Home / News / Peripheral News / O2 Unveils £500m, 1500 Site Network Expansion

O2 Unveils £500m, 1500 Site Network Expansion

Gordon Kelly


UPDATED: O2 Unveils £500m, 1500 Site Network Expansion

It would be nice to believe our feature, The Truth About Mobile Broadband, had something to do with this, but in reality we're just glad to see a network doing the right thing...

Today O2 has announced it will be adding significant capacity to its network throughout 2010 with the addition of 1500 new sites at a cost of £500m. The enlargement will also see existing network sites upgraded with 40 additional sites live in London alone by Christmas and a further 200 to follow next year.

"In the past 12 months the mobile industry has seen an unprecedented change in demand," said O2 chief technology offer Derek McManus. "The introduction of world-class devices, in combination with a wide variety of data applications, has brought about a dramatic change in customer behaviour and created an exponential demand on mobile data networks. To put this in context, watching a YouTube video on a smartphone can use the same capacity on the network as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously. We are now aggressively accelerating our network growth programme to ensure we have significant headroom for the future and retain our focus on being number one for customer satisfaction."

This is extremely good news for O2 customers given the telco has come in for unprecedented customer criticism this year with data network collapses and Ofcom 3G coverage criticism just two examples. Last month O2 also confirmed it has started trialling LTE (Long Term Evolution) also known as 'Super 3G'. This will expand cell tower capacity from 3.6/7.2Mbit/sec to 140-160Mbit/sec in its first iteration.

Maybe, just maybe, the message is starting to get through...

Update: Thanks to xenos for an extremely astute comment which points out the O2 quote shows how overpriced text messages are. We're actually going to chase O2 for a response about this. Stay tuned!

Update 2: Here's that O2 response:

"Our comparison was designed to illustrate the network capacity required for a YouTube video, as an example. We were not comparing like for like in terms of costs. There is a minimum cost associated with each individual network connection - i.e. a phone call, text message, web page. The idea was to show the growing network capacity required, which has led to the investment announced today."

In all fairness O2 has a point here: multiple connections and individual user costs are different to that of a single connection. That said, I don't think anyone would deny SMS messaging is greatly overpriced. Will this change following the 2010 network upgrade and roll-out? If your reaction is anything to go by, it will need to...




November 18, 2009, 5:51 pm

Aren't O2 and Vodafone combining/sharing networks in the UK? http://www.mobiletoday.co.uk/m...

How can O2 make this move unilaterally? Perhaps what they mean is that £500m has been invested in "Cornerstone"? It'd be good if you could find out more...

Tim Sutton

November 18, 2009, 6:00 pm


I don't suppose you have any information about where these new installations will be? I just tried a swift Google, but the only two relevant results were, well, both links to this article.

They can put a mast in my garden if they want. Hell, they can put one in my BEDROOM if it means Okehampton finally gets 21st century coverage.


November 18, 2009, 6:20 pm

This is probably mostly in response to loosing the iPhone exclusivity and worrying everyone will jump ship to a carrier with decent coverage when their contract expires.


November 18, 2009, 6:35 pm

I really hope this is true. This should have happened 2 years ago!


November 18, 2009, 6:42 pm

"To put this in context, watching a YouTube video on a smartphone can use the same capacity on the network as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously."

That looks like an admission at how horrendously overpriced text messages are to me..


November 18, 2009, 6:57 pm

"watching a YouTube video on a smartphone can use the same capacity on the network as sending 500,000 text messages simultaneously"

I'm sure he said this to demonstrate the load a YouTube video puts on the network, but to me it just demonstrates how little load SMS messages place on a network. Why aren't all SMS messages free, in this day and age?!?


November 18, 2009, 6:57 pm




November 18, 2009, 6:58 pm

@Ben - they are combining (http://www.trustedreviews.com/... but that doesn't mean either network will stop expanding their networks, they will simply share masts as and where beneficial. The big aim of this development is to improve capacity.

@HK - possibly, but it could also be good for O2 since the iPhone swamped its network.

@Steve & xenos - very true!


November 18, 2009, 6:59 pm

@ xenos - Nail. Head. Great observation!


November 18, 2009, 7:15 pm

So if you're on a plan that charges you 12p per text message and a YouTube video was charged at the same rate, that YouTube video would cost you £60,000 to download. Hmmm....


November 18, 2009, 7:23 pm

Yes, text messaging could be free. Hence why on most tariffs you get 100's to send a month (you even get 100's on PAYG now!). The networks are looking to make money from data & add-ons rather than SMS these days.


November 18, 2009, 7:54 pm

Technically, SMS doesn't cost the network anything as it's part of the GSM signalling rather than a specific service.

Prior to cross-network SMS towards the end of the 1990's SMS was free as the networks hadn't even figured out how to charge the customer so they couldn't.


November 18, 2009, 8:02 pm

at least we're still better off than America who get charged to RECEIVE SMS messages! Theoretically you an completely screw someone by sending hundreds of SMS a day to someone, not pay a penny and they would have a huge bill.

I'm VERY glad they have it the right way round in the UK, even if it is one of the most expensive countries in the EU for SMS prices. Seriously, should be 1p per message not 12p!


November 18, 2009, 8:23 pm

Guys, bear in mind a YouTube video is putting a constant strain on a tower. If enough people are watching videos it's effectively blocking the network's ability to carry 'normal' traffic; it's this that's causing O2 so many problems. Think of it like torrenting a video and streaming it at the same time; each interferes with the other and the end result is that neither functions ideally.


November 18, 2009, 8:57 pm

I look forward to seeing them squirm Gordon. No doubt they will talk about how its funding their new (and extremely overdue) network upgrades to provide a 'World class' service or some other vague and tacky response.

A bit of a fopar for the 'Chief Technology Officer' to make though.

The truth is there is no justification for the price of text messages to be as high as they are, I think regulation should be used if they don't start the ball rolling themselves soon..


November 18, 2009, 8:57 pm

mighty O2 has milked enough money to invest in infrastructure in order to milk more money...


November 18, 2009, 9:28 pm

Text messages are so expensive because network operators use the same tactics as our government, "Death by a thousand cuts" anyone?


November 18, 2009, 9:56 pm

I think texts should be free, and voice and data too. Oh then there would be no income to pay for the network....

Paying for texts is just part of a business model. If you pay enough on your contract you don't pay for them individually.


November 18, 2009, 9:57 pm

ONE video stream = HALF A MILLION texts. (According to o2)

I don't think they have realised the enormity of their Chief Technical Officer's blunder..

In terms of money, o2 can either milk it in with £60,000 worth of texts or let you have a 5mb Youtube video as part of your web £7.50 bolt on with a 200MB monthly usage allowance. (Which o2 also makes a profit on don't forget!)

Now o2, please explain to me why it costs you several thousand times more to process the texts than it does stream a video, when the video infact puts a more detrimental type of load on the mast as Hugo pointed out..

I understand there are 'other costs' but they are also tiny. Otherwise you would point out what they were no doubt..

Somebody start a petition!


November 18, 2009, 11:52 pm

Long overdue.

I've tried reporting poor signal areas to them before. The standard line I get back is 'Oh it must be your phone'. Only problem with that excuse is I've had 4 phones that have the same problem at the same location in Stevenage. Roll on 2010.


November 19, 2009, 1:41 am

I just received a half broken text from o2 saying my iPhone has been unlocked, it was truly creepy, considering they couldn't even send a full text to tell me what ELSE I had to do to get other sims to work (no I was not bothered enough to connect it to Itunes and see).

If this is any indication of how things are going on at o2, I don't want to take any second chances with them. I've had enough of trying to receive my e-mail with GPRS on my iPhone 3G when pretty much all the other providers (even the rubbish T-Mobile) can give me an HSDPA signal with my mobile broadband dongles for my Eee PC.

Out of curiosity, I immediately popped in my Orange SIM after the iPhone was unlocked. o2 gave me 1-2 3G bars out on the balcony, 5 bars GPRS when inside. Orange/Vodafone? full strength 3G signal ANYWHERE.

Also, it would have been very good indeed if all other networks did such an excellent service checker like Orange, I would have at least known, truthfully, what service to expect.


November 19, 2009, 2:36 am

Wish they'd hurry up and send me my unlock text, seems everyone else is getting theirs! Sorry, O2, this investment is coming far too late - I'll be dumping you for a network that has been investing all along :)

Ben H

November 19, 2009, 3:40 am

Glad to hear this is coming. I'm routinely unable to get any 3G bandwith in central London even with a strong 3G signal showing (I'm not trying to stream video - simply to check e-mails). If you can't provide a reliable service in the centre of London, what hope the rest of the country!? I'm looking forward to action, not words.

Rajiv Dhir

November 19, 2009, 4:10 am

guys I suggest that you simply use the IM clients on that shiny new smartphone! then you won't need texts, I think I'm finally about to kill my text bolt-on as my last nephew has got an iPhone.


November 19, 2009, 5:03 am

2 points:

1. £500m for 240 new masts (are you sure that a single mast costs £2.1m, after all it's just a pole with a radio antenna and a broadband connection - How about using Be's network as a backhaul?!) doesn't seem like it will be enough to satiate demand - though at least it'll hopefully mean I can make a call in rush hour in Soho/Tottenham Court Road (yep, no chance these days) let alone check my email.

2. The one thing you forgot to mention in the mobile broadband article, and the one thing you should be asking Ofcom and the networks, is when will they simply offer an unmetered mobile broadband deal in the same vein as conventional broadband and pipe all services over IP, since MMS is already a web application and can take care of SMS as well, VoIP is biting at the bit pending a network to actually allow its usage and everything else to do with a network is IP based anyway.

comments powered by Disqus