ADSL: Yes (only if you can't access fibre)
Full Fibre: Yes
TV bundles: Yes
BT is one of the best known broadband providers in the UK. It's easy to see why the company is so popular, too. After all, BT provides a great selection of speeds, a range of add-ons and several bundle options. However, BT is also undoubtedly one of the most expensive internet service providers on the market. On top of this, many of the company's cheaper contracts lock you in for 24 months.
- Great choice of speeds
- TV bundles are available
- Impressive router
- An expensive provider
- Long contracts
- Limited access to Full Fibre
Full Fibre: Yes
TV bundles: Yes
Virgin Media brags that it offers speeds that are up to 16x faster than those offered by BT and Sky. However, although the company undoubtedly offers lightning-fast speeds as well as an impressive range of bundles, the company's customer service falls short. Plus, customers should also be wary that many of the deals Virgin Media offers are at the pricier end of the market and the company only covers around 60% of the UK.
- Awesome range of speeds
- Excellent reliability
- High-spec hardware
- Poor customer service scores
- Many deals aren't great value
- Lacklustre coverage
BT and Virgin Media are two of the UK's most popular internet service providers. Although they both sit at the premium end of the broadband market, they're both incredibly popular choices with customers who are looking for fast speeds and reliable connections.
Both BT and Virgin Media are also popular providers for a reason. After all, they offer a fantastic range of broadband speeds, top broadband deals, added extras, dependable service and even incentives.
Plus, while Sky has traditionally been the top choice for anyone searching for a broadband and TV bundle, both BT and Virgin Media are starting to muscle in on their territory. Now, both providers offer a great range of broadband and TV bundles, including bundles that include Sky TV channels.
Many people searching for a new broadband deal will struggle to separate BT and Virgin Media. Thankfully, this is exactly where we can help. We've done the hard work for you and we've put together this guide that directly compares the two providers. We've also delivered our definitive verdict on which is better.
BT vs Virgin Media: broadband options
BT and Virgin Media both offer a great range of broadband speeds, including ultrafast Full Fibre options which offer lightning-fast connections. However, while BT offers a range of speeds to suit all needs (including an entry-level ADSL option that's available in areas where customers cannot receive fibre connections), Virgin Media instead focuses on speeds, and even its slowest option is a fibre connection.
By way of direct comparison, BT provides all of the following broadband speeds:
- BT Broadband Unlimited: 10Mbps avg. speed (only available in areas that cannot receive fibre speeds)
- BT Full Fibre Essential: 36Mbps avg. speed
- BT Full Fibre 1: 50Mbps avg. speed
- BT Full Fibre 2: 74Mbps avg. speed
- BT Full Fibre 100: 150Mbps avg. speed
- BT Full Fibre 500: 500Mbps avg. speed
- BT Full Fibre 900: 900Mbps avg. speed
By contrast, Virgin Media has the following speeds available:
- Virgin Media M125: 132Mbps avg. speed
- Virgin Media M250: 264Mbps avg. speed
- Virgin Media M350: 362Mbps avg. speed
- Virgin Media M500: 516Mbps avg. speed
- Virgin Media Gig1: 1130Mbps (1.13Gbps) avg. speed
As you can see, although BT provides the greatest range of speeds, Virgin Media provides the fastest speeds available. This is partly due to the fact that BT relies on the Openreach network, while Virgin uses its own network and specialises in Full Fibre deals.
So, if you're looking for a basic fibre package or you live in an area without fibre access, BT is your best choice. However, if you're looking for rapid internet and you have high streaming demands, Virgin Media may be the better choice.
But, one more thing we should note before we move on is the different contract lengths offered by both providers. While BT tends to offer 24-month contracts, Virgin Media specialises in 18-month contracts. So, if you want to be tied down for as little time as possible, Virgin Media is the best choice here.
BT vs Virgin Media: coverage
Coverage is one area where BT holds a major advantage over Virgin Media. As we mentioned earlier, BT uses the Openreach network for its connections. Although this means that it can't offer the fastest speeds, it does mean that it can provide consistent connections to almost anywhere in the UK.
The Openreach network is also used by a number of other providers, such as Sky and TalkTalk. It provides 97% UK coverage. Plus, coverage on the network is constantly improving and Openreach aims to deliver Ultrafast Full Fibre Broadband to 25 million homes and businesses by December 2026.
By contrast, Virgin Media uses its own network. This offers the provider a number of advantages. For example, the company can provide faster speeds as it can use much faster cables than the older, copper-based network that Openreach relies on.
However, as a direct result of this, Virgin Media's broadband coverage is lacking. Although it's building up its network quickly, the company can still only provide broadband to around 60% of UK properties. As such, Virgin Media's broadband offering may simply be unavailable in your area.
BT vs Virgin Media: TV bundles
BT offers a great selection of internet and TV bundles, including a range of packages that include its TNT Sports (formerly BT Sport) channels.
On top of this, you can also access Sky Cinema through BT's 'Big Entertainment' package. If you like, you even have the ability to add every Sky Sports channel with the company's 'Big Sport' package. If you'd like every option, then you can combine the 'Big Entertainment' and 'Big Sport' packages with BT's 'VIP' package. However, price of this package is incredibly high and if you're set on wanting Sky channels, you may be better selecting a Sky broadband and TV bundle instead.
The same is true of Virgin Media, which also offers a great selection of broadband and TV deals. This includes options that feature Sky channels, including Sky Sports. Again though, these bundles are on the more expensive side and if you'd like Sky channels then you'll likely be better selecting a Sky TV and broadband bundle, which will likely be cheaper.
BT vs Virgin Media: cost
On the subject of cost, neither BT nor Virgin Media tend to be considered as budget broadband providers and both companies sit at the more expensive end of the market.
Of course, the exact amount you'll pay for your internet will depend on the deals available when you decide to buy. However, from a top level perspective, BT's prices range from £29.99 per month for its ADSL package to £54.99 per month for its Full Fibre 900 option. The company also usually has setup fees in place, which start from £9.99 and rise to £29.99. However, BT is currently waiving these.
By contrast, Virgin Media's broadband only deals start at as little as £26.50 per month for the M125 option. Unsurprisingly, you'll pay the most for Gig1 broadband, which currently costs £30 per month for the first six months and then £50 per month for the remainder oft the contract. Both of these options come without setup fees.
Although both providers aren't particularly cheap, there are still some bargains to be had if you look at the right time. This is because both BT and Virgin Media regularly offer promotions and deals throughout the year. For this reason, we recommend that you regularly check our best broadband deals.
BT vs Virgin Media: customer service
When it comes to customer service, neither BT nor Virgin Media scores particularly highly. However, BT's customer service is rated more highly than Virgin Media's.
While Virgin Media's customers have very few complaints with regards to speed (perhaps unsurprisingly), customers complain that the troubleshooting section of the company's website is poor and customer service agents are hard to get in touch with. However, those with complaints do usually say that the agents they speak to are incredibly friendly and helpful, even if waiting times are long.
By contrast, statistics show that fewer BT customers make a compliant. They also show that those who do complain also face shorter waiting times. Broadly speaking though, both providers do offer an acceptable level of customer service and Ofcom's data shows that satisfaction scores for both providers are in excess of 85%.
At the top of our review you'll have noticed we gave BT a slightly higher rating than Virgin Media. After conducting a thorough deep dive on the options offered by both providers, this is something we stand by.
While Virgin Media can undoubtedly offer quicker speeds than BT, the company simply cannot cope with BT's coverage, range of options (including an ADSL option) and superior customer service.
That said, Virgin Media is still an excellent broadband provider. This is particularly the case if you're searching for the fastest speeds available. Plus, the provider also offers a great selection of TV and broadband bundles.
In short, we thoroughly recommend both providers, who are two of the biggest and best internet service providers in the country for a reason.
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Tom is a freelance copywriter and content marketer with over seven years' experience. Originally from an agency background, he is proud to have worked on campaigns for a number of energy providers, comparison sites and consumer brands.