After kicking off 5G services in large public venues, U.K. operator O2, owned by Spanish telco Telefonica, announced that its 5G network now serves a total of 108 towns and cities across the country.
O2 launched its 5G network in the UK in October 2019. O2’s 5G network was initially available in certain areas of Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds. The carrier said that the initial focus for its 5G network was on highly populated areas including railway stations, shopping centers and sports stadiums.
The carrier is deploying its 5G infrastructure in partnership with Nordic vendors Ericsson and Nokia.
O2 also noted it currently offers 28 5G-enabled devices, including the brand-new Apple iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro. The iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 mini will be available next month.
“When we launched 5G last October, we said it was the first step on a journey. One year on and we have made some incredible progress, not just in terms of our roll-out but in bringing about new capabilities that will make real changes to people’s everyday lives,” said Derek McManus, COO at O2. “We firmly believe 5G has a role in helping to rebuild Britain, unlocking huge possibilities for our economy and society. We’re excited to keep pushing ahead with our rollout along with our partners Ericsson and Nokia, to keep supporting our customers, businesses and society.”
Alongside the consumer rollout, over the last year O2 has continued to work with businesses and consortia to test and build 5G use cases.
O2 is working with Deloitte, Wayra and Digital Catapult to build 5G accelerators in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry. These facilities will comprise of centrally located office and demonstration spaces with access to a private 5G network allowing businesses and public sector organizations to experiment with 5G features that aren’t yet commercially released.
O2 also said that approximately 10,000 LTE-M sites are now live across the country. The new IoT network will cover 57% of premises and 58% of the population, the operator said.
O2’s operations are headed toward a major transition. In May, Liberty Global and Telefonica reached an agreement to merge their U.K. operations in a 50-50 joint venture. This move brings together O2 with cable operator Virgin Media and its MVNO Virgin Mobile.
The combined subscriber base of the two companies, as of the end of 2019, was 46 million, and they would have combined annual revenue of £11 billion (currently $14.4 billion).
Liberty Global and Telefonica previously said that the transaction is expected to close by mid-2021 and is subject to regulatory approvals.
The two firms also said that the JV is expected to generate significant operating benefits, with estimated run-rate cost, capex and revenue synergies of £540 million on an annual basis by the fifth full year post closing. The key expected sources of cost and capex synergies include the use of existing infrastructure to provide services for each entity’s customers at lower cost compared to standalone capabilities and the migration of Virgin Media mobile traffic to Telefonica UK’s network, among others.