Monday 29 June 2020 4:37 pm

O2 to extend 4G coverage in 400 UK tourist hotspots ahead of staycation summer

O2 is set to expand its 4G coverage to 91,000 new postcodes this year, including almost 400 of the UK’s biggest tourist hotspots, as the UK prepares for a summer of “staycations” following the coronavirus crisis.

The telecoms firm today said it will work to eradicate rural coverage “not-spots” across the UK as the country prepares for a “staycation boom” this summer, as hotels, B&Bs, hostels and campsites are set to reopen on Saturday following months of lockdown.

The UK’s largest mobile network said it will boost its current 4G coverage, which includes 18,000 regional towns, hamlets and villages, to ensure “less network congestion, improved social media experience and less video stalling”.

O2 reported a 25 increase in phone calls at the start of the pandemic, with people spending around 30 per cent longer on the phone, as Brits were forced to turn to their screens to keep in touch with friends and family during lockdown.

The network’s new 4G destinations will include popular tourist sites such as the ruins of St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury, Shieldaig Island in the Scottish Highlands, and the Jewry Wall ruins in Leicester.

O2 also announced that more than 300 destinations have welcomed ground-level outdoor 5G coverage for the first time, bringing high-speed connectivity to tourists at major national landmarks.

Brendan O’Reilly, chief technology officer at O2, said: “With the government signalling a return of tourism in the coming days and weeks, we want to make it easy for people to enjoy summer safely, all with the knowledge that they can venture to pockets of the countryside and still keep in touch with friends and family.”

UK holiday bookings have surged in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech last week announcing the return of overnight stays.

Luxury lodge specialist Hoseasons said it had a booking every 11 seconds following the announcement, while sister site cottages.com has seen a 455 per cent jump in rentals in the past week. 

Read more: What pubs, cinemas and hairdressers will look like under new lockdown rules

Johnson has heralded the summer of the UK holiday, telling the public: “Now is the time to send out a welcoming signal to those from other parts of our country [and] to roll out the welcome mat… I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend staycations.”

The £130 billion-a-year domestic tourism industry has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, with 80 per cent of the hospitality industry currently furloughed as hotels, pubs and campsites remained shuttered across the country.

Johnson this morning said he will press the button on unprecedented government spending, as the UK seeks to mitigate the impact of coronavirus, which the PM said has been a “disaster” for the country.

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