BT vs Virgin Media broadband: Which is best?

BT Broadband vs Virgin Media Broadband

Two of the most popular broadband providers in the UK come in the form of the good old British Telecom, and Richard Branson’s telecom child Virgin Media.

But which is best? Both offer fibre optic connections, unlimited downloads, and bundles with home phone and TV. Read on and we'll compare the two so you can decide which one is most suited for you.

(And if you want more info and details, have a look at our full BT review and Virgin Media review.)

Cost

Since the two providers offer different kinds of packages, it's difficult to compare how much they'll both cost you, but here's the basic lowdown.

Prices aren't dramatically different between the two - but a lot of the time, Virgin Media fares slightly better. When you compare similar broadband packages, it often comes up as a little cheaper than BT, though sometimes only by a pound or two each month.

Of course, it gets more complicated when you factor in the frequent special offers, contract lengths, bundling, and so on. And whether you're comparing cost-per-month or overall costs. Basically, you need to see what's available at the time.

Best buy deals
  • Superfast Fibre + Weekend Calls
    £100 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 50Mbps
    • £9.99 up-front costs
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £29.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Superfast Fibre 2 + Weekend Calls
    £110 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 67Mbps
    • £9.99 up-front costs
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £39.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Starter + Broadband + Weekend Calls
    £40 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 10Mbps
    • £69.99 up-front costs
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £30.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Entertainment + Superfast Fibre + Weekend Calls
    £100 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 50Mbps
    • £19.99 up-front costs
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £44.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Broadband + weekend calls
    £40 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 10Mbps
    • £19.99 up-front costs
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £24.99 per month
    18 month contract
  • Max 4K + Superfast Fibre + Weekend Calls
    £100 BT Reward Card - see BT's website for further details
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 50Mbps
    • £9.99 up-front costs
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £53.99 per month
    18 month contract

*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.

Best buy deals
  • Vivid 50 Fibre Broadband
    No Phone Line Required!
    • Average speed* 54Mbps
    • £20.00 up-front costs
    • £35.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Vivid 50 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends
    Unlimited downloads!
    • Average speed* 54Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £27.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Player TV Bundle
    V6 TiVo Box
    • Average speed* 54Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £32.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Vivid 100 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends
    Unlimited Downloads
    • Online Exclusive
    • Average speed* 108Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £29.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Mix TV Bundle
    V6 TiVo Box
    • Average speed* 108Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £47.00 per month
    12 month contract
  • Full House TV Bundle
    V6 TiVo Box
    • Average speed* 108Mbps
    • Weekend calls inc.
    • Offer ends
    • £57.00 per month
    12 month contract

*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.

Verdict

Honestly, the only way to answer this is to use our postcode checker. Select the filters that fit your requirements and compare prices for exactly what you're looking for - it could go either way.

Speeds

Both providers offer multiple download speeds. BT broadband has packages with average download speeds of 10Mb, 50Mb, and 67Mb. It's not widespread yet, but ultrafast BT with average speesd of 300Mb are available in some places too. Virgin Media broadband has average download speeds of 54Mb, 108Mb, 213Mb and 362Mb.

Verdict

Winner icon

Well, this one's easy. Virgin Media offers faster broadband speeds. Whether you'll actually get those speeds, however, is a different matter - especially as Virgin Media manages web traffic, which can mean slower internet at certain times of the day.

Download limits

All of BT's broadband packages are truly unlimited, and Virgin Media's packages all come with completely unlimited downloads. Which means, when it comes to download limits, the two are neck and neck!

Verdict

Winner icon

We can't call this one; both offer unlimited broadband packages so it's a draw.

Availability

You can get a BT internet connection pretty much anywhere you can get a BT phone line. It's extremely widespread, in other words. Unfortunately that doesn't go for fibre optic broadband, which is a little patchier, though coverage is still fairly wide.

Virgin Media's network can be found in most major towns and cities, but there's a lot of gaps. And if you're out in the sticks, there's even less of a chance your home can get it.

Verdict

Winner icon

BT is the most widely available, by quite a big margin - even fibre optic coverage. Before you make a decision between BT and Virgin Media broadband, we strongly recommend using our postcode checker to see if both are available where you live.

Extras

Whichever you choose, you're in luck - broadband packages from BT and Virgin Media both come with buckets of extra stuff.

With BT you get:

  • BT Home Hub
  • Free access to BT Wi-Fi hotspots around the country
  • Up to 500GB of cloud storage depending on the package
  • BT Virus Protect for some internet security
  • BT SmartTalk app, so you can use your landline minutes from your mobile
BT SmartTalk app


And with Virgin Media you get:

Verdict

Winner icon

Some of the extras from Virgin Media are a lot better than what BT offers - those 10 email addresses, for instance. On the other hand, one of BT's inclusive extras is particularly useful: access to its Wi-Fi hotspots. There are more than five million of them nationwide, so it pretty much guarantees you can use the internet from almost anywhere.

If that's something you'd use, we strongly recommend BT broadband; though if you're not fussy, you'll get a bit more from Virgin Media.

Phone

You can't get a broadband-only deal from BT - you can only get it with line rental included too. Luckily, BT's home phone is pretty good. It's reliable, it's very widely available, and there are more options and calling features to choose from than pretty much any other home phone provider.

Virgin Media broadband, on the other hand, is available on its own - it's one of the few providers to offer broadband-only packages, in fact. Although, there aren't quite as many options and features as with BT.

Verdict

Winner icon

If you want home phone, BT gives you the most options. If you don't, Virgin Media lets you avoid having a phone line entirely.

TV

The good news is that both BT and Virgin Media broadband can be bundled with TV as well, meaning one less bill to fiddle around with each month.

BT TV works through a YouView box, and gets you between 80 and 140 channels, depending which package you choose. The largest one, Max, gets you a YouView+ Ultra HD box, complete with 600 hours' worth of recording space - and it's the only way to get BT Sport in Ultra HD.

Virgin Media TV, meanwhile, is known for being one of the most comprehensive television services out there - up to 245 channels with the biggest package on this bad boy. The V6 TiVo box has a ton of features too, like a Netflix app and dozens of TV box sets. Oh, and you can get the full Sky Sports and BT Sport services - though not BT Sport Ultra HD, of course.

Virgin Media TiVo

Verdict

Winner icon

Virgin Media has far, far more to offer in terms of the channels and services you can get - including the chance to get Sky Sports and BT Sport. But on the other hand, BT TV is the only way to get BT Sport Ultra HD, and the YouView platform is more flexible if you don't need hundreds of channels.

Conclusion

Whether you should get your broadband from BT or Virgin Media comes down to a few key factors:

  • Is Virgin Media available in your area?
  • Do you need download speeds of up to 300Mb?
  • What kind of TV package do you want to include (if any) - and which sports channels would you like?

For super duper fast speeds and lots of telly, go Virgin Media. For cheap BT Sport and more consistent broadband speeds, go BT.

And if you're in a non-Virgin Media area… it's worth taking a look at what you could get from other providers too.

See our other reviews:

  • Why is broadband more expensive in rural areas?

  • What's wireless broadband?

  • Mobile broadband vs fixed line broadband: Which is best for me?

  • How to use public Wi-Fi hotspots

  • Where can I get free broadband?

  • Can I keep my phone number if I change broadband providers?

  • Mobile broadband vs fixed line broadband: Which is best for me?

  • BT vs TalkTalk broadband

  • TalkTalk vs Plusnet broadband: Which should I get?

  • Plusnet vs BT broadband - which is best?

  • Which broadband provider has the best security?

  • John Lewis Broadband and home phone review