Virgin Media O2 Business & British Sugar open mobile network

Bringing AI and automation into the British Sugar production line, Virgin Media O2 Business & strategic partner Nokia are modernising manufacturing

Virgin Media O2 Business and British Sugar have turned on a new private mobile network, which will provide secure 4G connectivity, for all of British Sugar’s manufacturing facilities, as part of a ‘factories of the future’ modernisation plan.

Virgin Media and O2 merged in 2021 and are together one of the largest entertainment and telecommunications operators in the UK. 

British Sugar was founded in Cambridgeshire, England in 1912 and is a leading supplier for food and beverage businesses, across the UK and Ireland. 

Introducing AI and automation in production lines

The private network is part of a smart upgrade for British Sugar’s factories, through a seven-year partnership with Virgin Media O2 Business – with Nokia stepping in as a strategic partner. 

The custom-built O2 4G network is built to give British Sugar connectivity that is:

  • Reliable
  • Speedy 
  • Secure 

The network will connect many IoT devices, allowing British Sugar to be able to: 

  • Modernise its production process
  • Introduce AI 
  • Automate production lines

This plan will increase productivity and improve health and safety across sites.

British Sugar will build four ‘factory of the future’ sites, using automation for the sugar manufacturing process and AI to monitor operations in real time. This will allow British Sugar to predict maintenance problems before they happen, which in turn will decrease disruption, minimise waste and create cost and energy savings. 

Using AI technology to modernise manufacturing 

This work will help British Sugar progress in its ‘Factories of the Future’ project, using the latest technology to ensure that its sites are operating as efficiently as possible.

“We have been very pleased to work with Virgin Media O2 Business to install and launch our private mobile networks – the first of which is now live at our Wissington site,” said Paul Hitchcock, Head of Factory Organisation at British Sugar.

Announcing the switch-on of the first multi-site private mobile network is a huge milestone for Virgin Media O2 Business. 

“Private networks like these are a big part of building the connected factories of the future, so British manufacturing can keep pace with the rest of the world,” said Jo Bertram, Managing Director, at Virgin Media O2 Business. “By continuing to invest in smart tech, connectivity and innovation – and with a 5G upgrade in the plans –  British Sugar is blazing a trail for the industry. We couldn’t be prouder to be their trusted partner.”

“By working in partnership with Virgin Media O2 Business, we’re enabling industry leaders such as British Sugar to innovate and modernise its processes by leveraging the capabilities of private mobile networks across multiple factory sites,” said Chris Johnson, Head, Global Enterprise Business at Nokia. “Our secure, low-latency, high-capacity and extensible Nokia DAC solution combined with Virgin Media O2 Business’ managed services expertise creates the best platform for manufacturers to start their digital transformation journey, implement new innovative use cases and seamlessly upgrade to 5G as and when required dictated by business need, whether alongside 4G or replacing it – ultimately allowing these businesses to reap the benefits of Industry 4.0 early and for years to come.”

“During testing we were encouraged by the early results seen and as we have begun to roll out the targeted priority use cases to our users, they have been quick to feedback the time savings they have seen - with new plant commissioning, plant testing and day-to-day diagnostic processes being highlighted in particular,” said Nick Smalley, Programme Manager at British Sugar.


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