Is Virgin Media broadband any good?
We’ve all seen the adverts with a beaming Richard Branson flashing his millionaire’s grin, telling us that Virgin Media is the UK’s fastest ever broadband that's light-years ahead of the competition.
Is this just the usual advertising spin, or is Virgin's broadband really as good as the adverts make out? Just like every other broadband provider, Virgin Media broadband has its good points and its bad points.
Virgin broadband is officially the UK’s fastest broadband but speed isn’t everything. There are other points to weigh up before you buy and with that in mind, we’ve looked at all the good, the bad and the ugly to help you decide for yourself.
Pros and cons
You might be tempted to read reviews of Virgin Media broadband but reviews are often written by customers who’ve had a bad experience.
It’s human nature to write a negative and biased review after a bad experience such as a short-term outage, but that might not reflect that customer's overall experience. That’s why we haven’t included customer reviews here; we want to arm you with the facts so you can make up your own mind.
If you’d like to read reviews of Virgin Media as a provider you can find them by visiting our Virgin Media provider page but before we get into the real nitty-gritty, here are our top 3 pros and cons for Virgin Media broadband:
- Three speeds to choose from – including the UK’s fastest
- Uncapped download allowance as standard
- Plenty of options for bundling with TV, home phone and mobile phone
- Long 18 month contracts
- Traffic management in operation for most of the day
- Early termination fees can be extremely high
The UK’s fastest broadband
Virgin’s speed claims aren’t spin – according to the UK communications watchdog Ofcom, Virgin Media is the fastest provider in the UK and in more ways than one.
Broadband XL is the UK’s fastest advertised service, with speeds up to 120Mbps in upgraded areas. Overall, Virgin also has the highest average recorded speeds of any widely available UK broadband provider, and they have done for four years running.
Uncapped downloads as standard
Virgin lets you download as many web pages, movies and MP3 songs as you like each month. All broadband packages come with an “uncapped” monthly usage allowance. They’re not truly unlimited due to some peak time restrictions, but these only affect users who download an unusually high amount of data at peak times.
TV and home phone options
Virgin Media offer a great range of optional extras, including three calls packages, three core TV packages, and the option to add premium channels such as Sky Sports.
One of the most interesting options isn’t an extra, but something that you can leave out. Virgin is the only UK fixed-line broadband that lets you subscribe without a phone line.
Free “future-proof” Virgin Media Super Hub
Virgin Media is proud of its Super Hub wireless router, and you'll get one free with whichever broadband package you choose. It can simultaneously support as many as 20 wireless devices and up to 4 wired connections.
It uses ‘N’ wireless technology for improved coverage and it’s specifically designed to handle speeds faster than 120Mbps, which Virgin claims makes it “future proof”. The hardware is covered by a two year warranty, and after the two years is up you’ll still get free repairs and servicing for as long as you remain a Virgin broadband customer.
According to Ofcom, Virgin Media receives fewer complaints from broadband customers than any other provider, and that’s been the case for more than a year. Over five consecutive financial quarters beginning at the end of 2010, Virgin Media received an average of just 0.16 complaints per 1,000.
Traffic management & fair usage
Virgin’s broadband packages are “uncapped”, but they’re not truly unlimited. Each package has a peak time fair usage limit, and if your uploads and downloads exceed this figure on any given day your speed will be reduced for 5 hours. Virgin broadband has two peak time periods, 10am-3pm and 4pm-9pm.
The good news is that fair usage limits are set high. For example, if you choose the up to 60Mb XL broadband package you’ll get a peak time fair usage figure of 5GB. This means that you could download 6 movies in Standard Definition plus 200 MP3s before you risk being throttled.
Limited broadband on the go
Some of the biggest UK providers such as BT and Sky include free public Wi-Fi usage with most of their home broadband packages, but Virgin Media is lagging somewhat behind when it comes to Wi-Fi.
As a Virgin broadband customer you can access the web in participating London Underground stations and on some Virgin Media trains, but so far they’ve made no moves to introduce widespread Wi-Fi. You can keep up-to-date with our Virgin Media news.
Virgin Media broadband comes on 18 month minimum term contracts as standard. This means that when you join you’ll be tied into your account for 18 months, and once that’s expired you’ll still need to give 30 days notice when you want to leave.
Virgin isn't the only provider to insist on 18 month contracts but they are one of the few. Still, if you're aware of this going into your agreement, you know where you stand.
High early disconnection fees
So what happens if you leave Virgin before your 18 months is up? You might be looking at a hefty early disconnection fee. Ouch!
When customers leave Virgin early they’re charged a set monthly amount for each service. These fees increase along with the monthly subscription fee, so you’d pay more for early termination of up to 100Mbps broadband than you would be for the up to 30Mbps service.
For example, if you’ve got up to 30Mb broadband you’ll pay £9 for each month left of the 18 month contract if you leave early. Cancelling with 6 months remaining would therefore cost you £9 x 6 = £54. However, if you have up to 100Mbps broadband the monthly early termination fee goes up to £15 – leaving that after 12 months would cost you £135.
This problem is compounded if you have multiple services. If you subscribed to up to 100Mbps broadband with the top TV package (XL) and anytime calls and left with 6 months left of the 18 month minimum term your early termination fee would be (£4+£20+£15) x 6 = £234.
The only legitimate reason that can get you out of this is if you're moving to an area that Virgin Media doesn’t cover. So whatever you do, make sure you know if you're going to be able to honour the 18 month minimum term or it could potentially cost you a lot of money.
Bear in mind though that early terminations fees aren’t unique to Virgin Media, and many other providers levy similar charges for customers who leave early.
Penalties for changing your services
We sought advice from Virgin Media about what happens if you change your services. There was some confusion, but the general consensus was that if you remove a service the contract for your remaining services will recommence for another 18 months. Also, if you downgrade to a slower broadband option you would usually lose any discounts you got when you signed up (if applicable).
This only applies if the minimum term hasn’t yet expired. Once your 18 months is up you’re free to make any changes with 30 days notice.
If you pay your Virgin broadband bill by any method other than Direct Debit you’ll be charged an additional payment handling fee each month. This currently stands at £5.
Also, when you join Virgin Media you’ll be subscribed to “ebilling”, whereby you view your bills online rather than getting them through the post. If you do want paper bills you will have to pay extra each month for the privilege. This charge currently stands at £1.75 a month.
Again, Virgin Media is by no means the only provider to add such surcharges for paper billing and non-Direct Debit payments.
The bottom line
So, is Virgin Media any good? Now that you’ve reached the end of our guide you should have all the information you need to decide that for yourself.
In our opinion Virgin Media broadband has a lot of good features, such as the UK’s fastest ever download speed, and uncapped usage across the full range of packages. What we think might put off some consumers are the long contracts and the use of a fair usage policy and traffic management activities throughout most of the day. We’ve also received feedback to suggest that the Super Hub may not be quite as robust and reliable as Virgin’s marketing would have you believe, and some customers have reported lengthy broadband outages.
As negatives go, these could apply just as much to any other provider as to Virgin, so we still believe that just as long as you consider all of the points raised, and understand exactly what you're agreeing to before you sign up none of them should really be considered deal breakers.
If you feel there’s anything we've missed out please let us know in the comments below or send us an email and we’ll do everything we can to help. You might also find it useful to read our Virgin Media buyers guide.
Use our handy package comparison tool to compare the latest Virgin Media broadband prices and features.
Compare deals in your area
Enter your postcode below and we’ll check to see if you live in a cabled area then show you a list of all of the different packages and deals that are available to you.
Why do we need your postcode?
Once you enter your postcode, Cable.co.uk will perform a live lookup and check all the available providers in your area.
This ensures you receive accurate information on the availability of providers and packages in your area.
Your information is safe with us. We won't share your postcode with anyone. Guaranteed.