Virgin Media O2 increases free data gifting to 60 million GB amid escalating cost of living crisis 

Dec Connolly Editor

Email business@thebusinessjournal.co.uk

As more than 9 in 10 low income Brits say they’re worried about their finances, and 85% say connectivity is essential for living their lives, Virgin Media O2 is donating an extra 15 million GB of free data to the National Databank to help people in need stay connected. 

It means that people most affected by the rise in the cost of living can now receive 20GB of free O2 mobile data per month – an increase from 15GB per month, available via the National Databank.  

The National Databank, founded by Virgin Media O2 and digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, is like a foodbank but for free mobile data, texts, and calls, which can be accessed through more than 400 of Good Things Foundation’s community partners across the UK.  

Virgin Media O2’s free data boost will help people at risk of data poverty to stay in touch with their friends and family, and access essential online services such as medical appointments, benefits such as Universal Credit, and apply for jobs or take part in virtual interviews or training. 

With 20GB of free O2 mobile data, someone could: 

  • browse for around 220 hours 
  • send around 320,000 emails without attachments or around 6,000 emails with attachments 
  • download around 340 songs 
  • watch around 800 minutes of TV 

The data pledge extends Virgin Media O2’s original¹ commitment to the National Databank to more than 61 million GB of data being donated to the initiative by the end of 2025, which forms part of the company’s overall ambition to upgrade the UK with connectivity.  

Brits keep a close eye on their data usage   

It comes as Virgin Media O2’s new research found, if running low on money, almost 9 in 10 of Brits would be forced to give up the internet, over other utilities including food, electricity, and water. 

Meanwhile, more than two thirds of low-income Brits – those earning less than £25,000 per year – will avoid using data-hungry apps or websites – like streaming sites, to stop their data running out, and almost half say they’ve been forced to set a timer to limit their mobile data usage.  

Tackling data poverty    

The research coincides with the first anniversary of the National Databank launched by Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation in July 2021 to tackle data poverty, with around ²two million households across the UK at risk of digital exclusion.  

Since the launch of the National Databank, more than 50,000 SIM cards have been given to community organisations, and more than 10,000 O2 voucher codes have been issued. 

Kay, who has benefited from free mobile data from the National Databank, said: 

“I need data to live – I need it to speak to my kids. It keeps me sane. I need it to work – without it I couldn’t manage my job. Knowing that this monthly expense is taken care of is such a huge weight off my shoulders”. 

Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive of Good Things Foundation, adds:  

“Having enough data in our increasingly digital society is not just a nice to have, it’s an absolute essential. 

“There are 2 million households struggling to afford internet access in the UK today, and 10 million adults lack the most basic digital skills. 

“The National Databank – which can be thought of as a ‘food bank for data’ – is already doing great work to bridge the digital divide. 

“We’re very proud to be working together with our National Databank founding partners, Virgin Media O2 – which is now upping its data pledge to give an extra 15 million GB of free data to the databank. 

“Together, we can help address the issue of data poverty in the UK once and for all.” 

Lutz Schüler, CEO of Virgin Media O2, said:  

“As the proud founder of the UK’s National Databank, we know how important it is for people most affected by the rise in the cost of living to have access to free mobile data so they can get online and stay in touch with loved ones, and access essential services, from virtual medical appointments, to job interviews and training.  

“That’s why Virgin Media O2 is providing extra help for people in need by donating even more free data to the Good Things Foundation and the National Databank to ensure people can stay connected during the difficult months ahead. 

“It’s part of our mission to upgrade the UK where we want to end data poverty for good and create a better, more connected country for everyone.”