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365 days of freedom: Virgin Media O2 reveals connectivity habits from a year with no restrictions

New insights released today by Virgin Media O2 reveal the consumer connectivity behaviours that shaped an unprecedented 2022 as the UK navigated a year of ‘new-normal’ and witnessed major, historic events from the death of Queen Elizabeth II to the Lionesses’ success in the summer.

As 2022 brought post-Covid freedoms, demand for data remained at record levels. Virgin Media O2 saw its biggest ever year for data use on both its broadband and mobile networks, as more people went online to chat, stream, share and game. In 2022, customers downloaded 9% more broadband data per day than the previous year, with mobile traffic up 36% year on year.

Following the analysis of connectivity trends for tens of millions of customers using anonymised and aggregated data from 1st January – 19th December 2022, Virgin Media O2 reveals connectivity habits from 2022.

Train troubles enforced home working

Train strikes kept people at home, with the biggest nationwide strike for over 30 years across June 21st, 23rd and 25th, resulting in a 72% reduction in City of London crowd volumes compared to the week prior, according to O2 Motion data. At the same time, broadband upload traffic peaked 5% week on week due to the corresponding increase of video calls on platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Download traffic levels were also up 10% – highlighting the nation’s dependence on broadband connectivity.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the new Thursdays

Across the year, Tuesday and Wednesday office days have grown in popularity, as workers settled into their new hybrid working patterns. Crowd movement data from O2 Motion across the year1 shows commuter numbers on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are equally high, beating Thursdays as the most popular days in the office.

The UK flocked to hotter climates

European travel from the UK reached almost pre-pandemic volumes over the summer, according to anonymised and aggregated O2 Motion data, with Spain continuing to top the list of most popular European destinations as average weekly roaming volumes nearly tripled compared to Summer 2021. Reintroduced European roaming charges could have cost UK travellers up to £8.9 million a week2 across some of the most popular summer destinations.

Virgin Media O2 remains the only major mobile network provider not to bring back EU roaming fees, saving the average family of four £100 or more for a two-week holiday3.

Gamers levelled-up on broadband data usage

Some lockdown habits have stuck, with online gaming continuing to drive record broadband traffic spikes in 2022. Call of Duty Warzone 2.0’s launch on 16th November saw the busiest day on record for gaming-related broadband data consumption. Close second was 14th December’s gaming releases for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 Season 1 (Raids) alongside The Witcher 3 Next Gen update, with the day narrowly missing out on the top spot by a mere 0.6Gbps.

We’re streaming for England (En-ger-land)

Football was responsible for the biggest O2 mobile data traffic spikes this year, with the lunchtime (1pm) England v Iran competition opener on 21st November driving record spikes in mobile data traffic ever recorded on O2’s network. Compared to England’s opening game against Tunisia in the 2018 competition, mobile data traffic was up 361%. The Lionesses lifting the Euros trophy saw a 49% increase in household reach on the match day 31st July compared to an average day as the nation cheered on the women to make history.

The 2022 finals of the Premier League and Champions League saw huge mobile data surges, with mobile network traffic 37% and 30% higher than their respective 2021 finals. Further, during the evening of 19th October, when Prime Video streamed five Premier League matches and the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II pre-download was released, Virgin Media’s broadband data consumption significantly spiked before peaking at 9:20pm when traffic was up 40% compared to an average weeknight in 2022.

‘Appy days

TikTok usage continued to grow throughout 2022, accounting for nearly 10% of all mobile app usage in November, while Snapchat and Instagram were responsible or only 2.5% and 1% respectively. Facebook remains the most popular mobile app overall, making up over a fifth (22%) of O2 customer app usage in November.

The data highs and lows of the year

  • Appreciation for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II – Over half of Virgin Media’s TV customers watched the Queen’s funeral, which also saw O2 mobile data traffic dip across the UK as 28 million people tuned in to watch, making it one of the country’s biggest ever TV events.
  • Celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee – the UK visited palaces and piers in their hundreds of thousands over the Jubilee Bank Holiday. O2 Motion data4 revealed Buckingham Palace as the most popular destination, with visitors peaking at 195,000. Newquay beach and Blackpool Pleasure beach saw visitors up 224% and 284% respectively, compared to the same time the previous week.

Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer, Virgin Media O2 said:
“Looking back on 2022, it’s clear that reliance on broadband and mobile connectivity is seeing traffic and data use grow more and more. This year, a number of major events that gripped the nation alongside huge gaming launches and the continuation of hybrid working, have all contributed to a record-breaking surge in customer traffic on our network and we see no sign of this changing.

“With 2023 on the horizon, whatever it brings, we’ll continue to invest heavily to keep the country connected, keep pace with demand and ensure we’re focused on customer experience and reliability.”


Lisa Baker is Group Editor for the Need to See IT Publishing Group. Lisa writes about HR, Technology, Health, the Environment and Business.
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