£205bn economic output would otherwise have been lost, according to new O2 research

  • Mobile connectivity protected a fifth of the UK’s economic output during the pandemic, representing £205bn of business
  • Economic downturn announced by ONS would have been steeper and more pronounced without workers’ ability to connect remotely
  • Majority of Brits (78%) say connectivity was vital to cope with the pandemic – with online learning and social activism among top 10 activities conducted using mobile
  • The UK’s Number 1 network O2 commits £2million a day investment in UK infrastructure, and has boosted 4G and 5G coverage and capacity at over 186,000 postcodes since the start of lockdown

One-fifth of the UK’s business has been protected by mobile connectivity since the global pandemic began, according to new research from O2 in partnership with Development Economics.

4G and 5G connectivity preserved £205 billion of business for the UK during the period of March to September by enabling many of the UK’s workers to work flexibly and remain productive at home.

Estimated through a combination of ONS data on economic output across UK sectors and employee activity monitoring, the figure represents financial protection of over 20% of a forecasted £956bn of economic output over the period – demonstrating the power of mobile connectivity in keeping Britain working through the extraordinary circumstances posed by COVID-19.

UK gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to have fallen by a record 20.4% April to June[1] – almost twice the average impact felt by the OECD’s other 20 most developed economies. Without mobile connectivity, the research suggests many more people and businesses would have been unable to connect to their workplaces or customers, adding further pressure to the furlough scheme and on GDP and sharpening the country’s economic downturn.

As the UK’s No 1 mobile network, representing millions of people across the UK, O2 remains committed to its role in rebuilding Britain, and will maintain its investment of an average of £2million a day in its 4G network – as well as its ongoing rollout of superfast 5G connectivity.

O2 has provided boosted capacity or has extended 4G and 5G coverage to over 186,000 postcodes since the start of lockdown to make sure people wherever they are based, from villages to town centres, are able to stay in touch with their loved ones, colleagues, and customers.

Mark Evans, CEO at O2 said: “We can be under no illusion that the pandemic has challenged our nation. But we can be sure that without the great power of connectivity, things would have been exponentially worse.

“As the UK’s No1 network, we’re proud to see mobile playing an important role in supporting the UK’s businesses and the wider economy.

“Now, we need to work together, with businesses and the government, to ensure that connectivity stays at the heart of UK PLC. It’s the key to our country’s success and will unlock further growth.”


From activism to education, connectivity has kept society functioning

Crucially, connectivity has enabled more than just enable economic output, as 78% of people in the UK think mobile was important in helping them cope with the pandemic – from Birthday Zoom calls to participating in viral TikTok dances – speaking to the innate importance of communication and human connection. In lockdown O2 saw voice traffic increase by nearly 60% at peak times with call times lasting 40% longer – an increase comparable to nine years of typical growth.

Top 10 uses of mobile connectivity during lockdown:

  1. Calling family members and friends
  2. Keeping up to date with the latest news
  3. Playing games
  4. Online TV/movie streaming
  5. Contact a doctor
  6. Working
  7. Virtual Quiz Nights
  8. Expressing solidarity with causes around the world e.g. Black Lives Matter protests
  9. Online fitness classes
  10. Enrolled in an online course

Economic research methodology [research provided by Development Economics]:

  • The estimated value of connectivity during the six-month period following the announcement of lockdown has been estimated using data on the UK workforce, including the proportion of employees who needed to work from home during the pandemic, and estimates of the contribution to employee productivity from connectivity based on findings from previous studies undertaken by Development Economics for clients such as O2 and other technology-focused businesses.
  • Method for calculating O2-specific economic impact: To estimate the additional economic contribution to locations where O2 has provided boosted 4G and 5G cover during the pandemic, Development Economics estimated the number of households and proportion of the workforce based in the postcode areas where O2 provided boosted 4G or 5G coverage. They then calculated the economic activity this based on the same assumptions about the value of connectivity, and assumptions about O2’s relative market share.

 Polling methodology:

  • This data is based on a survey of 1,000 adults in the UK completed online between 2nd and 3rd September 2020.
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