A year ago, we completed the UK’s largest ever telecoms merger that brought together the UK’s fastest broadband and most reliable mobile network to create a national connectivity champion.
We joined forces at a unique time. Lockdowns had finally ended, but, whether at home, on the move or in the office, the role of connectivity and the reliance on our services had been cemented.
Against this backdrop we launched with a clear vision – to upgrade the UK. It was clear that the market needed a bigger converged challenger and since day one we have grabbed that role with both hands and remained determined to shake things up.
This challenger mindset and ethos, coupled with billions of pounds of investment, drives us to innovate and be a much bigger competitor – whether that’s through new products and services, improving customer experience or expanding fibre and 5G to more people and new areas of the country.
One year on and we’ve made significant progress.
While moving forward with integration and bringing two large businesses together, we’ve continued to build commercial momentum. In space of just a few months we launched our first joint bundles, Volt, giving customers even more by doubling data and boosting speeds at no extra cost while also opening up access to Priority to all our customers. This has helped to fuel convergence with 45% of our broadband customers now also taking a mobile contract from us.
We’ve also stood, proudly, as an outlier by becoming the only major network operator not to bring back roaming charges in Europe and launched a new entertainment service called Stream that brings the best TV programming together in one place in a flexible, customisable and affordable way powered entirely by our ultrafast broadband.
Our customers have been making use of our services more than ever before, with a record-breaking 39 billion gigabytes of data used across our fixed and mobile networks, 7 billion hours of TV watched and 116 billion minutes of mobile calls made. The average speed across our whole broadband base is now 231Mbps, four times faster than the national average, with this average rising to 441Mbps for Volt customers.
Our support for businesses large and small has gone from strength to strength. We’ve launched a range of offerings including ‘Success Agreements’ for new large enterprise and public sector customers – with flexible usage, reduced dual running costs and next-level service – as well as our ‘Get More’ tech fund for medium businesses and a free speed boost for small businesses. We’ve also introduced an ‘Ultimate Flex’ proposition for wholesale fixed connectivity, which gives our partners much more control, so they can be sure that they’re always paying the going market rates without ever having to renew. Beyond our business products, we’re innovating in areas that matter to people and society by developing new technologies to support cleaner, more efficient transport solutions; supporting the NHS to digitally transform their patient care; and revolutionising the manufacturing sector to create more productive autonomous factories.
As well as what we’re doing, we’re committed to looking at how we do it. Just last week we announced bold targets in our new joint ESG strategy – committing to net zero across our entire supply chain by 2040, helping consumers to carry out 10 million circular actions and connecting one million digitally excluded people by the end of 2025 – all to ensure we’re powering the future in a greener, more responsible way. This comes on top of various other initiatives including the creation of the UK’s first ever National Databank, which provides mobile connectivity to those in need. Run by Good Things Foundation it has been fantastic to see other operators including Vodafone and Three join the initiative to help tackle data poverty.
Of course, at the centre of our progress and mission has been our continued investment in our network. We’ve expanded our fixed network to hundreds of thousands of homes through Project Lightning; announced one of the UK’s largest ever fibre deployments with work already well underway; completed the rollout of gigabit speeds across our entire network, being the first provider in the UK to do so; and brought 5G services to more than 450 towns and cities while boosting 4G services in more than 390,000 postcodes. As a result, we’ve increased infrastructure competition in the market, laid solid network foundations for future and most importantly provided millions of people with access to much better connectivity.
While it’s great to celebrate what has already been achieved over a short period of time, we didn’t get to where we are today by sitting back and reminiscing about the past.
We are doubling down on our investment in the UK with bigger network plans in the pipeline and many more products and service improvements to come. We are also pushing ahead with our own digital transformation and our commitment to being a sustainable and responsible business.
For me, this is the best telco job in Europe and much like our network we won’t be slowing down.
On our first birthday, we look ahead ready to seize the huge opportunity ahead of us – unlocking what is needed to connect the nation to the technologies and applications that will define the future digital economy, powering a new generation to prosper, and building a better, greener UK. All while continuing to be a customer-first challenger.
There’s much more to do and we have the team and tenacity to make it happen. This is just the start.
Lutz Schüler, CEO of Virgin Media O2