Dan Howdle | April 25th, 2023
Virgin Mobile was launched to the world in 1999 as the first mobile virtual network operator, tagging onto what later became the EE network, enabling Virgin to offer excellent 5G coverage. However, all that has changed and is still changing. Following Virgin Media’s merger with O2, Virgin Mobile now operates on the O2 network, and anyone on a Virgin Mobile plan will soon be moved onto a comparable O2 plan..
It may surprise you to know that Virgin Media is no longer owned by Richard Branson, and hasn’t been for several years now. It is in fact owned by Liberty Global, a vast, multinational telecoms company. So what does Virgin Mobile have to offer? We take a look at the details.
Virgin Mobile offers pay monthly deals with phones on contracts lasting for either 24 months or 36 months. If you get a handset from Virgin, you will have a two-part contract, consisting of a monthly payment for the phone, (with repayments over 24 or 36 months), and a rolling one-month contract for your calls, data and messages.
You won’t have to pay anything upfront for Virgin’s handsets on its monthly tariffs, which means there is no flexibility to choose how much you want to pay upfront versus monthly, and there is no choice on contract lengths either. There is also no option to buy a phone outright, but if you want to pay off your handset, you can do so at any time, even after just one month into your contract. At this point onwards you will only be paying for your airtime plan, which you are then free to cancel at any point with one month’s notice.
All Virgin Mobile plans are flexible in that you can choose to increase or decrease your data allowance every month and you can roll over any unused data to the next month. You also get free roaming in 43 destinations around the world. Tethering is permitted on all Virgin’s plans, up to your chosen data allowance, so you can use your phone as a hotspot should you need to.
Customers just looking for a SIM plan currently have the choice of either a 30-day Virgin Mobile plan that you can change up or down every month, or cancel at any point, or a 12-month O2 plan, which comes with O2 benefits including O2 Priority and O2 Extras. However, at some point in the near future, Virgin Mobile intends to switch all its customers over onto comparable O2 plans, so everyone will be able to enjoy O2 benefits.
Virgin Media offers phones from Apple, Samsung, Sony and OPPO only. The latest iPhone 14/14 Pro Max and Samsung S23/S23 Ultra phones are available as well as many more affordable options. The Apple phones are also available to buy on contract in a bundle with Air Pods, Apple Watch and iPads, providing the option to spread the cost of all your new tech in one monthly payment.
As well as phones, Virgin also offers a selection of tablets available on contract, with a strong focus on the latest Apple iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tab models. Customers can choose from a range of data options from 1GB up to 100GB, on a 24 or 48-month contract to spread the cost.
Virgin Mobile has a lower than average customer satisfaction rating, at least according to industry body Ofcom. The latest Ofcom ratings published in 2022 show 83% of its customers were satisfied with the service, against an industry average of 91%.
Only 11% of customers had a reason to complain about its service, and of those that did 57% were satisfied with how their complaint was handled. This is better than the sector average, which is 53% satisfaction.On both metrics there were providers who fared worse, but there were also plenty which did quite a lot better.
Ofcom data is based on surveys of a few hundred customers, so it is also worth checking other sources. Virgin Mobile has a rating of just 1 star out of five on reviews website Trustpilot, based on feedback from more than 3500 customers. However, this is similar to most other mobile providers reviewed, including O2 and Sky Mobile. Complaints range from billing errors to incorrect charges, but just bear in mind that more people are likely to leave reviews if they have had a bad service than if they had a positive experience.
If issues do arise, you can call Virgin Mobile on 789 from your Virgin mobile phone or 0345 600 0789 from any other line. Its customer service is open between 8am and 9pm Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm on Saturday and Sunday. It also has a live chat service, or you can drop the provider a line via social media on Twitter or Facebook.
Virgin Mobile's tariffs rank well in the market and there are plenty of extras that help save money. There are no upfront costs on its handsets and its data rollover means you can keep unused data from previous months.
Customers already signed up to Virgin Media Broadband can choose to take a Family Plan with Virgin Mobile and save up to £8 per month with up to five SIMs for your family. Calls between Family SIM holders are unlimited.
Virgin Mobile users can get up to £50 cashback for referring a friend to purchase a Virgin Mobile phone, and can also trade in their old handset as cash towards a new one under the Trade Up offer. The Trade Up scheme lets monthly contract customers upgrade to a new phone and contract before the end of their current deal by trading in the value of their current phone.
The value of your old phone is put towards paying off however much is remaining on your contract. If your old phone is worth more than your remaining contract, you’ll get the extra value back. If it’s worth less, you can still upgrade early – all you need to do is pay the difference. Virgin will provide a quote for your old device, based on its condition, that is guaranteed for 14 days, and you will then receive a pack in the post in which to return your device.
Virgin Mobile customers also get access to thousands of public wi-fi hotspots in the UK for free when they download the Virgin Media Connect app. These hotspots are located in bars, restaurants and highstreet shops and UK airports.
Virgin Mobile uses the O2 network, which covers 99 per cent of the population with its 4G signal. O2 5G is growing at a rapid rate and is currently available in 750 towns and cities. To find out whether you can get 5G with Virgin Mobile in your area, visit the provider’s mobile coverage checker. Simply enter your postcode and it will tell you if your area has coverage of 3G, 4G or 5G and how strong the signal is for each.
Virgin Mobile customers seem reasonably happy with the signal they get. Ofcom’s service quality report states that 78% of customers were happy with their Virgin Mobile phone reception.
Virgin Mobile customers currently have the choice between a 30-day Virgin Mobile plan or a 12-month O2 plan, although all plans operate over the O2 network. If you like to regularly upgrade to the latest device, you can either pay off your handset at any point in your contract or trade it in and put the money towards a new model.
Although it doesn’t do brilliantly when it comes to customer satisfaction, Virgin Mobile does offer a well-priced and flexible range of deals, with the added benefit of O2 Priority for customers choosing an O2 deal – soon to be rolled out to all customers once the transition to O2 is complete.