Virgin Mobile SIM only explained
In this guide
- Why choose Virgin Mobile SIM only?
- Virgin Mobile network
- Data and calling features
- Best alternatives
- Frequently asked questions
Virgin Mobile actually existed before Virgin Media was born. A lot of people think it was the other way around, but it wasn't. That means Virgin Mobile has had a lot of years to grow, adapt and find its niche in the UK's busy marketplace.
Right now it is one of only a handful of mobile providers to offer truly unlimited data, for example – albeit on the proviso you are also a Virgin Media broadband or TV customer. And it's Virgin's SIM-only deals that we'll be talking about today.
Why choose a Virgin Mobile SIM only deal?
Every mobile provider has its own set of selling points. Virgin Mobile is no different. Here are the thing Virgin Mobile offers to entice new customers to take out a SIM with them.
- Unlimited data available to Virgin Media customers – If you're already a Virgin Media broadband and/or TV customer, you will have the option to take out a Virgin Mobile SIM with unlimited data. Not all Virgin Mobile SIMs offer it, though – you will have to specifically select it and they do cost more. Understanding whether you need unlimited data, then, will be crucial when deciding whether to take advantage
- 99% of population covered – Virgin Mobile piggybacks on the EE network, which is the UK's largest, meaning exceptional coverage and fast data speeds. If you're new to the EE network, however, we would still recommend checking signal strength using Virgin Mobile's coverage map
- Fastest 4G data speeds – The EE network also offers the UK's fastest 4G data speeds, meaning if you're with Virgin Mobile, which piggybacks on EE, you will be able to take full advantage
- Spending caps available – This is not unique to Virgin Mobile, but can be useful to ensure you don't accidentally become overcharged for general data usage, calling, texting, picture messaging and so forth
- Data rollover facility – Allows you to rollover data you didn't use the previous month to a month where you might need the extra. Not everyone will find this useful, but it's a nice feature to have
Is Virgin Mobile a good network?
Despite there being a couple of dozen mobile providers – and many more if you count the smaller, niche and business providers – there are only four actual mobile networks in the UK. They are: Three, O2, Vodafone and EE. Each has a physical network of masts, and as such, each has its own unique coverage 'footprint' and data speeds. All other providers besides these four piggyback onto one of them in order to offer their services.
Virgin Mobile piggybacks on the EE network. Happily, EE offers the widest coverage and best data speeds of all of the four network providers, so you are in good hands. EE covers over 99.9% of the UK population with its signal, and offers data download speeds between 8 and 10Mbps in most places, with speeds up to 40Mbps where you are able to get a particularly good signal.
Data and calling features
There are a standard set of desirable features you should look for on any mobile provider you are considering signing up to.
- 4G data speed – Thanks to piggybacking on the EE network – the UK's fastest 4G network – Virgin Mobile speeds are the fastest in the UK. Most places you will be able to get download speeds of between eight and 10Mbps, with up to 40Mbps available in areas where your signal is particularly good
- Data rollover – Is available with a Virgin Mobile SIM, meaning you will be able to store excess unused data and apply it where you need it
- Tethering – You get unlimited tethering with Virgin Mobile SIMs. Tethering is where you use your phone as a wifi router, using its data allowance to connect a second device to the internet, such as a tablet or laptop computer
- Wifi calling – Like EE itself, Virgin Mobile offers wifi calling on all of its SIMs. Wifi calling is where you use your home broadband wifi connection instead of your mobile network to make phone calls, and is useful if there are parts of your home where reception is poor
- Data gifting – This is where you can gift unused data to another person who is with the same provider. Virgin Mobile does not offer data gifting
- Data caps – Are useful if you wish to limit the amount of data you can use beyond the limits of your plan. Very useful if you think you are likely to go over, but if that's the case, maybe consider getting a SIM with a higher data limit
Roaming on Virgin Mobile
You can use a Virgin Mobile phone almost anywhere in the world. You will need to bear in mind, though, that the amount you will be charged – as with all mobile providers – will vary wildly, depending on where in the world you are.
However, in the European Union and many associated countries, you will be able to 'roam like home', which means all of you allowances won't cost you a bean more when using them in the countries you are visiting.
On Virgin Mobile you will be able to roam like home in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canary Islands, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, French Guinea, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guadeloupe, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madeira, Malta, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Reunion Islands, Romania, Saint Barthelemy (St. Barts), San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Czechia, The Netherlands, The French Antilles and Vatican City.
Beyond these, Virgin Mobile offers special rates for using your services in the Channel Islands, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Turkey and Switzerland. As for the rest of the world, you will need to check rates on a case-by-case basis.
Which providers offer good alternatives?
Of course, Virgin Mobile SIMs aren't the only game in town. There are plenty of other choices out there if you can spare a moment to compare SIM deals from other providers. In the meantime, here is a rundown of the other main UK providers and what, if anything, makes them special.
- ASDA Mobile – Operates on the EE network and offers only pay as you go SIMs. You can also buy 'bundles' using your top-up, which offer better value calls, texts and data, but expire after 30 days
- BT Mobile – Is also on the EE network and offers a wide range of SIM-only deals. If you're thinking of getting additional SIMs for other family members BT Mobile offers discounted rates for each additional SIM
- EE – Is on its own network and offers pretty much everything you could possibly think of when it comes to mobile and SIM deals
- giffgaff – Is serviced by its community, making it often cheaper as well as quite unique. It runs on the O2 network
- O2 – Operates on its own network, and like other full network providers offers pretty much anything you can think of in terms of SIMs and other mobile deals
- Plusnet Mobile – Is a SIM-only provider operating on the EE network. A good choice both for those who don't use much data and need a cheap SIM, and those who are already Plusnet broadband customers
- Sky Mobile – Operates on the O2 network and offers a small range of pay-monthly SIMs with double data often offered to its Sky TV or broadband customers
- SMARTY – Is owned by Three and so runs on the Three network. It offers a chopped-down range of SIMs with a focus on value for money
- Tesco Mobile – Is on the O2 network and has pretty much everything. SIM-only monthly, PAYG SIMs, contract phones, contract tablets, the works. Good value for money too, generally
- Three – Operates on its own network and as with the other three UK network providers offer anything you could possibly want. Three is the only provider to offer unlimited data on its SIMs with no conditions – you'll have to pay for it, mind
- iD Mobile – Operates on the Three network, and is the in-house brand for Carphone Warehouse. It offers a bit of everything
- Vodafone – Is the last of the four UK network providers, operating then on its own network. As with the others there is little you cannot get from Vodafone
Frequently asked questions
Can I get a SIM card for Virgin Mobile?
Yes. Virgin Mobile offers a good selection of SIM-only deals, operating on the EE network.
Are Virgin Mobile SIMs 4G?
Yes. All Virgin Mobile SIMs are 4G. However, where a good 4G signal is not available, your phone will switch to 3G or even 2G as required.
How do I cancel Virgin Mobile SIM only?
If you take out a Virgin Mobile SIM deal and change your mind for whatever reason that's fine. Virgin Mobile offers all of its SIM deals with a 14-day cooling off period, during which you are free to change your mind.
Which network does Virgin Mobile use?
Virgin Mobile is on the EE network, providing it the best possible coverage and fastest 4G data speeds available in the UK.
Can I use a Virgin Mobile SIM in an EE locked phone?
No. Although Virgin Mobile piggbacks onto the EE network, it remains a completely separate provider and company. EE locked phones will only accept an EE branded SIM.
Is Virgin Mobile any good?
If you'd like to find out more about how we rate Virgin Mobile as a provider, you can do so by taking a look at our in-depth review.
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