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Can I get Virgin Media in my area?

Hannah Ricci
Tuesday, May 10th 2016

Virgin Media’s fibre optic network currently covers just over half of UK properties and is growing all the time. Our availability checker will tell you whether you can receive Virgin Media in your area.

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Virgin Media availability

Virgin Media is not available everywhere

Flip a coin. That’s your chance of being able to get Virgin Media in your postcode, since Virgin Media is only available to around 50% of UK households, although it is moving apace to increase its reach.

Virgin Media, then, is nowhere near as widespread as BT Infinity or fibre broadband from almost any other provider. That’s because all widely available UK broadband providers piggyback on BT’s Openreach network – wherever BT Infinity fibre is available, so too is Sky Fibre, TalkTalk fibre and a host of others.

BT has somewhat of an unfair advantage in this respect, since the government has been subsidising the rollout of fibre (superfast) broadband on the Openreach network for the last several years. However, you can't fairly say that Virgin Media has not taken advantage. As Virgin Media owns and maintains its own network, it can decide how fast the whole thing runs.

You may not be able to get Virgin Media everywhere, but those who can can enjoy some of the fastest widely available broadband speeds in the UK. Up to three times faster, in fact, than its closest competitors.

If you can’t get Virgin Media, we recommend you try Sky instead

Some may be interested in Virgin Media because of its slightly insane top speeds. If that’s the case, then we have some rather sad news: no one can offer you a like-for-like 200Mbps alternative.

However, there’s more to choosing a provider than that, and we’re willing to bet that most people wondering whether they can get Virgin Media at their postcode have more in mind than headline speed. Virgin Media does, after all, also offer broadband-only deals (no line rental), as well as any combination of broadband, TV, home phone and Virgin Mobile SIM.

As soon as you throw TV into the mix as a purchase consideration, Sky has to be your next choice. It can’t match Virgin Media for speed, but Sky’s Fibre Pro 76Mb packages are plenty fast enough even for huge households. Furthermore, Sky trounces Virgin Media’s TV offering with its on demand movies, Box Sets and a host of exclusive channels like Sky Atlantic.

What is Virgin Media fibre optic broadband?

Virgin Media fibre optic broadband is literally any broadband offered by Virgin Media. That’s because unlike every other widely available bbroadband provider in the UK, Virgin Media doesn’t offer standard ADSL (sometimes called ‘copper’) broadband at all. Its entire network is fibre-only.

Virgin Media does not offer standard ADSL broadband

Unlike BT’s Openreach network, which is still in large part made up of the old copper telephone network we all once used as our primary means of communication across distance, Virgin Media’s own network was built from scratch to be superfast fibre right from the outset.

In a way, then, BT has had to – and continues to – smooth over the shortcomings of delivering broadband through a copper cable, first by building a fibre network alongside it, second by implementing new technologies (such as BT’s forthcoming G.Fast) to sort of paper over the cracks.

You see, broadband over copper cabling can only go so fast – currently, 17Mbps. Fibre, on the other hand, is still nowhere near its physical speed limit. That’s because a signal – any signal – degrades over distance due to the electrical resistance of copper as a medium. Fibre cabling does not have this problem.

All Virgin Media broadband is fibre optic

No matter which Virgin Media broadband deal you plump for, you’ll be getting fibre optic broadband.

How does Virgin Media fibre optic broadband work?

A fibre network is a series of hub buildings connected together across the country by fibre optic cables, and from each a sprawling web of fibre cables to each cabinet on the street, and from each cabinet another sprawl out to each home – that ‘last mile’ as it’s called, usually made of copper rather than fibre optic.

Where BT’s Openreach network uses the old telephone exchange buildings as its main hub points to distribute connections out to each of its cabinets, Virgin Media on the other hand uses its own local ‘hubs’. What these look like is a mystery, since they tend to be secreted under ground or out of sight.

The most important distinction consumers should understand is that Virgin Media’s network is independent of BT Openreach, which means it can set its own speed agenda.

When is Virgin Media coming to my area?

So you can’t get Virgin Media, huh? Well, we’re sorry about that. We’ve been there ourselves and know how disappointing it can be not to be able to get the fastest widely available internet in the country. You should console yourself, however, by weighing up your alternatives. There are plenty of other great providers out there ready to fight for your custom.

Virgin Media is far more open than BT Openreach concerning when – or if – you’re likely to get its services. You can find out if your street or postcode will be getting it in the near future on the Virgin Media website. You can also register your interest to bump yourself up the queue – effective if you can convince some neighbours to also register.

It’s a basic truth that network providers – all network providers – will prioritise rollout of physical infrastructure to those places likely to garner them the most new customers.

If you’re getting a Virgin Media Big Bundle that includes Virgin TV, you should…

Consider Sky instead. If TV is your priority, Sky has Virgin Media beat, offering a substantial amount of additional channels as well as easily the best range of on demand content available in the UK.

Even if you can only get Sky’s standard broadband package because fibre is not yet available, we would still advise this course of action if Virgin Media’s arrival is looking unlikely in the short term, or is indefinitely delayed. 17Mbps will be plenty to enjoy everything Sky TV can offer you, including all its on demand stuff (that’s 300+ TV box sets and over a thousand movies) in high definition.

If you want Virgin Media because of a special, limited deal you’ve seen, you should…

Take a look at what both Sky and BT are currently offering. If that special deal you’ve seen is special because of vouchers, free gifts, a limited ‘free’ period or discounted line rental, it’s almost certain you’ll find something similar from either Sky or BT.

That’s because the ‘big four’ – Sky, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk – tend to keep a close eye on what each other is up to. When one offers a spectacular deal, the others fall over themselves to offer something similar. Note, we are not recommending TalkTalk here, thanks to TalkTalk’s poor customer service history and, of course, its much-publicised loss of customer data at the end of 2015.

If you aren’t yet sold on Virgin Media, and it appears you can get BT Infinity where you live, you should…

Think about getting BT Infinity instead. We offer that advice with two caveats. First, that if you love TV and movies, get a Sky Bundle over BT Infinity as it has a magnitude more content to offer you.

Second, if you can get BT Infinity, you really can get broadband from just about anybody since all other providers bar Virgin Media use BT’s Openreach network. So while BT is no doubt a good option for most, bear in mind you have a lot to choose from. Take some time to weight up the pros and cons before making a final decision.

If you’re only willing to get Virgin Media and unwilling to choose an alternative in the meantime, you should…

Reconsider. At the extremes, there are some homes in the UK that will never get Virgin Media. They are too remote or isolated to make it worth Virgin Media’s while.

In between ‘soon’ and ‘never’ is a sort of broadband desert in which you can either sit waiting indefinitely, slowly dying of internet thirst, or you can make a beeline for the nearest oasis – whatever service you can get from whatever provider can deliver it to your home. Sometimes even sandy water with flies buzzing round it is better than nothing at all.

What services can I get on Virgin Media?

Virgin Media offers broadband, TV, home phone and mobile services, all of which can either be taken out individually, or all bundled together for the sake of saving a little money and keeping that many more bills in one place.

Virgin Media broadband

Virgin Media is the only nationally available broadband supplier that has installed its own network, meaning it can offer a broadband-only service without you having to pay for either line rental or a call plan. However, before you jump on that it’s worth mentioning that over the course of 12 months, Virgin Media’s broadband-only packages do cost more than its broadband and phone deals, thus nullifying the appeal of doing away with a landline. If you do plump for broadband-only, then you’ll be doing so on principal rather than as an exercise in saving money.

Virgin only offers fibre optic broadband packages – some of the fastest widely available in the UK – running at 50Mbps, 100Mbps or 200Mbps.

All broadband packages from Virgin Media come with 24-hour support, free internet security, free wi-fi on the London Underground and a Super Hub wireless router.

Virgin TV

Virgin Media offers a range of TV packages that you can bundle with your broadband, homes phone and, if you like, a Virgin Mobile SIM of your choice. You can also get Virgin TV on its own if you wish to, though you would be eschewing Virgin Media’s top selling point: its incredibly nippy broadband.

The packages range from TV M, which comes with 60 free-to-air channels and 10 HD free-to-air channels, to the extensive TV XL package, which comes with 230+ channels including 43 in HD and 14 Sky channels, as well as a load of catch up and on demand content. You even get BT Sport for nothing.

All Virgin Media TV packages come with a 500GB or 1TB TiVo box as standard. These boxes allow you to watch your content in both HD and 3D (if you have an HD and/or 3D-enabled TV), and let you pause, rewind and record live TV.

Virgin Media home phone

If you still want a landline, Virgin does offer four different call plans that can be added to your package or taken out on their own. By taking a landline, whether in a bundle or on its own, you will have to pay line rental.

The four plans are: Talk Weekends, which gives you free calls on weekends; Talk Evenings & Weekends, which gives you free calls on evenings and weekends; Talk Unlimited, which gives free calls to all UK landlines and 0870 numbers; and Talk Unlimited Extra, which gives free calls to landlines and mobiles.

All the plans allow you to make free calls to Virgin mobiles, and there are a number of additional features on offer, such as last number recall, permanent number withhold, and a free voicemail service. This is yet another reason to consider switching the whole family to Virgin Mobile by adding a SIM or four to your bundle.

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile offers a range of SIM-only deals and pay monthly plans. Its SIM-only plans can be taken with or without other Virgin Media services – there’s no difference in price whether you’re an existing Virgin customer or not, though you will be able to call any Virgin Mobile number for free at any time from your Virgin Media home phone.

Plans start at £5 per month for 250 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of data, all the way to £23 per month for 5000 minutes (plus 5000 minutes to 08 numbers), unlimited texts and 10GB of data. All calls to other Virgin Mobile customers are free and you can download the Virgin Wi-Fi Buddy app, which lets you connect to any of over 22,000 wi-fi hotspots around the UK, for free.

Do note that – and this is probably Virgin Mobile’s main weakness – Virgin Mobile does not currently offer 4G, so if it’s super-speedy data you’re after, you’ll need to take that into consideration.

Virgin Media Bundles

Virgin has built four ‘Big’ bundles, which include varying mixtures of broadband, TV and phone to suit your needs. They range from the Big Easy, which comes with 50Mbps broadband, 60+ TV channels and a weekend call plan, to the VIP bundle, which comes with 200Mbps broadband, 240+ channels, BT Sport, Sky Sports, Sky Movies and unlimited calls.

Bundling everything together is a simpler and cheaper way to receive your services. For those who don’t want a TV package, Virgin Media also offers a broadband and phone only bundle.

How long does Virgin Media broadband, TV and phone take to install and activate?

Virgin Media activation period

Here’s what will happen after you place your order with Virgin Media…

  • During the sign-up process, Virgin Media will ask you to highlight the day it’s best for an engineer to come to your house. You’ll also get to choose morning or afternoon
  • Virgin Media will send you a highly congratulatory letter whose main aim appears to be to ratchet up the excitement you feel for the services you’re about to receive. Oh, and also to confirm your installation date
  • At least two weeks will pass, then on the prescribed date the engineer will arrive to hook you up
  • Virgin Media’s services – both broadband and TV, arrive through a cable fed from the street into your living room. The engineer may have to bury that in your garden or feed it under the paving in your driveway. It’s not always simple
  • Once the cable’s in and your router and/or TiVo box are plugged in, you’re up and running. Lucky you.

Virgin Media installation time

This can vary enormously. It can take anything between 30 minutes and several hours. It all depends on how much work there is to do getting that cable from the street, invisibly to your living room – or whichever room you want your services to primarily exist in.

All Virgin Media broadband deals are unlimited

Unlike its competitors, Virgin Media offers no broadband deals with data caps

Not that you will have, but if you did read this guide’s sister pages – on the subjects of BT Infinity, Sky Fibre and TalkTalk Fibre – you’d have seen a recurring pattern: our bemusement that anyone would offer a limited fibre broadband deal.

Limited broadband deals put a cap on how much you can download across the month. They can make sense for light users of standard ADSL broadband, but stop making sense when applied to fibre. After all, opting for fibre is sort of an admission you use the internet a lot – so why would you want limits?

The pointlessness of a limited package is amplified with Virgin Media broadband, since its slowest speed is already 50Mbps – a speed easily capable of chewing through a 20GB data limit in just a couple of hours.

So, sensibly, Virgin Media, unlike its competitors, does not offer any broadband deal with a cap on it.

Virgin ‘SuperFibre 50’ 50Mbps fibre broadband

If you’re looking at Virgin Media’s ‘SuperFibre 50’ 50Mbps broadband and perceiving it as slow, then you’re unfortunately the victim of what psychologists refer to as an anchoring effect. It’s the slowest of the three, so we perceive it as slow. But is it slow? Is it slow in terms of what it can do and how it stacks up against broadband deals from other providers?

Absolutely not.

In fact, most households will find that 50Mbps is far more than they ever need, even at peak times of the day. There is an adage here worth remembering: the more speed you add, the more you tend to waste. In theory, Virgin Media’s top speeds should be reserved for student households with a dozen or more occupants, in reality, many sign up to 200Mbps broadband because they want the best whether they need it or not.

Virgin ‘Vivid 100’ 100Mbps fibre broadband

Double the speed of the already very nippy SuperFibre 50 deal outlined above, Virgin Vivid 100 offer 100Mbps download speeds to all those who need it. Thing is, not many need it.

You’ll probably want to consider getting Virgin Vivid 100 if you’re in a super-large household with lots of people and lots of devices. For everyone else, it’s probably overkill. That won’t stop Virgin Media telling you you need it, mind, nor even telling you that you need Virgin Vivid 200 (which is 200Mbps – twice as fast as this one).

If you want to trip them up, just ask them what you can do with 100Mbps that you can’t do on 50Mbps. The correct answer is ‘Er…’

Virgin ‘Vivid 200’ 200Mbps fibre broadband

You might want 200Mbps broadband. And that’s fine, because if you do, Virgin Media will happily supply it to you. Does anybody actually need it, though? No.

Not yet at least. The demand for data both up and down the pipe increases year on year as we fill our houses with devices, increase our streaming viewing habits and the size of the average game or application update steadily grows. But at this rate of growth, the average household is still a decade or two away from *needing* 200Mbps.

The best reason to get Virgin Vivid 200 is because you want it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Virgin Media line rental

If you want Virgin Media broadband, you should get a phone line to go with it

Virgin Media is the only provider in the UK that can truly offer you a broadband-only deal. So why, since most folks tend to use their landlines less than they used to on account their mobiles, are we advising you to pick up a landline with your Virgin Media broadband deal?

Well, because it makes no sense not to. Virgin Media’s broadband-only deals cost about the same as its broadband-plus-line rental deals. You save no money by saying no to an essentially free home phone line. So don’t do it unless you wish to purely on principal, or to deny sales callers a potential route of ingress into your home.

Virgin Media offers true broadband-only deals, but there’s a catch

You can get Virgin Media broadband without a phone line. However, since the primary reason a person might sign up to such a deal would be to save money, Virgin’s crazy pricing structure negates this benefit. Virgin Media ratchets up the price of its broadband-only packages to match the price of broadband and phone, including line rental.

This has been the state of play for a goodly long time now and we’re still none the wiser as to why Virgin Media prices its packages this way. In short, unless you really don’t want a phone line for some other reason, opting for a free one is the most sensible course.

Virgin Media SuperFibre 50, Vivid 100 and Vivid 200 – How to choose which speed is right for you

Virgin Media broadband comes arrives at three speeds, all of them quick. In sister versions of this guide (those for BT, Sky, TalkTalk and so on), separating the various speeds offered into some sort of rule of thumb is easy, because there exist things you can do with one speed that you can’t do on the next one down.

No such luck with Virgin Media’s broadband speeds. 50Mbps – Virgin’s slowest offering – is more than enough to do just about anything, so where do you go from there? Probably, you’d need to cobble together some ludicrous and unrealistic use cases that might justify the higher speeds. Okay then…

Get Virgin SuperFibre 50 broadband if…

You’re a sensible, level-headed, frugal person who doesn’t like paying for more than they actually need. Even if you’ve got a 4K TV and regularly like to stream 4K content to it from Netflix et al, 50Mbps is more than enough.

Not that you could regularly stream 4K UHD content, because at the time of writing, there is so little of it you could sit through the whole lot in a weekend. You could always watch it again, we suppose.

Get Virgin Vivid 100 if…

There probably is a justification for having Virgin Vivid 100 if you live in a large household or student accommodation and there are at least half a dozen people who on occasion all want to engage in intensive download tasks like streaming all at the same time.

Households like that are rare, but they do exist. London is such an expensive place to live these days, for example, that it’s not unusual for rented student households to have upwards of 15 people living in them. 15 people justifies 100Mb broadband. Just.

Get Virgin Vivid 200 if…

You want it. Perhaps you occasionally download videogames on PC, PS4 or Xbox One and are fantastically impatient. Perhaps you want to brag to your friends about it. Go ahead, treat yourself, but don’t pretend you actually need it.

To fully justify your purchase of Virgin Vivid 200, you’d have to own eight separate 4K UHD TVs in eight separate rooms, with eight separate people all watching eight separate programs. If that’s you, we apologise – we were kind of counting on you being a myth.

Virgin Media upload speeds Q&A

What is an upload speed?

In short, it’s the direct opposite of a download speed. If downloads take stuff from the internet and either stream it to, or store it on, a device of some kind – a computer, phone, tablet, set-top box – upload takes care of any tasks that involve taking information from one of those devices and sending it somewhere else.

Even five years ago the number of applications that required a good upload speed was small, to say the least. But it’s growing, and for the most part, upload speed provision is not growing proportionately.

Like most other providers, Virgin Media assumes you mostly want to download things. And it’s mostly right. But there does now exist perfectly legitimate reasons that a person might hanker after a connection with a fantastic upload speed. Sadly, a fantastic upload speed is something that Virgin Media, specifically, won’t provide.

At 12Mbps across all Virgin broadband packages, it’s enough for most, but those with more demanding duties in mind might want to consider any of the 76Mbps packages available with any provider on the BT Openreach network. They all provide 19Mbps. It’s not a lot more, but it’s something.

Why are Virgin Media’s upload speeds smaller than their download speeds?

Since Virgin Media’s download speeds are some of the fastest widely available in the UK, its upload speeds equate to the worst upload/download speed ratio of any provider.

For example, BT Infinity’s top speed is 76Mbps for most of us, and offers an upload speed of up to 19Mbps. That’s a download/upload ratio of 4:1. And that’s pretty good.

On the other hand, take Virgin Media’s top download speed – 200Mbps – and compare that to its maximum upload speed or 12Mbps. That’s a ratio of about 17:1. Don’t let that scare you – 12Mbps is plenty for most everyday uses. You should be a little concerned, though, if it’s your aim to set up your own game or office server. But only a little.

Do I need a fast upload speed?

Just ask yourself how often you find yourself streaming live high-definition game footage to your 200,000 fans on Twitch. Of how often you access some sort of cloud computing service like Dropbox or Apple iCloud to upload enormous files for remote storage.

It’s these sorts of activities – and on a regular basis – you need to be certain you’re doing if you’re the sort that needs to worry about a better upload speed than Virgin Media’s 12Mbps. Everyone else need not worry.

Virgin Media’s SuperHub and SuperHub 2 routers – Are they any good?

Tying for first place with BT’s Home Hub 5, Virgin Media’s SuperHub (and the less referred to SuperHub 2) is quite simply the best router supplied free with any UK broadband package.

You can go out and spend a few hundred quid on a better one, certainly, but for everyday household use, it’s hard to come up with a reason why anyone would need anything better than Virgin Media’s SuperHub. It’s the absolute bees knees.

What we like about the Virgin Media SuperHub router

  • Superb range
  • Dual-band – meaning faster wi-fi and less interference
  • Gigabit and IPv6-ready (AKA futureproof)

What we don’t like about the Virgin Media SuperHub router

  • Nothing

Bundling Virgin broadband with Virgin TV

For some it’s a no-brainer, but it also depends on the services you already have

We’re not going to say that cable TV through a set-top box, mainly showing live programming, is old-hat. It’s certainly still relevant for most people. And for most people bundling Virgin TV with Virgin broadband is a no-brainer.

Having said that, there is a growing new wave of users for whom the very notion of plonking themselves onto the sofa to ‘see what’s on’ is beginning to sound like some sort of Victorian folklore. These people have a console, computer or smart TV, they have Netflix, Now TV, iPlayer and Amazon Prime Instant Video, and they watch what they want, when they want.

The beauty of Virgin TV, at least, is that as a set-top box the Virgin TiVo addresses both shortcomings: it records things it thinks you will like for playback at your leisure and, unlike Sky’s set-top box – the Sky+ HD – it’ll allow you to download and use Netflix, iPlayer and so on right there on the TiVo box.

Getting Virgin Media if you’re moving house

You can get Virgin Media in advance of moving house if you’re smart about it

If you can get Virgin Media at your new postcode and it’s still a few weeks or more until you’re moving, you can, in actual fact, get Virgin Media installed for the day you arrive – it just takes foresight, planning, and the willingness of the current owners.

All you need do is sign up to Virgin Media, choose your services (for your new address) and arrange an installation date with the current occupants. Of course, this doesn’t really apply if you’re moving into a rented property. Virgin Media has to drill a hole through your wall to feed the cable in from the street. That means you’ll need the permission of whoever does own the property – namely the landlord.

Moving house doesn’t excuse you from your existing broadband contract

If you’re with BT, say, and you’re halfway through your contract, telling BT – or any other provider – that you’re moving house does not excuse you from your existing broadband contract. BT, or whoever, will want to reconnect you to their services at your new address.

The only way you get out scot-free is if your current provider’s services are not available at your new address.

If you are already a Virgin Media customer and are moving somewhere you can’t get it

Then you’re out of luck. Sadly, you’re even going to have to give back that lovely TiVo box you treasure.

Virgin Media quad-play bundles – getting broadband, TV, home phone and mobile from Virgin Media

Virgin quad-play bundles are a great all-in-one solution for families

Quad-play is an extremely new term that refers to the provision of four (that’s the ‘quad’ bit) services from a single provider – namely broadband, TV, home phone and mobile.

Virgin Media offers some of the best quad-play benefits. It doesn’t just boil down to having less bills to deal with. For example, though Virgin Mobile SIMs are no less money for Virgin TV and Virgin broadband customers, calling a Virgin Mobile number both from a Virgin land line or from another Virgin Mobile is free.

If you’re in a household with a couple of kids of an age ready for their own mobile phones, the money you could save across the year communicating with your family could be significant.

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