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Everything Everywhere consummates merger

Morning after surprisingly amicable

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Orange and T-Mobile have have gone from "it's complicated" to "in a relationship" as their customers roam freely between the two networks.

The roaming agreement went live on Wednesday, with customers who had preregistered switching automatically to the alternative when their home network was unavailable. Some customers were disappointed that the agreement only covers 2G, while others failed to understand what was being offered, but the majority were just happy to get voice coverage where there had previously been none.

Some users are upset that it's taken up to 12 hours to get the activation text, during which time a few have reported problems with data services, though that seems very rare. The time to activation is mostly annoying to users who failed to register earlier and expect instant connectivity when they find themselves without a signal (so, if you haven't, register now, with Orange or T-Mobile).

2G data is included, though some applications will warn the user that they risk incurring high data rates - as the phone assumes that it's been taken abroad, but all data and voice use is actually charged as though the user were on their home network.

But this is a roaming agreement - an Orange user with the weakest of signals won't transfer to the T-Mobile tower right beside him, the alternative network in only available when the home network disappears entirely. That confused some customers who were hoping for tighter integration of the networks immediately. That will come, eventually there will only be one network, but Everything Everywhere is sensibly taking small steps towards its union.

That union will see 3G included next, which will be interesting as 3UK will be sharing that part of the network too. 3UK signed a network-sharing deal with T-Mobile before the merger was mooted. That deal appeared in jeopardy for a while until Orange appended its name to the contract.

3UK won't share the 2G network (3UK's 2G coverage is provided by Orange under a separate contract) 3UK likes to point out that it has no interest in such "legacy" technologies (or 4G, which might make its name look a little dated).

Vodafone and O2 still run separate networks, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The two operators managed to muddy the waters for a while with talk of combined infrastructure, which turned out to be air conditioning units and power suppliers, at best. These days even that degree of integration seems to have stalled - perhaps the pair are arguing about where to set the thermostat.

Come the digital-dividend mega-auction, hopefully next year, the operators will have to decide who's going to build the 4G networks and how many the country needs. We don't know if the existing alliances will carry over to the next generation, but for Everything Everywhere it seems the first two days as a couple have gone smoothly. Still, there's a long way to go before the status changes to married. ®

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