Viewpoint | 13 Mar 2020

Keeping the UK connected

How Vodafone UK is keeping the UK connected during the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). By Nick Jeffery, CEO, Vodafone UK.

These are difficult and worrying times due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), so I wanted to let you know what Vodafone is doing to keep the UK connected.

We’re working hard to support all our customers, whether that’s other providers of critical national infrastructure, government departments, businesses both big and small, and our many mobile and broadband customers.

Our technology and ability to move fast mean we can play an instrumental role in this crisis. We can offer all the connectivity tools and services people need to continue communicating and doing business, from broadband to superfast 5G connectivity, videoconferencing to cloud hosting, virtual private networks to internet telephony.

Our networks are robust – we’ve invested billions improving them over the last five years – and we have a 35-year pedigree as a technology communications leader.

Here’s a run-down of some of the measures we’re taking.

Access to health information

People understandably want quick and easy access to the latest health information. So today, we are enabling all mobile customers to access NHS UK online websites (including NHS England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) for free, without it affecting their data allowances.

Many of our customers can already take advantage of unlimited data with our Pay Monthly plans, but we want all our customers to have free access to these NHS online services. This will apply to our VOXI and Talk Mobile customers, too.

And it’s worth remembering that phone calls to the NHS 111 hotline are already free to use across all providers.

Protecting our customers

We know we have a responsibility to you, our customers, so we took steps earlier this week to protect critical operations and staff, to ensure we can continue to deliver our services to you.

We’ve added extra capacity to the core fixed, broadband and mobile networks to cope with the extra demand as more people work from home. This minimises congestion at particularly busy aggregation points. And we know we can cope well with big spikes in data usage after the live streaming of football over the Christmas period generated record levels of internet traffic.

We’ve significantly increased the level of care we offer for all critical infrastructure customers, such as NHS 111 telephone and online services, police forces, local authorities and key government departments.

And we’ve established dedicated business and tech teams to provide additional fixed and mobile network capacity quickly to critical organisations when required. We also recognise what an impact this is having on our business customers big and small, so we’ve set up dedicated teams to support them, too.

Protecting our people

Of course, our people are central to everything we do and we will continue to make their safety our priority.

Earlier this week we took steps to allow staff to work from home more frequently. This is especially relevant to employees with underlying health issues, or those living with people who have health issues.

[UPDATE 19/03/20: Following new Government guidelines most of our staff are now working from home.]

We also asked all employees to stop travel between Vodafone sites and to conduct external meetings remotely using our teleworking technologies. This was to reduce the risk of contagion between different parts of the country should we see clusters of the virus, as in Italy.

And all our employees will be eligible for Company Sick Pay during these challenging times and have full access to wellbeing Employee Assistance services.

In short, we at Vodafone are doing everything in our power to help our nation through this health crisis because it is our job to keep the UK connected.