O2 SIMs and data vouchers offered to every Big Issue vendor across the UK, giving them access to free mobile connectivity each month

(Monday, 28th November) Virgin Media O2 has announced it will be working with Big Issue Group to support all Big Issue vendors with free O2 SIMs and data vouchers, as the cost-of-living crisis deepens this Christmas.

Last year O2 gave over 200 Big Issue vendors free data plans, enabling them to take contactless payments, providing vital support at a time when 52% of magazine sales are via contactless. This year the company will be offering monthly data to the magazine’s entire network of vendors. This comes as it is reported 18.7 million people are expected to have their ability to get online impacted by the cost of living crisis[1].

In the UK, nine out of ten in-person transactions are now via contactless, which makes vendors’ access to data crucial in order to successfully sell the magazine. On average vendors who use contactless make 30% more than those who do not.

Stevie Paterson from Edinburgh, one of the Big Issue vendors given O2 data last year, explained: “The O2 SIM was really important to me. It meant I could set myself up on Zettle to accept contactless payments – now, it’s how I sell about half my magazines.”

Big Issue vendor Darren Brown from Middlesbrough, who was also part of last year’s data roll-out, said: “I’ve never been a technology person, but they showed me how to use it and access the internet. If a customer is looking for somewhere, I help them with the maps on my phone, and I’ve even had my supermarket shopping delivered. The O2 SIM card is the best thing I’ve ever had through the Big Issue.”

Russell Blackman, Managing Director at The Big Issue, says: “We are delighted to be continuing our invaluable work with Virgin Media O2, following its successful launch last year of the National Databank. By extending this opportunity out to all Big Issue vendors, it will enable and empower them to boost their sales through cashless payments at this vital time of year, as well as being able to access essential online services.

“As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, support for those who might otherwise struggle to connect is vital. With Virgin Media O2 and the National Databank, we can help support people to stay better connected.”

Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Media O2 explains: “This year we wanted our Christmas campaign to not only help raise awareness of the support available via the National Databank, but to get data into the hands of those facing an unconnected Christmas.

“As part of this, we’re proud to be partnering with the Big Issue for the second year in a row to offer all vendors access to free mobile data each month. We know from the success of last year that this connectivity is crucial to facilitating mobile payments in an increasingly cashless society, as well as helping vendors to stay connected to loved ones and get access to key services.”

The roll-out of data plans to Big Issue vendors comes as part of Virgin Media O2’s wider commitment to tackling data poverty. Partnering with national digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation, the company pioneered the National Databank – like a foodbank but for data – in 2021 which provides free mobile connectivity to people who need it, pledging to donate 61 million GB of free data by the end of 2025. Virgin Media O2 also recently announced that the Databank would be accessible on the high street for the first time via 10 O2 stores across the UK, and has put the Databank front and centre of O2’s major new festive advertising campaign with the O2 Christmas SIM cards.

If you would like to support Big Issue vendors this Christmas, you can buy a copy from your local vendor or subscribe online, or support us at bigissue.com/christmas


For more information, please contact Cello Dutton-David, Group Senior PR and Communications Officer on 07485 345584

Notes to editor

About the Big Issue Group

  • Big Issue Group is a social enterprise whose mission is to create innovative solutions that unlock social and economic opportunities for people trapped in poverty.
  • For over 30 years, the Big Issue Group has worked to dismantle poverty by creating opportunity through:
    • Supporting over 100,000 marginalised individuals to earn over £144m in collective income, improving social and economic prospects through selling the Big Issue magazine
    • Facilitating investment in social businesses and charities through Big Issue Invest to deliver social, economic, and environmental impact. Since 2005 we have supported over 550 organisations with over £80 million in funding
    • Always at the forefront of social activism, campaigning for policy change in Government
  • The Big Issue Group is deliberately constructed to create the greatest level of positive impact for individuals, organisations and communities through alignment to a shared mission. Big Issue Group consists of a number of different entities:
    • Big Issue Media: includes the Big Issue magazine, an award-winning weekly entertainment and current affairs magazine, and BigIssue.com, which provides breaking and in-depth news reporting as well as relevant culture, lifestyle and opinion content. Vendors who sell the magazine are their own mini enterprises, buying magazines for £1.50 and selling them to the public for £3, keeping the difference. The magazine provides a means to earn a legitimate income direct from vendors, through subscription and via our app.
    • Big Issue Invest: our social investment arm, founded in 2005 offers loans and investment from £20,000 to £3 million to social enterprises and charities across the UK. The capital raised by BII is from private sources and not from sales of the magazine. bigissueinvest.com
    • Big Issue Shop offers a platform for social trading that will make social and ethical shopping a truly accessible option for consumers, giving people the opportunity to use their spending power to make a positive difference to the world we live in. For more information go to: bigissueshop.com
    • Big Issue Foundation is the organisation’s charitable arm, which exists to link vendors with the vital support which will help them address the issues which have led or contributed to their circumstances. The Foundation works with vendors, offering support, advice and referrals. Big Issue Foundation – The Big Issue
    • Big Issue e-Bikes: In 2020, Big Issue Group partnered with ShareBike in the UK to create bike-sharing solutions in combination with social impact. The first eBikes were rolled out in Bristol in early 2022, with plans to expand nationwide and to provide hundreds of green jobs to under-served communities. To find out more please visit: https://bigissue.bike/.
    • Lord John Bird’s parliamentary office: Lord Bird, founder of Big Issue Group, is an independent ‘People’s Peer’, appointed in 2015 and is a co-sponsor of the Wellbeing Future Generations Bill alongside Conservative MP Simon Fell.
    • Big Exchange: co-founded by Big Issue Group, enables the public to choose financial investments that are creating positive solutions to the worlds biggest challenges. Invest through ISAs, JISA’s and GIAs bigexchange.com
  • For further information on the Big Issue Group see bigissue.com

Contact: press@virginmediao2.co.uk / O2@hopeandglorypr.com

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 about Good Things Foundation and the National Databank visit www.goodthingsfoundation.org/databank

[1] https://www.lloydsbank.com/banking-with-us/whats-happening/consumer-digital-index.html

Journalists can contact the Virgin Media O2 press office on:
press@virginmediao2.co.uk 01753 565656
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