Virgin Media O2 unveils ‘significant’ 4G and 5G boost

Ahead of the summer holidays, newly merged communications company announces what it says is a significant 4G and 5G boost to holiday hotspots

Even with some access to foreign travel, summer 2021 is expected to see a record number of staycations in the UK and in order to meet an expected huge demand for its services, Virgin Media O2 has announced what it says is a “significant” 4G and 5G coverage boost to holiday hotspots.

The newly merged operator quoted research it commissioned and conducted by YouGov in April 2021 to over 2,000 participants, showing that nearly two-thirds (57%) of Brits are planning to holiday in a remote area of the UK for a staycation this year.

The study also revealed that with the government allowing individual businesses to decide on their work-from-home policies, it is likely they will have to accommodate a range of employee preferences. Almost one-fifth of workers (19%) said they were considering a “nomadic working” break this summer when they will work remotely at a location out of their home.

Londoners are especially keen on the idea of nomadic working, with almost two-fifths (38%) of those living in the capital saying they are likely to trade in their home office or workplace for an alternative location across the UK this summer. Virgin Media O2 said roll-out and improvement of the mobile network in rural areas of the UK was especially important to support this group of flexible workers.

Since the start of the year, Virgin Media O2 has provided a 4G upgrade to more than 31,300 postcodes and has, in advance of the summer holiday season, upgraded almost 600 cell sites in coastal and tourist hotspots such as Edinburgh Castle, the V&A Museum, Bognor Regis, Bath, Falmouth, Plymouth, Cambridge, Stirling and Bournemouth Pier to support increased connectivity demands from holidaymakers.

Following Ofcom’s 5G Spectrum Auction this spring, Virgin Media O2 claims to have more low-band spectrum than any other UK operator, providing the opportunity to potentially have the largest 5G coverage footprint in the UK, supporting more people, businesses and devices.

In the latest RootMetrics Everyday 5G research study for July 2021, the O2 mobile clocked the fastest everyday 5G median download speed in the cities of Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle, with a top speed of 153.4Mbps in Leicester. Even though its everyday 5G availability was not rated as widespread as that of most other operators, O2 was found to have shown “nice” improvement in each city over the last six months or so.

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Virgin Media O2 is continuing to develop its 5G network, focusing on strengthening its 5G coverage in towns and cities while introducing the next-generation network to tourist hotspots such as Edinburgh Castle, Bournemouth Pier, Tynemouth King Edwards Bay and Llandudno West Shore. Also gaining new outdoor 5G connectivity are a range of museums and galleries, including the V&A Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Natural History Museum, the Mary Rose Museum, York Castle Museum and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

The study also showed that people’s appetite to stay connected will remain while away, with almost a quarter (23%) of Brits planning to post about their staycations live on social media, and almost one-third (32%) of holidaymakers planning to keep in contact while out and about with friends and family.

Virgin Media O2 said staycation selfies were already driving mobile data demand as lockdown eased. It revealed that in terms of total data traffic measured on the O2 network, in the week ending 8 May 2021, its network carried about 55% more peak-hour data than it did in the week ending 9 May 2020. The network also carried the most amount of data traffic ever to support the all-English Champions League Final in May.

“After a year like no other, we know how important it has been to stay connected,” said Jeanie York, chief technology officer at Virgin Media O2. “That’s why we are committed to providing our customers with reliable connectivity all across the UK – as shown by our £448m investment on newly released spectrum – to increase capacity in our network and power the technology of the future, as well as spearheading the Shared Rural Network.

“Whether you’re a holidaymaker heading off for a sunny staycation, a rural business or someone living and working in a remote area, we are doubling down on 4G to ensure network capacity is deployed where it’s needed most. The numbers speak for themselves, with over 31,300 postcodes receiving a 4G network upgrade this year, hundreds of tourist hotspots boosted and a real focus to improve our 5G experience where people need it most.”

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