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GiffGaff mobile network goes titsup for 3 weeks

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People-powered phone network GiffGaff left some of its punters without a mobile connection for three weeks and mixed up customers' numbers for several days.

Others also complained that they were unable to move their numbers to new SIMs. Some fixes promised by support staff took longer to emerge than promised - some customers are still waiting for them.

This is the second time GiffGaff's service has gone titsup on such a large scale of fail: it suffered similar problems in November. Back then GiffGaff blamed O2, on which it piggybacks as a mobile virtual network operator.

One outage-hit customer, whose phone cut out on 27 December and was still inactive 22 days later, wrote this in the GiffGaff forums:

Still no service for me. My number was ported on 5th December, service lost on 27th December. 22 days and counting with nothing. Number still not provisioned on the network, it still gives number unrecognised announcement.   I have a 400+ post thread on this with multiple users affected, still nothing, no official response thread for us.

Other punters were effectively left with no service by being unable to buy more credit. A post on the GiffGaff help forums yesterday told readers that the issue was being looked into.

GiffGaff told us: "Due to the big rise in numbers of new customers, this has had some adverse affect on our current customers being able to carry out transactions such as topping up or purchasing a goodybag, as all transactions go through the same channel."

GiffGaff, known for its cheap contracts and "unlimited" data allowance, told The Reg that all the issues, including the long-term outages, seem to have sprung from problems with its website. An increase in web traffic slowed the site down, we understand:

Recently, some members have experienced service disruptions caused by our website’s capacity to handle a sharp growth in member numbers. This impacted the site’s overall stability which unfortunately created issues around functions such as topping up, SIM activations and porting your mobile number to giffgaff.

Despite customer gripes about missed fix deadlines, GiffGaff stressed that it tried its best to keep people informed and made some sacrifices to prioritise fixing the problem:

Throughout the period we worked continuously to rectify the problem and kept members updated through regular service messages on the website and in our social channels. We took steps that included upgrades to a number of system components to increase speed and capability. We also stopped all advertising and delayed the launch of our BlackBerry products to slow orders and traffic to our website.

GiffGaff insists it has introduced "long-term measures" that will address the underlying problems caused by being a victim of its own success. The company has increased the size of the team and "extended the site's capacity to deal with the increased customer demand". The organisation has also promised to pay out compensation between £10 and £50 to customers, depending on how badly affected they were in the outages.

The operator added:

"As we use the O2 network, any signal coverage issues are unfortunately out of our hands." ®

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