Virgin Media broadband review: Is it any good?

Dan Howdle | April 19th, 2024

Virgin Media broadband

Our verdict: Very good

We've rated Virgin Media broadband four out of five stars for its fast speeds, availability, and flexible package options. Why not five out of five? Well, we'll get into that further down, but primarily it's because it's no longer the fastest provider (unless you count its new Gig2 package which is only availably to a tiny percentage of households), and it's taken a dip in the most recent customer service data from Ofcom.

Unless you’re lucky enough to be able to get Full Fibre from EE Broadband (1.6Gbps, available to only around one in three households), or have a local alt-net digging a trench outside your door, you simply cannot beat Virgin Media broadband for speed. That makes it one of the best choices for gamers, very busy households and streaming enthusiasts.

Added to that, Virgin Media broadband can be bundled together with a collection of excellent TV subscription options, you can choose whether you want a landline or not, and if you want to go the whole hog you can even throw in your mobile deal with O2, which has merged with Virgin Media to create Virgin Media O2.

Perhaps the biggest real drawback to Virgin Media’s offering is that not everyone can get it – it's available to around three in every five households. However, Virgin Media broadband still comes highly recommended. It's our provider of choice here at Cable.co.uk towers. And don't forget, it's constantly expanding its network, so if you can't get it yet, you may well find Virgin Media broadband is available on your street in the near future.

Key features

Here’s a quick look at what you can expect to find in a Virgin Media broadband deal.

Download speeds 54Mbps-2Gbps Upload speeds 5Mbps-2Gbps
Network Virgin Media (cable) Reliability 99.86% average uptime
Prices from £28 per month Contract length 18 months

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Is Virgin Media broadband any good?

Virgin Media broadband is the top choice for those seeking speed, but are not living somewhere Full Fibre (from Openreach) is available. It's great for gamers, streaming enthusiasts, and busy households. Overall, Virgin Media broadband is highly recommended for those fortunate enough to have access to it and holds the potential for wider coverage in the near future.

Virgin Media provides the second-fastest widely available broadband in the UK. It's become a bit complex of late in that it's no longer the fastest (EE Broadband no offers 1.6Gbps), but then it is more widely available than Full Fibre on Openreach (which EE Broadband operates on). So there's an argument there to be made as to whether EE's top speed qualifies as 'widely available'.

Likewise, Virgin Media has just recently launched its 'Gig2' service, which offers 2Gbps as well as symmetrical upload speeds for an extra monthly cost. The reason why we can't call Virgin Media the 'fastest widely available broadband provider' anymore on that basis is that Gig2 uses a completely different network technology than the one forming the existing Virgin Media network, and as such is only available to a handful of households across the UK. And that's unlikely to change in the very near future.

Reasons to buy

  • Ultrafast, widely available
  • More reliable than 'superfast' fibre
  • You don't need a phone line
  • Flexible bundling options
  • Frequent new customer incentives

Reasons to avoid

  • Can be pricey outside of sale time
  • Not available everywhere
  • Harsh cancellation fee policy
  • Customer service has taken a tumble

Availability

Virgin Media is the market leader in the UK when it comes to broadband speeds, with average downloads of 1130Mbps from its range-topping Gig1 package. In fact, because it operates its own entirely independent network it's able to offer the most widely available gigabit-speed broadband in the country. Comparable speed broadband from the likes of BT (along with the other Openreach providers) has to be delivered using the Openreach FTTP network (that's 'Fibre-To-The-Premises' broadband, which does away with telephone lines entirely), and can't quite compete.

At present, only about one in four households can get full fibre via Openreach (BT, Sky etc.). Estimates differ, but it's probably still not much more than half of Virgin Media's coverage, although it is expanding rapidly. Check out our guide for more about ultrafast FTTP broadband. So Virgin really is very well positioned when it comes to offering higher speed broadband than competitors.

Being an option for around 55% to 60% of UK households (depending on whose figures you believe), Virgin Media Broadband is still not as widely available as services that operate on the old Openreach FTTC network (that's the previous generation 'Fibre-To-The-Cabinet' broadband, where copper telephone lines are still used to deliver the last leg to your home). So you may still find it’s not yet offered in your area. It’s also worth bearing in mind that should you move to a new area that's not covered by Virgin Media and have to cancel your service mid-contract, you might still be charged early termination fees – a harsh policy not shared by many of Virgin Media's competitors.

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Insane speeds not everyone wants or needs

That's one additional (and crucial) detail: While Virgin's previous top speed (Gig1 at 1130Mbps) is available to all of its customers, the new Gig2 package is available to almost none. If you're somewhere you can get Virgin Media, you will be able to get every speed up to Gig1, but it's very unlikely you'll be able to get Gig2. Virgin Media even has plans to bring 10Gbps 'symmetrical' broadband to market by the decade's end ('symmetrical' meaning uploads are as fast as downloads). However, that will be on its new 'XGS-PON' network that it's currently using to bring Gig2 to a small number of households. As a whole new network, we can expect rollout to take some years.

Reliability

Virgin Media has always been very reliable, and has one of the best service alert systems of any provider. If there's a problem where you live, Virgin Media is always aware of it before you are and they're about fixing it immediately, updating you on the progress.

Value for money

With all that said though, whether it’s right for you will come down to whether you need or want all that amazing speed. And of course whether you can actually get it where you live. Also, don't forget Virgin Media is considered a premium brand, so it's not really available at the rock bottom prices you might see from other providers. However, it is a provider where the more you add to your package the more money you save. Some of its top-end broadband and TV packages such as Mega Volt, for example, while expensive in and of themselves, are world-beating value when you take account of what you actually get..

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Virgin Media broadband customer ratings

We interviewed 6,000 household broadband decision makers. This is how Virgin Media broadband customers rated their service:

Installation/switching (4)
Speed satisfaction (4)
Reliability (4)
Equipment/routers (4)
Value for money (3.5)
Likeliness to recommend (3.5)

View the full survey

Broadband speeds

Regardless of the recent expansion of the Openreach Full Fibre network, Virgin Media is still winning relative to the top speeds offered to most of the country by the likes of BT and Sky. And even Virgin Media’s slowest broadband, the M50 package (54Mbps) is faster than many ‘superfast fibre' deals from other UK providers.

Broadband Package Download Speed Upload Speed Monthly Cost
M50 Fibre Broadband + Calls 54Mbps 5Mbps £28 per month
M125 Fibre Broadband 132Mbps 20Mbps £26.50 per month
M250 Fibre Broadband 264Mbps 25Mbps £30.50 per month
M350 Fibre Broadband 362Mbps 36Mbps £34.50 per month
M500 Fibre Broadband 516Mbps 52Mbps £33 per month
Gig1 Fibre Broadband 1.1Gbps 104Mbps £41 per month
Gig2 Fibre Broadband 2Gbps 200Mbps £84 per month

Any Virgin Media broadband deal of 125Mbps or so would adequately serve a household streaming movies, gaming, or doing some good old-fashioned surfing – in moderation. That said, if you're a really intensive-use household we'd definitely recommend you consider their higher speed packages. If cost isn't a huge issue, then it's better to have too much than too little.

A big selling point with Virgin Media is that you’re more likely to get the actual speed you’re paying for than with FTTC packages (the 35 and 63-ish Mbps packages). Virgin Media connections were just 1% slower than their stated maximum speeds, and there's been a notable reduction in network hitches and congestion in the last couple of years. While we can't really offer a detailed comparison here, that's definitely better than most people can expect to see from a more standard FTTC broadband connection, although Full Fibre does trump Virgin's cable solution in areas like latency.

Upload speeds

Relative to its lightning-fast download speeds, Virgin’s upload speeds are somewhat slower. Unlike some alt-net providers, they've not achieved 'symmetry' quite yet. The average upload speed on Virgin Media’s M125 (with an average download speed of 132Mbps) is just 20Mbps, and 25Mbps on the M250 package. Expect uploads averaging 52Mbps from the M500 package, and double that with the range-topping Gig1. Still, all of those are faster than the download speeds many people have to put up with. The new Gig2 package that almost no one can get offers symmetrical upload speeds for an additional monthly cost.

As a comparison, Plusnet’s entry-level FTTC fibre deal has upload speeds averaging at 9Mbps, while you can get 19Mbps upload speeds on its top-end fibre package, which comes with an average download speed of 66Mbps. Other providers operating on the Openreach network (that's almost everyone else), offer similar upload speeds. For those who can get them, providers using Openreach's newer Full Fibre network enjoy the best upload speeds of all with TalkTalk's 500Mbps full fibre service delivering the highest median upload speed (73Mbps) in Ofcom's recent report.

Do upload speeds matter? With most tasks, not so much. Waiting for photos to upload or big emails to send can be pretty frustrating however, so it all comes down to what you do with your connection most of the time. But if you're a big live gamer, then you'll definitely be looking for the biggest numbers you can find. It's also very helpful for video calls and conferencing, so if you work from home it can be a big plus.

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Pricing

Each broadband provider in the UK tends to have its own way of drawing in new customers. In Virgin Media’s case, it's not usually the sort of cashback or voucher deals you often see with BT, Sky and TalkTalk. Instead, Virgin usually tempts new recruits with a bill credit, meaning your first few bills are waived or reduced. That's often the case for it's broadband only packages. They do occasionally offer limited-time 'flash-sales' where big savings can be made, so watch out for them too. If you're lucky they'll include a free gift too – full-size TVs aren't unheard of.

It’s a good idea, then, if you see a Virgin broadband deal you like, to go for it without hesitation. The price may not be the same if you wait. In particular, we'd recommend watching out for the periods where they waive their otherwise quite hefty £35 set-up charge. See our latest Virgin broadband deals for the best offers available today.

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Customer service

It should be noted that our survey is a couple of years old now, and that Ofcom's more recent assessment of Virgin Media's customer service performance isn't all unicorns and rainbows. While a very high percentage (compared to other providers) say they're satisfied according to Ofcom's latest report (May 2023), Virgin Media had the highest percentage of customers with a reason to complain, and the lowest (joint with TalkTalk) percentage of complainers satisfied with the outcome. It's worth remembering that the vast majority of customers are happy, but Virgin Media definitely needs to improve here. The new Ofcom report is out next month, so we will soon see if it has.

Router and installation

Virgin Media Hub 3.0

In our opinion Virgin Media’s routers are pretty impressive. All broadband customers get the same router, the WiFi Hub 3, with the exception of Gig1 Fibre Broadband customers who will receive the WiFi Hub 5, which is being rolled out in some areas but not others at the time of writing. Customers wishing to upgrade to Gig1 will be issued with a new Hub 5 router free of charge. Gig2 has another router still: The Hub 5x, but as previously alluded to, almost no one can get Gig2 as things stand.

Both the Hub 3 and theHub 5 give superfast wifi speeds that should stay fast across loads of devices. They also have a fantastic range, so they're ideal for larger homes or perhaps working out in the garden in fine weather. You can also stay safe online with the included security tech: Web Safe, F-Secure SAFE and parental controls. As a new customer, you'll be able to take advatage of a free, three month trial of their Virgin Media Internet Security services.

How Virgin Media's routers compare

Feature Hub 3 Hub 4 Hub 5 Hub 5x
Number of antennae 5 7 7 7
2.4GHz WiFi band 2x2 11/b/g/n 3x3 11b/g/n 3x3 11b/g/n/ax 3x3 11b/g/n/ax
5GHz WiFi band 3x3 11ac 4x4 11ac 4x4 11ax 4x4 11ax
WiFi spec 5 5 6 6
Dual band Concurrent Concurrent Concurrent Concurrent
Network connection DOCSIS 3.0 DOCSIS 3.1 DOCSIS 3.1 XGS-PON
Ethernet 4x 1Gbps 4x 1Gbps 1x 2.5Gbps, 3x 1Gbps 1x 10 Gbps, 3x 1Gbps
WPS push button Yes Yes Yes Yes
Removable password/QR card Yes Yes Yes Yes
Default SSID Single Single Single Single
Guest network Yes Yes Yes Yes
Intelligent WiFi Yes Yes Yes Yes
Phone line Yes Yes Yes Yes
WiFi Pod compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes

Read our full guide to Virgin Media routers.

Installation

Recently, Virgin Media have been waiving their usual £35 setup fee, but bear in mind that's not certain to remain the case. However, there's no such generosity when it comes to their no-contract 30-day broadband – and it has been known to be even higher.

If you’re switching from BT or another network that uses Openreach (again, that's pretty much all of the national providers) you’ll need to cease that connection and have Virgin Media install a line at your property – you can’t just switch it over.

Virgin’s QuickStart should be available if your home has been connected to the Virgin network in the past three years. With QuickStart you install your equipment yourself. Take a look at our guide for more information on switching broadband providers.

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See also
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