O2 SMS Woes

If you have international roaming on your phone enabled (most people do) you should be able to send SMS text messages to people abroad, right? Not if you’re with O2 it turns out.

Having switched to O2 at the beginning of the month, because they’ll be the sole iPhone carrier in the UK, I found out to my great annoyance this week that you can’t SMS people in South Korea and visa versa… if you’re on O2 anyway (Orange works fine). Several missed text messages later, which mysteriously vanished into a black hole somewhere, I called and emailed customer services who eventually came back with this:

“Thanks for emailing us about not being able to send text messages to a South Korean mobile number. I understand it’s important for you to send text messages to your friends in South Korea. We don’t have an agreement with SK Telecom, so we can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to send text messages to any mobile numbers of this network”

What?!!! “Can’t guarantee” – it simply doesn’t work!

On their website, O2 boldly proclaim “our international coverage is unsurpassed” – clearly not if they don’t have an agreement with the biggest provider in South Korea, the most digitally connected country on the planet. This is a pretty annoying state of affairs and I can only imagine how many other gaping holes there are in their international coverage.

David avatar

53 responses

  1. Ryno avatar

    I know what you mean, I recently found out I cannot send SMS To China with O2 – OFten i have had international SMS dissapear in the black hole to different countries. Since O2 have been around since year dot, you would have thought their service was the move evolved.. it appears thats not the case 🙁
    Shame I still got 12 months left on my contract

  2. Interesting… I've found text messages get through to my friends in Beijing OK so perhaps its a regional problem? Seems O2's international coverage is pretty shoddy. I wonder if we still get charged for the messages that go into the black hole?

  3. Yeah I noticed that on my last bill – pretty criminal behaviour! I've got a technical fault logged with O2 but not heard anything back yet. Doesn't look like it'll get fixed any time soon.

  4. I have the same problem and you get charged for all the messages even though they are never delivered to the person you are sending them to!

  5. Karl avatar

    I can send text messages abroad for example to italy and mexico, but i cannot receive any, my friends do get my texts but I cannot get theirs. Is it the same problem with you guys???

    1. Eoin Sloan avatar
      Eoin Sloan

      O2 messages just do not get delivered in Italy but charges of course! I txt my lady friend in Italy several times a week using a spare phone with a Lebara sim card and it always gets through. She replies to my “O2” phone – the one we use when I want to talk. Talking on O2 is no problem – it makes O2 more money of course.

  6. Sounds like it could be a similar problem but strange that they still work one-way. All I can suggest is calling their customer services to complain ask them to raise a technical defect ticket.

  7. Ashley avatar

    I got the same problem! 🙂

    Has anyone been successful in claiming for a technical defect ticket yet?


  8. Nothing from my complaint – they never got back to me!

  9. Interesting, so it appears the problem is not just O2. I still find it incredulous that they are charging people for messages which never arrive thought. You would have thought they test these things!!

  10. james avatar

    I managed to text message my Dad in the uk from South Korea, i used the code 002 44 then the phone number, it worked, but he couldn't send messages back, he's a vodaphone user.

    1. Fiona avatar

      Thanks so much for the dialing code info, i was beginning to lose hope. You’re a star x

  11. jenapie avatar

    i have the same problem here i cant send txt messages to south korea. im with vodafone… can anybody please help me?

  12. I'm afraid there is really very little you can do other then complain to your provider.

    One solution you may find useful is to use Skype – you can send SMS messages to anywhere in the world using it (and quite cheap also).

  13. Willy avatar

    i can send SMS message to my wife in saudi arabia, but i can't receive her replies…what and where is the problem? here in south korea or there in saudi arabia networks? please help me.thanks.

  14. John avatar

    I get numerous SMS messages from my partner in Mexico City, but I cannot send any back. I have tried using Vodafone, Orange, and most recently Skype, all to no avail. MOST frustrating !!!

    1. same thing here buddy- Im on TMobile and I can receive txts from my fiancee in BC Mexico but she doesnt receive mine. My phone says “message sent” and Im charged tho. Shes on Telcel which is supposed to be the same company as Tmobile. Tried speaking to tech many times but theyre unhelpful

    2. the funny thing is for the last 2 years its worked ok for 75% of the time, since 16th december 2009 it just stopped working completely

  15. Barry avatar

    I have the same problem and you get charged for all the messages even though they are never delivered to the person you are sending them to!
    I do get text messages from South Korea but my contact has to put in a preamble number, if anyone would like this number let me know and i will look it up. I might add I have been trying lots of way to send one back and have spent over £5.00 on texts wasted. as for 02 surport like most of them is like talking to a black hole in its self. I shall change as soon as I can get a human on some other network, it would seem the only way to get a human is to call a sales line they soon answer then. Frustrating is not the word. on top of that I often get charged when some calls are said to be free. if you want any money back it can cost as much to get some one to refund it . So I dont bother.

  16. I can receive SMS from my Korean colleague; he places some prefix before the number. To send to his phone I can use the internet to access my VoIP provider Blueface.ie. Handy if I’m connected to the internet. I had the same “We don’t have an agreement with SK Telecom” answer from O2. It doesn’t seem to occur to them to ask “Why not?”

  17. Thanks for the tip Michael. It’s been nearly I year since I first brought this up with O2, I’m quite surprised to see they haven’t fixed it when all the other UK carriers work just fine. Presumably it isn’t a priority for them even though they are quite happy to charge people for text messages which are never received.

    I’ve taken to using Skype for sending international SMS.

  18. Anika avatar

    I am having a same problem here, I get sms from South Korea but I can’t send them sms.. I am with Vodafone, and they just can’t help me.. although they have chaged me!! this is so annoying!!

  19. Stevie avatar

    I can’t send SMS messages to Netherlands as well… dammit…

  20. Harley avatar

    I cannoy txt, sms New Zealand on my 02 pre pay mobile- They get me txt but cannot send one back to me! anoying!

  21. Evan avatar

    I have had the same problem as most of you it would seem, i came to the UK from New Zealand and brought my NZ Vodafone phone with me which was an LG KU800 (or something similar), i purchased an O2 pay and go sim card which seemed to work fine in my NZ phone. Only issue was that i could send txt messages to all my friends in NZ but anyone on Vodafone NZ could not send them back to me (i also have a friend in New York who couldnt send me txts too!)
    I have recently changed to pay monthly and purchased an iphone (hoping this would fix this issue buying a new phone) NO, still have the same issue.
    I have since called O2 to try and get this resolved and they dont have any ideas except to talk to the overseas carrirers as it was probably a problem at their end.
    Given that i have a work phone which is also on O2 and they can send them to that phone i dont see how its an issue at their end.
    I plan to contact them again soon to try some other options but it is getting really frustrating!

  22. Hi Dawn, I’d be seriously surprised if it didn’t work to Hong Kong but with O2 you never know until you try. The whole thing is a tangled web and I wouldn’t be surprised if O2 don’t know the exact setup themselves!

  23. Dawn avatar

    Anyone tried sending text msgs to Hong Kong? I’d really like to send one to my friend who’s there at the moment but have no wish to send it into a black hole from which it’ll never emerge, while allowing O2 to take my money. It’s hard to believe that there are still difficulties with international SMS – you’d think it would all have been sorted out by now.

  24. ellie avatar

    I have just got a LG telecom phone here in korea and found that no one from the UK can get texts to me. they got my messages but i dont get theres. this is crap. my friends here from south africa, US, canada, New zealand can all get messages on their phones. has anyone actually got a solution to this yet?
    when texting korea from the UK its simply +82 10 **** ****

    if anyone has any answers Id be so grateful. thank you.

  25. kevin avatar

    I seem to be having the same problem with T-mobile, I can receive SMS from South Korea, but can’t send them. I have tried with Vodaphone as well, but without success. The T-mobile website lists the networks in SK that allegedly work with T-mobile. Will investigate vodaphone website see if there is any info available.

  26. Tony avatar

    Up to May 2008 I was able to text SK (both ways) from Orange. Since November I have not been able to do this. I asked Orange if they knew why – eventually the reply was ‘network problems – keep trying’. Does anyone know any better?

  27. Tony avatar

    Incidentally with Fresh (T-Mobile) texts do not work – T Mobile do not have a ‘text partner’ in SK

  28. I was able to get my messages sent to my friend in South Korea on my O2 mobile.

    My friend sent me a SMS and strangely…it said the sender was a UK number.. (+44xxxxxx…)

    And in the message it had:


    So what I did was send a reply back to both the UK based number and my friend’s original number.

    And it somehow worked. They are able to get my SMS messages now.

  29. tammy avatar

    i want ot know how ppl in soiuth africa can text me in south korea

  30. charlotte avatar

    i have a friend in south korea, to text my irish phone he put +1(353)
    but i still cant reply to him and yes also getting charged from o2. i have tried +82 10 but hes still not gettin them i saw on wikipedia that in korea it could be 10 up to like 16 after the 00 so maybe ill try all them but its costing me!!

  31. Frank avatar

    The only network that works to and from South Korea is Orange. My girlfriend is in South Korea and we text all the time. I’d just like to find a cheaper way to text. It costs 20p per message. Any suggestions?

  32. Shubha avatar

    I am in Germany and I have terrible problems with O2 SMS to India and back.It works intermittently only, back and forth.I could send messages previously but now I just can’t! Its so annoying and the unreliability of the situation bothers me, especially if I am banking upon imp info over SMS.I would like to get out of O2 but am stuck in a contract so I have no choice but to bear with it.The O2 guys could not do anything about it apart from switching off and on my phone!

  33. I’ve been having the same problem sending texts to Turkey. It worked okay a couple of times but now I keep getting a delivery failure notice everytime I try to send one and when I check the details it just says number barred.
    Im now using skype and luckily kept my old virgin number which worked (so far).

  34. nass avatar

    Hi all.. it is the same here.. I’m with O2 since less than a month but I can’t send or receive any text messages to/from Oman.
    Called them and they said that because they don’t have agreement with any Omani companies to support text messages.. !!!

    I can’t call a mobile mobile without text service.

    more than 7 countries here. from different areas of the world !!!!

    What a bad service.. What a disappointment.. !!!!

  35. Nomaan Ali avatar
    Nomaan Ali

    Guys, just dont do anything with o2. They’re totally shit and are only good for use within the UK. Have a look at the other network providers. I left o2 a long time ago. Simples! =)

    1. Well thanks for telling me i was abt to change from tmobile to o2 cos t mobile are giving me the same troubles- if u want int txting FORGET TMOBILE!! Incidentaly u didnt say which network u changed to…

  36. Martin avatar

    I looked at O2’s website in Czech republic yesterday and there’s very clear statement saying that you may have to put a prefix infront of the number you want to call or text if you are on a network that they do not have an arrangement with. I guess this routes the call/message to a different network and you get charged extra for it! I suggest you look at the current O2 website for the country you are in.

  37. I’m on an original iphone in New Zealand and can receive messages from South Korea, but can’t reply or send them to SK!!

  38. JayK avatar

    I phoned O2 about this today – same thing about no agreement with a carrier in South Korea. They also said that it MIGHT go through, but they can’t guarantee – as it will go to one of their server and send it off, but it might not hit the right one!

    And there was no worry from them about me paying for a service which MIGHT work… Brutal. The way I text to Korea is by using NateOn, they have an app which my girlfriend set up an account for (in Korea). That way I can text from my PC…

  39. Rozza C avatar
    Rozza C

    I actually realised that O2 aren’t actually sending my messages through now…to South Korea…or if they do get sent…it’s after nearly half the day…

    I tried my T-Mobile line and it worked perfectly…was sent instantly…

    So now I’m not sure on what’s going on..

    1. wat codes do u use?

  40. Eoin Sloan avatar
    Eoin Sloan

    With O2 I can rcve txt from Italy but not send them. With my Lebara no problem at all whats up with O2? I get charged and they isist the have delivered it to their Italian counterpart

  41. So does anybody know if theres anyway to txt an 02 phone from korea or vice versa?

  42. Loopy avatar

    It seems we are all having similar issues. With me i can receive texts from Sweden but when i text back i get charged 20p per text but the text goes nowhere. Only spent 40p so far so it’s not biggie but i want to get to the bottom of this issue.

    Anyone know what the deal is with adding numbers at the end or beginning of the normal number you want to text?

  43. ya know I am having the exact same problem.. i did a google search and this website came up.. im on O2 before I was on Vodafone and no problem to send a SMS to S Korea however now…. wow! I just cant send 1 and neither can they send one to me. I thought it was there problem because I get sms from other people in other countries but I think the real problem is O2.

    Thanks for this guys!

  44. Loopy avatar

    Update with me. I can now text to Sweden =S

    My first 2 attempts didn’t fail. It just took like a week for the messages to be delivered, but now it works fine with me. So i’d suggest trying every now and then because if it doesn’t work once, it might another time.

    Good luck people!

  45. David avatar

    I had this problem back in 2006 and posted a message on the Cellphonetopics forum (http://www.cellphonetopics.com/message62769.html).

    I was unable to text my girlfriend (at the time) in China from O2. O2 never solved it and I eventually moved to Vodafone with no problems. One or two people suggested turning on delivery reports, but I don’t think O2 support these, Vodafone do. It’s not an issue anymore as we’re now married and living in the UK.

  46. Eden avatar

    I’m having the same problem with ‘3 Network’. I can receive SMS from South Korea, but try to send and it just takes the money. Orange works fine though.

  47. Loopy avatar

    Eden, might I advise you to get off 3. It offers nothing that almost any other network cant give you and more.

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