Virgin Media O2 upgrades rural high streets as Brits shop local this Christmas

Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
21 December 2023

More than half of British shoppers say they’re planning to support their rural high streets this Christmas – and Virgin Media O2 is bringing an early Christmas present with upgrades to its 4G network across more than 55,000 rural postcodes.

Upgrades are helping tackle some of the everyday connectivity headaches that small businesses face, including reliably taking card and online payments, meaning businesses can make the most of the Christmas shopping period.

Boost for rural businesses

New research commissioned by Virgin Media O2 shows that 52% of Brits plan to shop with a rural small business this Christmas – with more than half saying that they want to support the local economy, and two-thirds saying they choose small businesses because they offer unique products.


However, the digital divide between urban and rural areas continues to hinder the rural economy with the research finding that shoppers in rural areas have been unable to buy from small businesses due to connectivity challenges. Common issues include being unable to make card or contactless payments, find a business online, and a lack of online purchase options.

To help support rural communities in the key trading period running up to Christmas, Virgin Media O2 has made a host of significant 4G and 5G network upgrades to rural postcodes across the UK. Over the past year, the operator has deployed high-speed 5G network to more than 30,000 rural areas and has also improved its 4G network to boost capacity in more than 34,245 postcodes across the countryside.

Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2 said: “Small businesses are the cornerstone of the UK economy and are vitally important to rural communities. Our Great Rural Revival report demonstrates the transformational power improved connectivity could have for these rural small businesses. This is why we are committed to enhancing connectivity in these areas.

“To ensure the future of rural small businesses, we must establish greater collaboration with industry partners, the UK government, planning authorities and landowners to deliver the network upgrades that underpin reliable and fast connectivity for rural communities.”

Visit Virgin Media O2 to find out more.