Ahead of Connected Britain, Total Telecom spoke with Virgin Media O2’s Jo Bertram.
Please tell us a little about yourself and your current role at Virgin Media O2.
I’m Jo Bertram and I’m Virgin Media O2’s Managing Director, Business and Wholesale. I’m responsible for providing services to our large enterprise, public sector, and small business customers, as well as our wholesale and MVNO partners.
Who or what inspired you to begin a career in telecoms?
I joined O2 (and the telecoms industry) back in April 2018, and what really attracted me was O2’s customer-first approach. The focus on delivering real outcomes – for individuals, for organisations and for society as a whole – is what drives me.
Another thing I love about working in telecoms is the role that connectivity plays in keeping the country going. We’ve seen it in the last 18 months more than ever: from logging on when we were locked down to our work supporting the vaccine rollout. Connectivity has proven it’s a vital part of the UK’s infrastructure.
What does the term Connected Britain mean to you?
If we’re truly going to build back better, we need seamless, reliable and widespread connectivity – fixed and mobile. We’re already seeing it in the growth of hybrid working, the development of smarter cities, or giving people access to essential services and support.
For me, a connected Britain is one that does things better than we did before. One that uses tech for good: to improve experiences, to make things easier for our communities and to deliver real benefits to businesses.
A connected Britain is also a decarbonised Britain. Connectivity is a great enabler in the race to net zero – and it will help us boost efficiencies, cut carbon and build a greener future.
What do you think are the biggest barriers when it comes to making the UK more digital?
For businesses, the challenge is always showcasing the measurable benefits of technology – focusing on results and problem solving (and not tech for tech’s sake). It’s one of the reasons Virgin Media O2 Business is taking such a pragmatic approach to 5G: working closely with companies of all sizes to test use cases and showcase what 5G can really do for businesses and public sector organisations.
For communities, it’s about making sure everyone has access to the increasingly digital world. With more than seven million people across the UK unable to access mobile data or broadband at home, tackling data poverty is critical. It’s why we’ve teamed up with leading digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation to launch the National Databank – a “food bank for data” for those in need – donating 7.5 million GB of O2 mobile data to help over 200,000 people get connected by the end of 2023.
From your perspective, what is the next big milestone for the UK telecoms industry and when do you hope to see it achieved?
The industry has a huge role to play in helping the UK rebuild in the months and years to come. I’d like to see us do this in a way that creates a strong, resilient and sustainable digital economy. And sustainability is the key milestone for me. At Virgin Media O2, we have a goal to achieve net zero carbon operations (scopes 1 and 2) by the end of 2025. As pressure mounts for businesses to join the fight against climate change and go further and faster towards net zero, the telco industry must lead the way.
Jo will be joining a panel on "Digital Britain: Capitalising on the UK’s 5G leadership" at Connected Britain 2021, taking place on 21st and 22nd September. To find out how you can join, head to the event website.