Building our award winning network towards new challenges

As we’ve settled into the familiar patterns of remote working and home schooling during a third national lockdown, I wanted to reflect on the past, present and future importance of mobile connectivity and what O2 have been doing to support the nation.

I’m incredibly proud of how we rose to the challenge and as we approach a year since the first lockdown, it’s useful to look back and remember what we did. We know that mobile and online connectivity will continue to be a lifeline for many and for a variety of reasons, and with so much more demand for our network, we took proactive steps to ensure that our customers could stay connected.

At the very start in March 2020, we experienced a 25% increase in voice traffic as people checked in on their friends and family. Over the course of the year we upgraded 4G capacity in circa 180,000 postcodes right across the UK, and undertook around 12,000 field visits to ensure equipment was working correctly. We also doubled the capacity of our voice network to match demand throughout the pandemic, which we have retained in order to enable our customers to continue staying connected.

I’m also proud that our network leads the charge from an environmental point of view too, with two-thirds of our estate powered by renewable energy as we work with landlords to encourage usage of more renewable sources.”

And this effort has been recognised this week via two significant award wins. O2 has won ‘Best Network for Coverage’ at the Uswitch Broadband and Mobile awards for the fourth year in a row and we were also named ‘Most Reliable Network’ by GWS for the third year in a row. These awards are hugely important in acknowledging our continued drive towards keeping Britain connected.

2020 was the year reliable mobile connectivity proved itself as one of the UK’s most crucial assets. But this 2021 is already proving to be another huge year for mobile, and we’ve been working hard to deliver the best network possible in a range of ways:

  • Providing connectivity solutions to the NHS: As a business customer, O2 is proud to have supported NHS England, via network and connected devices, as it reached a significant milestone of 15 million vaccinations last week.
  • 5G rollout: We’ve already continued to roll out 5G at pace, connecting customers in over 160 UK towns and cities. This arrives at a time when a focus on superfast connectivity is at an all-time high, with more and more customers transitioning to the network with new handsets.
  • Delivering on the Shared Rural Network: We’re also collaborating with the industry to build and share 222 mobile masts to boost 4G rural coverage. We’ll begin to erect the masts this year, and in doing so, extend 4G services from 67% to 84% of the UK landmass and virtually eliminate Partial Not Spots. This will bring a host of benefits to the rural economy, including rural businesses.
  • Trialling Open RAN: With multiple partners, we have successfully trialled Open RAN technology, which will help our customers to better utilise our network.
  • Boosting security: We’ll continue to invest significantly to ensure we meet the highest standards of security. If the UK is to remain at the forefront of 5G, the mobile industry needs to ensure that the recent Telecoms Security Bill’s measures are proportionate, practical, and deliverable, putting the customer first. Over the coming year, we will continue to engage government on the bill and work for a balanced and proportionate outcome.

While 2020 was a year like no other, it reiterated to me the importance of the connection our network provides. As a business, we upheld an essential lifeline for customers, businesses – big and small – and communities. This is why we’re working with the government to reform planning laws to make it easier for operators to share and upgrade mobile phone masts, bringing further boosts to communities and businesses around the UK.

In 2021, we remain committed to delivering the best possible network for our customers and playing our part in helping to rebuild Britain.