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Virgin Media broadband review 2018 – VIVID 50, 100, 200 & 350Mb fibre

By Emma Lunn
Friday, March 9th 2018

If you’ve got the need for speed, then Virgin Media is the broadband provider for you. It’s undoubtedly the fastest in the UK with speeds up to 350Mb. This means films download in minutes, music in seconds, and there’s none of the dreaded buffering.

Virgin Media runs its own super-fast network that stands it apart from rival providers. Its network is not just quicker, but has the latest all-singing, all-dancing technology. It’s not available everywhere though so it’s best to check you can get it before you read any further – we don’t want to get your hopes up.

Speed

Virgin Media is all about speed. It’s miles ahead of the top speeds offered by the likes of BT and Sky with its top VIVID package advertising download speeds of up to 350Mb. According to Ofcom, Virgin Media offers the top speeds in the UK and no one’s arguing.

Even Virgin’s slowest product is faster than the entry-level fibre deals of almost all other UK providers. VIVID 50 fibre broadband offers speeds up to 50Mb while most other providers’ slowest deals average 10Mb for standard broadband or 35Mb for fibre.

Other VIVID broadband deals offer speeds up to 100Mb, 200Mb and 350Mb. These are lightning-quick speeds. On any of these packages you could have a busy household streaming multiple movies, gaming, updating the ‘gram and doing some good old-fashioned surfing, and you’d still have bandwidth left over to Spotify the Madonna classic ‘Like a Virgin’.

A big selling point with Virgin Media is that you’re more than likely to get the speed you're paying for than with other providers. Ofcom's 2017 figures show that those taking out basic broadband packages (previously advertised as up to 17Mbps) average, in fact, only 8.4Mbps (half the advertised speed) at peak times. But Virgin Media 50Mbps customers get an average of 90% of the speed promised, and in many cases, receive more than the speed advertised.

Upload speeds

Ah… hold your horses. It’s not all good news. Upload speeds are one area where Virgin is less than impressive. The average upload speed on Virgin’s 50Mb deal is 3.04Mbps, and 5.99Mbps on the 100Mb package. Even on the 350Mb package you’ll only get upload speeds averaging 20.6Mbps (all speeds are for February 2018 and taken from Virgin Media Broadband Performance Panel powered by SamKnows).

As a comparison, Plusnet’s entry-level fibre deal has upload speeds averaging at 9.5Mbps, while you can get 19Mbps upload speeds on its top-end fibre package.

Do upload speeds matter? Well, yes, a bit. Hanging around waiting for photos to upload or big emails to send can be pretty frustrating (especially when you’ve told all your friends you’ve got the fastest broadband in town).

Virgin operates its own network

Virgin Media is unique in the UK in that it builds, runs and owns its own network. Pretty much every other fibre broadband provider uses the Openreach network. Doing its own thing helps Virgin broadband to achieve its market-leading speeds.

Virgin uses a different type of cable to Sky and BT and the rest. We don’t want to get too technical but Virgin’s DOCSIS® 3 cables have a thicker copper core combined with quality insulation and this cable runs right to your house rather than the cabinet or, heaven forbid, the telephone exchange.

Virgin Media contracts

Virgin Media’s broadband deals are refreshingly straightforward. Deals for up to 50Mbps, 100Mbps, 200Mbps and 350Mbps are available on 12-month or 30-day contracts.

The 30-day deals are fractionally more expensive than the 12-month ones and the set-up fees are higher if you pick the 30-day option as well. Not prohibitively so though, so Virgin’s 30-day deals are a solid choice for commitment-phobes, renters on insecure tenancies, students and the like.

Some broadband providers limit how much you can download each month – but not Virgin Media. There’s no caps and no catches so you can surf, browse, stream and game away to your heart’s content.

However, Virgin Media does implement some traffic management policies. But it reckons that on any given day, more than 95% of its customers won’t be affected at all by traffic management and that connections are only slowed for a small minority of customers during peak times.

Installation

You’ll need to pay an activation fee to get your Virgin Media broadband set up and, as we mentioned before, you’ll pay a higher activation fee on 30-day broadband deals than if you commit for a year.

If you’re switching from BT or another network that uses Openreach (pretty much all of them) you’ll need to cease that connection and have Virgin Media install a line at your property – you can’t just switch it over.

Virgin’s QuickStart should be available if your home has been connected to the Virgin network in the past three years. With QuickStart you install your equipment yourself.

Equipment

Virgin Media Hub 3.0

In our opinion Virgin Media’s router is pretty impressive. All broadband customers get the same router: the Hub 3.0. Sky and BT, on the other hand, offer a lower-end router for their entry-level bundles, meaning if you want to upgrade or downgrade, you might need a different bit of kit.

The Hub 3.0 gives superfast wi-fi speeds that stay fast across loads of devices. You can also stay safe online with the latest wireless encryption technology, Web Safe, F-Secure SAFE™ and parental controls. For the technically-minded amongst you, the Hub 3.0 has DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem functionality, 24 bonded downstreams, 8 bonded upstreams, four ethernet 10/100/1000BaseT ports, and five internal antennas.

Reliability

Virgin’s fast but it’s not everywhere. Virgin Media services are available in Virgin Media cabled streets only and subject to survey and capacity. You can enter your postcode on Virgin Media’s website to check availability. VIVID 350 – the fastest speed available in the UK – has the most limited availability.

As mentioned, Virgin Media uses a different type of cable to deliver your fibre broadband. Its cables run on DOCSIS 3 technology and they run right to your house. That means its speeds aren’t just faster, they’re more reliable too and you’re much more likely to get close to what you signed up for than you are with other providers.

Customer service

In Ofcom’s latest customer service satisfaction survey, Virgin Media customers reported the highest levels of overall satisfaction with their broadband service at 91%. Customers also reported higher than average levels of satisfaction for both reliability (90%) and speed (91%).

However, Virgin Media had the highest proportion of broadband customers with a reason to complain in 2016 at 16% (the same as TalkTalk).

Conclusion

Virgin Media is the undisputed leader in the UK when it comes to broadband speeds. BT’s hot on its heels though and is working on delivering its Ultrafast fibre connections with speeds up to 314Mb – but when this will be widely available, we don’t know.

Virgin's broadband is not only fast, it's also reliable, so if you want the best there is in the UK broadband market, Virgin Media is for you.

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