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O2 and Virgin Media Planning to Merge

Coming together to create a mobile and broadband giant

Mobile operator O2 and broadband provider Virgin Media are planning to merge to create one of the UK’s largest telecom companies, both parties have announced.

Liberty Global who owns Virgin Media, and Telefonica, the owners of O2, will bring together O2’s 34 million mobile phone customers and Virgin’s 5.3 million broadband, pay TV and mobile customers.

This will create a huge telecommunications business, giving both parties and their customers access to new products and services.

If you’re a customer of either brand, nothing is going to change just yet. Before they can proceed with the merger, the plans have to be approved by all the necessary organisations and regulatory bodies.  O2 and Three tried to merge back in 2016 and that was rejected as it would have reduce the number of mobile operators in the UK to just three companies.

It’s likely any approval for the deal won’t be confirmed until the middle of 2021 as there’s plenty of work to be done behind the scenes first.

O2, which also powers the mobile networks for GiffGaff, Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile, is the UK’s largest mobile phone company.

O2 mobile store sign
The merger, subject to approval, is expected to complete in 2021

What does the merger mean for customers?

We don’t yet know if both brand names will be kept or whether they’ll come up with a brand new name entirely (remember when T-Mobile and Orange became EE?).

With the merger not set to happen until some time in 2021, there won’t be any immediate changes for customers or the brands. The heads of both businesses have said though that it will speed up the rollout of 5G and high speed broadband across the UK.

It also means both O2 and Virgin Media will be in a better position to compete with the likes of BT and Sky, in being able to offer a full suite of mobile, broadband and television services.

It may mean that Virgin Media customers start getting access to perks like O2 Priority, but nothing will be confirmed until after the merger is completed.

While Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete, chief executive officer of O2 owner Telefónica, added: “Combining O2’s number one mobile business with Virgin Media’s superfast broadband network and entertainment services will be a game-changer in the UK, at a time when demand for connectivity has never been greater or more critical.”

Vodafone were due to take over the running of Virgin Media’s MVNO mobile network later on this year but it’s not confirmed yet if this will still go ahead following this potential tie-up with O2.

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