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, which operates BT and EE as an integrated consumer facing business already have nearly one million customers on social or discounted tariffs. BT/ EE are committed to finding sustainable ways to make access to the internet a level playing field for all.
  • Three aims to set up one million new digital connections to Samaritans vital support services by 2024.
  • Virgin Media O2 is committing to eradicate data poverty by connecting one million digitally excluded people by the end of 2025.
  • Vodafone is committed to connecting one million people in digital poverty by the end of 2022.

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.
  • Three'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.
  • Virgin Media O2 supporting the Greggs Hardship Fund to get 255,000 people connected by the end of 2023.
  • The Community Calling scheme by Virgin Media O2 has donated 10,000 phones and £1m of data in the last two years
  • Virgin Media O2 is offering 20GB of free O2 mobile data per month via the National Databank. In addition, the company is increasing its data donation as it pledges to gift more than 61 million GB of free data by the end of 2025.
  • Virgin Media O2 has also expanded its list of services that can be access without eating into mbile data allowances. Customers of both O2 and Virgin Mobile will be able to access the National Debtline, Business Debtline, Turn2us, Debt Advice Foundation and National Energy Action without using any of their mobile data. They join existing zero-rated websites such as Citizens Advice, Money Advice Service and debt charity, Step Change.
  • Vodafone, through its charities.connected, Great British Tech Appeal and Vodafone Together programmes has partnered with the Trussell Trust and Barnardos to provide free connectivity to those that require support.
  • Vodafone has further pledged 24 million GB of data to the National Databank to connect 200,000 people. Vodafone also operates the Buy One Get One initiative via Vodafone Together alsoto offer free connectivity for up to a year via a prepaid 20GB sim.

National Databank

  • Mobile operators Three, Virgin Media O2 and Vodafone have joined the UK National Databank, run by digital inclusion charity the Good Things Foundation, to tackle issues of data poverty in the UK. One million gigabytes (GB) of data has been pledged which will help an estimated 40,000 people to get connected. Read more here.

Digital Skills

  • BT / EE Skills for Tomorrow has a target to help 25 million people by 2026 across the UK with the provision of essential digital skills
  • The Three Discovery program aims to impact 250,000 people in 2022 to get the most from their connectivity.
  • Virgin Media O2's Better Connections Plan is working to equip two million people with the skills and tools to help them feel more connected to our digital society by 2025.
  • Vodafone launched the Discover Digital programme with Barnardos last year to provide digital skills training to some of the most disadvantaged young people in the UK – those who are not in education, employment or training (NEET). They’ve also launched business.connected with Enterprise Nation to support over 100,000 small businesses in adopting technology, boosting digital skills and staying safe online.

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
  • Three Discovery provides workshops which seekto empower people of all ages and abilities to learn digital skills.

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

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:

BT / EE

Three

Virgin Media O2

Vodafone

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: