Our collective responsibility to rebuild our great nation

How we emerge from COVID-19 as a more connected Britain
By Mark Evans, CEO Telefonica UK (O2)

For nearly twenty years O2 has proudly contributed to the very fabric of modern British life – connectivity. Britain now has more mobile connections than it does people, which speaks volumes about the innate importance of communication and human connection.

In the last few weeks, that connectivity has been more important than ever as Britain has faced a national crisis on a scale not seen in this country since World War II, with the devastating loss of many thousands of lives. Overcoming that crisis is requiring both personal sacrifice and a united effort.

During this time, British citizens have welcomed video calls as a way to support others, communicate with family, socialise with friends, seek professional services and keep businesses running in the absence of face to face human interaction. A phone call or text message has become central to our day to day survival during this period of enforced lockdown.

As a result, we know that people are relying on our network more than ever. Voice traffic has increased by nearly 60% at peak times with call times lasting 40% longer. This increase is comparable to nine years of typical growth. Thankfully, we have been able to double the capacity of our network to support this demand, which is just one of the reason’s we’re ranked No.1 in the UK.

Today, Britain is standing at a crossroads. Government, businesses, retail and schools are deciding how to tentatively re-open the country in a safe way. We believe we have a role to play in “Rebuilding Britain”, where we won’t just help our customers but also play our part in getting the whole country back on its feet.  Our focus will be to accelerate our recovery, with renewed efforts on productivity and sustainability.

We’ll continue to work hand in hand with the Government and businesses to realise the potential of rural connectivity and 5G, accelerating the benefits to supercharge productivity, and help consumers understand the truth around the new technology and how it’ll change our lives for the better.

Our efforts will be redoubled through the exciting potential agreement made by Telefónica and Liberty Global to bring together the UK’s largest mobile operator, O2, with the UK’s fastest broadband operator, Virgin Media, under a proposed 50-50 joint venture creating a national connectivity champion.

Together, O2 and Virgin Media will be a stronger fixed and mobile competitor with significant scale and financial strength. We will have over 46 million mobile and home connections and a combined £11bn in revenues.

Crucially, however, the customer-first principles of both companies will align to such an extent that customers of both existing brands will be able to enjoy the highest-quality experience possible, benefiting from superior connectivity, greater choice and value and new services across mobile, broadband and TV within a genuinely converged offering.

Added to that, this is an opportunity for employees to be part of one of the most innovative customer-centric communication operators in the world. Their hard work building the two existing brands and serving UK customers so brilliantly has made this potential deal possible and new opportunities will arise as a result.

The joint venture will see a continued capex investment to fuel the expansion of O2’s 5G mobile deployment and Virgin Media’s gigabit network, with 5G rollout to be made more efficient through access to Virgin Media’s network. This will create an enhanced next-generation fixed and mobile network bringing transformational benefits to consumers, businesses and the public sector.

The agreement is subject to regulatory approval and, as such, any finer details will be shared in due course. Suffice to say, this proposed joint venture has been driven by the demands of UK customers, the importance of connectivity to the British economy and the need for true competition in the sector.

Our agreement comes at a time when these services have never been more important and the demand for fast, reliable connectivity has never been greater. Indeed, the potential joint venture remains deeply committed to helping support the Government meet its 2025 and 2027 targets for delivering next-generation connectivity across the UK, which will boost the economy, drive productivity and ensure communities have the connectivity they deserve.

This is truly a positive and much-needed step forward for the UK’s communication industry. Together, O2 and Virgin Media are primed to meet the demands of an enterprising and progressive British public, who have proven themselves to be nothing short of human and industrious in this period of national crisis. We will rise to the challenge you have set and, together, keep Britain connected and thriving.

Never before has the critical role of technology been more evident across society and there is boundless potential to further discover from high speed mobile and broadband. As one of the nation’s leading technology champions, in a time where the country needs the help of its networks and businesses more than ever, we feel a responsibility to ensure that potential is reached.