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Virgin Media O2 reveals largest ever year for data use

Virgin Media O2 has today shed light on the eyewatering amount of network data, voice traffic and TV usage it has handled over the past year, as it celebrates its first birthday since the two companies came together in the UK’s largest ever telecoms merger.

Across the entire Virgin Media O2 fixed and mobile networks, a mind-blowing 39 billion gigabytes of data was used over the past year, with mobile voice traffic totalling 116 billion minutes – equivalent to a call lasting 220,000 years.

Breaking that figure down for mobile, including Virgin Mobile and traffic from other providers that use O2’s mobile network, 1.8 billion gigabytes of mobile data has travelled across the network since June 2021.

The popular video app TikTok grew by 98% in the past 12 months, taking up an unbelievable 6% of total network traffic on O2’s core network, in a stark demonstration of its incredible rise in popularity.

Meanwhile on the fixed network, Virgin Media O2 customers downloaded a staggering 34 billion gigabytes of content – up 5% from the 12 months prior and 16% from the record breaking 2020 – and uploaded 3 billion gigabytes. This is equivalent to the average customer downloading 17.6GB of data every single day – or roughly sending 564 emails, 11 hours of surfing the web, 9 hours of streaming music, 5 hours of gaming and watching 7 hours of HD TV****.

TV customers kicked back and watched 7 billion hours of TV live, on demand and on apps such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, and, in a show of support for the humble landline, Virgin Media O2 customers spoke for a total of 52 million hours, equivalent to almost 6,000 years, just on their home phones.

In order to keep up with this ever-increasing customer demand, Virgin Media O2 has invested around £2bn in its network since June 2021, upgrading 4G across more than 390,000 postcodes and delivered 5G to more than 450 towns and cities. In December, it became the only major provider to switch on gigabit speeds across its entire national network, and has added hundreds of thousands of new premises via its Project Lightning network expansion programme in the past year. In addition, the company announced in July 2021 that it will upgrade its entire fixed network to full fibre by the end of 2028 with this work already well underway.

As part of an ongoing commitment to tackling data poverty, Virgin Media O2 pioneered the UK’s first ever National Databank launched in July 2021 which provides mobile connectivity to people in need. Run by Good Things Foundation, with other operators joining the initiative, O2 has so far distributed 19,800 SIMs to 356 centres nationwide and has committed to donating 46 million gigabytes of free mobile data by the end of 2025. In addition, the company has remained focused on tackling the growing issue of e-waste through its O2 Recycle scheme, which since Virgin Media O2 formed, has taken in 255,000 devices and has rehomed 10,000 devices through its ‘Community Calling’ scheme with charity Hubbub.

Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2 said: “Since bringing Virgin Media and O2 together we’ve seen the largest ever levels of data use in a single year and we’ve matched this enormous demand with billions of pounds of investment in the UK. These statistics demonstrate the importance of connectivity – both below and above ground – and the huge role our services play in people’s lives, whether that’s to work, socialise, learn or stay entertained.

“Bringing together two incredible brands and networks is no easy task, but after just a year together we have knocked it out of the park. There’s lots more to come as we continue on our mission to upgrade the UK.”

The news follows a series of traffic spikes on Virgin Media O2’s network earlier in the year. In May, Virgin Media O2 experienced its highest ever data traffic peak on its mobile network during the final day of the Premier League season, and saw its biggest gaming traffic spike on record on its fixed network, following the release of Call of Duty: Warzone Season 3 and Modern Warfare updates in April. BCS Bureau

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