Virgin Media vs Sky
Virgin Media and Sky are two of the main contenders for quality broadband, TV and phone. These two media empires offer a wide variety of choice, so how do you choose between them?
Here is everything you need to know about Sky and Virgin Media to help you decide which is the best provider for you. From broadband speeds to home phone options and TV services, we review which provider offers the best products and value for money.
In this guide...
Virgin Media and Sky have some major differences in their services. 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 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. This is not an option with Sky.
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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 has basic, copper-cabled broadband in addition to fibre. Copper cable broadband (ADSL2+) has the widest reach of any broadband service, and provides download speeds of up to 17Mbps. Sky fibre products offer two speeds separated by price. The up to 38Mbps fibre service is cheaper than the up to 76Mbps fibre, and both benefit from unlimited downloads and uploads.
The fibre plans are subject to availability, and must be taken on 18-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.
|Usage options||Unlimited||Truly unlimited|
|Minimum contract||18 months||12 months|
|Prices from||£5 per month||£0 per month|
|Compare deals||Compare deals|
Up to 152Mbps
Up to 12Mbps
Up to 76Mbps
Up to 19Mbps
*Sky Broadband Lite is subject to a 2GB usage limit
Virgin Media is a cable TV provider. Most of its TV packages can be taken alone or with a phone plan. There are four packages to choose from. The TV M package has over 60 channels and is only available with the Big Easy Bundle. TV M+, TV L, and TV XL can be taken as stand-alone TV services, and feature over 120 channels, over 170 channels, and over 230 channels, respectively.
The top offering, TV XL, also boasts more than 40 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’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 80 subscription channels. The Complete Bundle is the premium TV package, and boasts 66 HD channels, 3D channels, TV box sets on demand, and the Sky Sports and Sky Movies channels. The Sky+HD box is the digital recorder and is supplied free with all Sky TV bundles.
|Digital recorder||TiVo box||Sky+HD box|
|Pause, rewind, record|
|TV on demand|
|Compare deals →||Compare deals →|
There are four home phone packages with Virgin Media: M, L, XL and XXL. The M package (Talk Weekends) is included as standard with broadband and Virgin Media Collections and features unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles. Phone L (Talk Evening & Weekends) gives unlimited calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles all weekend and each evening.
Phone XL (Talk Unlimited) delivers unlimited free calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles all day every day. Phone XL (Talk Unlimited+) includes all this, plus 0845 numbers and all UK mobiles. All Virgin Media talk plans are subject to line rental at £16.99 per month. You can save money by paying for 12 months’ line rental upfront as part of Virgin Media’s Line Rental Saver scheme.
Sky has three options: Weekends, Anytime UK and Anytime International. Sky Talk Weekends comes as standard with broadband. It features unlimited weekend calls to UK landlines. Anytime UK includes unlimited calls to UK landlines at any time of the day plus reduced rates to mobiles.
The Anytime International 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 £16.40 per month.
|Line rental per month||£16.99||£16.40|
|Line rental saver||£164|
|International options||Talk International add-on||Talk Anytime International|
£16.99 per month
Line rental saver
Talk International add-on
£16.40 per month
Line rental saver
Talk Anytime International
In 2013, Ofcom rated customer satisfaction for Virgin Media’s broadband as the highest in the industry, tied with Sky. Satisfaction levels for its TV service met the industry average, at 77 per cent. Customer satisfaction with its home phone (landline) provision was ahead of the competition, far above the industry average.
Ofcom's 2013 report into customer satisfaction amongst broadband providers places Sky at the top of the board, tied with Virgin Media.
Satisfaction ratings for Sky’s TV service are the highest in the UK, beating both BT and Virgin Media by a significant amount. Customer satisfaction for Sky’s landline service was just above the sector average, with the provider coming second to Virgin Media.
You can read the Ofcom report here.
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 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.
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’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 is more expensive than Virgin Media. 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.
And don't forget, Cable.co.uk is the only place in the UK providing in-depth broadband reviews of every major UK broadband package, so check them out if you need more information.
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