BT vs Virgin Media broadband: Which is best?

ByKim Staples
BT vs Virgin

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.

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 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.

BT broadband deals

BT
BT
BT
Unlimited Broadband + weekend calls Unlimited Infinity 1 + Weekend Calls Unlimited Infinity 2 + Weekend Calls
Monthly cost £7.50 (for 12 months, then £20.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £97.95 Monthly cost £12.50 (for 12 months, then £26.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £206.95 Monthly cost £30.00 (for 12 months, then £32.50 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £367.95
Up To 17 Mb Up To 52 Mb Up To 76 Mb
Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc.
Go
Call BT on 0800 783 5390
Mon to Sun 8am-6.30pm
Go
Call BT on 0800 783 5390
Mon to Sun 8am-6.30pm
Go
Call BT on 0800 783 5390
Mon to Sun 8am-6.30pm

Virgin Media broadband deals

Virgin Media
Virgin Media
Virgin Media
Super 50 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends Vivid 100 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends Vivid 200 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends
Monthly cost £4.00 (for 8 months, then £19.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £117.99 Monthly cost £9.00 (for 8 months, then £24.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £177.99 Monthly cost £25.00 (for 9 months, then £32.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £330.99
Up To 50 Mb Up To 100 Mb Up To 200 Mb
Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc.
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7

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 three different download speeds. BT broadband has speeds of up to 17Mb, 52Mb, and 76Mb. Virgin Media broadband has speeds of up to 50Mb, 100Mb, and 200Mb.

Verdict: 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, with two exceptions: BT Broadband, which has a download limit of 12GB per month, and BT Infinity 1, which has a limit of 25GB.

Virgin Media's packages, on the other hand, all come with completely unlimited downloads. There's a catch, though - its broadband isn't truly unlimited like BT's is. Virgin Media practises web traffic management, which means it'll slow down your internet for certain tasks at peak times (usually in the evening). Video streaming, for instance, is prioritised to remain steady; but big files, for example, won't download at the full 200Mb speed.

Verdict: Whatever you get from Virgin Media, you can be guaranteed unlimited downloads. But for the peace of mind that what you're getting is truly unlimited, go for an unlimited package from BT.

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: 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
  • BT Sport Lite, online or via smartphone app
  • Free access to BT Wi-Fi hotspots around the country
  • 5GB - 100GB of cloud storage depending on the package
  • BT NetProtect Plus for some internet security
  • BT SmartTalk app, so you can use your landline minutes from your mobile
BT Wi-Fi

And with Virgin Media you get:

Verdict: Some of the extras from Virgin Media are a lot better than what BT offers - those 10 email addresses, for instance. However, BT has two very important extras up its sleeve that Virgin Media doesn't: BT Sport Lite, and free access to over 5 million Wi-Fi hotspots - far more than Virgin Media has.

If either of those are things 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 - it requires line rental 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,isavailable 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: If you want home phone, BT gives you the most options. If you don't, Virgin Media lets you avoid line rental charges.

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 130 channels, depending which package you choose. The largest one, Total Entertainment, gets you a YouView+ Ultra HD box, complete with 600 hours' worth of recording space and BT Sport - including the 4K channel.

Virgin Media TV, meanwhile, is known for being one of the most comprehensive television services out there - up to 230 channels with the biggest package on this bad boy. The 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 - besides BT Sport Ultra HD, of course.

Virgin Media TiVo

Verdict: 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 200Mb?
  • 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 free BT Sport Lite 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.

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