There aren't many reasons to celebrate British mobile-phone networks. One network doesn't understand the word 'unlimited', one owes the British public £6bn and the rest either offer no coverage in our kitchen or cost too much to use. But T-Mobile and Orange have done something amazing -- they're letting their customers use both mobile networks.
The network-sharing system will allow customers of Orange to send text messages and make phone calls from the T-Mobile network, and vice versa. The system works by allowing you to 'roam' on the other network, as if you were abroad. Calls will be charged at exactly the same rate as they would be on your own network, so there's no need to worry about an expensive phone bill at the end of the month.
Because the two firms recently formed a joint venture, Everything Everywhere, they've had to at least back the name up by allowing customers to make phone calls and send text messages in more locations. Combining networks makes that possible, and ultimately should help create a much larger and more successful network.
While the current deal doesn't include 2.5G or 3G data, T-Mobile says that you might be able to get basic access to some Internet services, although you'll find it very slow. Having unsuccessfully tried to use 2G in the past to send something as simple as a Twitter update, we'd suggest that, if you're looking for good data coverage, the networking-sharing scheme may not prove very beneficial.
It's also crucial to remember that, because the Orange and T-Mobile sharing system works like a roaming service, your phone may be set up to prevent you accessing expensive foreign data. To get data working, you'll need to enable the 'roaming data' option -- just don't forget to turn it off again before going abroad.
One thing we don't understand is this: with T-Mobile being so sensibly priced and Orange costing more than gold teeth, who's going to sign up for a plan that's more expensive? Unless you really love sitting in a crowded cinema on a Wednesday, we can't see Orange coming out of all this with more subscribers. Still, people voluntarily pay more for Stella Artois, and drinking that stuff is like having your brain smashed in by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large, gold brick.