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Virgin Media O2 Aims to Reach 50 Percent of UK with 5G in 2023

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022 (9:33 am) - Score 3,312
5g mast on smartphone uk mobile

Mobile operator O2 (Virgin Media / VMO2) has today pledged to extend their ultrafast 5G (mobile broadband) network coverage to reach 50% of the UK’s population in 2023 (not to be confused with geographic coverage). At the same time, they’ve also revealed that their 5G network already reaches 64% of London’s population.

The operator claims that their expanded footprint in London has largely come about as a result of the recently deployed low band 5G spectrum (i.e. the 700MHz band), which enables mobile signals to travel further. It’s claimed that VMO2 has the “largest share of this valuable spectrum amongst the major network operators“, although Ofcom’s auction results put them level with Three UK for 700MHz (here).

In other good news for Londoners, VMO2 has also upgraded 4G capacity in 41,228 postcodes across the city in 2021, and more than 241,000 nationally. The operator has also continued to expand its Wi-Fi network across the Tube, offering connectivity at more than 260 stations, representing 97% of the London Underground network. But the attraction of this may reduce as TfL deploys a new 4G/5G mobile network.

The company, which has committed to investing at least £10bn into UK fixed broadband and mobile improvements over the next 4-5 years, added that it delivered 5G to over 2,000 UK sites last year and now has 5G coverage in areas spanning 300 towns and cities. It has also promised to reach 50% of the UK’s population with 5G services in 2023, which is roughly what we’d expect to see from all of the major operators at this stage.

Jeanie York, VMO2’s Chief Technology Officer, said:

“Providing a 5G boost is part of our long standing investment in the capital and our mission to upgrade the UK through our ongoing investment in 4G, 5G, fixed broadband and innovative new services. We are taking a customer-centric approach to our mobile network strategy, which centres on optimising our network where our customers need them most.

This means focusing on densifying our coverage where are customers are going to feel the most benefit, such as busy urban cities like London, while also investing to extend coverage in less populated areas. And with our Volt proposition, we can offer 5G plus gigabit broadband together, giving Londoners the best connectivity in and out of their homes.”

We should add that Virgin Media’s gigabit-capable fixed broadband network currently covers more than 6 million Londoners and the operator has invested more than £200 million into broadband in the City in recent years. Put another way, they’ve extended their fixed line footprint in the city to reach 340,000 extra premises since around 2015/16 (Project Lightning).

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
13 Responses
  1. Anuraj says:

    Good luck 02 customers.

    I am with o2 last five years. Voice quality excellent and no problem call dropping at all.

    They have good 4g coverage too but most of their mast only have 800mhz and very slow.

    They need to upgrade their mast with band 1,3,8,38 and 40.
    02 have good 40mhz of band 40 but they are not using properly.

    Also 02 have 80mhz of 5g.

    1. James says:

      There’s plenty of 1,3,20,40 and 1,3,8,20,40 masts near me but speeds are still poor. Backhaul must be the issue.

      VF 1,20 beats it easily.

    2. Daniel says:

      I agree with you. I live in Staines (near Heathrow) and the speeds are atrocious. The network team give dates that never come and the spectrum isn’t fully utilised.

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    Are we going to see VM street cabinet being connected to new 5g masts?

    1. anonymous says:

      There will be masts using VM for backhaul sure.

      Converged network.

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Can’t see that being a good thing for existing cabled customers.

    3. anonymous says:

      Why? It won’t share the cable network with residential customers: that would be crazy.

      It’ll be on its own fibre part of the way then onto the VM MetNet which isn’t congested.

      The masts can happily have 10G either dedicated or XGSPON and shared with other masts while the broadband customers are on a different PON. By the time the two share capacity the link can be 100G.

  3. anonymous says:

    Can you take FTTP with you?

    Different markets with a little overlap.

  4. Chris says:

    We’ve had O2 5G for about a year (WF17, Wakefield) but strangely: (1) It still hasn’t appeared on the coverage map and (2) Speeds are about 20 Mbps.

    So echoing comments from other people, it must be a backhaul sure. This is odd as CityFibre digging everywhere round here and I’m in a Virgin cabled area too.

    1. Rob says:

      I would ask customer services to be put in contact with the networks team. They are based in Leeds and from my experience have your best interest at heart. They had a representative flown down from Leeds to discuss the issue for men. 10/10

  5. Guy Cashmore says:

    Back in 2017, O2 were granted planning permission to build several new masts in West Devon which would have mostly resolved a notorious coverage ‘black hole’ covering about 35 square miles near where I live, but they have never been built.

    I’m all for progress, but they appear to have all but abandoned areas like mine, the few existing masts only got upgraded from 2G last year.

    1. Mark says:

      Your lucky the mast serving the area never been upgraded from 2G, they’ve tried numerous times to build masts nearer but always meets with opposition and planning rejections, it seems the existing mast can’t be upgraded, landowners, National trust etc won’t allow backhaul upgrades, be interesting to see what happens when 2G is switched off, I guess the objectors,nimbys and council will be happy, no Vodafone or O2 coverage

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