Virgin Media O2 is handing out 7.5 million gigabytes of FREE mobile data to people who struggle to pay for an internet connection
- The National Database will provide free mobile data to 200,000 people by 2023
- It is open to customers of all mobile networks, not just O2
- Internet access is more important than ever as jobs and studying go remote
- Network hopes other phone companies will also provide free data to the project
Virgin Media O2 has launched the first ever National Database, offering free mobile data to those in need.
It is hoped that the Database can help some of the seven million people in the UK who do not have access to mobile data or broadband at home.
Internet access is becoming increasingly important as many still work and study from home.
The project was created by Virgin Media O2, but the free data will be disseminated by the charity Good Things Foundation, through its network of 5,000 community organizations.
Virgin Media O2 has launched a national database, giving free mobile data to those in need
It will launch with 7.5 million GB of O2 mobile data, to help more than 200,000 people connect by the end of 2023.
The National Database, which will be open to all mobile operators, will provide free data to community groups to disseminate across the UK, including the most digitally deprived areas.
It will provide a central hub where community groups can access free ‘data voucher codes’ and SIM cards for anyone who needs them.
Those with access to free data will also receive additional support, including digital skills training and referral to other essential services.
Virgin Media O2 said it would donate £12.5 million in O2 connectivity – equivalent to 7.5 million GB of data – to the National Database by the end of 2023.
This is enough to provide 319 million hours of internet use to more than 200,000 people in need across the country.
The network has also donated £500,000 to Good Things Foundation to cover the operational costs of running the database.
Ahead of a nationwide rollout in November, a first three-month trial is now underway with 10 community organizations in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The pilot will help test and improve the online platform built by Virgin Media O2’s innovation team, The Lab.
As a growing number of households struggle to pay for data, Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation called on other mobile networks to join the National Database.
It said this would help grow the platform as a long-term, sustainable solution to tackle data poverty, and that by working together, the industry had the power to provide connectivity to millions of digitally excluded people in the UK.
Virgin Media O2 donates £12.5 million in O2 connectivity to the National Database
Lutz Schüler, chief executive officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “The pandemic has escalated the UK’s data poverty crisis like never before – and with many millions of people facing digital exclusion, now is the time to come together and bridge the gap. to close digital inequality.
“Our industry has done remarkable things over the past few months to keep customers connected when they needed it most, but it doesn’t stop there.
“By co-creating the first-ever national database with the Good Things Foundation, coupled with a £12.5 million data pledge, we aim to build a lasting legacy from the pandemic. We are now asking our colleagues in the mobile industry to join us and end data poverty for good.”
Matt Warman, the government’s minister for digital infrastructure, added: “I welcome Virgin Media O2’s significant investment in the National Database.
“This is a perfect example of industrial innovation that is making a huge difference in people’s lives, and will mean more practical help for low-income people to get online and access the endless benefits of digital connectivity.”
After the pilot program ends, those who want to apply will be able to find their nearest participating center online.
The National Database is expected to be operational nationwide from November 2021.
The £31bn Virgin Media and O2 merger was launched on June 1, with the newly formed company promising to boost the country’s recovery from the coronavirus.
The company is now one of the largest in the UK, with 47 million connections across broadband, mobile, TV and home phone.