Virgin Media

Virgin Media pays no heed to any suggestions that you shouldn’t fight a war on two fronts: it’s engaged in a broadband speed battle with BT and a pay-TV fight with Sky.

It’s comfortably the UK’s fastest broadband provider, thanks to a national fibre backbone and fibre-optic cables running to street-side cabinets near to 48 per cent of British homes. Virgin’s speed claims are about 90 per cent accurate, unlike the ‘up to’ speeds of ADSL over your phone line, which averages less than 50 per cent of its claims.

Virgin is doubling the broadband speeds of most customers over the next 18 months, and will soon have a minimum speed of 20Mbps and a top speed of 120Mbps, while it has run trials at up to 1.5Gbps (1,500Mbps).

It’s also the second-largest pay-TV provider, and offers the impressive TiVo ‘smart’ digital TV recorder for as little as £3/month. Virgin is reliant on Sky for many of the top entertainment channels, sports and film channels, which makes it difficult to undercut Sky’s own prices and occasionally means Virgin viewers miss out on new channels like Sky Atlantic.
However, Virgin has a huge on-demand TV library that can comfortably deliver high definition video without interrupting your other broadband use, and has catch-up TV from all of the leading free TV channels.

Phone bundles are standard (but not mandatory) with both broadband and TV, and the best value is found in Virgin’s bundled deals.

All Virgin Media phone, broadband and TV services are banded as S, M, L, XL, and XXL, although S has been largely phased out for marketing reasons, M is slowly disappearing and they are running out of names for new top tiers. However, these simple names make it easy to put Virgin’s bundles together and compare to each other.