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Sky Broadband vs Virgin Media Broadband: which is best?


If you’re looking for a new broadband package, you will likely have seen lots of ads for Sky and Virgin Media and noticed that both providers offer a roughly comparable choice of broadband and TV packages.

As two of the country’s best-known broadband providers, it is probable that you have seen them in broadband comparisons during your search. But which is best? When you get past the marketing and advertising campaigns, is there a clear winner in terms of quality, value and performance? Let’s find out!

Sky vs Virgin Media broadband packages

Sky uses the BT Openreach telephone network to deliver its services while Virgin Media uses its own cable network. As such the two offer very different options and don’t always compare very equally for some criteria.

We've compared them by looking at the cheapest deals and the fastest deals, but you do need to keep in mind their different network infrastructure and very different range of speeds means that direct comparisons aren't always that helpful and other criteria need to be considered.

Cheapest broadband packages

Sky Superfast
Virgin Media M100
Download speed (average) 59Mb 108Mb
Upload speed 20Mb 10Mb
Data usage limit Unlimited Unlimited
Traffic Management No No
Contract length 18 months 12 months
Monthly price (initial contract term) £26 £28

Winner: Virgin Media

Both Sky and Virgin Media's cheapest packages are evenly matched on price, but Virgin is nearly double the speed. However, Sky Superfast is still extremely good value for money, and an excellent choice if you do not live in a Virgin network area.

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Fastest broadband packages

Sky Ultrafast Plus
Virgin Media Gig1
Download speed (average) 500Mb 1.1Gb
Upload speed 60Mb 52Mb
Data usage limit Unlimited Unlimited
Traffic Management No No
Contract length 18 months 18 months
Monthly price (initial contract term) £50 £58

Winner: Virgin Media

For many broadband users, speed is the main concern, and here Virgin Media easily takes the lead.

Virgin Media runs its own network and has the widest availability of all high-speed providers. The slowest broadband package offered by Virgin Media is 54Mb, close to the maximum offered by Sky in most locations. It then graduates to 108Mb, 213Mb, 362Mb, 516Mbp, and 630Mb, up to a maximum of 1.1Gb.

Sky does have ultrafast FTTP broadband packages with average speeds up to 500Mb. But Virgin Gig1 is twice as fast for nearly the same price. 

Availability is an issue for Sky, too, at least for the moment. Only a relatively small number of homes can currently get Sky FTTP; in most of the country, Sky is limited to an average speed of 59Mb using a standard BT Openreach telephone line. Virgin Media is available to around 53% of premises.

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Price and affordability

Monthly price

Winner: Tie

In terms of bang-for-your-buck then Virgin Media is definitely your best option, particularly if you want seriously high-speed broadband. However, Sky Superfast offers a respectable speed for a shade under £30, making it a good buy if you want fast broadband at an affordable price.

Setup cost

Winner: Sky

Sky broadband costs only £9.95 to set up. Virgin Media often charges up to £35 setup fee — although they do often waive this charge. There are also discounts available through the QuickStart program if there was a previous Virgin Media customer at your property and the Virgin Media access point is still installed.

Broadband rewards

Winner: Virgin

Both Sky and Virgin Media run frequently run deals like half-price feature upgrades, inclusive weekend or evening calls and discounts on the monthly cost. 

However, free gift offers such as shopping vouchers are now much rarer with Sky deals while Virgin very frequently has these kinds of offers. And Virgin rewards are sometimes a bit different from the competition, sometimes offering freebies like Bluetooth speakers or a box of wine.

Availability and coverage

Winner: Tie

Looking purely at availability without consideration of the type of broadband service, this is a clear win for Sky. They use the BT Openreach network which is accessible by around 99% of the mainland UK population.

However, when it comes to very fast broadband, Virgin Media has the most widely available network.

Virgin Media covers approximately 53% of UK homes and offers speeds up to 1.1Gb to its entire network. Sky Ultrafast is only available to around eight million homes at present, using the Openreach FTTP network.

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Customer service

Winner: Sky

According to the most recent Ofcom customer service report, Sky received 21 complaints per 100,000 users in 2019, which is essentially level with 2018. Virgin Media received 60 complaints — up nine from the previous year — per 100,000 users. Data is taken from 2019 as more recent figures are not yet available.

Sky broadband customers had an average waiting time of 2:28 minutes while Virgin Media customers had to wait 4:26 for their call to be answered. Overall satisfaction for Sky is higher, at 86% compared to 85% for Sky.

Additional services

Winner: Tie

Both Sky and Virgin Media offer TV, mobile, landline and broadband services. Each is comparable with the other in terms of channel availability, reliability, speed, value for money, and user experience. While different in their execution, both Sky and Virgin Media offer very similar products.

Sky uses satellites and satellite dishes to provide TV services and BT Openreach line to provide landline and broadband. Sky Mobile uses the O2 network to provide services.

Virgin Media uses its own cable network to deliver TV, broadband and landlines and the EE network to provide mobile coverage. EE does have faster and better coverage than O2 but both are credible providers with excellent coverage overall.

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Extras and freebies

Winner: Virgin Media

Sky broadband offers:

  • Free use of Sky Wi-Fi Hotspots.
  • Sky Broadband Shield (parental controls and online security).
  • Wi-Fi guarantee (selected packages only)
  • Speed guarantee

Virgin Media broadband offers:

  • Free Wi-Fi hotspots from business and residential customers similar to BT WiFi.
  • 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.

Sky vs Virgin Media: which is best?

Winner: Virgin Media

In terms of the broadband offering, network speed, price, and overall user experience, Virgin Media surpasses Sky broadband by a slight margin. The downside, of course, is that you can only use Virgin Media broadband if you live in a Virgin cabled area.

Sky is a very credible broadband provider with excellent customer service, superb TV offering, and good mobile coverage. However, it is hampered by having to use a speed-limited BT telephone line in most places.

While Sky Superfast represents good value, if you want to do much more with your broadband, faster packages from Virgin Media offer more speed for not a lot more money. And if you want to go much faster and don't mind spending the money to do it, Virgin can offer that too.

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