Investing in tomorrow's network for you

Last month, Telefonica UK (O2) invested £448m on newly released mobile airwaves – or ‘spectrum’ – to increase capacity in our network and power the technology of the future. This was a great result for us as a business and for our customers.

If you allow me to get technical for a moment, we were able to obtain 40Mhz of 3.6GHz and 20MHz of 700 MHz FDD. We were delighted with the result, which secured the right spectrum at a fair price. And now the assignment round has just been completed this week, I’m delighted to announce that we’ve done a deal with Vodafone to trade spectrum bands, meaning we now have a contiguous block of 80Mhz of 5G spectrum. This is a huge moment for O2, as it paves the way for a faster and more efficient 5G rollout that will have huge benefits for our customers.

Securing a contiguous block of spectrum such as this is crucial to harnessing the real power of our 5G network – we will soon have the strongest indoor and outdoor, ultra-reliable, connectivity. The additional proportion of 700MHz spectrum we secured will boost mobile connections for customers and businesses UK-wide. This uplift couldn’t be more timely, as the nation moves into recovery post-pandemic.

This lower band of our new airwaves will enable us to grow our 5G coverage footprint, including into more rural areas of the country. This builds on our leadership of the Shared Rural Network, which we committed to in March 2020. Alongside Three and Vodafone, we will build and share 222 new mobile masts which, among other benefits, is projected to increase turnover for rural businesses by £187.7m per year.

With the additional 5G spectrum, we aim to expedite the rollout and utilisation of the superfast network of the future. This will not only help meet current demands, but will open up a whole new world of possibilities, especially as we build towards 5G Standalone.

And why do we need all this?

O2 is a champion for network reliability and coverage, and we intend to keep it that way. Indeed, Uswitch voted us as the operator with the best network coverage four years in a row and GWS named us most reliable network for the third year running. Unlike some operators, we use methodologies that are crowd-sourced and customer-focused, as the experience of our customers remains at the heart of everything we do. We’re committed to giving them the best network experience long into the future.

The pandemic has demonstrated just how essential mobile connectivity has become. Demand remains higher than ever as people rely on mobile to work, socialise, seek professional services and keep their businesses running. In fact, research from Development Economics estimates that mobile connectivity protected over £200bn of the UK’s economic output during the first lockdown.

In addition, new technologies such as 5G are gradually becoming part of our everyday lives, unlocking opportunities and driving productivity for businesses. Our own 5G network now covers areas in more than 180 towns and cities. Over the past two years, it has helped us to explore a wide range of use cases and solutions, in a range of sectors including business, health and travel. We’ve trialled Private 5G Networks, IoT solutions, Smart Vehicles, Medical Delivery Drone Networks, AR Mapping and mobile COVID testing clinics. And there’s much more to come.

We know that 5G will increase productivity across industry, but it’s our ambition to use it to help whole sectors become more energy efficient, powering a green recovery. Our recent research found that digital connectivity across transport, healthcare, utilities and manufacturing could save up to 270 megatonnes of carbon in the UK by 2035*.

Our new spectrum allocation has given us the opportunity to deploy the technology Britain needs to emerge with promise from the pandemic, whether that be bringing families together, supporting small businesses or creating immersive and safe, live fan experiences at stadiums such as Twickenham and The O2. We can’t wait for those to return!

The outcome of this auction benefits us all. We now have an unprecedented platform to not only rebuild Britain, but create a faster, stronger, more sustainable and fairer economy in the future, and I couldn’t be more delighted about the potential.

*Detail and justification for potential carbon savings found in O2’s A greener connected future report, in partnership with IC&CO and Cenex.