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Tesco Mobile Renews O2 UK MVNO Partnership for 10 Years

Wednesday, Jan 31st, 2024 (9:49 am) - Score 5,280
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Mobile provider Tesco Mobile (Tesco plc) has today announced that they’ve renewed their existing Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) partnership with O2 (Virgin Media) to run for another 10 years, which marks a significant commitment given that MVNO deals usually attract 5-year terms.

The deal signals strong confidence in VMO2’s platform, which is despite the fact that O2 doesn’t always deliver the best UK 4G and 5G data / broadband speeds or network availability in studies. On the flip side, O2’s various MVNO partners often perform extremely well for customer support and service quality, with surveys frequently ranking them near the top (example).

NOTE: Tesco Mobile is a Joint Venture owned equally (50:50) by Tesco Plc Group and VMO2.

The partnership has so far helped to give Tesco Mobile a massive base of more than 5.5 million customers, which makes them the UK’s largest MVNO operator. No doubt Tesco must have negotiated some fairly favourable terms in order to see them commit for such a long period of time, although today’s announcement doesn’t provide much in the way of specifics.

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Lutz Schüler, CEO of Virgin Media O2, said:

“We have enjoyed great success with Tesco Mobile over the past 20 years, as a partner and a network provider, and I have no doubt that will continue over the next decade.

With demand for mobile data greater than ever, we’re continuing to invest heavily in our network to give our customers, and those of other providers who use our connectivity, an even better experience with the fast and reliable mobile services they expect and rely on.”

Jonathan Taylor, CEO at Tesco Mobile, commented:

“With the combined power of Virgin Media O2 and Tesco we’re an MVNO which packs an almighty punch. We’re incredibly proud of the success we’ve achieved over the last 20 years, we’ve gone from strength to strength and now serve over 5.5 million customers across the UK.

We’re looking forward to unlocking further opportunities with our partners to drive future growth and continue to offer our customers the best value, helpful propositions and award-winning service.”

MVNO operators are usually a bit behind their primary networks when it comes to introducing new network enhancements but, given the significance of today’s announcement, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if Tesco Mobile were much closer to O2 on that in the future (e.g. expect 6G on Tesco Mobile to launch around the same time as it does on O2).

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Mark-Jackson
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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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Comments
23 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Billy Shears says:

    It is a 50:50 partnership between Tesco and O2 so not going with O2 would seem to be unlikely.

  2. Avatar photo Jay says:

    Not only does O2/Tesco Mobile not always deliver the UK data / broadband speeds and network availability, the TM Wi-Fi Calling and VoLTE policy states: “If you’re on pay as you go or your phone doesn’t support Wi-Fi Calling and 4G Calling, to get these services you’ll have to upgrade to a pay monthly phone that supports Wi-Fi Calling and 4G Calling”.

    This clearly puts TM at a disadvantage compared with MVNOs such as VOXI, Talkmobile, ASDA mobile, Lebrara, 1pMobile, iD Mobile, SMARTY…. who all offer these services to their PAYG customers.

    1. Avatar photo Raj says:

      Pretty sure they’re working on it. It’s complicated and related to network migration which they rolled out on PAYM first. PAYG is on older systems so will take more time to implement.

  3. Avatar photo JP says:

    Oh shock, O2 using O2’s network, who would of though it.

  4. Avatar photo Sam P says:

    Those poor old biddies thinking they’re getting a great deal with good old Tesco but receiving the worst service in the UK.

    1. Avatar photo JB says:

      I have no problem with the customer service side of things but the network is dire and I’m stuck with two sims in contract until 2025.
      I shouldn’t wish my life away but I cannot wait to be shut of them.

    2. Avatar photo Tom says:

      As someone mentioned on here the other day. Check you can’t upgrade to a more expensive 30 day rolling SIM Only for just a month and then cancel or PAC away to a more reasonable 30 day/12 month contract.

    3. Avatar photo Raj says:

      JB, I would recommend getting in touch and asking to make a complaint. They will investigate and often end up writing off the contract in these situations.

    4. Avatar photo Andrew says:

      @Raj pointed out they will write the contract off, be very careful. I spent the last 3 months fighting with o2 as they let me leave at the end of November 2023 due to bad service and they sent me letter after letter saying I owed them money and if I didn’t pay, they’d send it to debt collection – I had to make several complaints to get shut of them

  5. Avatar photo o2no2 says:

    Bloody awful network o2.
    Never mind 6G, get 4G working first.
    Total joke of a network.

    1. Avatar photo Jammie says:

      Very true, agreed

    2. Avatar photo ex-techie says:

      O2 genuinely told me that 3mbit/sec was normal for my area with full signal because they didn’t have 4g carrier aggregation outside major cities, yep, in 2023. I live 7 miles from Manchester, btw. I think my phone was live for 3 days before I moved away again and it also was incorrectly billed for the entire year. Definitely OPoo. Getting 300mbit a sec on Vodafone via talkmobile now.

  6. Avatar photo Jim says:

    If all you care about is phone calls, loading the Mail Online app and customer service, Tesco are a great MVNO.

  7. Avatar photo Mr Andrew Unwin says:

    Was with Tesco mobile for 2 years, never had any issues with connection, download speeds were not great but got around 30mbs so about same as my home broadband. Only reason for moving was to get an even cheaper deal. Now with Lycamobile pay monthly on the EE network.

  8. Avatar photo Jason says:

    The exact reason i left Tesco mobile and went back to EE ! O2 network is diabolically crap !

  9. Avatar photo O2 is terrible says:

    The O2 network is diabolical! I have to use a Honeywell PDA when scanning pallets off the back of the truck. That runs on O2 and most of the time I end up having to tether it to my phone as it will not connect to the database over its own internet connection! The signal will have full bars of 4G but the throughput is just non-existent!

  10. Avatar photo Paul Cop says:

    Network coverage just depnds where u live. I moved to tesco from ee because there is no ee service at my address. I also love the fact there are no mid contract price increase.

    1. Avatar photo CJ says:

      Network quality does vary by location. O2 isn’t awful everywhere. But O2 has far more places where there is a strong signal but data doesn’t work properly (web pages won’t load, buffering or blocky low-res video, getting pushed down to 3G, etc.) than the other networks.

      My work phone is on O2. It’s ok in London but as soon as I go outside the M25 it’s awful. I try to report some of the bad areas using the My Network app, but often can’t because it says there is no internet connection even though there is a strong signal.

      O2 finishes bottom of most independent network tests except for basic voice coverage. It seems to have overtaken Three for having the most detractors, as shown by the comments here. That is not due to bad luck, it is due to many years of under-investment in network capacity that will take a long time, and a lot of money, to fix.

  11. Avatar photo Raj says:

    Bear in mind Tesco Mobile probably knew VMO2’s 10 year roadmap plans before they decided to recommit. There’s gotta be something good coming up to make it worth sticking with O2.

    Also, it’s no secret that VMO2 is flush with cash and investing aggressively in network development. Meanwhile, Vodafone can barely pay their spectrum bills abroad and Three is bleeding cash waiting for the merger to be approved. It’s obvious who’s the better choice.

    1. Avatar photo Jim says:

      So sign up with an awful network in the hope one day things may get better?

    2. Avatar photo Mark says:

      It could be that Tesco mobile are owned at least 50% by 02 that they will sign up with them no matter how bad they are!

  12. Avatar photo Mr Marc Ricketts says:

    Now what would be nice. And what would be good. If only Tescos Mobile, Virgin Mobile and O2 did international Bundles on Top just like with Lyca Mobile.

  13. Avatar photo lee says:

    i have been a avid user of tesco mobile for over 5 years, it was one of the best at the time but recent changes post 5g have seen 4g performance and dead areas that were once excellent crop up increasingly, o2 seem to be delaying fixes or upgrades making matters worse, my performance on a old one plus 6 (still going strong) averages just 12mbs (with lows of just 3mbs) and a dismal 1,4 mbs up at best right next to the transmitters speeds seem to be capped sub 100mbs when they once were not, lately i have been using smarty data only getting an average 90mbs down 32 up to get any reliable signal on the road its truly tragic how things have deteriorated.

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