Rivals BT and Virgin Media team up to defend UK digital investment

Their first joint ad campaign aims to silence Openreach critics who believe the UK’s digital infrastructure is falling behind.

A “shared concern” over Britain’s digital infrastructure has led rivals BT and Virgin Media to collaborate on their first ever joint ad campaign. The move aims to make people aware of their combined investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure.

The ad, which has been funded and designed by AMV BBDO, rails against Openreach critics, and will be pushed out through print ads in national newspapers and across the country from today (19 September). It aims to show that despite concerns over Brexit, Britain’s internet is not broken and that money is still being invested into digital infrastructure.

The providers will work with the Government, regulators and policy makers, as it believes that public policy and planning should change to support investment.

The collaboration follows criticism of BT’s network division, Openreach, from Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk, all of which compete with BT but rely on the network. The critics have all highlighted the risks of falling behind in the race to build faster networks. Vodafone’s head of regulatory affairs told the Financial Times that Openreach needs to be more ambitious, with much of its criticism being based on its reluctance to abandon old copper lines and in doing so not keeping up with other countries.

Virgin Media will also benefit from the collaboration as the only broadband operator not to rely on BT’s Openreach.

“We have seen some inaccurate claims that Britain’s internet is ‘broken’ and that not enough money is being invested into digital infrastructure – so we wanted people to have the facts. We have outlined ambitious plans to invest £6 billion into our fixed and mobile networks over the next three years,” says a spokesperson for BT.

The ad says broadband is “One game where we [the UK] regularly beat Germany, France, Italy and Spain” and highlights that BT and Virgin Media have invested more than £15bn in the UK’s digital infrastructure in the last five years.

“BT and Virgin Media may be commercial rivals but we both have a proud track record of investing billions of pounds in the UK’s digital infrastructure.”

Gavin Patterson, chief executive, BT

In response to critics Patterson says “It is important, post-Brexit, that we don’t talk the country down and that the right climate exists for further investment.”