Virgin Media broadband features and review
Once upon time there were two big players in cable television and internet in the UK - Telewest and NTL.
In 2006 the two merged to form NTL:Telewest, and the same year joined forces with Virgin Mobile and Virgin.net (at the time a joint venture with NTL offering ADSL broadband to those outside NTL’s network) to form Virgin Media. With the company offering fixed line home broadband, television, landline phone and mobile services it became the UK’s first “quad play” provider.
Since then Virgin has grown to become one of the most exciting broadband providers around. Not only does it offer a wide variety of great value bundles to get all your entertainment needs in one package, but Virgin Media broadband has been gradually upgraded over the years and now offers the fastest speeds of any mass-market ISP.
What does Virgin Media offer?
The vast majority of internet service providers utilise the BT Openreach network to deliver ADSL and fibre optic broadband connections. These are the broadband packages offered by not just by BT itself but ISPs such as EE. Sky and TalkTalk.
But Virgin Media operates its own network. No other provider resells access, and Virgin has been able to upgrade speeds at a faster rate than BT.
What’s the difference between BT Openreach and Virgin? The Virgin Media network uses a technology known as Hybrid-Fibre Coaxial (HFC). This means the core network is built on fast fibre optic lines to carry a signal to streetside cabinets, and the final connection into homes and businesses is handled with coaxial cable. This is broadly similar to BT fibre (which is a technology called FTTC - Fibre To The Cabinet), except that in BT’s case it is a telephone line used to complete the connection .
The coaxial link is why Virgin Media broadband was, and sometimes still is, called cable broadband. However Virgin now refers to their service as fibre broadband and that’s mostly how you’ll see it referenced here on Broadband Genie.
In addition to its superfast broadband Virgin Media also offers telephone and broadband bundles. All Virgin phone customers get voicemail, 1471 and 141 services for free, and can choose from a selection of inclusive calling bundles:
- Talk Weekends
Unlimited weekend calls to UK landline, Virgin Mobile and 0870 numbers. This is the base package included with some broadband and TV bundles.
- Talk More Weekends
For £1 extra this adds free weekend calling to any mobile network and 0845 numbers.
- Talk More Evenings and Weekends
Free inclusive calls to landline, mobile and 0870 and 0845 numbers at the evening and weekend. £5 extra.
- Talk More Anytime
Anytime calling to UK landline and mobiles and 0845 and 0870 numbers for an extra £8.
- Talk More International Anytime
For £15 this has the same inclusive calls as Talk More Anytime with the addition of landlines in 30 international locations.
Virgin is one of the leading TV providers in the UK. While known for its comprehensive premium services offering hundreds of channels, Virgin’s range also includes more affordable entry level bundles. And all Virgin TV deals come with an excellent TiVo smart box and loads of extras.
To find out more visit our Virgin TV page.
Virgin has its own mobile phone and broadband service, allowing them to offer incredible quad play bundles combining home broadband, TV, phone and mobile.
The Virgin Mobile range includes SIM only deals on a rolling monthly contract, pay-as-you-go, pay monthly and mobile broadband.
Virgin Media broadband coverage and speed
The first step to finding a Virgin broadband deal is checking availability in your location.
This is important because, sadly, Virgin is not available to everyone. Virgin operates its own network and does not have quite the same reach as ISPs which use the BT Openreach network. Coverage varies all over the country, and even if other homes in the same town can get Virgin services it does not necessarily mean you will too. This doesn't however have much of an impact on installation times, which come in at a fairly standard 2-3 weeks. Check out our guide to find out more about Virgin Media installation times.
To make this easy Broadband Genie has a postcode checker. Enter your postcode and we’ll check a national database of exchanges and filter the results by area. Alternatively you can use our guide and cable checker to see if Virgin broadband is in your area.
You'll also need to complete a credit check to get a Virgin broadband service. Otherwise, have a look at deals without a credit check.
Virgin Media broadband speed
There are currently five different speed tiers available from Virgin: 54Mb, 108Mb, 213Mb, 362Mb, and 516Mb. Rival offerings from ISPs using the Openreach network max out at around 65Mb , so even Virgin’s slower packages are quicker than many others, and at its best it’s many times as fast as the nearest competitor. This makes Virgin Media broadband a really compelling choice for those of you who want the fastest connection possible to handle lots of gaming, big downloads and HD streaming, or need a service that’s going to handle the demands of a busy shared or family home.
Virgin Media usage limits and traffic management
All Virgin broadband deals have unlimited usage. This means you can download and upload as much as you like without worrying about additional costs.
However, it is important to note that there are some restrictions in the form of traffic management.
Traffic management is the practice of controlling internet activity in order to maintain smooth performance for the majority of users. Typically this impacts demanding uses such as file sharing, where a very large amount of data may be involved.
It’s used by many ISPs, but typically does not greatly affect the average user. With Virgin Media broadband you will only run into a problem when attempting to upload a large amount of data at peak times. Virgin classifies peak times as 4pm - 11pm Monday to Friday, and 11am - 11pm at weekends. If you exceed the limit during this time, only your upload speed will be reduced.
Virgin Media broadband - in summary
Virgin’s biggest advantage is undoubtedly its excellent broadband speeds. At its best, the download rate is more than twice as fast as any of the competition. Another huge plus point in Virgin’s favour is the option to take broadband without a phone line, something no BT Openreach provider can offer. And there’s a massive choice of bundles which allow you to add premium TV services, phone line with inclusive calls and even mobile broadband and phone. There are also Virgin broadband deals available on one-month contracts, something only offered by a handful of providers.
On the downside, Virgin’s network is not as widespread as the BT Openreach connections which dominate the UK. It is available to more than 60% of premises but that means there are still many homes and business which cannot access it. It's also a shame that Virgin Media's upload speed is not as impressive as the download rate, offering around the same speed as Openreach network ISPs.
To find out more read our full Virgin Media broadband review.