel, no matter how sensitive your phone is, the signal is lost at least twice: before Schwabstraße, and between Universität and Österfeld. Guess what happens once the train reaches Österfeld?
- My Ortel SIM connects and works just fine on E-Plus or O2.
- My Orange.ro SIM connects and works in roaming (voice) on E-Plus or O2.
- My Telekom.de SIM… gives me the finger! The phone connects and the signal seems to be powerful, but I can’t make or receive calls, nor can I access the Internet until I make that jiggling (disable/enable the SIM; pass through the Airport mode; or reboot).
In a normal world, in a fucking normal society, there would be laws to protect the consumer. Such a case would be a legitimate reason to cancel a fucking abusive 2-year contract that is made à l’aveugle, when the customer:
- doesn’t know if the operator can assure a good signal at the customer’s residence;
- doesn’t know if the operator can assure a good signal at the customer’s workplace;
- doesn’t know if the operator can assure a satisfactory coverage on the customer’s route to and from work, or or other common routes;
- can’t possibly figure out that the fucking software in a fucking cell tower is so buggy that it can refuse to further serve MediaTek-based smartphones after a disconnection it doesn’t like!
This is simply unbelievable. I’m about to have a nervous breakdown because of this shit called “Telekom.de’s mobile network”… but I can’t cancel the contract until December or January! All the risks are on the customer, no risk is on Telekom! And they certainly won’t acknowledge that their cell towers are buggy–their best possible reaction might be along these lines: “oh, but no customer using an iPhone or a recent Samsung Galaxy ever complained about that, don’t you want a 2-year extension to the contract, with a special price for an iPhone?”
What I want is to use my phone the way I want to use it. I want it to work. It works like a charm with E-Plus and O2, just not with Telekom.
And again, this is the second phone that behaves this way. A phone bearing all the required certifications and officially sold in Germany. And I purchase all my phones totally unlocked, I want independence from all operators.
When in Germany, avoid Telekom.de. Better try one of the various options that use E-Plus and O2. Some people prefer Vodafone D2, but I never liked this company, even in other countries. (OK, I can’t tell about LTE, but I don’t need more than 3G and I don’t understand anyone that “needs” LTE on a smartphone: what are they doing, downloading torrents while streaming a 4K movie? What’s wrong with such a speed?)
Any ideas? If I were in Romania, I’d have sued them, but I can’t do that here–I can barely understand the language. And their Verbraucherzentrale is a joke: you have to pay for their services, the same way you have to pay for a lawyer (there is however a “lawyer insurance,” but not a “Verbraucherzentrale insurance”); in Romania, the services of the equivalent of a Verbraucherzentrale are free of charge, the same way you don’t pay when you go to the police. The German sheeple are just obeying to whatever their elected rulers impose on them, such as the Solidaritätszuschlag. And, of course, the 2-year contracts imposed by telecommunication operators…
The main purpose of a mobile phone is to make you reachable at all times, without the hassle of constantly checking whether the network still wants to deem you serviceable. This doesn’t happen with Telekom.de.
P.S. Not to mention that, as long as I don’t want LTE, I don’t need a contract. For the same monthly fee (19.90…19.99 €), Ortel can offer me quite similar conditions: “Allnet Flat M” offers unlimited calls (“flat rate”) to all German networks and 1.5 GB high-speed data (limited to 21.6 Mbps though), and “Smart 500” offers 500 minutes in Germany and 19 countries (unlimited only in E-Plus/O2) and 1 GB high-speed data (3G-only). My current Magenta plan offers me unlimited calls (“flat rate”) to all German networks and 1 GB high-speed data (possibly LTE, I have no idea and I don’t care, I don’t own and don’t need a 4G phone). The data can be renewed at Ortel for 6 € (both Allnet Flat M and Smart 500), a decent price for an extra 1.5 GB or 1 GB. What are the advantages of a contract then?!?
P.P.S. Aldi Talk, another E-Plus-based SIM, has a similar 3G-only offer: for 19.99 € a month (“All-Net-Flat”), unlimited calls to all German networks and 2 GB high-speed data (the 2 GB data renewable for 8 €); on a cheaper side (“Paket 600”), 12.99 € a month can give you 600 national minutes/SMS and 1.5 GB high-speed data (the 1.5 GB data renewable for 6 €). One could live with prepaid cards rather well in Germany!