How to compare and buy Virgin Media broadband
Virgin Media has put speed at the very heart of its marketing campaigns. Download speeds of up to 152Mbps mean films download in minutes, music downloads in seconds and the overall online experience is smoother and more seamless. It is also one of the few broadband providers that does not require you to pay line rental.
However, getting fast broadband is expensive and availability remains an issue across some parts of the UK. And while Virgin's download speeds are the fastest widely available in the country, their upload speed is actually quite poor and the company uses a traffic management system which can reduce speeds for some users. Let's look behind the hype...
Is Virgin Media broadband any good?
Virgin Media offers the fastest widely available broadband on the UK market. Entry-level packages come with download speeds of up to 50Mbps, while at the top end its 152Mbps packages are double the speed of its nearest rivals.
On the down side, Virgin Media is one of the most expensive providers out there and one of the slowest when it comes to upload speeds. So while it’s easy to be bowled over by its impressive download speeds, there’s more to consider before signing up.
- Fast download speeds
- Independent of BT Openreach
- No need for a landline
- No download limits
- Good customer service satisfaction
- Not available everywhere
- Top speeds are expensive
- Upload speeds are relatively slow
- Traffic management may be an issue
- Mobile broadband operates on 3G
What we like
Fast download speeds
According to Ofcom, Virgin offers the fastest widely available broadband speeds in the UK, with its top package advertising download speeds of up to 152Mbps. Faster broadband speeds mean web pages load more quickly, and downloading files takes less time. If you’re into streaming videos online, faster speeds also help you avoid the frustration of buffering and make playback instant and continuous.
It doesn't use the BT network
Most fibre broadband providers in the UK use BT’s extensive Openreach network. Virgin’s service operates on its own network. This independence helps Virgin to achieve its market-leading speeds. Since there are no other providers piggy-backing on its network, there is considerably less demand on its resources than on BT Openreach.
You don't need to have a landline
Another perk to being independent of BT Openreach is not having to pay for an active landline to receive your broadband connection. Virgin Media’s 12-month broadband-only service does not need a landline, although the price difference between a broadband-only service and a broadband and phone package is negligible when costs are averaged out over 18 months.
There are no download limits
The speed of fibre broadband can make using the internet smooth and efficient, but some providers limit how much data you can download each month. This has an impact on how long you can spend browsing the web, how many videos you can stream, and how many files you can download. Virgin does not cap downloads on any of its broadband services.
Customer service satisfaction is above average
In Ofcom’s latest customer service satisfaction survey, Virgin Media achieved an overall satisfaction score of 76% – the highest out of Sky, BT and TalkTalk. Ofcom said that satisfaction with the attitude and ability of Virgin broadband customer service advisers was significantly above average.
What we don't like
Not available everywhere
Virgin offers only fibre broadband across its own network, and availability is more limited than providers using the BT Openreach network. If you can't get Virgin Media broadband, you might be able to get a fibre connection from another provider. You can see which fibre services are available in your area by using our availability checker.
Top speeds are some of the most expensive
Virgin currently has a monopoly on the UK’s fastest widely available broadband speeds, with its top package offering double the maximum speeds of its main competitors. So it’s little surprise that its top two broadband speeds – 100Mbps and 152Mbps – are also among the most expensive on the market.
Upload speeds are slower than the competition
Virgin is at the top of the class for download speeds, but when it comes to uploads, the result is less impressive. Virgin’s upload speeds range from 3Mbps to 12Mbps, depending on the package, whereas other major providers support speeds of up to 19Mbps. Upload speed is important if you're into creative tasks, like sharing videos on YouTube. At Virgin's fastest speed, uploading a 1GB video file would take around 12 minutes.
Traffic management can be an issue for some
Like many other providers, Virgin uses a traffic management system on uploads to keep its service ticking along at peak times. Without such a system, the network can slowed dramatically when large numbers of users are online. Activities like peer-to-peer file sharing are especially susceptible to Virgin’s traffic management policy, but anyone uploading high volumes of data on evenings and weekends is also likely to notice a drop in speed.
Mobile broadband only operates on 3G
Mobile broadband is a bit of a black sheep in the Virgin broadband line-up. While its fixed broadband is classed as the UK’s fastest, its mobile offering is anything but. Despite operating on EE – the UK’s largest 4G network – Virgin mobile broadband is a 3G-only service, meaning its average download speed is around 7Mbps. In addition, Virgin places limits on how much data you can download each month, with its top allowance limiting you to 3GB.
How fast is Virgin Media broadband?
Virgin Media broadband has become synonymous with speed, and the company has no issues with making bold statements about it. On its top packages, Virgin Media promises speeds of up to 152Mbps, the fastest widely available speed in the UK.
But what does speed mean for you, and is your broadband connection likely to live up to the speeds that Virgin advertises? Let's have a closer look…
Speeds of up to 152Mbps
|Download speeds||50Mbps - 152Mbps|
|Upload speeds||3Mbps - 12Mbps|
|Fair usage policy||Yes|
|Traffic management||On uploads only|
|Prices from||£6 per month|
|Optional line rental||£16.99 per month|
|Contract lengths||12 and 18 months|
50Mbps, 100Mbps and 152Mbps
3Mbps, 6Mbps and 12Mbps
Fair usage policy
On uploads only
£6 per month
Optional line rental
£16.99 per month
12 and 18 months
Everything from opening a web page to watching a video online requires a certain amount of data to be delivered to you. Download speeds are responsible for how long it takes that data to reach you. These speeds are measured in Mbps (megabits per second) and higher numbers mean a faster delivery of data. Virgin’s top package offers download speeds of up to 152Mbps and is capable of downloading a feature-length movie in under two minutes.
Upload speeds are important for transferring data from your computer or device to the web. This can be anything from uploading a video to YouTube to gaming online with friends. Upload speeds are measured in Mbps (megabits per second) and a higher speed increases the rate at which data is delivered. Virgin’s maximum upload speed is 12Mbps, which could upload a 1GB file in less than 15 minutes.
Your actual speeds will vary
Like all providers, Virgin’s speeds are advertised as ‘up to’, meaning the speed you see isn’t necessarily what you’ll get. Broadband speeds vary considerably between customers and are influenced by things like your location, how you’re connected, and the time of day. Ofcom reported that the average download speed in a 24-hour period for Virgin’s 152Mbps package was 136.9Mbps to 146.9Mbps. However, there are no guarantees on the speeds you will achieve day-to-day.
Virgin Media broadband with phone
Pairing Virgin Media broadband with a Virgin phone line is the most popular option for most customers. What’s more, these packages often come with special deals for new customers.
However, this combination of broadband and phone requires a monthly line rental fee. The cost of broadband is reduced to compensate for this, but the extra charge is easy to overlook. To avoid any surprises, here’s a breakdown of what you can get and how much it will cost you overall…
Fibre broadband with weekend calls
Contracts last for 18 months
Virgin’s broadband and phone contracts have an 18-month minimum term. An 18-month contract is pretty standard across the market for packages like these, and to get a shorter contract Virgin you need to go for a broadband-only plan.
Free set-up and Super Hub
Taking Virgin cable broadband with a phone line means you won't have to pay the standard set-up fee of £49.95. New customers also get a free Virgin Media Super Hub, which combines the functionalities of a cable modem and a wireless router into a single unit.
You have to pay line rental
Unlike its broadband-only packages, Virgin’s broadband and phone plans require you to pay a monthly line rental fee. Virgin currently charges £16.99 per month for line rental, which accounts for a significant portion of your costs over the course of the contract. You can choose to pay £164 upfront for 12 months’ line rental – a saving of £39.88.
You get unlimited weekend calls as standard
Inclusive weekend calls come as standard with each of Virgin’s broadband and phone packages. This means you can call UK landlines, Virgin Mobile phones and 0870 numbers on Saturday or Sunday without being charged. This only applies to calls that last up to 60 minutes. To avoid getting charged extra, hang up and redial before the 60-minute mark. Inclusive evening and anytime calls are also available.
Virgin Media broadband only
For those who don’t want or need a phone line, there are broadband-only packages. Virgin is unique in that it can supply properties with fixed fibre broadband without the need for a phone line. Contracts for Virgin broadband-only packages are shorter than most other broadband contracts, so there’s a little extra flexibility.
However, with fixed standard pricing across the board and the possibility of an upfront set-up fee, take a careful look at the combined costs before committing.
Fibre broadband without a phone line
A 12-month contract
Virgin's broadband-only contracts run for just 12 months, six months less than the provider's broadband and phone or Big Bundle plans. This offers a little more flexibility and may suit those who like to shop around for the best deals each year.
You may need to pay a set-up fee
If you choose Virgin’s 50Mbps broadband-only package you’ll have to pay a set-up fee. This covers the handling of your new account, installation at your property and the set-up of your Super Hub. This fee is waived on the 100Mbps and 152Mbps broadband-only packages, any packages which include broadband and phone, and all the Big Bundle plans.
No existing landline required
If you don’t need a landline then a Virgin Media broadband-only package may be for you. Virgin is the only major broadband provider that doesn’t make a landline compulsory, so you could avoid having to pay line rental. However, the cost of broadband is higher on these packages than it is when taken with a Virgin phone.
Virgin Media broadband bundles
Virgin doesn’t just do broadband. Its media services extend into TV, home phone and mobile too, all of which are available together in a Virgin Media Big Bundle. The Big Bundles come preconfigured or you can build your own, and they invariably work out cheaper than taking multiple individual services.
However, when combining services, some important information can become obscured, and it’s important to have a view of the bigger picture before diving in. Here’s the key information you need…
A customisable TV package
Virgin Media offers one of the most channel-rich TV services on the market and combining it with broadband is easy with a Big Bundle. Virgin’s TV packages offer between 60 and 230+ channels, with Sky Sports and Sky Movies available across the board, and other add-ons available for kids TV and HD channels too.
An 18-month contract
All of Virgin Media's Big Bundle contracts last for 18 months, which is longer than some of the contracts for the individual services if you get them separately. However, signing up to a Big Bundle costs less than taking those Virgin services individually, so the longer commitment should save you money. Our comparison tools can help you tot up the potential savings.
Free online security
Virgin Media's Web Safe automatically filters websites that may contain malware or material that’s inappropriate for children. It’s free for all Virgin Media broadband customers and can be turned on and off. Virgin also offers a free 12-month subscription to F-Secure SAFE. This is a dedicated anti-virus software that helps keep up to five devices – including mobiles and tablets – protected against viruses, spyware and identity theft.
You can build your own bundle
If the Big Bang or Big Kahuna bundles don’t appeal to you, Virgin lets you build your own bundle from scratch. Start off with of one of Virgin’s three broadband packages and then choose between five TV packages ranging between 60+ and 230+ channels. Add a phone line and a Virgin Mobile SIM too, then customise your selections further with a collection of extras that include premium Sky channels for TV and different call plans for your landline.
Line rental is required with call plans
If you take a call plan as part of your Virgin Media bundle you’ll have to pay £16.99 per month for line rental, but the cost of your broadband will be reduced. You can choose to pay for 12 months’ line rental upfront for £164 – saving you £39.88 for the year.
Save on a Virgin Mobile SIM
You’ll be eligible to receive a £5 monthly discount across the Virgin Mobile tariff range when you sign up. A Virgin Mobile SIM can be added to your Big Bundle on sign-up. Prices start at £5 per month and range up to £20 per month for unlimited minutes, texts and data. If you’d like to know more about Virgin Mobile, check out our review.
Virgin Media’s router
Virgin Media includes the Super Hub router with all of its broadband packages. The Super Hub is a cable modem and wireless router rolled into one, which reduces the number of cables required. The inclusion of four Ethernet ports and dual-band wireless technology means you can connect more than 20 devices at once. Here’s everything you need to know…
Is it any good?
Sleek all-in-one design
The Super Hub combines the functionalities of a cable modem and wireless router into a single unit. It only requires one power socket and the curved, black gloss design is equally unobtrusive.
Dual-band wireless technology
Its wireless mode works across two frequencies at the same time – 5GHz and 2.4GHz – delivering fibre broadband speeds to all of your devices. Plus, the five internal antennas should give you strong wi-fi coverage throughout your home.
Four Ethernet ports
If you’re after the speed and reliability of a cable connection, there are four available Ethernet ports. These cable connections are handy for hooking up desktop computers, game consoles and smart TVs or set-top boxes.
- Model: Netgear VMDG490
- Ethernet ports: 4 x 10/100/100BaseT ports
- Power consumption (standard broadband): 12.7W
- Power consumption (fibre broadband): 12.7W
Frequently asked questions
How do I switch to Virgin Media broadband?
Check that it's available in your area
Virgin Media services aren’t as widely available as those of some other providers, so use our Virgin Media availability tool to make sure your area is covered before pinning your hopes on 152Mbps fibre broadband.
If you find that you can’t get Virgin Media, try our broadband availability checker. This will provide you with a list of the alternative options that are available where you live.
Tell your existing provider that you're leaving
To avoid having your existing broadband service renew automatically at the end of your minimum term, let your current provider know you’re switching. A notice period of 30 days is advisable and if you’re still under contract, you’ll have to settle any outstanding payments and perhaps pay a termination fee. Call your provider to discuss any potential charges if you’re unsure. As Virgin has its own dedicated network, you don’t need a migration authorisation code (MAC) to switch.
Choose a new package that suits you
There are a number of ways of getting Virgin Media broadband, whether it’s on its own, with a phone line, or as part of a Virgin TV bundle. You’ll find everything you need to know about these packages in the above sections, along with some impartial advice to help you make an informed decision. When you order your package, Virgin will arrange an installation date with you – usually within ten days of sign-up – and after that, you’ll be up and running.
Do I need fibre optic broadband?
Fibre optic broadband is faster than standard broadband. This usually means a better online experience overall, but If you’re a casual browser, you’ll probably be happy sticking with a standard package. However, the high speeds will appeal to large family households and more demanding users, like online gamers, media streamers and people who download content on a regular basis.
Standard broadband is more widely available than fibre, with the typical download speed being advertised as up to 17Mbps. In 2014, Ofcom found the average actual download speed for standard broadband to be 7.4Mbps. Standard broadband is often cheaper than fibre and is available from a number of major providers. You can compare standard broadband packages here.
Do I need a landline for Virgin Media broadband?
Not with a broadband-only package. Virgin Media is the only major UK provider that supplies broadband plans without the need for an existing landline – that means there’s no need to pay line rental. However, if you take a Virgin Media phone line with your broadband, you will need to pay line rental and this is currently charged at £16.99 per month or £164 for 12 months.
How good is Virgin Media's customer service?
In the latest customer service satisfaction report from Ofcom, Virgin Media beat Sky, BT and TalkTalk with its overall satisfaction score of 76%. This was significantly higher than the sector average of 69% and an improvement on its own score for the preceding year. Ofcom noted that customer satisfaction with Virgin Media advisers was significantly above average.
What is Virgin Media's customer service number?
Virgin Media’s customer service department can be reached by dialling 150 from a Virgin landline or Virgin Mobile phone. From any other phone, dial 0345 454 111. Lines are open seven days a week between the hours of 8am and 12pm.
How can I save money on Virgin Media broadband?
Choose a broadband-only package
A broadband-only service from Virgin Media is available on a 12-month contract from £28.50 per month and there’s no need to pay line rental on top of this. However, if you choose Virgin’s 50Mbps package, you’ll have to pay an upfront cost for installation. You can compare all of Virgin Media’s packages on our dedicated comparison page.
Pay for line rental upfront
If you’re taking Virgin phone and broadband together you’ll have to pay a line rental fee. This is charged at £16.99 per month, but Virgin also offers the opportunity to pay for a year’s line rental upfront. By paying for 12 months in a single payment of £164, you’ll save almost £39.88 overall.
Downgrade to a cheaper package
Virgin Media’s 152Mbps fibre broadband has its appeals, but it’s also one of the most expensive options out there. Downgrading might save you money. If you’d like to test how fast you broadband is, check out our speed test tool.
What's Virgin Media's cheapest broadband package?
The Big Connection
The up to 50Mbps Big Connection package is capable of downloading an HD movie in around six minutes and a music album in 10 seconds. Plus, with no limits on usage, you’re free to download as much as you like. Installation is free but don’t forget to factor the £16.99 monthly line rental into what you’ll be paying each month. That said, even with the cost of the phone line, this is still the cheapest package from Virgin Media over 18 months, with further savings possible if you take advantage of the Line Rental Saver.