BT vs Virgin Media broadband: which is best?

bt vs virgin media

Virgin Media and BT have a lot to recommend them. But which is faster? Which is better value? And most importantly which is best for your needs? We take a good look at everything they’ve got to offer to help you decide.

BT vs Virgin Media broadband at a glance

BT Virgin Media
Can I get ADSL? Yes. Average speeds of 10Mbps No. All Virgin Media packages are fibre broadband
Can I get superfast fibre? Yes, average speeds of 36Mbps, 50Mbps or 67Mbps Yes, with average speeds of 50Mbps, 100Mbps or 213Mbps
Can I get ultrafast fibre? Yes, with maximum average speeds of 910Mbps Yes, with maximum average speed of 1130Mbps
Download limit? No, all packages are truly unlimited No, all packages are truly unlimited
TV Yes. YouView-based BT TV service Yes, with Virgin TV360 set top box
Do I have to take a home phone? No No

BT vs Virgin Media: cost

Prices for Virgin Media and BT broadband are broadly similar, even when you take into account the monthly, time-limited promotions that both providers regularly run.

That said, Virgin Media generally offers faster speeds for your monthly outlay.

By way of example, at the time of writing BT Fibre Essential with average speeds of 36Mbps is about the same price as Virgin Media’s M100 with average speeds of 108Mbps.

Both Virgin Media and BT regularly offer very welcome free gifts, such as gift cards and vouchers for high-street stores, as an incentive to sign up. So it’s well worth keeping an eye out for them.

BT vs Virgin Media broadband: average speeds

Virgin Media is the UK’s fastest widely available broadband provider. And it’s fair to say speeds on its most popular packages trump BT by some distance.

For instance, BT’s most popular Fibre Essentials, Fibre 1 and Fibre 2 provide average speeds of 36Mbps, 50Mbps and 67Mbps respectively.

BT also offers a full fibre service with speeds that go up to a lightning fast 910Mbps. But the catch is that its ultrafast packages are only available in a small number of locations.

However, Virgin Media’s standard packages get you speeds of 50Mbps, 100Mbps, 200Mbps, 350Mbps and 500Mbps, and they’re all pretty widely available.

And its top of the range service goes one more than BT full fibre with average speeds of over 1Gbps.

Of course, for most people in most households BT’s fibre speeds will be ample.

But if you’re likely to be downloading a lot of content or want the very best online gaming experience, Virgin Media could be a better bet.

BT vs Virgin: fibre broadband packages review

BT and Virgin Media both offer a really wide range of packages to choose from.

But as outlined above, Virgin Media is generally better value for money and gets you a faster service.

Virgin Media also edges out BT when it comes to contract length. While Virgin Media’s minimum commitment is 18 months, BT insists you sign up for at least 24 months.

What’s more, if you really need a short-term broadband solution Virgin Media even does broadband on a one-month, rolling-contract basis.

Both providers now offer broadband with no landline rental.

So if you really don’t want or a need a landline, you can save a bit of cash by doing without one.

All packages from Virgin Media and BT are truly unlimited. That means you can use the internet as much as you like without incurring extra charges.

Just as importantly, it means that neither provider will deliberately slow down your service at peak times either.

You can see for yourself what BT packages have to offer in the table below:

Online exclusive Fibre 1
New customers only Offer ends 16/09/2021
Online exclusive Fibre 2
New customers only Offer ends 16/09/2021

*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time(8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.

And you can get a sense of what's on offer with Virgin Media's packages in this table:

*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time(8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.

BT vs Virgin Media: phone

You don’t have to take a home phone with BT or Virgin Media, if you prefer not to have one or feel like you won’t make much use of it.

But in the event that you do in fact opt to take a landline from BT, you’ll get pay-as-you-go calls as standard. So you only pay for the calls you make.

If you make regular calls on your landline, though, you may want to sign up for an add-on.

BT offers a selection that includes anytime calls to UK landlines and mobiles, as well as cheap international calls to select locations.

When you sign up for a Virgin Media landline you’ll get its Talk Weekends package as standard, which entitles you to inclusive calls to UK landlines, as well as Virgin Mobile numbers and 0870 numbers.

As you’d expect, Virgin Media offers call add-ons too, with the standard options for international calls, as well as unusual single-country calling plans that allow its Polish and French customers a generous allowance of calls to their country of origin/ancestral country.

BT vs Virgin Media: TV

With plenty of premium content to choose from and flexible add-ons, both Virgin Media and BT’s TV services are a good bet.

Both let you add BT Sport, NOW TV passes, Netflix and Amazon Prime. Which covers all the big content providers and streaming services.

Better still, they both permit you to add those services and channels on a one-month, rolling-contract basis, with the option to cancel with just 30 days’ notice.

So, for the sake of example, you can opt to cancel BT Sport or Sky Sport when the football season is over.

Or cancel your subscription to NOW Kids Pass when the school holidays come to an end.

Virgin Media definitely wins out when it comes to set top boxes, however.

BT’s YouView is good. It’s got storage space for 300 hours of content, for instance and, as is pretty standard, you can pause and rewind live TV.

And it allows you to record two live channels simultaneously, too.

Virgin Media’s TV360 box, however, is much more advanced. For starters, it has room for 500 hours of content and lets you record five channels at once.

Unlike BT’s YouView, it also offers seamless multi-screen viewing. So you can start watching a show in one room, then transfer to another screen and pick up exactly where you left off.

But that’s not all. The TV 360 box finds room for advanced voice search and is 4K-ready, too.

BT vs Virgin Media: fibre broadband availability

With the exception of its Full Fibre packages, which are only on offer in a small range of locations, BT fibre is generally more widely available than Virgin Media.

That’s because it’s delivered to your address via the nationwide Openreach network that covers 32 million UK homes.

Unlike most other providers, Virgin Media doesn’t use Openreach and owns and operates its own cable broadband network.

And while it’s not as wide-ranging as Openreach, it uses newer technology to deliver faster speeds to Virgin Media customers.

At the time of writing, Virgin Media broadband with speeds of up 500Mbps is on offer to over 15 million homes, while its gigafast service is on offer at 3.6 million properties.

To find out which BT and Virgin Media packages are on offer where you live, just pop your postcode in our availability checker below.

BT vs Virgin Media: download limits

All Virgin Media and BT packages have unlimited downloads, freeing you to use the internet as much as you like without worrying about a monthly usage limit.

Their packages are also ‘truly unlimited’. That means your provider won’t deliberately slow down your service at times of peak demand.

BT vs Virgin Media: extras

BT packages come with BT Virus Protect security software, which in most cases covers two devices. However, if you plump for select packages you can protect up to 15 gadgets.

Parental controls and access to five million hotspots come free with BT too, as does 200GB of cloud storage via BT Cloud. So you’ve got plenty of room for photos and your mini movies.

Virgin Media offers parental controls too, as well as security software in the form of F-Secure that lets you protect up to five devices.

Customers get access to Virgin Media WiFi hotspots, which even extend to London Underground stations.

BT vs Virgin Media customer service

Ofcom customer satisfaction studies consistently rank Virgin Media and BT about average for the broadband industry.

That’s borne out by the 2020 report showing that 86% of BT customers are satisfied with their overall service, compared with 85% for Virgin Media.

BT does, however, have the edge over Virgin Media when it comes customer complaints. 14% of Virgin Media customers had cause to lodge a complaint, just ten per cent of BT complained during the time period covered by the study.