Virgin Media O2 teams with VMware to complete UK and EU 5G roll-out

UK operator enlists virtual machine technology provider as it sees virtualising and modernising network essential to retaining market share across the UK and EU as it rolls out next-generation mobile services

As part of a collaboration that has underpinned the deployment of its 5G network over the past 16 months, which has also seen a corporate merger between the two parties, Virgin Media O2 UK has selected VMware to help it modernise its network and enable the continued success of its 5G roll-out.

Operating a reliable, agile network that can be efficiently upgraded to maintain quality of coverage is fundamental to the success of Virgin Media O2’s 5G network, particularly in highly regulated and competitive markets.

The operator has committed to investing at least £10bn in the UK, it has already delivered 5G to more than 2,000 sites across the country, with 5G coverage in areas spanning 300 towns and cities. It has promised to reach 50% of the UK population with its 5G services in 2023.

“Virtualising and modernising our network is essential if we are to cement our position as the leading telco provider across the UK and EU and we are delighted to partner with VMware to achieve this,” said Chris Buggie, director of infrastructure and cloud engineering and delivery at Virgin Media O2.

“By utilising a consistent, NFV- and cloud-native platform for onboarding and managing our workloads and network functions, we are able reinvest in the network and our customers with a service we can be proud of,” added Buggie.

As part of its strategy, and in a bid to boost innovation across its network and the delivery of new services, Virgin Media O2 will make use of the VMware’s Telco Cloud Infrastructure to rapidly design, build, test and implement virtualised network functions. Telco Cloud Infrastructure delivers a single horizontal platform that will enable Virgin Media O2 to simplify, scale and better protect its core cloud networks.

“As the roll-out of 5G networks comes close to completion, service providers need to be able to modernise their network infrastructure quickly, simply and economically. The best way to do this is through a single platform that can automate and streamline delivery of multi-vendor network functions”
Sanjay Uppal, VMware

Virgin Media O2 will also use VMware’s Tanzu for Telco Kubernetes cluster capabilities to build containers-as-a-service (CaaS) proficiency. This will support the next generation of containerised network functions and is intended to enable Virgin Media O2 to maintain and expand the network’s ability to support multi-supplier solutions. Being able to onboard functions and interoperate between different suppliers is essential in rapid deployment. VMware’s common platform will enable Virgin Media O2 to add these incrementally.

“As the roll-out of 5G networks comes close to completion, service providers need to be able to modernise their network infrastructure quickly, simply and economically. The best way to do this is through a single platform that can automate and streamline delivery of multi-vendor network functions,” said Sanjay Uppal, senior vice-president and general manager, service provider and edge, at VMware.

“Through its work with VMware, Virgin Media O2 is able to deploy a network infrastructure that enables the successful roll-out of its 5G services without limitations, by harnessing the agility, flexibility and consistency of a common platform,” added Uppal.

The latest phase of the Virgin Media O2 5G roll-out came in February 2022 when the firm, showing the impact of upgrades and expansion to mobile and fixed networks in the city, revealed that its 5G network had extended to reach 64% of the population of London, thanks to recently deployed low-band 5G spectrum.

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