Virgin Media launches UK 5G network

Virgin Media 5G
(Image credit: Virgin Media)

Virgin Media has launched its 5G mobile service, using Vodafone’s network to deliver average speeds of 176.2Mbps – four and a half times the bitrates delivered by the former’s 4G offering - in 100 towns and cities across the UK.

As a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), Virgin Media does not own or operate a radio network and relies on one of the major operators – EE, O2, Three or Vodafone – to connect customers.

The cable giant won’t charge customers a premium to access 5G and is making the service available on a range of pay-monthly and SIM-Only plans.

Virgin Media 5G

Anyone who has purchased a compatible device from the company since last April will automatically be upgraded, while subscribers to ‘Oomph’ packages of broadband, TV and mobile services can also get a 5G tariff.

“The launch of 5G is a milestone moment for us,” declared Virgin Media COO Jeff Dodds. “As the world’s first virtual mobile operator, our offering has long been about breaking boundaries and offering our customers a premium service without the price tag.

“That’s why we’re launching fast, reliable 5G connectivity at no extra cost while keeping the added extras of our existing mobile plans in place.

“By offering 5G and gigabit broadband all under one roof, Virgin Media customers can experience next-generation connectivity both in and out of the home, putting them in a great place to take advantage of the latest technology.”

One of the reasons Virgin Media replaced EE as its MVNO partner back in 2019 was so it could launch 5G as soon as possible. While EE launched 4G in late 2012, it wasn’t until November 2016 that Virgin Media customers could get access to the latest speeds.

Virgin Media’s present MVNO deal runs until 2026 and includes access to the full range of Vodafone technology and services.  All Virgin Media mobile customers will be migrated to Vodafone’s network before the end of 2021, but any subscriber to a 5G tariff will be moved immediately.

The service was the world’s first MVNO when it launched in 1999 under the guise of Virgin Mobile, using what was then One2One’s network. It was then brought under the Virgin Media umbrella following the 2007 merger of NTL and Telewest and now has 3.3 million subscribers.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.