BT vs Virgin Media: Which is best for broadband?

Last updated: 4 March 2023   By Neil Hawkins

BT and Virgin Media are two of the biggest broadband providers in the UK, but which one is best?

While BT broadband is available nationwide to over 97% of homes, Virgin Media's faster broadband has overtaken BT, covering 16 million premises compared to just 9.6 million with BT full fibre.

Virgin Media also offer cheaper prices than BT, with both their broadband-only and TV bundle deals coming in considerably less than equivalent packages from BT.

That said, BT have a stronger customer service record than Virgin, with UK-based call handling and high satisfaction among existing customers, making them a worthy contender.

bt vs virgin media

At a glance

BT Broadband Virgin Media
Price from £30.99 £25
Superfast broadband 36Mb, 50Mb, 67Mb, 150Mb 54Mb, 132Mb
Ultrafast broadband 500Mb 264Mb, 362Mb, 516Mb
Gigafast broadband 900Mb 1130Mb
Anytime UK calls £16 (+£5) £10
TV content BT TV with NOW TV Memberships Virgin Media TV
Customer satisfaction 88% 78%
Customer complaints 18% 23%
Minimum term 24 months 18 or 24 months
BT Broadband Virgin Media
Pros Pros High customer satisfaction Fastest widely available broadband
UK-based call handling Cheaper prices
Fewer complaints More comprehensive TV platform
Cons Cons More expensive Higher than average customer complaints
Full fibre has less availability Moving to RPI-based annual price rises

Best deals

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Fibre 2 67Mb average £36.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Reduced price for 24 months + (Ends 06/06/2024)
Gig1 Fibre Broadband 1.13Gb average £41 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £41 per month + No setup fee (was £35)

Verdict: Who is best for...

BT Broadband Virgin Media
Price Virgin wins
Speed Virgin wins
Router Virgin wins
WiFi guarantee Virgin wins
Home phone Virgin wins
TV bundles Virgin wins
Customer service BT wins
Overall Virgin wins

Price

Winner: Virgin Media offer cheaper broadband-only and bundle prices than BT.

Virgin Media's cheapest broadband deal currently costs £25 per month for 50Mb speeds, while BT's cheapest deal is £30.99 for 36Mb speeds.

Savings increase as you move towards higher speeds and more services however, with gigabit broadband costing £9.99 per month less with Virgin Media, and TV bundles coming in cheaper with Virgin too.

Some packages are more closely matched, but only where BT don't include a phone line and Virgin Media does, once a home phone is factored in BT becomes around £5 more expensive again.

Overall, where price is king, Virgin Media beat BT.

Mid-contract price rises

Both BT and Virgin Media have announced above inflation annual price rises for broadband customers in 2023, with BT increasing prices by 14.4% and Virgin Media saying prices will go up on average by 13.8%.

What's more, from next year, Virgin Media will be changing contracts to specify annual price rises of Retail Price Index (RPI) + 3.9%, which will be higher than BT's contractual Consumer Price Index (CPI) + 3.9% increase.

This change also means Virgin Media customers will no longer be able to sidestep their contract if prices go up, which is something they have been able to do up till now.

Neither provider have a particularly consumer-friendly approach to mid-contract price rises, although Virgin's upcoming move to the higher RPI inflation rate puts BT in a better light here.

Read more about why broadband prices are going up.


Broadband deals

Winner: Virgin Media offers faster and cheaper broadband deals than BT, with greater availability for ultrafast and gigabit-capable speeds.

While BT broadband is available to over 97% of homes across the UK, Virgin Media offer ultrafast and gigafast broadband to 16 million premises, while BT's full fibre broadband so far only reaches 9.6 million.

It's true that BT will increase their full fibre coverage beyond Virgin Media's network by the end of 2026, but for now, Virgin Media has better availability for faster broadband speeds.

Virgin Media is also cheaper than BT, here is the latest pricing for superfast broadband:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
M125 Fibre Broadband 132Mb average £26 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £26 per month + No setup fee (was £35)
M50 Fibre Broadband 54Mb average £38 Free 18 months
Fibre Essential 36Mb average £33.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: Reduced price for 24 months + (Ends 06/06/2024)

Virgin Media's cheapest M50 deal costs just £25 per month, while BT's entry-level Fibre Essential plan comes in at £30.99.

However, Virgin Media's promotional offer on their M125 broadband package is actually cheaper overall, offering half price savings for the first six months, and then just £30 per month thereafter.

Ultrafast broadband

For faster speeds, we can compare Virgin Media M500 with BT Full Fibre 500 on a like-for-like basis.

Here is the latest pricing:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
M500 Fibre Broadband 516Mb average £35 Free 18 months
offer Offer: 500Mb broadband for the price of 350Mb + No setup fee (was £35)
Full Fibre 500 500Mb average £34.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £15/mth and free setup (was £31.99) (Ends 06/06/2024)

Virgin Media M500 works out marginally cheaper than BT's equivalent 500Mb plan, but only because it's currently on special offer.

Once you add a phone line into the mix, Virgin Media actually becomes more expensive than BT at this tier, although confusingly Virgin's faster plan Gig1 broadband is only a penny more per month than BT's Full Fibre 500 plan.

Gigabit broadband

Here is the pricing for gigabit-capable packages:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Gig1 Fibre Broadband 1.13Gb average £41 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £41 per month + No setup fee (was £35)
Full Fibre 900 900Mb average £59.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Reduced price for 24 months (Ends 06/06/2024)

Virgin Media's special offer to provide Gig1 at a reduced price makes Virgin the cheapest option for gigabit-capable broadband, although again if you add in a home phone line it becomes more expensive than BT.

Overall, while some options are cheaper with BT, Virgin Media offers the cheapest broadband plans for those willing to go landline-free.

Read more in our Virgin Media broadband review and our BT broadband review.


Broadband speed

Winner: Virgin Media offer the fastest widely available download speed of 1.13Gb, over 230Mb faster than BT's fastest broadband plan.

Virgin Media offer a gigabit-capable broadband package that delivers average download speeds of 1130Mb per second at peak times. It's available across their entire network of 16 million premises, making it the fastest widely available broadband in the UK.

It's the reason why Virgin Media won our Fastest Broadband Provider award in 2022.

BT's fastest package delivers average download speeds of 900Mb at peak times, which makes it 230Mb slower than Virgin's top speed.

Where BT do have the upper hand however is on upload speeds. BT's full fibre network delivers faster upload speeds across all equivalent packages to Virgin Media.

Here are Virgin Media's average speeds:

Download speed (average) Upload speed (average)
M50 54Mb 5Mb
M125 132Mb 20Mb
M250 264Mb 25Mb
M350 362Mb 36Mb
M500 516Mb 36Mb
Gig1 1130Mb 52Mb

And the average speeds of BT broadband:

Download speed (average) Upload speed (average)
Fibre Essential 36Mb 9Mb
Fibre 1 50Mb 9Mb
Fibre 2 67Mb 19Mb
Full Fibre 100 150Mb 30Mb
Full Fibre 500 500Mb 73Mb
Full Fibre 900 900Mb 110Mb

Advertised average speeds must be experienced by at least 50% of a provider's customer base during the busiest peak times of 8pm to 10pm at night, so they should be reasonably reflective of what most people will get.

In addition, we can also look at real world speed tests carried by industry regulator Ofcom, for extra assurances on the actual speeds BT and Virgin Media customers are receiving.

Ofcom average speeds, published March 2023
Advertised average speed Over 24hrs Peak time
(8-10pm weekdays)
Virgin Media 132Mb 110.78Mb 109.76Mb
BT 145Mb 148.72Mb 148.26Mb
Virgin Media 264Mb 217.77Mb 216.14Mb
BT 300Mb 302.34Mb 300.99Mb
Virgin Media 362Mb 380.56Mb 375.94Mb
Virgin Media 516Mb 533.91Mb 514.59Mb
Virgin Media 1130Mb 1138.79Mb 1127.67Mb

Both BT and Virgin Media out perform their advertised average speeds in these real-world tests of their broadband customers.

We also know both BT and Virgin Media are signatories of Ofcom's voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds, which sets out providers must give customers personalised speed estimates and a minimum speed guarantee at the point of sign up.

If a customer fails to receive the minimum speed guarantee and the provider doesn't resolve the issue within 30 days, the customer can leave their contract early without penalty.

The code aims to ensure people are given a realistic download speed personalised to their particular property before signing up to ensure expectations are met, and if they're not, the customer has the right to move elsewhere.

Overall, Virgin Media beat BT broadband for average download speeds, but BT have faster upload speeds on their full fibre network.


Broadband routers

Winner: Virgin Media's latest Hub 5 is more advanced than the BT Smart Hub 2, although it's currently only provided to Gig1 customers.

The Virgin Media Hub 5 was announced in October 2021, but has been slowly making its way to new and existing customers on their fastest broadband plan throughout 2022.

The BT Smart Hub 2 on the other hand was first announced in November 2018, so it's an older router, with less advanced wireless technology.

However, the majority of Virgin Media customers will receive a Hub 3 or Hub 4, which have more similar specifications to the BT Smart Hub 2.

Here's how the routers compare side-by-side:

BT Smart Hub 2 Virgin Hub 3 Virgin Hub 4 Virgin Hub 5
WiFi protocol 5 5 5 6
WiFi bands Dual Dual Dual Dual
Intelligent Mesh Yes Yes Yes Yes
Antennae 7 5 7 7
Security WPA2 WPA2 WPA2 WPA3
Ethernet LAN 4 x 1Gb 4 x 1Gb 4 x 1Gb 1 x 2.5Gb, 3 x 1Gb

All BT broadband customers get the BT Smart Hub 2, and the wireless network can be easily extended with Complete WiFi discs using mesh technology.

Virgin Media routers also support mesh, and customers can get WiFi Pods to extend their network around larger homes. Mesh is supported by all three of Virgin's Hubs.

Overall, the BT Smart Hub 2 stacks up well against the Virgin Hub 3 and Hub 4, yet Virgin Media's latest Hub 5 has the most advanced technology with WiFi 6 and WPA3 security.

Read more on how broadband provider routers compare.


WiFi guarantee

Winner: Virgin Media's WiFi Max guarantee promises minimum download speeds of 20Mb in every room, while BT only promise a 'strong' signal.

BT and Virgin Media both offer a whole home WiFi guarantee, which can help to boost wireless signal and speeds around a home, and if not, customers get their money refunded.

BT's Complete WiFi costs £12 per month and includes up to three mesh discs to extend a wireless signal to ensure every room in the home receives a "strong" signal according to the My BT app.

Virgin Media's WiFi Max costs £8 per month, or free to Gig1 and Volt customers, and also includes up to three WiFi Pods to extend wireless signal, but Virgin promise minimum speeds of at least 20Mb in every room.

Both BT and Virgin Media will give customers a £100 bill credit if their WiFi guarantees fail to deliver, yet Virgin Media only tie customers down to a 30-day term on the add-on, while BT customers are locked in for 24 months. That means if it doesn't work out, BT customers effectively get less back as they have to continue paying for the service, while Virgin customers could cancel the add-on.

Overall, the Virgin Media WiFi Max add-on is a better service, with fairer terms and a better pay-out if customers don't get the promised minimum speeds of 20Mb in every room in their home.


Call plans

Winner: Virgin Media is marginally cheaper than BT for a home phone service with inclusive calls.

Virgin Media broadband customers who opt for a home phone will get free calls to UK landlines at the weekend included as standard.

They can then choose to upgrade to one of three inclusive call plans, which include calls to both UK landlines and UK mobiles.

Call plan Inclusive calls Monthly price
Evening & weekend chatter UK landlines and UK mobiles in the evening & weekend £5
Anytime chatter UK landlines and UK mobiles at anytime £10
International anytime chatter UK landlines and UK mobiles at anytime, plus 50 international destinations £15

BT have taken a different approach to home phone since the rollout of full fibre broadband and the upcoming closure of the copper phone line network. They now provide broadband without line rental as standard, and customers need to pay £5 extra per month to get a home phone line with pay as you go calls.

BT customers can then choose from a few different call plan options depending on their needs.

Call plan Inclusive calls Monthly price
Pay as you go Line rental only £5
700 minutes 700 minutes to call UK landlines and UK mobiles £8
Unlimited minutes UK landlines and UK mobiles at anytime £18

Overall, while BT offer more flexibility in terms of limited minute anytime call plans, Virgin Media is cheaper overall for a home phone and broadband bundle.


TV

Winner: Virgin Media offer a more comprehensive TV service and their bundle prices are cheaper than BT TV as well.

Virgin Media and BT both offer customers the option to bundle a TV service, and unlike Sky TV, both platforms are exclusive to their broadband customers.

BT TV moved to a platform mainly focused around offering content via NOW TV and other on-demand apps in 2020, and offer access to live TV as well as premium channels including Sky Sports, Sky Cinema, Sky Entertainment, BT Sport, and some on-demand apps including BBC iPlayer and Prime Video.

Virgin Media TV on the other hand offers a more traditional pay TV service, with a broader range of premium live channels, and the ability to pause and rewind, as well as record, premium channels such as Sky Sports and Sky Cinema.

Here are some of their entertainment and sport packages side-by-side:

Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Big bundle + Drama & Docs 145 264Mb average £37.99 Free 18 months
Bigger Combo bundle 190 362Mb average £40 Free 18 months
offer Offer: No setup fee (was £35)
Sport + Fibre 2 77 67Mb average £56.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Free setup on BT Sport TV (was £30) (Ends 06/06/2024)
Entertainment + Fibre 2 96 67Mb average £51.99 £31.99 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save £5/mth on BT Entertainment TV with free setup (was £30) (Ends 06/06/2024)

While BT TV does offer customers more flexibility, because they can change channel packs on a 30-day basis, Virgin Media's bundles are noticeably cheaper overall, especially when you add premium channels like Sky Cinema and Sky Sports into the mix.

Virgin Media also include the BT Sport pack in HD and Ultra HD in their Bigger Bundle and up, while BT only include BT Sport in SD and customers have to pay more for the HD channels.

The providers' most premium bundles, Virgin Media Ultimate Volt, and BT VIP, both offer everything they have, including Sky Sports, BT Sport, Sky Cinema, Sky Entertainment, and Netflix, yet Virgin Media's top-tier bundle is over £20 cheaper per month than BT.

Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Mega Volt bundle 230 1.13Gb average £84.99 Free 18 months
offer Offer: £250 bill credit or a LG 43 inch TV + No setup fee (was £35) + O2 mobile SIM with Unlimited data, minutes and texts (Ends 27/05/2024)
Full Works + Full Fibre 100 125 150Mb average £54.99
for 3 mths,
then £107.99
Free 24 months
offer Offer: £50 BT Virtual Reward Card + Save over 30% on BT Full Works TV for 3 months and free setup save £61.99 (Ends 06/06/2024)

Ultimately Virgin Media offer a more comprehensive TV service, coupled with cheaper prices, beating BT easily for TV plans.

Read more about the Virgin 360 box vs BT TV Pro Box.


Customer service

Winner: BT have a stronger customer service record, with less complaints, than Virgin Media.

The latest complaints report from Ofcom shows while BT had less than the industry average number of broadband complaints with 10 complaints per 100,000 customers, Virgin Media received noticeably more with 18 complaints.

While BT had less pay TV complaints than Virgin Media, both providers had more than the industry average of 4, with BT receiving 7 complaints per 100,000 customers and Virgin Media receiving 9.

BT are also one of our top broadband providers for customer service, because alongside reasonably low complaint levels, they also score highly for customer satisfaction, and satisfaction of complaints handling, with the highest score for complaints resolved on first contact.

Here's how the providers look side-by-side:

BT Virgin Media
Satisfaction with overall service 88% 78%
Satisfaction with speed of service 83% 79%
Satisfaction with complaints handling 55% 45%
Customers with a reason to complain 18% 23%
Complaints resolved on first contact 43% 31%
Complaints per 100,000 customers Q1-Q3 2022 25 52
Average call waiting time 1 minute, 46 seconds 3 minutes, 45 seconds

BT outperform Virgin Media for customer service, thanks in part to their dedicated UK-based call centre.

Both providers also score highly for reliability metrics however, with Virgin Media having one of the fastest fault resolution times in the market, and BT having high satisfaction among customers for reliability of their service.


Special offers

Here are the latest special offers from both BT and Virgin Media:

Offer Terms

£50 BT Reward card with BT Full Fibre 100 just £29.99 a month with free setup

Hurry! Offer ends 6 June 2024

24 month minimum term. No setup fee. From £34.99/mth after 24 months. BT offers are subject to price increases on the 31st March 2024 by CPI +3.9%.


£50 BT Reward card with BT Entertainment TV and BT Fibre 100 broadband, just £44.99/mth with free setup

Hurry! Offer ends 6 June 2024

24 month minimum term. No setup fee. From £54.99 a month after 24 months. BT offers are subject to price increases on the 31st March 2024 by CPI +3.9%.

Offer Terms

£250 bill credit or a LG 43 inch TV with selected Virgin TV bundles.

Sorry, this offer ended 27 May 2024

18 month minimum term. No setup fee. Prices vary depending on package chosen. Price will increase each year from April 2025 by the RPI rate of inflation announced in February each year plus 3.9%.


Virgin Media Volt M250 broadband & Phone, just £33.99/mth for 18 months

Hurry! Offer ends in 3 days!
31 May 2024

18 month minimum term. No setup fee. £70/mth after 18 months. Price will increase each year from April 2025 by the RPI rate of inflation announced in February each year plus 3.9%.


Verdict: Virgin Media or BT broadband?

Overall winner: Virgin Media offer faster, more widely available, broadband speeds coupled with cheaper prices than BT.

While BT has high satisfaction levels among its existing customer base, Virgin Media outperforms BT for broadband because they offer a faster connection that's currently available to more homes across the UK, and they also have the cheapest prices.

Availability in a particular area will play a large part in the decision between BT vs Virgin Media for broadband, yet where both providers are available, Virgin Media's lower prices and more comprehensive TV service is likely to win out.

One minor niggle with Virgin Media is their slightly higher complaints levels, and offshore call handling, which we hope the provider will continue to make improvements here as they responded they were doing when complaints reached a peak in early 2021.

Some customers may decide they're happier to pay more for BT, with a better customer service record, UK-based call handling, and high satisfaction among existing customers.

Ultimately, we pick Virgin Media over BT for their cheaper prices and faster speeds, yet BT remain a strong contender and a good option for many.

Read more head-to-head guides such as Sky vs Virgin Media, and BT vs Sky broadband.

Comments

Sief F
19 April 2021

I'm considering switching to virgin media, but reading some of the reviews and comments I'm not so sure. I need a reliable and fast fibre. But people have said that virgin media goes down a lot and they get quite bad speeds. Should I just opt for BT?

Choose team replying to Sief F
20 April 2021

Hi Sief - We've looked into which provider offers the most reliable broadband in this guide based on data from Ofcom - most reliable broadband guide - which you might find useful. Hope this helps.

Steve Foster
4 September 2016

does this apply to suppliers like Vodafone who also use the Infinity hardware? How do they manage to offer prices less than those quoted for BT themselves?

Choose team replying to Steve Foster
7 September 2016

Hi Steve

The first part of your question is probably answered in our guide to fibre broadband, available here.

As for why the ISPs who resell BT Infinity charge different (and often lower) prices than BT, there are a couple of reasons: firstly, the wholesale prices BT Openreach charge other providers for their fibre lines aren't as high as we might expect - we look into them a little here. Then it depends which extras they provide - like free wi-fi when out and about and the like - as to how much more cheaply (or not) they can offer their fibre.

sean
31 January 2016

I have Virgin and it's a disgrace I have called them many of times to no joy, I ask for an engineer to come out to me but they will not send, so soon I am changing to bt infinity and hopefully my gaming problems will be resolved.

Which broadband deals are available in your area?

independent comparison

We are independent of all of the products and services we compare.

fair comparison

We order our comparison tables by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

charity donations and climate positive

We donate at least 5% of our profits to charity, and we have a climate positive workforce.

Get insider tips and the latest offers in our newsletter