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Virgin Media vs Sky

Tuesday, May 27th 2014

Virgin Media and Sky are two of the main contenders for quality broadband, TV and phone. These two media empires offer a wide variety of choice, so how do you choose between them?

Here is everything you need to know about Sky and Virgin Media to help you decide which is the best provider for you. From broadband speeds to home phone options the TV services, we review which provider offers the best products and value for money.

At a glance

Virgin Media and Sky have some major differences in their services. When it comes to broadband, Virgin is all about broadband download speed, with its top speed double Sky's top offering. However, Sky has around four times the number of standard channels offered by Virgin. Line rental costs are roughly equal, but Virgin allows you to take broadband without paying line rental if you don't want a home phone package. This is not an option with Sky.

Download speed152Mbps
up to
76Mbps
up to
Upload12Mbps
up to
19Mbps
up to
Traffic management
Public Wi-Fi
Standard TV channels60+240+
HD channels4350+
Line rental per month£15.99
optional
£15.40
required
Line rental saver£144
per year
Compare bundles →Compare bundles →
Virgin Media
Download
152Mbps
Upload
12Mbps
Traffic management
  •  
Public Wi-Fi
  •  
SD channels
60+
HD channels
43
Line rental
£15.99
Line rental saver
£144
Sky
Download
76Mbps
Upload
19Mbps
Traffic management
  •  
Public Wi-Fi
  •  
SD channels
240+
HD channels
50+
Line rental
£15.40
Line rental saver
  •  

Availability

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Broadband

Virgin Media

Virgin Media broadband runs on fibre cables. Depending upon coverage in your area, Virgin offers a choice of three levels of speed: up to 50Mbps, up to 100Mbps, and up to 152Mbps - the fastest in the UK.

Virgin is also the only UK provider to offer broadband either with or without a landline, so you can save on the cost of line rental if you don’t need a home phone. All Virgin Media broadband services include unlimited downloads as standard, though uploads are subject to traffic management.

Sky

Sky has basic, copper-cabled broadband in addition to fibre. Copper cable broadband (ADSL2+) has the widest reach of any broadband service, and provides download speeds of up to 17Mbps. Sky fibre products offer two speeds separated by price. The up to 38Mbps fibre service is cheaper than the up to 76Mbps fibre, and both benefit from unlimited downloads and uploads.

The fibre plans are subject to availability, and must be taken on 18-month contracts. A nice feature with Sky is that your broadband coverage doesn’t end when you leave the house. Customers get free and unlimited access to thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots in places such as Caffè Nero, Pizza Express, Eat, Pret and Wagamama.

Download speed152Mbps
up to
76Mbps
up to
Upload speed12Mbps
up to
19Mbps
up to
Usage optionsUnlimitedTruly unlimited
Usage limit*
Traffic managementYes
uploads only
Static IP
Minimum contract18 months12 months
Public Wi-Fi
Prices from£5£5
Compare deals →Compare deals →
Virgin Media
Download speed
Up to 152Mbps
Upload speed
Up to 12Mbps
Usage options
Unlimited
Usage limit
  •  
Traffic management
Uploads only
Static IP
  •  
Minimum contract
18 months
Public Wi-Fi
  •  
Prices from
Sky
Download speed
Up to 76Mbps
Upload speed
Up to 19Mbps
Usage options
Truly unlimited
Usage limit
  •  
Traffic management
  •  
Static IP
  •  
Minimum contract
12 months
Public Wi-Fi
  •  
Prices from

*Sky Broadband Lite is subject to a 2GB usage limit

TV

Virgin Media

Virgin Media is a cable TV provider. Most of its TV packages can be taken alone or with a phone plan. There are four packages to choose from. The TV M package has over 60 channels and is only available with the Big Easy Bundle. TV M+, TV L, and TV XL can be taken as stand-alone TV services, and feature over 120 channels, over 170 channels, and over 230 channels, respectively.

The top offering, TV XL, also boasts more than 40 HD channels. Premium channels, such as Sky Sports, can be added to any Virgin Media TV option, or come as part of some collections. The TiVo box is the digital recorder, has 500GB of storage space, and comes with Virgin Media’s TV services.

Sky

Sky’s TV service is supplied via a satellite dish. Its TV products are called bundles, and have names relating to the included content, such as the Sports Bundle and Movies Bundle. They can all be taken alone without broadband or phone. The bundles all have 240 free-to-air channels as standard.

The Original Bundle has 35 subscription channels in addition to the free-to-air channels. The Variety Bundle and the Family Bundle have over 80 subscription channels. The Complete Bundle is the premium TV package, and boasts 66 HD channels, 3D channels, TV box sets on demand, and the Sky Sports and Sky Movies channels. The Sky+HD box is the digital recorder and is supplied free with all Sky TV bundles.

Compare Sky & Virgin Media TV →

Standard channels60+240+
Maximum channels230+320+
HD channels4350+
Digital recorderTiVo boxSky+HD box
Recording space500GB320GB
Pause, rewind, record
Catch-up TV
TV on demand
Prices from£5£16.13
Compare deals →Compare deals →
Virgin Media
Standard channels
60+
Maximum channels
230+
HD channels
43
Digital recorder
TiVo box
Features
  • 500GB recording space
  • Pause, rewind, record
  • Catch-up TV
  • TV on demand
Prices from
Sky
Standard channels
240+
Maximum channels
320+
HD channels
50+
Digital recorder
Sky+HD box
Features
  • 320GB recording space
  • Pause, rewind, record
  • Catch-up TV
  • TV on demand
Prices from

Home phone

Virgin Media

There are four home phone packages with Virgin Media: M, L, XL and XXL. The M package (Talk Weekends) is included as standard with broadband and Virgin Media Collections and features unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles. Phone L (Talk Evening & Weekends) gives unlimited calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles all weekend and each evening.

Phone XL (Talk Unlimited) delivers unlimited free calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles all day every day. Phone XL (Talk Unlimited+) includes all this, plus 0845 numbers and all UK mobiles. All Virgin Media talk plans are subject to line rental at £15.99 per month. You can save money by paying for 12 months’ line rental upfront as part of Virgin Media’s Line Rental Saver scheme.

Sky

Sky has three options: Weekends, Anytime UK and Anytime International. Sky Talk Weekends comes as standard with broadband. It features unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines. Anytime UK includes unlimited calls to UK landlines at any time of the day plus reduced rates to mobiles.

The Anytime International plan features the above benefits. It also includes unlimited international calls to landlines in 50 countries and mobiles in Canada, Hong Kong and USA. You have to pay line rental with Sky’s home phone packages. This costs £15.40 per month.

Compare Sky & Virgin Media deals →

Line rental per month£15.99£15.40
Line rental saver£144
1471 featureFreeOptional
VoicemailFreeFree
Call waitingOptionalOptional
Caller displayOptionalOptional
Call diversionOptionalOptional
International optionsTalk International add-onTalk Anytime International
Virgin Media
Line rental
£15.99 per month
Line rental saver
£144
Free features
  • Inclusive weekend calls to Virgin Mobiles
Optional extras
  • 1471
  • Voicemail
  • Call waiting
International options
Talk International add-on
Sky
Line rental
£15.40 per month
Line rental saver
n/a
Free features
  • Inclusive weekend calls to UK landlines
  • 1471
  • Automatic Number Withhold
Optional extras
  • Voicemail
  • Caller display
  • Call diversion
International options
Talk Anytime International

Customer service

Virgin Media

In 2013, Ofcom rated customer satisfaction for Virgin Media’s broadband as the highest in the industry, tied with Sky. Satisfaction levels for its TV service met the industry average, at 77 per cent. Customer satisfaction with its home phone (landline) provision was ahead of the competition, far above the industry average.

Sky

Ofcom's 2013 report into customer satisfaction amongst broadband providers places Sky at the top of the board, tied with Virgin Media.

Satisfaction ratings for Sky’s TV service are the highest in the UK, beating both BT and Virgin Media by a significant amount. Customer satisfaction for Sky’s landline service was just above the sector average, with the provider coming second to Virgin Media.

You can read the Ofcom report here.

Extra features

Virgin Media

Virgin Media products come with a bevy of extra features. The free Virgin TV Anywhere app comes with all Virgin TV packages. It allows you to watch Virgin Media TV via your Wi-Fi connection, at public hotspots, or via mobile Wi-Fi.

If public Wi-Fi is important to you, Virgin Media offers free, unlimited Wi-Fi access at more than 120 stations on the London Underground (but not in the tunnels). Virgin broadband customers also get free anti-virus protection and parental controls with the F-Secure SAFE suite for 12 months.

Sky

Sky also offers several extra features with its broadband, TV, and phone services. Sky broadband customers receive the free Sky Shield advanced parental control software, along with free, unlimited public Wi-Fi at 10,000+ hotspots. Sky Go comes with Sky TV and lets you watch selected Sky programming via Wi-Fi, at UK hotspots or via 3G or 4G.

Conclusion

Virgin Media

Virgin Media has some great benefits. Its broadband speeds are the fastest in the country and its customer satisfaction levels are consistently high across the board. Its TV service doesn’t boast quite as much content as Sky, but it is the cheaper option, and its TiVo box offers a huge amount of storage space for recording TV programmes.

Sky

Sky’s TV service is easily the best in the UK. The huge range of standard definition and high definition channels is a great draw for TV lovers, but it is more expensive than Virgin Media. Sky’s broadband speeds aren’t as high as Virgin’s fibre-only service, though the wide scope of its broadband infrastructure means it’s available to a greater proportion of the UK than its rival.

And don't forget, Cable.co.uk is the only place in the UK providing in-depth broadband reviews of every major UK broadband package, so check them out if you need more information.

Compare Sky & Virgin Media →

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Comments (84)

kevin
11 days ago

my sky has nearly 90 hd channels why does it only say 50 plus sky kicks ass

Dave
30 days ago

What is Colin on about nearly all programmes are transmitted in 1080i

Steve
25th June 2014

I've been with Virgin since they took over from NTL. A friend of mine is with Sky and his biggest complaint is a lack of broadband speed and he feels that all the best deals are only available for 'new' Sky customers. Whereas I'm still receiving great new features after all these years like automatic upgrade to Super Hub 2 which generates 152MBPS and lightning fast WiFi for all (nine) devices in the household. The other great benefit of Virgin is the fact that the equipment is completely covered FREE. Any issues and an engineer is out with no quibble or questions asked - simply repairs or replaces the equipment. I've actually started looking forward to Sky sales reps knocking on the door because I know they can't match my comprehensive (TV, Broadband, Home phone and Mobile) package.

Pam
17th June 2014

Ive had nothing but trouble with Sky and can't wait to get back to Virgin......I never use my landline and hate paying for it!!

john
13th June 2014

I might just be lucky but broadband speed always 140+ tv quality excellent on all 4 boxes in the house and have no problem with Wi-Fi hub would recommend Virgin to any one

Colin
30th May 2014

Tom,

Read my posting, I 'upgraded' I did not switch.

TiVo uses 1080i which is poorer quality than 1080p and the interlaced screen drawing is more noticeable on faster moving scenes, it's not my TV that's not up to the job - Sony Bravia 46" 3D with 1080p.

Independent reviews of Virgin's TiVo offering also comment on the navigation. And if you look at the menus on the screen some are HD quality others aren't.

BTW I do not work for Sky or Virgin

nigel
30th May 2014

Been with SKY since February after moving from Virgin. Wish I hadn't nothing but problems from the start. Have to disagree about Tivo having used the two, Tivo is much easier, simple things like watching something on catch up is simply select and watch and it was immediate, SKY you have to wait for it to download before then selecting and watching. Certainly TIVO is a much better system in all respects as far as we are concerned. Once this current contract with SKY ends I shall move back to Virgin and will never deal with SKY again, they are horrific on every level,

tom
30th May 2014

Its funny to read all the anti tivo and virgin comments, I can only assume that these comments are from sky customers or employees of said company. Let me just reply to colin who seems to think that the tivo box is a nightmare to navigate, well colin you must be pressing the wrong buttons as I find it very easy to navigate much better than sky box I was subjected to for a year and as for the quality of the hd an non hd channels I can only think that your tv isnt up to scratch as both my hd and non hd channels are of fantastic quality . So again to finsh up to anybody thinking between sky and virgin remember what sky did to all vigin and terrestrial viewers a few years ago by buying all the poular programmes and putting them on sky one and taking said channel off virgin for a long time. This company cannot be trusted and I find it refreshing that bt are taking over a lot of there sport I dont like sky never have and never will and I wont ever forget the terrible year that I spent with this company. Thank you for listening to my rant but it had to be said look forward to many replies thanks

Colin
30th May 2014

Just taken upgrade to Virgin's Big Kahuna bundle.

TiVo is a nightmare to navigate. Picture quality is poor if you watch a non HD programme. Disappointed to find it doesn't have built in WiFi, it needs an ethernet connection to the router otherwise you can't make full use of the TV Anywhere functionality, something they conveniently forget to tell you. having router and TiVo in different rooms make it difficult , their answer is buy an adapter to use your electrical cables as a network or a WiFi adapter from TiVo themselves! Maybe if they designed their products properly you wouldn't have to have the plethora of cables everywhere. Even my TV has built-in WiFi.

Yes I've allegedly got the 152Mb broadband but speed tests vary between 30 and 80Mb, with 12Mb upload speeds.

Do I think it's worth it? Not convinced so I'm asking to go back to my old package and they can keep TiVo until they make it more user friendly and improve the picture quality

Martin
6th May 2014

My 30-50mb download speed broadband from virgin cost £19.15 a month...Now tv from sky entertainment cost me £5 a month which includes sky atlantic!! Outstanding value!

There is really no need to sign up for 12-18 month tv contracts anymore as there are more affordable options out there! Netflix..Amazon Prime..can be taken out on a month by month basis! Fancy the latest block buster film? Well Blinkbox and Prime provide pay per view so you only pay for what you watch...Simples!

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