I did not expect to start work in 2021 hundreds of miles from my colleagues, joining video calls from my daughter’s bedroom in Munich.
Yet with the spectre of Covid-19 hanging heavy over us, people up and down the country were once again forced to stay home and I started the year back home in Germany. Mobile, TV, phone and broadband services were again in the spotlight, and our customers relied on us more than ever to work, learn, stay entertained and connected.
The pressure to deliver for our customers was intense, and I’m enormously proud of how both Virgin Media and O2 rose to that challenge. Our people continued to work tirelessly to keep customers connected when our services mattered more than ever.
At the same time, I was working with our shareholders to plan and deliver the UK’s largest ever telecoms merger which brought together Virgin Media and O2 as one combined company.
Keeping our people safe, our business running, and millions of customers connected would be a lot for any business to do during a global pandemic. For us, we also had to bring together two unique businesses which power more than 47 million connections between them.
People thought the merger would be a distraction for us. That we would be slow to act and take our foot off the gas. That we would get bogged down in complexity.
But instead, we hit the ground running. In July we announced one of the UK’s largest fibre upgrade programmes; created the first ever National Databank to tackle data poverty; and just four months after Virgin Media O2 launched, we created our first joint product, Volt, which gives customers even more from their services – more speed, more data and more value.
A month later, we rolled out the UK’s best loyalty programme, Priority, to Virgin Media cable customers. And then, as well as continuing to expand our network footprint to new areas, we ended the year on a high, upgrading our entire national broadband network to gigabit speeds (1,000Mbps+), making us the only operator to have rolled out next-generation services at such scale.
We’ve also bought 5G to more than 300 towns and cities and remain on track to cover 50% of the UK population with these services by the end of 2023.
Our relentless focus on keeping commercial momentum, integrating at pace, accelerating our digital transformation and investing to evolve our networks is propelling us forward. Today our full year results show we’re a bigger, more profitable business boasting sustained subscriber growth, a growing convergence base and record low churn.
Now, in 2022, we’ll build on these foundations and continue to push forward with focus, pace and energy. Already, we’ve taken the bold pledge to stand as the only mobile network operator not to reintroduce roaming charges for our customers in Europe, and we’ll continue investing to expand and upgrade our networks, bringing next-generation connectivity to even more homes and businesses up and down the country.
This challenger mindset, combined with our multi-award winning networks, mean we’re a one-stop-shop for connectivity services. It sets us apart and helps us to win.
We came together with a mission to upgrade the UK and shake up the market. Less than a year in, our results show we’re already delivering. And now, with a clear strategy in place, sustained customer growth, and the financial firepower of our shareholders, we start the new financial year with real momentum.
No matter what 2022 brings, one thing is clear: we’re better connected.