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Can I get cable TV and broadband in my area?

By Aaron Howdle
Thursday, April 19th 2018

You have arrived here wondering how to get cable TV in your area. To answer this question it is necessary to ask another one; what do you mean by cable TV? Bear with us here.

What constitutes cable TV has changed a bit over the years. Of course, you may know exactly what you are looking for in the way of cable TV, in which case please feel to head straight to the Virgin Media postcode checker below. However, if by cable TV you mean the box next to your telly with lots of channels on it, then read on, as there is a bit more to it.

Check cable coverage where you live

You can use the handy postcode checker below to see if cable broadband and TV (Virgin Media) is available in your street.

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Cable TV refers to multi-channel paid TV which is piped to your home via a network of underground cables. Nowadays the same cables which provide your TV can also supply telephone line and broadband services. Back in the '80s and '90s there were numerous cable TV companies, but now there is only one, Virgin Media. So the question 'Can I get cable TV in my area?' for many people really comes down to 'Can I get Virgin Media in my area'.

On the other hand, things have changed a bit over the last few years. Although Virgin Media is technically the UK's only cable TV provider, the introduction of fibre optic broadband by companies like BT has created a new type of 'cable' TV, piped through your internet connection. YouView TV available from BT is one example. To all intents and purposes it is cable TV, providing the same kind of television experience. It even comes via a fibre optic cable.

Virgin Media TV and broadband packages

Virgin Media offers two different TV packages for customers who want TV only. The first is called Mix TV, and includes upwards of 150 channels, while the larger package is called Full House TV and boasts over 230 channels.

But this is not the whole story. If you want broadband and phone with your TV, Virgin Media offers a wider choice of packages. At the low end, its Player bundle includes 70 channels (most of which are Freeview channels), VIVID 100 (100Mbps) fibre broadband and a phone line with its Talk Weekends call plan.

The aforementioned Mix and Full House are available with VIVID 100 (100Mbps) broadband and also come with a phone line and Talk Weekends. At the top end is the VIP bundle, which has over 260 channels, including Sky Cinema and Sky Sports, an extra set-top box and VIVID 350 broadband (350Mbps). The phone line with this package includes Virgin Media's Talk More Anytime call plan.

Cable broadband

Straight off the bat, we should mention that cable broadband and fibre optic broadband are essentially the same thing. They are both provided via a backbone of fibre optic cabling. However, the two names persist. Cable broadband commonly refers to broadband provided by a cable TV company and is a throwback to a time when cable TV companies supplied broadband over their network of coaxial TV cables. These days both Virgin Media and traditional telephone/internet providers such as BT use fibre optic cables.

Cable broadband versus fibre broadband

Fibre broadband is generally associated with providers whose main business is broadband and telephony; companies like BT and TalkTalk, though Sky also offers fibre broadband and phone services alongside its TV.

Now, I know we said that cable broadband from Virgin Media and fibre broadband from other providers are basically the same thing, but that doesn't mean there are no differences.

One of the main differences is that Virgin Media has its own cable infrastructure, whereas all the other providers use the Openreach network. As a consequence, most providers offer the same connection speeds, generally maxing out at an average of 67Mbps in their top packages (though BT recently rolled out 100Mbps ).

Virgin Media by contrast is able to offer far higher speeds. The top-end package from Virgin Media is very fast indeed, with a top download speed of 350Mbps. To find out if Virgin Media Broadband is available on your street, enter your postcode below.

Virgin Media offer four fibre broadband packages with different headline speeds. Its entry-level fibre broadband comes in the form of VIVD 50, which, as its name suggests, has a download speed up to 50Mbps.

In the middle is VIVID 100 with download speeds up to 100Mbps. After these two, we have the very fast packages from Virgin Media, both of which are much faster than anything offered by its competition.

The first of these is VIVID 200 with a download speed double that of the nearest competition. As you may have guessed, the download speed for VIVID 200 is up to 200Mbps. At the top is the ludicrously fast 350Mbps offered by VIVID 350.

VIVID 50 should be more than enough for those living alone. Busier households will be able to use more devices at once and watch more HD or 4K video simultaneously with VIVID 100 or VIVID 200. If you simply want the fastest or have a very large household, then VIVID 350 is the one for you.

A potted history of cable TV

Cable TV is older than you might think. It began at the dawn of television in the 1930s. At the time, most homes were out of range of broadcast antenna. The first cable companies emerged to bridge this gap by piping the single BBC channel directly into people's homes. Within a few decades, broadcast antennas covered enough of the UK to render this type of cable TV unnecessary.

Everything changed in the 1980s when the government introduced more competition to the market. Licences were granted to a variety of cable TV companies around Britain. For the first time, cable companies were also allowed to broadcast as many channels as they liked. One of these was Sky, a cable TV company, which after its merger with British Satellite Broadcasting (BSB) became Britain's major satellite broadcaster.

Throughout the '80s and '90s, the smaller cable TV companies were hoovered up by big fish like Telewest, NTL, and Cable and Wireless. Telewest and NTL became the two largest providers, having scooped up all the rest. Then in 2006 after a period of cooperation, they merged. By 2007 this newly-merged company was re-branded as Virgin Media, which to this day remains the only large cable TV company in the UK.

Frequently asked questions

virgins v6 box

Do I need cable TV?

We will start this answer by assuming you like to watch TV (thus avoiding any kerfuffle about how we should be spending our time). The rise of services like Prime Video and Netflix, as well as Freeview and services like iPlayer or 4OD, has happened at the same time as the rise of fast fibre optic broadband services.

Without cable or satellite TV, you won't get all the fancy entertainment, movie and sports channels, but if you find yourself mainly watching Freeview, catch-up and Netflix, then you may feel a good broadband connection is enough for you.

Unfortunately there is a catch. A lot of broadband providers also provide TV services and are wise to this idea. As a result, bundles containing fibre broadband, TV and phone are often similar in price to the broadband service on its own. For a few extra pounds you can have the convenience of cable TV with a decent set-top box and the fast broadband you were after. A choice many will make.

Is cable better than satellite?

It depends on what is important to you. If you want the fastest internet connection available and can manage on up to 270 channels, then cable from Virgin Media is your best option.

However if you are more concerned about the TV side of things, Sky's satellite TV has a lot more channels (over 540, excluding radio channels) but cannot offer anything close to Virgin Media's top internet speeds. For a more in-depth analysis of this question head over to our guide on choosing between Sky and Virgin.

Why do we need your postcode?

Once you enter your postcode, Cable.co.uk will perform a live lookup and check all the available providers in your area.

This ensures you receive accurate information on the availability of providers and packages in your area.

Your information is safe with us. We won't share your postcode with anyone. Guaranteed.

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