Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 partner to enhance rural connectivity in new network-sharing deal

Vodafone turns off 3G masts

Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 have announced a long-term network-sharing agreement designed to revolutionise the mobile experience for tens of millions of UK customers.

This strategic partnership aims to enhance rural connectivity, improve service quality, and establish a third major network operator to rebalance the mobile market.

Building on their existing collaboration, including the Shared Rural Network initiative, this agreement focuses on delivering high-quality mobile coverage to hard-to-reach areas across the UK. Ahmed Essam, CEO of European Markets at Vodafone, emphasised the significance of this deal: “With this agreement and our merger with Three, we will transform the mobile experience for over 50 million customers in the UK. We are committed to providing significant network improvements, including more choice, better quality, and greater coverage across the country. These benefits will extend to both retail and wholesale MVNO customers.”

Essam added that the proposed merger and this agreement would boost competition by establishing a robust third player in the UK mobile market. This move aims to improve the balance of spectrum holdings, levelling the playing field among the UK’s mobile operators.

The combined investments from MergeCo’s prospective £11 billion and Virgin Media O2’s £2 billion annual investment in networks and services are set to ensure long-term quality in mobile connectivity, particularly in rural areas.

Elizabeth Anderson, CEO of the Digital Poverty Alliance, welcomed the partnership: “It is impossible for one organisation to solve UK connectivity on its own, so the partnership between Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 is a welcome step to improve network reach across the country. Connectivity in rural areas is a pressing issue for millions in the countryside and remote towns, cutting them off from essential online services such as education and healthcare. With these essential services increasingly shifting online, we can’t stand by and watch millions more people get left behind in the digital world.”

Anderson also highlighted the importance of continued investment: “There have been several impressive connectivity rollout schemes over the past few years, and with this partnership, we hope to see further investment and resources dedicated to VMO2’s Shared Rural Network programme. To drive the rollout of rural connectivity further, we also hope to see the incoming government support these schemes, placing digital inclusivity at the heart of its policies to make a significant societal impact for millions across the UK.”

This partnership marks a significant step towards bridging the digital divide and ensuring that rural communities receive the same level of connectivity as urban areas, paving the way for a more inclusive digital future.

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Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 partner to enhance rural connectivity in new network-sharing deal