Leaving the vanity metrics behind and focusing on what matters: customer experience

By Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer

A recent report from mobile network benchmarking specialist GWS revealed that the UK’s major mobile operators are hitting the ‘sweet spot’, with consumers satisfied with their everyday mobile network speeds ranging between 1-5Mbps.

Even more importantly, the report found that speed is not a key driver for people to move networks, with poor signal and blackspots ranking much higher than speed as a reason to change. This poses the question – has the industry focused too much on vanity metrics like speed, much to the detriment of customers across the country? At Virgin Media O2, we are leaving the vanity metrics behind, listening to our customers, and focusing on becoming a true reliability champion. This means that the £2m a day that we are investing in our mobile network will all be focused on improving the customer experience where it matters most.

I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about some of our recent investments in our Mobile Network and what more we have to come.

Eliminating blackspots
We recently announced that we had hit a major milestone in the Shared Rural Network programme after upgrading or building 150 company-managed sites, providing residents, businesses, and visitors in rural communities with more reliable mobile coverage than ever before.

With so much of our modern life taking place online, rural communities deserve the same standard of mobile connectivity as those in urban areas, and we’re proud to be stepping up and playing our part. As outlined in the GWS report, blackspots are a significant driver when it comes to a poor customer experience, so we are doing all we can to eliminate them.

Optimising the inner-city experience However, it isn’t just in rural areas where we are improving our network. We are still seeing double digit increases year-on-year in data traffic levels, which means network congestion can be a key concern for our customers. Our ongoing performance improvement programme is addressing this by targeting our most populous towns and cities across the UK. The cities on our target list in 2024 account for over a third of the total UK population and over 40% share of our mobile data traffic.

A key part of our strategy in these urban areas is the use of small cell technology. Technologies such as small cells help us increase network bandwidth, which allows us to keep up with customer demand and provide a reliable experience.

Connecting commuters Last year we kicked off a programme aimed at improving the coverage along key motorways and rail routes. In 2023, we delivered significant upgrades along 800 miles of connecting routes, including major motorways such as the M25 and M1, as well as the Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads railway route.

We are continuing to build this further throughout 2024 and we have recently completed two major in-building upgrades at Fenchurch Street station and Manchester Piccadilly Station. These upgrades provide dedicated 4G and 5G coverage and will drastically improve the mobile experience of station users on the O2 network. We are the only operators to have a dedicated 5G inbuilding solution at any UK rail station and we are hoping to roll this out in more locations throughout the year.

Optimising Mobile Experience Through Automation
In our ongoing commitment to network performance, we are implementing advanced automation technologies across all layers of our mobile network. Through the deployment of self-organising network (SON) solutions, we are revolutionising our network operations and optimising performance through seamless traffic management in real-time. This strategic integration of automation not only enhances the reliability of our network but also elevates the overall customer experience to new heights.

Customer first, always All of this investment and innovation is focused on one thing: the customer. At Virgin Media O2, we’re not swayed by vanity metrics. Speed? It’s just one piece of the experience puzzle, not our guiding star. We’re diving deep into industry-leading metrics, getting up close and personal with the customer experience and prioritising changes that truly matter.

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