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Prospect welcomes Virgin and O2 pledge to invest in skills, inclusion and levelling up

8 October 2020

Virgin and O2 – who are seeking approval for a formal merger by 2021 – have made a joint pledge to invest £10bn over five years to form a “national connectivity champion”.

5G network wireless system concept

The parent companies, Telefónica (O2) and Liberty Global (Virgin Media), said that around 4,000 jobs and 1,000 apprenticeships will be created as a result of the pledge.

They added that the investment will improve connectivity across the UK with ultra-fast broadband roll-out, installing 5G technologies in towns, providing free upgrades to schools and a new low tariff for people in receipt of Universal Credit.

Prospect, the recognised union for managers and professionals in Telefónica, has welcomed the investment, in particular the promise of new jobs and apprenticeships at a time when the economy will desperately need them.

COVID-19 makes new jobs vital

Negotiations officer Sue Bucksey said: “This is a hugely welcome initiative from Virgin and O2, creating much-needed jobs in the sector but also demonstrating an admirable commitment to digital inclusion.

“The COVID pandemic is creating a jobs crisis so it is vital that successful sectors such as telecoms reflect their success by putting money back into the economy, supporting those on low pay, creating jobs and training young people.”

Spectrum auction

Sue Bucksey added that with Ofcom’s spectrum auction of the 700MHz airwave coming up, there would be an opportunity for other companies to follow the lead of Virgin and O2.

“Companies must also make some bandwidth available for those who are currently digitally excluded either because of where they live or by their personal circumstances,” she said.

“This is how levelling up should work in practice. It will allow mobile networks to provide better performance at a lower cost, which will bring considerable benefits to citizens and consumers.”

Liberty and Telefónica formally notified the planned merger of Virgin Media, Virgin Mobile and O2 to the European Commission on 30 September. Their aim is for the merger to close in the middle of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals.