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BT Broadband vs Virgin Media Broadband: which is best?

BT and Virgin Media are behemoths of the broadband world. Not just two of the biggest providers for home internet, TV, and phone services; they also operate the two largest fixed-line broadband networks in the UK.

At a glance, each appears to offer a similar range of services. But there are some big differences between these giants. So if you’re choosing between the two, how do you know which is best?

Read on to find out!

BT vs Virgin Media broadband packages

Most of the time, when we’re comparing broadband providers, there isn’t a great deal of difference between the services they offer. That’s because the majority of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use the Openreach (BT line) network, and so you’ll find a broadly similar choice of packages and speeds. 

But Virgin Media operates its own network, and it doesn’t share. When you’re looking at Virgin Media vs BT — or any other ISP that uses the BT Openreach infrastructure — you’ll see a pronounced difference between the two.

Below, we’ve compared the cheapest and fastest deals for both providers, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. Availability is a big factor for Virgin Media, as not everyone can get its services. So you might want to skip down to the section on coverage to check what’s on offer in your area, before delving into the question of price and speed.

BT cheapest broadband vs Virgin Media cheapest broadband

BT Broadband / BT Fibre Essential
Virgin Media M100 Fibre
Download speed (average) 10Mb / 36Mb 108Mb
Upload speed 1Mb / 9Mb 10Mb
Data usage limit Unlimited Unlimited
Traffic Management No No
Contract length 18 months 12 months
Monthly price (initial contract term) £27.99 £24

Winner: Virgin Media

Virgin’s M100 package is compelling. For less money than BT, you get more than twice the download speed. Virgin also has a slightly shorter contract term, which provides a little more flexibility when it comes to managing your bills and keeping costs as low as possible.

Dynamic deal panel

BT fastest broadband vs Virgin Media fastest broadband

BT Fibre Full Fibre 900
Virgin Media Gig1
Download speed (average) 910Mb 1.1Gb
Upload speed 110Mb 54Mb
Data usage limit Unlimited Unlimited
Traffic Management No No
Contract length 24 months 12 months
Monthly price (initial contract term) £59.99 £58

Winner: Tie

Virgin’s Gig1 package offers a blisteringly quick 1.1Gb average download speed. It’s not too expensive, either, given the speed. However, it is disappointing that you only get a relatively meagre 54Mb upload rate.

BT Fibre Full Fibre 900 is the quickest BT deal, offering an average download of 910Mb. While not quite as fast as Virgin, it does have a much better upload speed of 110Mb. 

Both of these packages are pretty evenly matched, offering around the same (download) speed for about the same money. 

If you would benefit from more upload speed, then BT Full Fibre 900 is the better option. But Virgin Media has availability on its side as its network coverage is much better.

BT Full Fibre depends on access to an FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) connection, which fewer homes can get currently. And if that's not available the best you'll be able to get from BT is 67Mb fibre.

Dynamic deal panel

Price and affordability: which is the cheapest, BT or Virgin Media?

Monthly price

Winner: Virgin Media

Virgin Media's cheapest package starts at less than £25 per month for a rapid 108Mb average speed, which is excellent for the money. 

BT is pricier; expect to pay around £28 for either ADSL (10Mb average speed) or an entry-level fibre service (36Mb average speed).

Choosing a TV bundle will bump the cost up with both providers. It works out to around £10+ for BT, depending on additional channel packs. Virgin Media TV bundles start at about £30 per month, but can get very expensive when you start adding movie and sports channels.

Setup cost

Winner: BT

BT broadband deals (without TV) have an installation charge of either £9.99 or £19.99, but they're often free.

Virgin Media’s standard set up fee is £35. It does occasionally offer free setup deals, but you’ll need to keep an eye on the special offers as this doesn’t tend to be available for long. 

Broadband rewards

Winner: BT

It’s rare that BT isn’t offering a free gift, usually a BT Reward Card (a prepaid credit card loaded with cash). They’re often quite generous too, so this can add up to a significant saving.

Virgin Media rewards are less common. Often they’ll include free Amazon vouchers (usually as part of a Broadband Genie exclusive), but we have in the past seen free Virgin wine gifts and free gadgets. Virgin may also offer free set up.

Availability and coverage

Winner: BT

BT uses the Openreach telephone network, so just about everyone can get some kind of BT Broadband deal, even if it’s just ADSL (though most homes can now get fibre optic). 

The Virgin Media network is separate, and entirely owned and operated by Virgin. While the advantage is that it can deliver much faster speeds, it does mean that fewer homes have access to a Virgin line.

On the other hand, Virgin Media definitely has the upper hand when it comes to ultrafast. Its network is available to approximately 53% of homes, with speeds up to 1.1Gb in many areas. Far fewer of us can get BT Ultrafast right now.

When buying broadband, your first step is always to find out what’s available, which you can do right now by entering a postcode below:

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Customer service

Winner: Tie

In our Home Broadband Survey, neither BT nor Virgin Media scored particularly well for customer service; BT had a rating of 75%, while Virgin Media was only slightly behind with 74%; both scores were below average in this category.

If customer service is a concern, check out our survey results to see which providers had the best scores in this area. In general, you will find that smaller and more specialist providers have a better reputation.

Phone, TV, and mobile services

Winner: Virgin Media

Virgin Media and BT are both able to offer deals with a full range of additional services. But Virgin has the advantage here thanks to its massive entertainment bundles and greater flexibility with regards to phone services.

Home phone: All BT packages — save for its FTTP packages — require an active phone line, and the prices you see in our deals includes line rental. You can get BT Broadband without inclusive calls, but if you do use the phone regularly, there are a variety of inclusive calling bundles including unlimited UK landline and mobile calling, and free international calls.

Virgin Media does not require a phone line and is one of the few providers who can deliver broadband without a phone. If you do need a phone, you’ll find a similar selection of inclusive calling bundles (you can also opt to take the phone line only and just pay for what you use at a standard rate). 

TV: Virgin Media TV is a leading premium entertainment provider. Its action-packed bundles can deliver hundreds of channels encompassing everything from the latest US TV shows and blockbuster movies to more niche interests. You also get access to a vast library of on-demand content, and a Virgin TV box with enough storage space for hundreds of hours of recordings. 

BT TV can’t match Virgin in terms of the sheer breadth and depth of content. However, it can be quite a lot cheaper and may still offer everything you’ll need. The basic bundle offers Freeview plus a few extras for a very low cost, or you can add some premium movie, sports, and entertainment bundles that contain a selection of the most popular channels.

Mobile: Virgin and BT both offer mobile phone packages, with a variety of tariffs (including SIM-only plans) and bonuses for broadband customers. Both also use the EE network (which is owned by BT), so in terms of coverage and speeds, there’s no difference between them. BT Broadband customers benefit from a £5 discount on any tariff, while Virgin Media TV, fibre, or phone customers can get exclusive unlimited data and texts mobile plans.

Extras and freebies

BT and Virgin are pretty equal when it comes to the free extras. Arguably the most valuable freebie is free Wi-Fi hotspot access, and each boasts millions of access points. However, Virgin’s Wi-Fi presence across London rail and underground stations is potentially very useful if you live or regularly travel in the area.

Winner: Tie

BT broadband deals include:

  • BT Wi-Fi (public hotspot network with more than 5m access points)
  • Free online storage with BT Cloud
  • BT Virus Protect (antivirus for desktop and mobile powered by McAfee)
  • BT Parental Controls (also works on BT Wi-Fi)

Virgin Media broadband deals include: 

  • Free Wi-Fi hotspots, UK and abroad
  • Virgin Media hotspots in London Underground and Overground stations.
  • Free Websafe (parental controls and online security).
  • Free F-Secure SAFE antivirus protection.
  • Free servicing or repair of your cable box.

BT vs Virgin: which is best?

Winner: Virgin Media

Between these two, our top pick would be Virgin Media, primarily because of its excellent speeds, TV bundles, and broadband only deals.

However, it’s not necessarily as simple as that. For one thing, these ISPs are evenly matched in terms of what they can provide; broadband speed aside, they offer a very similar selection of services.

And, crucially, when it comes to choosing between BT and Virgin Media, the major deciding factor is availability. If you are in a Virgin network area, then Virgin can probably offer the best speeds of any ISP, plus great TV bundles, and broadband without a phone line. Unless you’re in the minority of homes covered by BT FTTP services, it can’t touch Virgin for performance.

If it turns out you can’t get Virgin Media, the decision then comes down to whether BT offers the best value package among the vast array of Openreach network providers.

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