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Sky vs Virgin Media

Luke Thompson
Tuesday, February 2nd 2016

Virgin Media and Sky are two of the main contenders for quality broadband, TV and phone. Both media empires offer a wide variety of choice, so how on earth do you choose?

From broadband speeds to home phone options and TV services, we look at which provider offers the best products and value for money, giving you all the information you need about Sky and Virgin Media.

Overview

When it comes to broadband, Virgin is all about broadband download speed, with its top speed double Sky's top offering. However, Sky has around four times the number of standard TV channels offered by Virgin. Line rental costs are roughly equal, but Virgin allows you to take broadband without paying line rental if you don’t want a home phone package.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media is a quad-play provider: it offers broadband, TV, home phone and mobile services to its customers. You can choose to take these services individually, or as part of a collection.

Virgin Media operates its own broadband network and is responsible for both the rollout and maintenance of its purely fibre optic lines. As a result, its fixed-line services aren’t as widely available as Sky’s.

  • Broadband
    5/5
  • 3/5
  • Landline & calls
    4/5
  • Availability
    2/5
  • Customer service
    4/5
  • Overall
    4/5

Sky

Sky is a triple-play provider, offering broadband, TV and home phone services. As with Virgin Media, you can take these services alone or together as part of a Sky bundle.

Sky has more TV channels than any other provider, and supplies its TV services via a satellite dish attached to your property. Its broadband – including fibre – reaches a greater proportion of UK households than Virgin Media.

  • Broadband
    4/5
  • Digital TV
    5/5
  • Landline & calls
    4/5
  • Availability
    5/5
  • Customer service
    3/5
  • Overall
    5/5

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Broadband

Virgin Media

Virgin Media broadband runs on fibre cables. Depending upon coverage in your area, Virgin offers a choice of three levels of speed: up to 50Mbps, up to 100Mbps, and up to 200Mbps.

Virgin is also the only UK provider to offer broadband either with or without a landline, so you can save on the cost of line rental if you don’t need a home phone. All Virgin Media broadband services include unlimited downloads as standard, though uploads are subject to traffic management.

Sky

Sky has basic standard broadband as well as fibre. Copper cable broadband (ADSL2+) has the widest reach of any broadband service, and provides download speeds of up to 17Mbps. Sky fibre offers two speeds separated by price. The up to 38Mbps service is cheaper than the up to 76Mbps fibre. Both benefit from unlimited downloads and uploads.

The fibre plans are subject to availability, and must be taken on 12-month contracts. A nice feature with Sky is that your broadband coverage doesn’t end when you leave the house. Customers get free and unlimited access to thousands of wi-fi hotspots in places such as Caffè Nero, Pizza Express, Eat, Pret and Wagamama.

Download speed200Mbps
up to
76Mbps
up to
Upload speed12Mbps
up to
19Mbps
up to
Usage optionsUnlimitedTruly unlimited
Usage limit*
Traffic managementYes
uploads only
Static IP
Minimum contract12 months12 months
Public wi-fi
Prices from£8 per month£0 per month
Compare dealsCompare deals
Virgin Media
Download speed
Up to 200Mbps
Upload speed
Up to 12Mbps
Usage options
Unlimited
Usage limit
  •  
Traffic management
Uploads only
Static IP
  •  
Minimum contract
12 months
Public wi-fi
  •  
Prices from
Sky
Download speed
Up to 76Mbps
Upload speed
Up to 19Mbps
Usage options
Truly unlimited
Usage limit
  •  
Traffic management
  •  
Static IP
  •  
Minimum contract
12 months
Public wi-fi
  •  
Prices from

**Sky Broadband Lite is subject to a 2GB usage limit, Sky Fibre Broadband is subject to a 25GB usage limit

Digital TV

Virgin Media

Virgin Media is a cable TV provider. Most of its TV packages can be taken alone or with a phone plan. There are five packages to choose from. The TV M package has over 60 channels and is only available with the Big Easy Bundle. More TV, TV M+, TV L, and TV XL can be taken as standalone TV services. Up to 230+ channels are available.

The top offering, TV XL, also boasts more than 45 HD channels. Premium channels, such as Sky Sports, can be added to any Virgin Media TV option, or come as part of some collections. The TiVo box is the digital recorder, has 500GB of storage space, and comes with Virgin Media’s TV services.

Sky

Sky’s TV service is supplied via a satellite dish. Its TV products are called bundles, and have names relating to the included content, such as the Sports Bundle and Movies Bundle. They can all be taken alone without broadband or phone. The bundles all have 240+ free-to-air channels as standard.

The Original Bundle has 35+ subscription channels in addition to the free-to-air channels. The Variety Bundle and the Family Bundle have over 75. The Complete Bundle is the premium TV package, with over 60 HD channels, 3D channels, TV box sets on demand, and the Sky Sports and Sky Movies channels. The Sky+HD box is supplied free with all Bundles.

Standard channels60+440+
Maximum channels230+320+
HD channels40+60+
Digital recorderTiVo boxSky+HD box
Recording space500GB320GB
Pause, rewind, record
Catch up TV
TV on demand
Prices from£10£13.40
Compare deals →Compare deals →
Virgin Media
Standard channels
60+
Maximum channels
230+
HD channels
43
Digital recorder
TiVo box
Features
  • 500GB recording space
  • Pause, rewind, record
  • Catch up TV
  • TV on demand
Prices from
Sky
Standard channels
440+
Maximum channels
320+
HD channels
60+
Digital recorder
Sky+HD box
Features
  • 320GB recording space
  • Pause, rewind, record
  • Catch up TV
  • TV on demand
Prices from

Landline and calls

Virgin Media

Virgin Media has four home phone packages: M, L, XL and XXL. The M package (Talk Weekends) is included as standard with broadband and Virgin Media bundles, and includes unlimited weekend-only calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles. Phone L (Talk Evening & Weekends) also includes evening calls.

Phone XL (Talk Unlimited) delivers unlimited free calls all day every day to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles. Phone XXL (Talk Unlimited+) includes all this, and also 0845 numbers and all UK mobiles. Line rental costs £17.99 per month, but you can save money by paying for 12 months’ line rental upfront as part of Virgin Media’s Line Rental Saver scheme.

Sky

Sky offers Pay As You Talk, Evening and Weekends Extra, Anytime Extra and International. Pay As You Talk comes as standard with broadband – you just pay for your calls as you go. Evening and Weekends Extra offers unlimited evening and weekend calls to UK landlines and mobiles. Anytime Extra offers the same but at any time of day.

The International Extra plan features the above benefits. It also includes unlimited international calls to landlines in 50 countries and mobiles in Canada, Hong Kong and USA. You have to pay line rental with Sky’s home phone packages. This costs £17.40 per month.

Line rental per month£17.99£17.40
Line rental saver£164
1471 featureFreeFree
VoicemailFreeOptional
Call waitingOptionalOptional
Caller displayOptionalFree
Call diversionOptionalOptional
International optionsTalk International add-onSky Talk International Extra
Virgin Media
Line rental
£17.99 per month
Line rental saver
£164
1471 feature
Free
Voicemail
Free
Call waiting
Optional
Caller display
Optional
Call diversion
Optional
International options
Talk International add-on
Sky
Line rental
£17.40 per month
Line rental saver
  •  
1471 feature
Free
Voicemail
Optional
Call waiting
Optional
Caller display
Free
Call diversion
Optional
International options
Sky Talk International Extra

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Customer service

Virgin Media

In Ofcom's latest customer service report, satisfaction levels for Virgin Media’s TV service was rated at 74% in comparison to the industry average 76%. The sector average for customer satisfaction for landline currently stands at 70% and Virgin achieved 72%. For broadband, Virgin Media achieved 70% in comparison to the sector average 67%.

Sky

Satisfaction ratings for Sky’s TV service was rated 76%. Its landline service came in at 79% while it achieved 80% for its broadband customer service.

Extra features

Virgin Media

Virgin Media products come with a bevy of extra features. The free Virgin TV Anywhere app comes with all Virgin TV packages. It allows you to watch Virgin Media TV via your wi-fi connection, at public hotspots, or via mobile wi-fi.

If public wi-fi is important to you, Virgin Media offers free, unlimited wi-fi access at more than 120 stations on the London Underground (but not in the tunnels). Virgin broadband customers also get free anti-virus protection and parental controls with the F-Secure SAFE suite for 12 months.

Sky

Sky also offers several extra features with its broadband, TV, and phone services. Sky broadband customers receive the free Sky Shield advanced parental control software, along with free, unlimited public wi-fi at 10,000+ hotspots. Sky Go comes with Sky TV and lets you watch selected Sky programming via wi-fi, at UK hotspots or via 3G or 4G.

Conclusion

Virgin Media

Virgin Media has some great benefits. Its broadband speeds are the fastest in the country and its customer satisfaction levels are consistently high across the board. Its TV service doesn’t boast quite as much content as Sky, but it is the cheaper option, and its TiVo box offers a huge amount of storage space for recording TV programmes.

Sky

Sky’s TV service is easily the best in the UK. The huge range of standard definition and high definition channels is a great draw for TV lovers, but it isn't cheap. Sky’s broadband speeds aren’t as high as Virgin’s fibre-only service, though the wide scope of its broadband infrastructure means it’s available to a greater proportion of the UK than its rival.

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