Ravenous VMO2 customers used 39 billion gigabytes of data in a year

One year to the day since the merger which created it, UK telco group Virgin Media O2 reveals what the 39 billion gigabytes of data its customers have gobbled up was used on.

The 39 billion gigabytes in question encompasses the group’s fixed and mobile networks, and the firm has released some other stats related to what it calls an ‘eyewatering’ amount of network data, voice traffic and TV usage it has handled over the past year.

116 billion minutes of mobile voice traffic was clocked over the period – which is apparently equivalent to a call lasting 220,000 years. A less reputable publication would no doubt make a gag how much of this is represented just by being on hold to customer services, but not us.

Fixed customers downloaded a total of 34 billion gigabytes of content, which is apparently up almost 5% from the 12 months prior and 16% from 2020 which broke records presumably due to covid lockdowns. Number crunchers at VMO2 state that this is equivalent to the average customer downloading 17.6 gigbytes of data every single day, or sending 564 emails, 11 hours of surfing the web, nine hours of streaming music, five hours of gaming and watching seven hours of HD TV.

Staggeringly, TikTok usage grew by 98% in the past 12 months and represented 6% of total traffic on O2’s core network. The firm also clocked 7 billion hours of live and on demand TV, and streaming on apps such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub.

It’s not a holistic representation of the UK, but what this does do is provide something of a snapshot of trends, and an indication of how much more data is being pulled each year, presumably compounded by fibre and 5G rollouts. At some point all this would logically plateau, but of course technology moves on and something else will always come along that eats more data, which is what advocates reckon will happen with the metaverse.

The release says: ‘In order to keep up with this ever-increasing customer demand, Virgin Media O2 has invested around £2bn in its network since June 2021,’ and this raises another point. It’s a particular aspect of the telco sector and parts of the wider digital economy that firms don’t necessarily make more money the more of their product is consumed, which in more traditional industries is usually a given. Telcos get paid the same whether you brutally abuse an unlimited 5G contract as they do if the phone is locked in a drawer for a year.

Subscription based services that surf the rising tides of connectivity, such as Netflix, don’t get paid per film either – but for the most part they don’t have to worry about the network infrastructure, which is a hugely expensive thing to be involved in. It’s not a point lost on many telcos either, as various attempts to try and get big tech to put some money into the pot reveal.



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