LONDON, 7th November 2022: With the cost-of-living crisis deepening and around¹ two million UK households at risk of digital exclusion, Virgin Media O2 is helping more people in need access free mobile data by piloting the National Databank for the first time on the High Street via 10 O2 stores across the UK.
The National Databank, founded by Virgin Media O2 and digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, is like a foodbank but for free mobile data, texts, and calls. Virgin Media O2 has committed more than 61 million GB of free O2 data to the initiative by the end of 2025.
People can now access the National Databank directly on the High Street via O2 stores and get 20GB of free O2 data per month for up to six months – enough for around 220 hours of internet browsing per month – so they can get online and stay in touch with loved ones.
The O2 stores taking part in the pilot are in towns and cities where the free data will help those most in need. This includes communities where people are most likely to be digitally excluded
or places where people have not been able to access the National Databank in their area before.
The O2 stores taking part in the pilot are in Ballymena, Broadstairs (Thanet Westwood Cross) Colchester, Hastings, Hull (Jameson Street), Norwich, Newport, Perth, Plymouth, and Stockton-on-Tees (Teesside Retail Park).
Those eligible can get support by going to one of the participating stores and asking an O2 employee, who has been trained to use the National Databank’s platform, for a 20GB data voucher.
The National Databank can also be accessed via a network of more than 650 participating community partners nationwide.
Giving the gift of 1 million GB of data this Christmas
On top of this, Virgin Media O2 is also providing an additional 1 million GB of free O2 data² to help even more people stay connected this Christmas.
Special ‘O2 Christmas SIM Cards’ are available in O2 stores nationwide and online, while stocks last, helping those who need it access 7GB of free O2 data.
The ‘O2 Christmas SIM Card’ can also be gifted to anyone who needs it, and they can get a free O2 SIM card if they need one, to ensure they can use the data and get online.
Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial at Virgin Media O2, said:
“We’re stepping up our support during the cost-of-living crisis to help even more people stay connected this Christmas.
“It’s now going to be easier than ever for those in need to access the National Databank directly on the High Street via our O2 stores, so they can get online and connect to essential services – from medical appointments to applying for jobs.
“And with our additional 1 million GB of free data available via special Christmas SIM Cards, Virgin Media O2 is helping more people get the data they need, so they can stay in touch with loved ones over the festive period.”
To help raise awareness of these measures, O2’s Christmas campaign for 2022 brings to life the support that is available to keep people connected over the festive period with an animated TV advert, ‘The Snowgran’, which combines the spirit of the festive season with the power of connectivity.
Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation, said: “
“Having sufficient data in our increasingly digital society is not a nice to have, it’s an absolute essential. If you’re not online you can’t save money on products and services, help your children to participate in home-learning, and apply for jobs.
“With two million households struggling to afford internet access in the UK today – and 10 million adults lacking the most basic digital skills, everyone needs to do even more to build a movement for digital inclusion that leaves no-one behind. This underpins our 2022-2025 strategy, making sure we go further to Fix The Digital Divide – for Good.
“This extra support is a perfect example of industry innovation making a huge difference to people’s lives, and will mean more practical help is available for those on low incomes to get online and access the endless benefits of digital connectivity.”
These measures build on Virgin Media O2’s £2 million strategic partnership with Good Things Foundation to help disadvantaged people across the UK get online and gain vital digital skills.
The National Databank initiative forms part of Virgin Media O2’s new sustainability strategy, the Better Connections Plan, which aims to create a better, more connected, and greener world for everyone. It is one of the ways the company will reach its goal of connecting one million digitally excluded people through free and affordable connectivity and services by the end of 2025.
Notes to editors
Virgin Media O2 is providing 20GB of free O2 mobile data per month for up to six months via the National Databank.
The ‘Christmas SIM cards’ will be available in O2 stores nationwide until 31 December 2022, and the voucher codes for free 7GB of mobile data will be available online until 31 January 2023 – while stocks last for both.
The Christmas SIM Card has a QR code, driving people online where they can redeem the free data. Subject to availability. 1 voucher per person, whilst stocks last. Minimum of 7GB guaranteed. O2 Pay As You Go £10 Big Bundle SIM required; SIM not provided. Redemption mechanic & terms apply, see o2.co.uk/Terms.
If someone needs a SIM, they can get a free Big Bundle SIM here.
¹Digital exclusion data is taken from Good Things Foundation’s Digital Nation 2022 visual report, which presents key statistics on digital inclusion and exclusion drawn from a range of sources. This includes: (a) Ofcom’s September 2022 update report on Affordability of Communications Services, which estimated that 9% of UK households reported affordability issues with regard to mobile data connectivity. Good Things Foundation expects this to rise over coming months, given pressures on wider household bills; (b) the UK Essential Digital Skills Benchmark 2021 report from Lloyds Banking Group, which estimated that around 10 million adults across the UK lack the most basic digital skills (‘foundation level’). Sources and explainer for Digital Nation 2022 are available here.
²The 7GB of O2 data available via the ‘Christmas SIM Card’ has been made available from the National Databank.
About Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2 launched on 1 June 2021, combining the UK’s largest and most reliable mobile network with a broadband network offering the fastest widely-available broadband speeds.
It is a customer-first organisation that brings a range of connectivity services together in one place with a clear mission: to upgrade the nation.
Virgin Media O2 is the corporate brand of the 50:50 joint venture between Liberty Global and Telefónica SA, and one of the UK’s largest businesses.
The company has 47 million UK connections across broadband, mobile, TV and home phone. Its own fixed network currently passes 15.9 million premises alongside a mobile network that covers 99% of the nation’s population with 4G, and more than 600 towns and cities with 5G services targeting 50% population coverage in 2023.
Virgin Media O2 completed its roll out of gigabit broadband speeds across its entire network footprint in 2021 and plans to upgrade its fixed network to full fibre to the premises with completion in 2028.
Its shareholders and investment firm InfraVia Capital Partners are investing approximately £4.5bn to further expand its fixed network to 5 million homes and businesses not currently served by Virgin Media O2’s network by 2026, with the opportunity to expand to an additional 2 million homes.
In January 2022, it also announced that it would be the only major mobile network that isn’t bringing back roaming charges in Europe.
Virgin Media O2 is a major investor in the UK. It employs around 16,000 people, has more than 400 retail stores and has committed to invest at least £10 billion over the next five years.
Integration work is progresses at pace, with Virgin Media and O2 launching a joint product – Volt – less than 5 months from coming together.
Today, the business delivers award-winning broadband and WiFi connectivity to homes as well as providing a connected entertainment service. This brings together live TV, thousands of hours of on-demand programming and a wide-selection of apps to customers through a set-top box and on-the-go through tablets and smartphones.
It also provides 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G mobile services, and is the network of choice for mobile virtual network operators giffgaff, Sky Mobile and Lycamobile, as well as managing a 50:50 joint venture with Tesco for Tesco Mobile.
Virgin Media O2 Business plays a leading role in supporting the public sector and businesses of all sizes. This includes a variety of managed connectivity services and flexible working capabilities, security, data insight, 5G private networks and cloud solutions, as well as wholesale services to other operators and partners.
Awards for Virgin Media and O2’s telecommunications services include recognition by GWS for having the most reliable UK mobile network for three years in a row (2021, 2020, and 2019) and winning the publicly voted Uswitch awards in 2022 as both the Best Network for Roaming and Most Popular Mobile Network.
Virgin Media was crowned Fastest Broadband Provider in the Choose Broadband Awards and Best Broadband Provider in the 2021 Trusted Reviews Awards and at the 2021 Mobile Industry Awards O2 claimed two wins – Network of the Year, and Best Online Retailer.
Virgin Media O2 is committed to using the power of connectivity to supercharge communities across the UK, taking action to close the digital divide and helping to build an inclusive, resilient, and low carbon economy. The company has set an ambitious commitment to achieve net zero carbon across its operations, products and supply chain by the end of 2040.
Virgin Media O2 is registered in England and Wales. Registration number: 12580944. Griffin House, 161 Hammersmith Road, London, United Kingdom, W6 8BS.
About Good Things Foundation
Good Things Foundation is the leading digital inclusion charity working at scale across the UK, helping excluded people gain the support and skills they need to improve their lives through digital.
It works with thousands of local community partners to deliver access to the National Databank, the National Device Bank and free online courses on the Learn My Way platform.
Good Things Foundation are experts in the latest research about the digital divide and knowledgeable about barriers and solutions.
Good Things Foundation believes everyone should have the confidence, skills, support and access to use digital technology, participate in society and benefit from the digital world, with an ambition to support 1 million people by the end of 2025
For more information on Good Things Foundation visit www.goodthingsfoundation.org