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Sky vs Virgin Media

Luke Thompson
Wednesday, November 16th 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.

At a Glance

Virgin Media is all about fast broadband speed, with its top speed of 200Mbps. However, Sky has around four times the number of standard TV channels offered by Virgin, including the exclusive Sky Atlantic, although its top broadband speed is 76Mbps. Both providers offer triple bundles of TV, broadband and phone.

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  • Virgin The Player Bundle

    Virgin
    • Freeview channels
    • Up to 50Mb download, 3Mb upload speed
    • Unlimited monthly usage
    • Weekend calls included
    Save £192 over 12 months
    £29
    £45 after 12 mths includes line rental See Deal
  • Sky TV Original + Unlimited Fibre

    Sky
    • Freeview + 47 premium channels
    • Up to 38Mb download, 10Mb upload speed
    • Truly unlimited monthly usage
    • Pay for calls made (9.5p per min)
    Free 32
    £57.40
    per month includes line rental See Deal

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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. The maximum upload speed is up to 20Mbps. All Virgin Media broadband services include unlimited downloads as standard, but uploads are subject to traffic management.

You can choose to take broadband with or without a landline, although the difference in monthly price is minimal.

Most popular deal

  • Virgin SuperFibre 50 Broadband + Weekend Calls

    Virgin
    • Up to 50Mb download, 3Mb upload speeds
    • Unlimited monthly usage
    • Weekend calls included
    Save £96 over 12 months
    £32
    £40 after 12 mths includes line rental See Deal

Sky

Sky offers standard broadband as well as fibre. Sky Broadband provides download speeds of up to 17Mbps, and Sky Fibre offers up to 38Mbps and up to 76Mbps. Sky Fibre (38Mbps) is a limited service with a 25GB data usage limit, whereas Sky Fibre Unlimited (38Mbps) and Sky Fibre Max (76Mbps) are both unlimited services. The maximum upload speed available with Sky is 19Mbps. There is no traffic managment on any Sky broadband service.

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.

Most popular deal

  • Sky Fibre Broadband Unlimited

    Sky
    • Up to 38Mb download, 10Mb upload speed
    • Truly unlimited monthly usage
    • Pay for calls made (9.5p per min)
    £37.40
    per month includes line rental See Deal

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 four basic TV packages to choose from: Player TV offers the most basic bundle with up to 70 channels. From there, you can choose Mix TV, Fun TV, or Full House TV. Up to 230+ channels are available in total. There is a vast array of channel choice on offer, apart from Sky Atlantic which is still exclusive to Sky.

Premium channels, such as Sky Sports and Sky Cinema, can be added to any Virgin Media TV option, or come as part of some bundles. The TiVo box is the digital recorder, has 500GB or 1TB of storage space depending on the bundle you choose, 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 Cinema 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 Box Sets (previously 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 Cinema channels. The Sky Q box is supplied free with all bundles.

Standard channels 60+ 440+
Maximum channels 230+ 320+
HD channels 40+ 60+
Digital recorder TiVo box Sky Q box
Recording space 500GB 500GB
Pause, rewind, record
Catch up TV
TV on demand
Prices from £24 £20
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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 five home phone packages. The Talk Weekends package is included as standard with broadband and Virgin Media bundles, and includes unlimited weekend-only calls to UK landlines and Virgin mobiles. Talk More Weekends includes calls to 0870 and 0845 numbers.

Talk More Evenings & Weekends is an optional upgrade to Talk Weekends. Talk More Anytime and Talk More International Anytime are the other two options. Line rental is included in the monthly price.

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. Line rental is included in the price.

1471 feature Free Free
Voicemail Free Optional
Call waiting Optional Optional
Caller display Optional Free
Call diversion Optional Optional
International options Talk International add-on Sky Talk International Extra
Virgin Media
1471 feature
Free
Voicemail
Free
Call waiting
Optional
Caller display
Optional
Call diversion
Optional
International options
Talk International add-on
Sky
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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