Virgin Media broadband explained
By Dan Howdle | Monday, December 17th 2018
In this guide...
Why choose Virgin Media broadband?
Virgin Media currently provide the fastest widely available broadband in the UK. Impressive, but what other stand-out features does Virgin Media broadband offer? Let's take a look.
- Fastest widely available broadband in the UK – up to 350Mbps
- You can add hundreds of channels of TV
- 14-day money-back guarantee
- No phone line required
- Exclusive customer-only Virgin Mobile SIMs offer unlimited data
- Award-winning customer service
Fastest widely available broadband in the UK – up to 350Mbps
Virgin Media has its own broadband cabling and infrastructure, making it master of its own destiny in terms speed. By contrast, most of Virgin Media's competitors are tied to BT's Openreach network, which currently restricts the speeds they can offer to a maximum of 100Mbps, but more commonly to around 65Mbps.
To give you an idea of how fast 350Mbps is, streaming an ultra high definition (4K) movie on Netflix requires a download speed of 25Mbps. With Virgin Media's VIVID 350 broadband everyone in your home can comfortably watch different 4K movies on different devices at the same time. Downloading an HD movie takes about two minutes at these speeds and an album just three seconds.
Virgin Media's top-end broadband package offers between three and four times the speed of its nearest rivals.
You can add hundreds of channels of TV
Apart from Sky Atlantic (we always begin talking about Virgin TV this way because so many people ask), you can get pretty much everything on Virgin TV you can get on Sky. In fact, you can pretty much get anything you could possibly want.
There are hundreds of channels, most of which you can watch for 30 days on catch-up, and you can add on Sky Sports, BT Sport, Sky Movies and a load of other stuff if you want it. Virgin’s V6 set-top box even delivers 4K UHD content (which you’ll definitely have the speed for if you’re with Virgin Media, but you’ll also need a 4K TV), and lets you record multiple channels at once.
14-day money-back guarantee
Virgin Media offers a 14-day money back guarantee. If you sign up and you’re not happy for some reason, Virgin will uninstall it and give you all your money back no quibbles. Technically, this is the same across all providers as you get a 14-day cooling off period (sometimes called a thinking period) by law.
However, Virgin Media does make a special point here, which leads us to believe such a move might be a little easier with Virgin Media than it is with anyone else.
No phone line is required with Virgin Media
Unlike its competitors on the Openreach network (everyone else), Virgin Media Broadband doesn't require a phone line. Of course, if lots of people have your number you’ll want to have one and you’ll want to port it over. If you’re starting out afresh, though, perhaps consider that you can get broadband and TV from Virgin Media without having to have a landline. Perhaps your mobile is enough?
Exclusive customer-only Virgin Mobile SIMs offer unlimited data
Virgin Media offers exclusive SIMs on the EE network (under the Virgin Mobile brand) to its broadband and TV customers. The latest and greatest offers unlimited 4G data – one of only two SIMs on the entire UK market to do so. If you’re signing up to Virgin Media broadband, TV or both, you will almost certainly save money by opting for a SIM too, provided you’re outside your existing contract.
Virgin’s cable technology is future-proof
DOCSIS 3 (D3) is the techy-sounding, faster cable broadband system employed by Virgin Media. Don’t be put off by the long acronym! It boils down to broadband being delivered over the old cable TV wires once used by Telewest and NTL and others instead of over your old BT landline as with other providers.
These thicker, more robust cables are not only more reliable than the copper biwires found on the Openreach network, but they’re also far more future-proof. The technology is capable of speeds up to 1.2 Gbps, allowing the possibility of speed increases in the not-too-distant future.
Virgin Media Hub3 router is best in class
There’s still some to and fro over which provider offers the best router, with BT, Sky and Virgin Media all claiming to own the top spot. Trouble is, you can’t really explore the battlefield on which this fight exists without getting into some very technical details, weighing up all sort of attributes that are universally denoted by impenetrable technobabble.
So we’ll just summarise anecdotally then and say that Virgin’s Hub3 is the best free router we’ve ever tested. Controversial maybe, but that’s what we think.
Award-winning customer service and fewer complaints than other providers
Virgin Media has won innumerable awards both for the services it offers and its outstanding customer service. Furthermore, in 2017, Ofcom reported 40 complaints per 100,000 customers for Virgin Media broadband compared with 127 complaints for BT broadband, showing far greater levels of satisfaction with Virgin Media.
Network of wifi hotspots
Virgin Media broadband and mobile customers can now use its network of wifi hotspots around the UK. These are located in London Underground and Overground stations, as well as the usual coffee shops, bars and restaurants.
Free wifi is provided via the network of Virgin Media broadband hubs in customer's homes and businesses, so in theory there should be a fairly wide network available. The service is completely separate from its customer's home broadband connections to prevent any privacy or security problems.
Web Safe parental controls allow safe surfing for kids
Websafe blocks access to any content it deems to be unsuitable for children, is fraudulent or contains viruses. Obviously, you, the parent, have to switch this on. Doing so is as easy as signing in and checking a box in your router settings. It comes with every Virgin Media broadband package, and it’s absolutely free.
F-Secure SAFE offers free virus protection for your devices
F-Secure SAFE is virus protection software that you’ll get for free with your Virgin Media broadband account, and which can be installed on up to five devices – including smartphones and tablets. F-Secure is a world leader in internet security.
Wifi on London Underground
It's decades since Rabbit phones worked on the underground (Rabbit only lasted 20 months in the early 1990s). So the ability to once again communicate with the outside world while standing in a tube station is most welcome.
Virgin Media Broadband customers get free access to its network of Wifi hotspots in London Underground stations. Customers can log on using their My Virgin Media login details. This is very handy for messaging, but does open the way for annoying Skype and Facetime calls in a previously undisturbed environment.
Free servicing or repair
If somebody spills a drink on your Virgin Media equipment, fear not! Servicing and repairs are included in your package and won't cost you a bean. In fact, even if the damage is caused by mistreatment, equipment will be serviced or repaired for free. That’s some peace of mind for party animals, students and people with children in the house.
Homeworks makes it great for people working from home
If you work from home, you probably know the situation. Your broadband breaks down when you have an urgent project to finish. You call customer service, only to find that as a domestic customer, you don't get the fast repair service offered to business customers.
A growing number of us fall into the gap between home broadband and business broadband. Relying on the internet for regular home-working or running a small business, but not yet ready for a dedicated business broadband service.
Virgin Media's solution to this problem is Homeworks. This paid, add-on provides Next Day Priority engineer call-out; 24/7 Gadget Rescue (IT support to you and me); a “TuneUp” from a Virgin Media engineer and a bunch of safety features to protect your business from viruses and malware.
Free photo prints from Snapfish
A bit of an odd one, but Virgin Media appears to be unique in offering its customers up to 100 free photo-prints from Snapfish. Of course this is all about turning you into a Snapfish customer, but free photos are free photos, and I bet we all have some photos languishing on our phones which we'd like printed.
Downsides to choosing Virgin broadband
- You can’t get it everywhere
- Cancellation fees can be incurred even if moving house
You can’t get it everywhere
Virgin Media, unlike all other widely available providers in the UK, has its own broadband network, which means two things: Firstly, it can go way, way faster than anyone else, secondly it’s not available as widely as other providers. In fact, Virgin Media serves only 60-65% of UK households meaning there’s a fair chance you won’t be able to get it.
You can use our postcode checker at the top of this page to be certain.
Cancellation fees can be incurred even if moving house
When you move house it generally won’t allow you to get out of your current broadband contract for free. That isn’t really a problem for providers other than Virgin Media since they’re available everywhere – you can just move your services along with yourselves and finish out your contract as normal.
However, with Virgin Media’s comparatively limited availability moving somewhere you can’t get it is far more common. As it stands Virgin Media will make you pay off your contract regardless. Just be sure you’re going to stick it out for the whole contract and if you are planning on moving during that time make sure you can get Virgin Media at your new home.
How to get the best Virgin broadband deal
Virgin Media broadband offers a lot that other providers don’t. However, it also offers such a wide range of speeds and package options it can be hard to determine exactly which is the right one for you and your household. Here’s what you need to do, step-by-step.
Find out if you can get it
Though considered ‘widely available’ Virgin Media broadband isn’t available to anywhere near as many people as fibre from providers on the Openreach network (that’s everyone else). Openreach fibre is available to around 96% of UK households, whereas Virgin Media reaches somewhere under 60%.
So, first of all, you’re going to have to make sure you’re in that 60%. Put your postcode in at the top of this page and we will tell you if you can get it. Provided you can, move now onto step two.
Determine which speed is best for your household
Here’s the tricky bit. Under normal circumstances (if we were talking about any other provider, whose speeds are largely either 17, 38 or 76Mbps) we would be able to offer you good advice on what you can and can’t do on those speeds. Trouble is, Virgin Media’s ‘slowest’ offering of 50Mbps is so fast there’s literally nothing you can’t do with it. 50Mbps will happily allow you to do the most bandwidth (speed) intensive activity out there: Steam UHD 4K video. Twice over.
So why would you need 100, 200 or even 350Mbps? The truth is you don’t, but want and need are two different things. If you download stuff from the web – movies and games especially – to a computer or games console, the faster your speed the less time that will take.
The main thing to remember is if you go for the slowest speed Virgin Media offers, you likely won’t be disappointed, and you can upgrade in minutes if it isn’t meeting your requirements. If you go for the fastest, you’ll only be more impressed if you download a lot of stuff. General day-to-day activities like surfing and banking and streaming movies and TV will be the same on a 50Mbps connection as they are on a 350Mbps connection.
Do you need a phone line?
Well, do you? A lot of us rely on our mobiles these days – more on that in step five – so you should at least ask yourself if it’s actually worth having a landline anymore. If you’ve always had one and lots of friends and family have that number, then it no doubt is. If you’re starting afresh somehow, then maybe not.
Virgin Media is the only provider in the UK that offers true broadband-only deals (broadband without a phone line). However, going broadband only won’t save you any money. The line is the line and Virgin Media will make you pay for it whether you have a number and a phone attached to it or not.
Do you want to add Virgin TV?
In for a penny, in for a pound? Virgin TV is very, very good indeed, so while you’re about getting the broadband, why not get a TV package too? Up until a year or two ago, Virgin Media was way behind Sky in terms of the amount and variety of content on offer. Now, though, you can barely slip a razor between the two.
Virgin TV also offers the best free set-top box out there in the form of the Virgin V6. You can record, pause and playback live TV, watch Netflix and Amazon on it and even watch 4K UHD movies and TV. Think about it – it’s a decision you’re going to need to make.
Can you, and should you switch to Virgin Mobile?
Virgin Media also offers Virgin Mobile. If you’re out of your current contract you can get a Virgin SIM exclusively as a broadband and/or TV customer with truly unlimited 4G data. It isn’t widely available – only to existing customers.
And there are great savings to be made for getting SIMs for the whole family, not least of all considering that if you’re all on Virgin Mobile, you can all call each other for free.