Cost of living crisis

The UK’s Mobile Network Operators, BT / EE, Three, Virgin Media O2, and Vodafone,  presently offer a range of support options to vulnerable customers to help with rising costs and bills, and to ensure they stay connected. Improving digital skills, ensuring online safety, and reducing data poverty are all pledges the UK’s mobile industry is committed.

All operators have proactively put in place measures to support people in vulnerable situations. Mobile UK has pulled together a number of these initiatives and support solutions below:

The above infographic can be downloaded here.

Connectivity Goals

  • BT Group (BT/EE) is supporting more than one million customers with its social tariffs and tackling digital exclusion through connectivity - expanding its mobile network across urban and rural areas to deliver 5G anywhere on demand by 2028. Its 4G network already covers 99% of the population with the aim to reach 90% of the UK’s geographic landmass by the mid-2020s.
  • Three aims to set up one million new digital connections to Samaritans vital support services by 2024.
  • Virgin Media O2 is committing to connect one million digitally excluded people through free and affordable connectivity and services.
  • Vodafone’s everyone.connected programme has already provided free connectivity to 1 million people and will help a total of four million people cross the digital divide by 2025.

Data Poverty

  • With a wide range of low cost mobile options and donations in place from other operators, BT / EE has focused its efforts on broadband, with an industry leading social tariff broadband for £15pm for 36Mbps foranyone on universal credit.
  • BT Group (BT/EE) is keeping more than one million of the most vulnerable customers connected across the UK while freezing prices for more than three million. Its initiatives include:
  • BT Home Essentials which is saving customers up to £240 per year. Accounting for more than 80% of all social tariff users, Home Essentials provides vulnerable customers with average download speeds of 36 Mbps and 700 mins of calls for £15 a month. Eligible customers (including those from EE and Plusnet) who are struggling financially can access Home Essentials for free at any point in their contract.
  • BT/EE is working with Home-Start to provide support to some of the UK’s most vulnerable families and disadvantaged children, offering 2,500 households free devices and data connectivity on BT Home Essentials.
  • EE Mobile Basics provides all customers on specific state benefits access to low-cost SIM only mobile plans. Existing SIM only customers can move to EE Mobile Basics free of charge and get 5GB of data, unlimited texts and calls for £12 per month on a 30-day rolling contract. 
  • EE’s Stay Connected data plans enable customers to stay online even when their monthly data allowance has run out. This ensures they can stay connected to WhatsApp, Maps, and their family and friends when they need it most.
  • Three UK's Reconnected scheme enables customers to donate old phones which are repackaged with six month unlimited data, texts and calls are and provided to individuals seeking employment, are disadvantaged students or are vulnerable people facing digital exclusion.
  • Three UK has added seven financial advice and guidance websites to its list of zero-rated websites that customers can access without using data (StepChange, Business Debtline, National Debtline, Citizens Advice, Money Advice Plus, Money and Pensions Service and Money Helper)
  • Three UK and Virgin Media O2 have expanded their list of zero-rated websites allowing customers access without using their data. Sites include: National Debtline, Business Debtline, Turn2us, Debt Advice Foundation and National Energy Action.
  • The Community Calling scheme by Virgin Media O2 has donated 14,018 devices and £1m of data in the last two years. It has also provided £400,000 to five charities to run a pioneering device lending scheme, providing tablets and data to people who need them.
  • Virgin Media O2 is supporting the Greggs Hardship Fund providing O2 SIM cards and free data via the National Databank to families across the UK. It also partners with Big Issue providing over 200 of the magazine’s vendors with free data plans every month.
  • Virgin Media O2 provides over 9 million benefit claimants access to its social tariffs, Essential Broadband and Essential Broadband Plus. The latter also comes with an optional dedicated entertainment package.
  • Vodafone is working with partners including Trussell Trust and Barnardos, and small charities across the UK, to provide free connectivity to those facing digital exclusion. Search everyone connected.
  • Vodafone has also donated 48 million GB of data to Good Things Foundation National Databank; and its Great British Tech Appeal has provided devices and connectivity to more than 10,000 young people.
  • Vodafone offers the UK’s most affordable social broadband tariff and VOXI For Now social mobile tariff.
  • Vodafone offers the UK’s most affordable social broadband tariff and VOXI For Now social mobile tariff.

National Databank

  • The UK National Databank helps thousands of vulnerable people in communities across the UK to get connected. The databank has been built with support from Virgin Media O2 and with data donated by Virgin Media O2, Vodafone and Three. • There are now 1,000 National Databank Hubs across the UK. People in need can access free O2 SIM cards and vouchers with 20GB of O2 data – enough for around 220 hours of internet browsing – for up to a year.
  • Since launch, Virgin Media O2 has provided more than 70,000 free O2 SIM cards and 50,000 free O2 data vouchers. Virgin Media O2 has also committed more than 61 million GB of free O2 data to the initiative by the end of 2025.
  • Three has pledged to donate one million gigabytes (GB) of data which will help an estimated 40,000 people to get connected. Read more here.

Digital Skills

  • BT/EE’s Skills for Tomorrow programme is on track to help 25 million people across the UK with the provision of essential digital skills by March 2026.
  • The Three Discovery program aims to impact 250,000 people in 2022 to get the most from their connectivity.
  • Virgin Media O2 Business launched the ‘Connect More’ initiative where its employees can use their volunteering days to provide free digital skills training at drop-in sessions run by local authorities, supporting those at risk of digital exclusion.
  • Vodafone is helping Good Things Foundation’s National Digital Inclusion Network expand to over 5,000 organisations to support digitally excluded people across the UK. And it is providing free online training courses, mentoring and digital skills workshops to 800,000 small and medium businesses by 2025. Hi Digital, developed by Vodafone UK Foundation, is helping older people develop digital skills, save money and feel more connected.

Community Help

  • All our member operators offer paid volunteering leave ranging from three to five days so that staff can help vulnerable people in their communities.
  • BT/EE is supporting Home-Start, a charity that provides support to some of the UK’s most vulnerable families and disadvantaged children.
  • BT/EE is the only telco operator to have partnered with Money Advisor Network to provide referrals to independent, free, debt advice. The partnership has already supported more than 3,000 vulnerable customers in the UK.
  • BT/EE has fully signed up to the Breathing Space initiative which pauses collections giving customers the time to recover from a financially vulnerable position with direct support from debt charities.
  • Three Discovery provides workshops which seekto empower people of all ages and abilities to learn digital skills.
  • Virgin Media O2’s sector leading ‘Take Five’ initiative allows its employees to take up to five days a year to volunteer for a charity of their choice.

Online Safety

  • BT / EE's PhoneSmart Licence is an online skills module which helps prepare young phone users for life as digital citzens. BT/EE also offers a Set Up Safe free SMS service to help parents quickly and easily set up their child's phone with safety features.
  • Hope United – powered by BT / EE and a team of top footballers, including Rio Ferdinand and Karen Carney, seeks to provide customers with the digital skills to combat hate and change attitudes to reduce hateful content.
  • Through it Three Discovery programme, Three delivers free safety workshops to schools, parents and teachers.
  • Virgin Media O2 supports families to be safer online with via its Internet Matters initiative.
  • Vodafone provides its Digital Parenting Magazine, a free resource for parents, grandparents and carers to help families navigate the online world.
  • Vodafone's Smart Living Hub is full of advice to help make the most of connected tech in a safe, smart, and fun way. This includes 10+ years of Digital Parenting content to help families navigate the ever-changing online world. Most recently, it has launched Digital Parenting Pro - a free resource to help families better understand parental controls on the latest apps, games and devices.

Shared Rural Network

  • Developed by the UK’s four mobile operators and Government, the Shared Rural Network will deliver reliable 4G mobile broadband coverage to 95% of the UK. This will extend mobile coverage to an additional 280,000 premises and on an additional 16,000km of the UK’s roads, boosting productivity and investment in rural areas. Read more here.

Further Information

Further information about actions taken by Mobile Network Operators can be found below:



Virgin Media O2


Information and Support

If you need support or are struggling with your finances please contact your mobile network operator directly. Further information on support and assistance can be found below: