Virgin Media O2 opens more National Databanks this Christmas

An O2 employee giving a customer a free National Databank SIM card
Virgin Media O2
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
30 November 2023

New research by Virgin Media O2 has revealed that almost two-thirds of the British public think that this winter and Christmas will be tougher financially than last year.

In response, the network provider is helping more people to access mobile data this Christmas, rolling out the National Databank to all O2-owned stores and two major homelessness charities across the UK – as well as increasing the amount of data available to help those who need it to get online and stay connected to loved ones.

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

Virgin Media O2’s research also found that more than half of people are uncertain or worried about their finances over the next 12 months. In addition, more than 8 in 10 people on household incomes less than £17,000 said that they are considering going without mobile data in order to afford other bills.

The National Databank, created by Virgin Media O2 and the UK’s leading digital inclusion charity, Good Things Foundation, is like a foodbank for data. It provides free O2 mobile data, texts and calls to people who would otherwise struggle to stay connected. Virgin Media O2 has committed more than 61 million GB of O2 data to the initiative by the end of 2025.

More than 240 O2 stores across the UK will become National Databank Inclusion Hubs from 7 December. They will provide free O2 data to anyone experiencing data poverty, regardless of their mobile provider. This follows a successful pilot of the National Databank in 10 O2 stores last Christmas.

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

Virgin Media O2 has also boosted the amount of free data available via National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs to 25GB per month for six months – enough for around 175 hours of internet browsing each month.

“To help people most affected by the cost-of-living crisis, we’re opening the doors to more National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs than ever before and making it easier for people to get connected,” Rob Orr, Chief Operations Officer at Virgin Media O2, said.

"With O2 stores becoming Databanks, and Virgin Media O2 boosting free O2 mobile data to 25GB per month, there are more places for people in need to get help so they can get online, access essential services, and keep in touch with loved ones this Christmas and beyond.”

Data and devices for people experiencing homelessness

Virgin Media O2 and Good Things Foundation are also supporting people experiencing and at risk of homeless by expanding the National Databank to charities Crisis and Change Please.

As well as offering free O2 data, texts and calls via the National Databank, both charities will provide free second-hand smartphones to their guests via the Community Calling programme – run by Virgin Media O2 and environmental charity Hubbub.

Crisis will offer the scheme via its nine Skylight Centres across Great Britain – with all centres also being offered free WiFi from Virgin Media O2. Change Please will take the National Databank on the road via its Driving for Change buses that stop in deprived communities across London and provide hygiene and dental care.

Kieran O’Brien was homeless before he was supported by Driving for Change, and has shared the importance of having free mobile data. He said: “When you’re homeless, having access to mobile data and the internet is so important. Often, I didn’t have credit and I’d receive messages from my family and I couldn’t send them a message back, which meant they’d worry about me. It would have made such a difference if I could have called my family and said ‘I love you’ or asked ‘how’s school?’.

“If I would have had mobile data, texts and calls from the National Databank, I would have got out of homelessness much quicker, there would have been more services I could have accessed and there would have been more things I have could done.”

With O2 stores, Crisis and Change Please – Driving for Change becoming National Databank Digital Inclusion Hubs, the National Databank will be available at more than 1,600 locations across the UK. People can visit Good Things Foundation to find their nearest Hub.