Virgin Media O2 launches with mission to transform UK comms industry

Drawn-out merger of Liberty Global and Telefónica UK cable and mobile assets comes to fruition under new working brand aiming to power the UK’s recovery and create ‘unbeatable’ choice for consumers

O2 and Virgin Media have finally merged their assets to offer the UK comms market a real competitor to the EE/BT behemoth.

The new Virgin Media O2 is now an active concern and has begun operation with a promise to power the UK’s recovery and create “unbeatable” choice for consumers, opening at a time when connectivity has never been more critical as the UK recovers and rebuilds from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The new company unites O2’s core network of mobile users, as well as those from mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) Giffgaff, Sky Mobile, Tesco Mobile and Lycamobile with the Virgin cable network, which is rapidly being upgraded for gigabit broadband. The combined networks will see the synergy of Virgin’s plans to offer gigabit speeds to more than 15 million homes across its network by the end of 2021, delivering half the UK government’s stated broadband ambition for fibre networks four years early with O2’s expanding 5G network, which was launched in October 2019.

The result, says Virgin Media O2, will be the UK’s leading integrated fixed-mobile communications provider, with more than 47 million video, broadband and mobile subscribers and will create a stronger fixed and mobile competitor in the UK market, supporting the expansion of Virgin Media’s gigabit network and O2’s 5G mobile deployment. It is also claimed to be able to deliver substantial synergies valued at £6.2bn on a net present value basis after integration costs, and will create a nationwide integrated communications provider with £11bn of revenue.

As it began life, Virgin Media O2 assured existing customers that while there were no changes to existing services at present, plans were under way to offer broadband, entertainment and mobile services from the two firms under one umbrella brand. These are set to be completed later in 2021.

With what it says will be “clear responsibility” at the very the top of the organisation, the new business says it will also put customer service “at the heart of its offering”, with increased investment in digital tools and more customer care roles in the UK.

Virgin and O2 business and public sector customers are being guaranteed a richer suite of products and collective expertise. 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. It comes as many organisations undergo a permanent shift to hybrid working models, playing a central role in the expected economic ramp-up over the coming year.

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As part of its stated mission to “upgrade the UK” principally through investment in fibre and 5G infrastructure, the new firm has committed to invest at least £10bn to deliver gigabit broadband across its entire network by the end of the year, building on its existing fibre network expansion activity by deploying fibre to millions of additional homes across the country. It says it is exploring a number of options, including potential partnerships, to achieve its goals.

“With the fastest broadband and most reliable mobile network in the UK today, Virgin Media O2 is the complete package,” said Virgin Media O2 CEO Lutz Schüler. “We are ready to shake up the market and be the competitor the country needs at a time when choice has never been more important.

“Through investment and innovation in cutting-edge infrastructure and future technology, we will connect more people to the things they love, support communities across the country, help businesses to grow, and power the UK economy. With no limit to our ambition, we are here to upgrade the UK – and our mission starts today.”

Since the merger was announced in May 2020, Virgin Media has increased its number of UK jobs and projects, and by the end of 2021 the new joint business will have created almost 2,000 new UK roles. In what it says is a bid to “bring new opportunities to people across the nation”, the company will also create 1,000 apprenticeships.

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