Cable.co.uk | January 6th, 2022
There are those who will tell you that when it comes to broadband, it's just a numbers game. The higher the better, and there's just no such thing as too fast. And to an extent that's true – for a whole host of reasons, the demand for faster broadband has never been so great.
The UK’s broadband providers are starting to step up with services to meet that demand. Virgin Media now offer their top of the range Gig1 service to their entire network – which means an average speed of over 1,100Mb is available to over 55% of UK households. There’s nothing – certainly nothing widely available – that can match that.
Here’s a quick summary at what you can expect to find with Virgin Media M200.
|Broadband||Fibre to the premises (FTTP)|
|Home phone||None, Evening & Weekends, Anytime|
|Parental controls||Yes: WebSafe|
|Packages available||Broadband only, Broadband & phone, Broadband & TV|
|Contract length||18 months|
We wouldn't necessarily agree with this idea that all you need is speed. Until recently, most UK households got by quite happily with ordinary Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) broadband – providing speeds up to about 65Mbps. And even that’s on a good day, if you’re close to the street cabinet and your neighbours aren't too active online. In reality it’s often slower.
Over the last few years broadband speeds have become a bit of a priority for some people – Zoom meetings from home while the kids are streaming homework videos can be a bit of a stretch. And many people have found their once adequate 'superfast' broadband isn't all that super any more. But do you really need speeds ten or even twenty times as fast? There is such a thing as overkill. And, perhaps more importantly, over-paying.
That's why we think Virgin Media's M200 Broadband represents a good middle ground. It offers average download speeds of 213Mb – which is over three times as quick as the fastest FTTC connections – but at a price that is right in the Goldilocks zone. The absolute minimum speed you should expect to see is 107Mb and even the average upload speeds of about 20Mb are as rapid as many conventional fibre package download speeds.
|Average download speed||108Mbps||213Mbps||362Mbps||516Mbps||1.1Gbps|
|Average upload speed||10Mbps||20Mbps||36Mbps||36Mbps||52Mbps|
|Router||Hub 3.0||Hub 3.0||Hub 3.0||Hub 3.0||Hub 4|
|Contract length||18 months||18 months||18 months||18 months||18 months|
|Prices from||£24 per month||£28 per month||£32 per month||£36 per month||£60 per month|
Virgin were the first major company to offer fibre directly to the property, meaning there's no 'weak link' in the form of an ADSL line making up the last leg from the cabinet to your home. So they've always been pretty much the fastest of the main providers, and are now the third largest. You're getting access to that level of technology, which they're also constantly working to improve and expand on. Virgin Media recently run successful trials of around 2,200Mb. So clearly they're making giant strides.
In the real world, that means small technical details, like lower latency levels (around 15ms), for example, if you're a gamer you'll see smoother, quicker online play. And you should find streaming videos will be in glorious 4K – effortlessly.
One area where Virgin may have room for improvement is customer service. While they recently attained reasonably good scores in Ofcom's annual customer service report – they were average or above in each category – they do have a reputation for sometimes being a little difficult to get through to. Ofcom's research revealed Virgin had the longest call waiting times of any provider, and generally customers were less likely to be completely satisfied with the outcome.
You'll get totally unlimited downloads and uploads, with no data caps (although that's fairly standard these days). It's delivered via Virgin Media's Hub 3.0 – which is one of the best in the business. The Hub 3.0 offers next generation WiFi and something Virgin Media calls 'Intelligent WiFi Technology', which means it cleverly distributes the signal between all your connected devices.
It even figures out which ones are furthest away and gives them a bit of a boost. And it's all manageable using the free Virgin Media Connect app, which is certainly simpler than the baffling configuration settings you get with most routers. For the more tech-savvy it also has four ethernet cable ports – so wired connection is also possible.
Virgin Media likes to think of itself as a premium brand, and perhaps because of that they include an array of extras with their broadband services. Like Virgin Media's WebSafe parental controls, which enables you – and your family – to be screened from websites which may have viruses and also those with malicious content, such as pornography and other things you'd want to keep the kids safe from. Obviously, those controls are entirely optional, should you be happier policing yourself.
Also included is a three months subscription to Virgin Media's Internet Security, which is powered by F-Secure, a leading international cyber security firm. That'll keep your devices free from viruses, malware, spyware and of course, the dreaded ransomware. And best of all, you can use that for unlimited devices, be they iOS, Android, PC or Mac. So everyone in your household is protected, wherever they go.
Unlimited access to over 20 million WiFi hotspots across the UK and worldwide is thrown in too, which can be a lifesaver if you find yourself away from a signal at a crucial time, or want to save a fortune in data roaming cost when you're abroad. You can even call and access the internet 15 stories deep on the London Underground!
And, perhaps the ultimate back-up, if you take what Virgin calls their ‘Volt’ option, not only will you receive an O2 SIM card with 10GB of data, you'll have the ability to fall back on unlimited 4G mobile broadband in the unlikely event your home fibre connection ever has an issue. It's just a simple matter of tethering as many devices as you like to your phone.
M200 is also available as part of a bundle including home phone, TV and that O2 SIM card. If you're a media-hungry household, those are probably the options we'd suggest you look at most closely. Again, Virgin regularly offers great discounts on some of their more comprehensive packages, and you can usually choose between Sports, Movies and Drama TV options – or even all three. In fact, they'll sometimes offer a free speed upgrade with their bundles, so you could find yourself getting their M350 broadband, which offers average speeds of 362Mb.
So, is M200 actually worth the price? It's a good idea to choose your moment – Virgin Media frequently offers M200 at a reduced price, sometimes with landline calls and SIM card included. And currently it's a remarkable £28 per month, with an additional £50 bill credit.
Considering Virgin Media have also waived their usual £35 set-up fee, we think that’s something close to a steal. But even at its usual price point, Virgin Media M200 is a really sensible choice for those looking to move into the world of true fibre to the home broadband services, without breaking the bank.
Lines open 8am-10pm Monday to Sunday