Virgin Media vs TalkTalk
By Emma Woollacott | Tuesday, May 30th 2023
Virgin Media is best known for providing the fastest broadband in the land, coupled with high-quality equipment with all the frills. Whereas TalkTalk offers a much simpler, streamlined service, without all the premium extras. But which is better?
Which of the two you prefer will depend on your particular requirements, whether that's broadband speeds, network reliability, or the TV package on offer. But while it's easy to get carried away by the quantity of goodies on offer, it's important to remember that you may end up paying for things you don't really need. So how do TalkTalk and Virgin Media square up?
Virgin Media broadband vs TalkTalk broadband
Who's got the speed?
TalkTalk’s entry-level fibre service is Fibre 35, which offers an average download speed of 37Mbps and comes on a 24-month contract; alternatively you can choose the faster Fibre 65, with average download speeds of 66-73Mbps. Both these download speeds are comparable to thoe regular fibre speeds of other providers and are sufficient for small households who do not put great demands on their broadband connection.
TalkTalk also offers four full fibre packages: Full Fibre 65, Full FIbre 145, Full Fibre 500 and Full Fibre 900. Thanks to Openreach rolling out its full fibre network, around a third of the UK population can now access full fibre speeds. You can easily find out if you are in a full fibre area by putting your postcode into our availability checker. Full fibre offers not only far faster speeds, but also more reliable connections.
Virgin Media’s broadband packages also all come on 18-month contracts. It offers average speeds of 54Mbps, 132Mbps, 264Mbps, 516Mbps and 1140Mbps with its Gig1 package. Unlike TalkTalk, which uses the Openreach network common to almost all other providers, Virgin operates its own network, which is why it offers a different range of speeds.
Virgin’s speeds are available to more than 50 per cent of UK homes, making it the fastest widely available broadband service in the UK. Despite the rollout of Openreach full fibre, which can reach up to 944Mbps, Virgin Media is, for now, still more widely available and faster than Openreach full fibre.
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Virgin allows its customers the option to have broadband with or without a phone line with any of its packages. In contrast, TalkTalk’s two regular fibre packages come with a phone line and pay-as-you-go calls as standard, whereas its full fibre packages are all broadband-only - with no option to have a digital phone line.
Before picking your broadband supplier, you might want to consider what other customers have to say. The most recent report by Ofcom shows that when it comes to customer service, TalkTalk is on a par with Virgin Media, with only 78% of customers satisfied with their service overall (against 88% of BT customers). However, 23% of Virgin Media customers had a reason to complain, against 21% for TalkTalk (whereas only 16% of Sky customers had a reason to complain), and just 45% of Virgin Media customers were satisfied with the way their complaint was handled against 43% for TalkTalk (55% of BT customers were satisfied however).
So unfortunately, neither Virgin Media nor TalkTalk are doing very well on the customer service front as far as Ofcom is concerned.
Both TalkTalk and Virgin Media provide incredibly fast speeds, so if that is what you are after, both providers can offer you this, subject to availability in your area.
TalkTalk’s regular fibre speeds are available to 99% of the population however, so even if you can’t get its full fibre speeds or Virgin Media at your address, you have every chance of least being able to get regular fibre with TalkTalk.
Pricewise there is little to choose between the two providers, and on customer service it is a similar story, so your decision is likely to come down to availability at your address.
Virgin Media TV vs TalkTalk TV
Battle of the channel-count
Both TalkTalk and Virgin Media require you to take their broadband in order to also sign up for their TV packages, but that is where the similarities end. In terms of the sheer amount of content on offer, there's little competition: once again, Virgin Media wins hands down. It has more than 100 channels in its basic Big Bundle, rising to more than 190 in the Bigger Bundle and more than 230 in the Ultimate Volt Bundle.
Virgin Media's basic Big Bundle package is modestly priced and comes on an 18-month contract, whereas the Ultimate Volt Bundle costs more than twice as much, but comes with over 230 channels, as well as Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and BT Sport. Virgin even throws in unlimited phone calls and an unlimited mobile SIM.
In comparison, TalkTalk's TV offering is very simple, and currently only advertised to those taking a full fibre package who can take advantage of the new TalkTalk TV Hub, which come with 70 free-to-air channels, and the option to bolt on any NOW TV Membership as well as Netflix and Prime Video.
It really comes down to what you want when it comes to TV. If you are looking for a more traditional, channel-loaded package, then Virgin Media is the way to go, but if you are happier just having access to the best sports, entertainment and film channels via NOW TV, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix alongside the basic Freeview options, then TalkTalk is a great option.
Virgin also offers a far superior set-top box with its new TV 360 box, with voice search function and the ability to record six channels at a time. TalkTalk offers the new Netgem TV box to its customers, which enables you to pause, rewind and catch up on your favourite shows and is also enabled with UHD and Dolby Atmos. The lack of ability to record is unlikely to be a major issue if you mostly watching streaming services.
Virgin Media vs TalkTalk
Who offers the best inclusive phone packages?
If you still want to use your landline to make calls, you can, but TalkTalk isn’t as accommodating as Virgin Media. Only customers on regular fibre services can choose to have a home phone with TalkTalk – this option is not available to full fibre customers since all these packages are broadband-only. If you buy Fibre 35 or Fibre 65, you will automatically receive a landline with pay-as-you-go calls. You can then choose to bolt on either evening and weekend calls, anytime calls or international calls if you wish. All these call packages come on one-month contracts so you can cancel or change them at any time.It’s worth knowing that if full fibre is available at your address, however, TalkTalk will not give you the option of choosing regular fibre, which means you won’t be able to have a landline.
Meanwhile, Virgin Media customers choosing a broadband and phone deal get the basic Weekend Chatter plan as standard, which includes free weekend calls to UK landlines. Virgin’s Anytime Chatter gives you calls to UK landlines and mobiles at any time, and International Anytime Chatter adds international calls in too.
It might be worth noting that in Ofcom's survey on service quality, Virgin Media came out worst amongst home phone companies, with only 69% of customers satisfied with the service overall, whereas TalkTalk customers rated their experience more highly, with 75% of customers satisfied.
Let's face it, few of us use our home phones much these days, and neither set of landline packages is likely to be an important factor when it comes to picking one provider over the other.
However, if you want ultrafast speeds and a landline, your only option is Virgin Media as this is not possible with TalkTalk’s full fibre packages.
Who's got the best router?
TalkTalk's dual-band WiFi Hub is supplied with its regular fibre packages and has seven antennas and four gigabit ethernet ports. It also features smart channel selection that will ensure your devices are always connected to the fastest wifi channel available, and smart wifi tech that constantly checks the router’s connection and automatically installs updates.
For its full fibre packages, TalkTalk provides customers with the award-winning Amazon eero wifi 6 router. This powerful bit of kit supports ultrafast speeds over wifi, and when paired with a second eero mesh router, will ensure every part of your home receives the best speeds possible.
Meanwhile, Virgin offers its dual-band Virgin Media Hub 4 to all but its Gig1 customers who will receive the superior Hub 5. Like the TalkTalk WiFi Hub, it has four gigabit ethernet ports, along with intelligent wifi technology and smart channel selection. However, it has an impressive 11 antennae to provide a strong signal around your home.
The Virgin Media Hub 5 is similar in many respects to the Hub 4 but, like the Amazon eero provided by TalkTalk, it is a wifi 6 router, which means it has greater capability to support the ultrafast speeds available from Virgin Media.
Both the Virgin Media Hub 4 and the TalkTalk WiFi Hub offer a very similar wifi experience, although the Hub 4 does trump TalkTalk with its additional antennae. However, TalkTalk’s Amazon eero router wins over Virgin’s Hub 5 in that it is provided to every full fibre customer, not just those on the top tier speed (as is the case with Virgin Media).
Virgin TV 360 vs TalkTalk TV Box
Who's got the best set-top box?
TalkTalk offers its TalkTalk TV Hub to its customers. This smart bit of TV tech is 4K-ready and offers Dolby Atmos for enhanced sound. Customers will receive 70 free-to-air channels as standard and can then watch any NOW TV Membership, such as Sport, Cinema or Entertainment, as well as Netflix and Prime, for an extra monthly fee, if they wish. You can pause and rewind live TV, and use Google for voice control. It does not offer any recording functionality however.
The Virgin Media TV 360 box lets you record six shows at once, while you watch a seventh on catch-up TV or from a recording. There's 1TB of storage, which amounts to 500 hours of shows in SD or 100 in HD. You can also instruct the box verbally to find and play TV shows with its voice activation software. Virgin offers a wide choice of TV packages, including the option to add Sky Sport, BT Sport and Sky Cinema. Unfortunately you cannot watch SKy Atlantic on Virgin however.
If you want an all-singing, all-dancing TV box with the ability to record hours of TV, then Virgin’s TV 360 box is the way to go. If you just want a means to watch basic free-to-air channels and your chosen subscription apps, then TalkTalk’s latest box will do the job nicely.
Virgin Media vs TalkTalk mobile plans
TalkTalk no longer offers mobile plans. In comparison, now that Virgin Media has joined forces with O2, it offers the works when it comes to mobile. Customers looking for a SIM-only plan with Virgin currently have a choice of a Virgin Media plan, or an O2 plan. Virgin Media is an O2 Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) which means that you will get the same signal regardless of whether you choose a Virgin Media mobile plan or an O2 plan.
Virgin Media plans are all on a rolling 30-day contract, although Virgin does state that all customers will eventually be moved onto an equivalent O2 deal, so the option for a rolling one-month contract may not be available for much longer. O2 plans all come on a 12-month contract, but have the added benefits of O2 Priority and O2 Extras. All Virgin Media and O2 deals are 5G ready.
All Virgin Media’s SIM-only plans come with a range of data allowances ranging from 15GB per month to unlimited.
Virgin Media Mobile performed relatively badly in Ofcom’s latest report into customer satisfaction, with 81% of customers happy with their service overall and only 75% happy with the signal strength they receive. Whereas Tesco Mobile (which surprisingly also uses the O2 network) was outstanding, with 95% of customers satisfied overall and 92% satisfied with the signal.
TalkTalk no longer offers a mobile service, so if you want all your telecoms with one provider then Virgin Media is the way to go, although other providers also offer broadband, mobile, landline and TV bundles, including Sky and BT.
However, there is really no need to use the same provider for your mobile and broadband – we'd advise just shopping around for the best mobile deal on offer from all the providers.
Who's the ultimate winner then? Virgin Media or TalkTalk?
While you could save a few quid by picking TalkTalk over Virgin Media, you will be getting less. It might well suit if you're just looking for a fairly simple, but efficient package, however, with its ultrafast full fibre speeds and minimal TV service.
Virgin Media however, still has the fastest, most widely available speeds, as it is still more widely available than Openreach’s full fibre network (used by TalkTalk), covering around 55% of homes against just 30% covered by Openreach full fibre.
Virgin Media offers much more TV content than TalkTalk, although it’s arguable whether it is greater in quality. If you are looking for the premium Sky channels, they are available with Virgin, but you can also get them with TalkTalk in the form of NOW TV. Customers wanting Sky Atlantic however, may find their decision a lot easier as this one channel is still missing from Virgin’s line-up, whereas TalkTalk customers can watch it as part of NOW TV Entertainment.
To summarise, if you want a jam-packed, premium broadband and TV package with all the bells and whistles, go for Virgin Media. However, if you really just want a simple TV package and the ability to watch NOW TV, Prime and Netflix – and you can get TalkTalk full fibre where you live – we would say TalkTalk is worth serious consideration.