A Year in the Life of the O2 Network

by Brendan O’Reilly, Chief Technology Officer at O2

This weekend I took my little boys to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, along with most of London it seemed! As I watched all the excited parents taking pictures of their children having fun, I was happy  to see one of our O2 COWs (Cell on Wheels) proudly doing its job, boosting the coverage and capacity at such a busy event.   ‘Making special events special’ is just one of the things we pride ourselves on in the Networks team.

As we come to the end of 2015, I wanted to give you a bit of an update on some of the other the work we’ve been doing this year on our network and to share a little about our plans for 2016.

Over the past 12 months we’ve really ramped up our Network Modernisation Programme right across the UK. Not only have we been totally overhauling our 2G and 3G networks, but at the same time we’ve been rolling out 4G faster than any network we’ve done before, bringing 4G to over a fifth more of the population this year.

That includes over 2,300 cities, towns, and villages across the UK, (including over 1,700 smaller villages and smaller towns), as our rollout moves into more rural parts of the country.  And with a 15% increase in our network investment budget for 2016, we are in no mood to take our foot off the gas.

2015 was a big year for 4G.  For the first time we’ve carried more data traffic on our 4G network than our 3G network.   And we’ve started a programme of reallocating some of our older 2G spectrum  for reuse on our 4G network – adding capacity for our customers in areas where they need it most.

We’ve also added HD Voice capability to our 3G network (that’s the razor sharp calls you’re probably noticing!) and we’re busying away getting ready for our voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) and wifi-calling launch next year

From a wifi perspective, our network continues to grow and innovate.  We launched our innovative wifi solution at the beginning of the year, which enables an automatic connection to one of our 12,000 wifi hotpots (with no need to register). Not only does Wifi Extra (as it’s known) provide an extra level of security similar to your company network, it can cleverly work out the fastest service for you to be on and if it’s 3G or 4G it will move you over automatically.

A busy time. But the thing that has stuck out most for me this year has been our customers.  Our customers are absolutely at the heart of our strategy for network development. We have a vision to make our network the most customer-centric within the UK.  Our teams have driven over 700,000 miles this year to test our coverage, carrying out millions and millions of tests to meticulously analyse every detail of our customers’ experience. We have opened up new ways for customers to let us know if they’re experiencing issues with our network and we capture every single piece of feedback. We’ve invested heavily in intelligent network and customer experience analytics and systems and we’re the first operator in the UK to put in place a self-optimising network (which harnesses the power of customers’ experience and improves the network in real time). All of this adds up to a constantly improving network experience for our customers. Hopefully you have felt that this year. If not, my team and I want to know about it and you can contact me via LinkedIn.

And we’ve got more exciting developments planned for 2016 with even more investment than this year: more 4G in more places, more innovations centered around our customer analytics and smarter network tools and of course an eye to the longer term future with our research into 5G.

Visit our website to find out more about the O2 network and our solutions for business customers.