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Can I get 4G from Virgin Mobile?

Monday, August 7th 2017

Yes you can. Virgin Mobile has now introduced 4G. Still running on EE's network, customers are no longer restricted to the slower 3G service as they were in the past.

Virgin Mobile offers SIM-only, pay-as-you-go and pay monthly phone deals, although beware, as PAYG is still only available on 3G.

Yes, you can now get 4G with Virgin Mobile

Virgin Media’s mobile service operates on the EE network, which – if you didn’t already know – is the UK’s largest 4G mobile provider, covering over 99% of the UK with its 4G service. Customers will receive an average download speed of around 33Mbps.

Visit Virgin Media

Virgin Mobile 4G SIM-only plans

All Virgin's pay monthly SIM-only plans are on 12-month contracts, although you can change your plan up or down every month. Prices start from £6 per month for 300 minutes and 300MB of data and go up to £25 for 5000 minutes and 20GB of data. All plans come with unlimited texts and free calls to other Virgin Mobile customers, and prices for both new and existing Virgin Media customers are the same.

Virgin Mobile 3G pay-as-you-go

Virgin offers a choice of two tariffs with its PAYG plans – Big Data and Texts or Big Talk. Depending on whether you are more of a texter/surfer than a talker, you can choose the tariff that's right for you. You can choose from £10 or £15 top-ups and benefit from up to 3000 reward texts, 3GB of reward data and unlimited calls, as well as free calls to any other Virgin Mobile customers.

Virgin Mobile 4G data-only

If you are looking for a speedy connection when you are out and about with your tablet, Virgin now also offers data-only SIMs. Prices start from £8 for 2GB of data and go up to £20 for 10GB of data on a rolling monthly basis. 12-month contract SIMs are also available, costing marginally less per month than the 30-day equivalents.

Still don't fancy Virgin Mobile? There are plenty of alternatives

Most mobile providers now offer 4G, so if you don't see a plan from Virgin Mobile that will suit you, you can look elsewhere. Here’s how the 4G offerings stack up across the UK’s four main network operators…

EE 4GEE

As EE is the network that Virgin Mobile operates on it may be your first port of call when searching for a 4G alternative.

It’s currently the UK’s largest 4G operator serving an estimated 7.7 million customers and covering over 99% of the UK with 4G connectivity.

According to March 2015 Ofcom results, EE’s 4G service achieves an average download speed of 33Mbps and an average upload speed of 17.6Mbps.

BT Mobile also runs on the EE network and BT broadband customers save £5 per month on all BT Mobile plans.

Check EE Coverage

O2 4G

O2’s 4G coverage extends to over 97% of the UK and has an average download speed of 18Mbps, while uploads typically hit a rate of 9Mbps.

You can compare O2’s latest 4G tariffs against the competition’s using our comprehensive comparison tools.

Piggybacking on the O2 network, giffgaff offers a big selection of 4G goodybags. Tesco Mobile has 4G packages which also run on the O2 network.

Check O2 Coverage

Three 4G

Three offers 4G (where available) as standard across its entire tariff range and is the only network out of the big four to offer an unlimited data plan.

As it stands, Three’s 4G network covers around 91% of the UK and has an average download speed of 17Mbps. However, if a planned merger with O2 goes ahead, the combined network power could transform Three’s capabilities and really shake up the nation’s 4G landscape.

Carphone Warehouse's new mobile service, iD Mobile, uses the Three network to carry its data. iD Mobile offers a good range of well-priced 4G mobile deals.

Check Three Coverage

Vodafone 4G

Vodafone’s 4G service currently covers around 95% of the UK and – according to Ofcom results – achieves an average download speed of 20Mbps versus an average upload speed of 13.1Mbps.

You can get the most out of Vodafone’s 4G speeds with one of its Red Value Bundles, which offer free video or music streaming subscriptions to services including Netflix, Now TV, Spotify and Sky Sports Mobile TV.

Check Vodafone Coverage

So why did it take Virgin so long to introduce 4G?

Considering Virgin has the fastest widely available fibre broadband speeds in the UK and a set of popular full-featured subscription TV packages, it seemed very odd that its mobile service only offered 3G speeds.

Virgin Mobile is also probably one of the most subscribed MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) in the country and it’s been on the scene since 1999. Nevertheless, this made its lack of 4G all the more confusing – so what gives?

The BT/EE takeover may have hindered Virgin’s 4G plans

It’s possible that BT’s £12.5bn takeover of EE – the network on which Virgin’s mobile service is delivered – threw a spanner in the works and held back Virgin’s 4G developments.

An August 2015 Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) hearing on the then-anticipated deal surmised that if the transaction were successful, Virgin Media believed it would be “much more restricted in its ability to get an effective mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deal”.

Nevertheless, the CMA gave final clearance to the merger in January 2016, concluding that it didn’t pose significant harm to market competition or the interests of consumers.

The Vodafone bid never materialised

Vodafone addressed speculation back in June 2015, confirming that it was in the early stages of discussions with Virgin Media’s parent company, Liberty Global, regarding “a possible exchange of selected assets”. Three months later, Vodafone confirmed that discussions had ended – and evidently they were unsuccessful.

As Virgin already used EE for its 3G service, it was always going to be the obvious contender for providing 4G as well.

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