EE vs Virgin Media: which is best?

Last updated: 23 January 2022   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

EE and Virgin Media are popular broadband providers, both offering gigabit capable speeds to some UK households.

EE broadband deals are cheaper than Virgin's when it comes to faster speeds, although Virgin offers more mid-range options.

Virgin Media customers can take advantage of an excellent TV service and customers can add call plans to any package, which isn't the case with all of EE's deals.

However, availability remains an issue for both providers. EE's superfast deals are available in most homes but their ultrafast plans and all of Virgin Media's deals have limited availability so far.

ee vs virgin media

At a glance

EE Virgin Media
Price From £21.50 From £28
Basic broadband 10Mb N/A
Superfast broadband 36Mb, 76Mb 54Mb
Ultrafast broadband 100Mb, 500Mb, 900Mb 108Mb, 213Mb, 362Mb, 516Mb, 1Gb
Add landline On some deals Yes
Inclusive calls None None
Anytime UK calls £8.36/mth
Includes UK mobiles
£8.36/mth
Includes UK mobiles
TV From £15 per month From £5 per month
Minimum term 24 months 18 months

Broadband deals

Winner: EE have cheaper broadband plans overall and still offer slower fibre deals to customers too.

EE and Virgin offer broadband only packages to customers, allowing households to ditch the landline if they want to.

The main difference between EE and Virgin in terms of speed is that EE still advertise superfast packages to their customers while Virgin Media are focused on ultrafast deals.

Here are their broadband only deals compared:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Fibre 36Mb average £26 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 5GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup
Fibre Plus 67Mb average £29 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 5GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup
M125 Fibre Broadband 132Mb average £26 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £26 per month + No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 30/04/2024)
Full Fibre Max 100 100Mb average £31 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 20GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup
M250 Fibre Broadband 264Mb average £29 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £29 per month + No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 30/04/2024)
M350 Fibre Broadband 362Mb average £35 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £35 per month + No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 30/04/2024)
Full Fibre Max 500 500Mb average £39.50 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 6 month free Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 20GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup
M500 Fibre Broadband 516Mb average £35 Free 18 months
offer Offer: 500Mb broadband for the price of 350Mb + No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 30/04/2024)
Full Fibre Max Gigabit 900Mb average £49 Free 24 months
offer Offer: 12 month free Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 20GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup
Gig1 Fibre Broadband 1.13Gb average £45 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £45 per month + No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 30/04/2024)

EE win on monthly price when it comes to faster packages, with Virgin also charging a £35 set-up fee as standard whereas EE offer set-up for free.

There are also perks available for EE customers who also have a pay monthly mobile contract with them: they can get a 10% discount on their broadband bill and a data boost to their mobile each month.

Virgin customers can combine O2 mobile services with their Virgin broadband deal in the form of Volt, but these services do cost extra and aren't included as bonuses in the way EE's mobile tie-ins are.

Something else to note here is the contract length: Virgin Media still offer 18-month contracts while EE have shifted to 24-month deals.

There are pros and cons to longer contracts, with some customers happy to lock in a good price for longer and others who might not want to be committed for so long.

Broadband and home phone

EE customers on part-fibre deals (also known as superfast or fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) plans) can add a landline to their EE broadband package for £2.09 per month.

This allows pay as you go calls, although call plans can be added as well. These are listed in the comparison table below alongside Virgin's plans.

When it comes to Fibre Max deals, EE do not offer a phone line at all, so customers will be unable to take those deals with a landline.

If customers take one of Virgin's deals with a landline, it might sometimes be cheaper than a broadband only deal. This depends on the offers available at the time.

All broadband and landline bundles from Virgin Media come with Talk Weekends, their most basic call plan. Others can be added for an extra monthly fee.

Here are the call plans from EE and Virgin Media side-by-side:

Provider Call plan Price per month
EE Weekend calls to UK landlines £2.09
EE Anytime calls to UK landlines £5.22
EE Anytime calls to UK landlines and mobiles £8.36
EE Anytime UK and International calls £12.54
Virgin Media Talk More Weekends £1
Virgin Media Talk More Evenings & Weekends £5
Virgin Media Talk More Anytime £8
Virgin Media Talk More International Anytime £15

EE have cheaper landline deals overall, but since Virgin Media call plans can be accessed across all of their broadband packages (if required), they are better for the majority of customers.


Price

Winner: EE is usually the winner on price.

EE broadband deals are often cheaper than Virgin's at the highest levels. Plus, their Fibre and Fibre Plus plans are good entry points for customers looking for cheaper broadband deals.

However, if we're looking mainly at mid-range broadband plans, we see Virgin's deals are cheaper, so customers searching for broadband around the 100Mb to 350Mb mark will find better value in Virgin's deals.

Overall, given that EE don't charge set-up fees and many of their deals are cheaper, they're the winner in this category for now.


Broadband speeds

Winner: Virgin Media's 1GB speeds are slightly faster than EE's.

EE offer a range of broadband speeds up to 900Mb with their Fibre Max 900 plan while Virgin's top speed is 1,130Mb in their Gig1 package.

At these levels of speeds, the differences to performance are small, but it's worth taking a moment to understand the type of connection customers will be getting from each of the providers.

EE customers on their full fibre deals will receive broadband over fibre to the premises (FTTP) connections. This network covers over 6 million premises (more on this in the availability section below), and even customers who choose slower deals under 100Mb will be connected to this FTTP network if it's available.

Conversely, the majority of Virgin Media's broadband network is cable technology so far, although they are moving to upgrade to FTTP.

What this means for customers is that FTTP is generally more reliable than cable and offers low latency and less jitter.

So, while EE's top speeds may be slightly slower, their FTTP broadband is one of the most reliable broadband options around.

Find out more about the fastest broadband packages in the UK.

Upload speeds

EE offers average upload speeds of 110Mb on their fastest Fibre Max 900 package while Virgin Media customers can get an average of 52Mb.

On this metric, then, EE is the better broadband provider, even though they are not offering the same type of symmetrical download and upload speeds we see with the likes of Hyperoptic and Community Fibre.


Routers

Winner: Virgin Media's router is one of the best around but it's not available to all.

EE supply all fibre customers with their EE Smart Hub. It's a repackaged version of parent company BT's hub and was one of the best on the market when it was first released.

Customers signing up to Virgin Media will usually receive the Virgin Media Hub 4. This isn't their latest model but it's the one sent to new customers.

The EE Smart Hub and Virgin Media Hub 4 are matched on performance, with both offering the Wi-Fi 5 standard, dual band technology and WPA2 security.

However, when we look at the Virgin Media Hub 5, we can see some significant differences as the table below shows.

EE Smart Hub Virgin Media Hub 4 Virgin Media Hub 5
Wi-fi standard Wi-Fi 5 Wi-Fi 5 Wi-Fi 6
Bands Dual band Dual band Dual band
Security WPA2 WPA2 WPA3
Antennae 7 11 5
LAN 4 x 1 Gbps 4 x 1 Gbps 1 x 2.5 Gbps
3 x 1 Gbps

The Hub 5 uses the latest Wi-Fi 6 standard and offers improved WPA3 security to customers. Those specs were enough for us to name it as our top ISP router for 2021.

Yet Virgin Media are currently only offering the Hub 5 to existing customers and it isn't yet their standard for new customers. Once it is, they'll be head and shoulders above EE - until EE bring out a new router that matches the latest technology.

Speed boosters

Speed boosters and guarantees have become more common in recent years and both EE and Virgin Media have their own versions.

EE's is called Smart Wi-Fi and costs £10 per month for up to three Smart Discs and a 4GEE WiFi Mini portable hotspot as a back-up if the home broadband network goes down.

Meanwhile, Virgin offer Intelligent Wi-Fi Plus to customers on Ultimate Volt or Gig1 plans as standard while other customers can pay £5 per month to add it to their package.

As well as improved firmware, customers can receive up to three Wi-Fi Pods to improve broadband signal around the home.

If customers are interested in speed boosters, both providers offer them, although Virgin's is half the price for most customers and inclusive for others.


Adding TV

Winner: Virgin offer a comprehensive TV service alongside their broadband.

EE only offer their Apple TV 4K service to broadband customers who also take a mobile contract from them as well.

The main attraction with EE TV is the inclusive BT Sport Ultimate app, although customers can use the box to watch other streaming services too (if they have the appropriate subscriptions).

Here's how the service looks with a couple of broadband options:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Fibre + Apple TV 4K 36Mb average £41 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Apple TV 4K with BT Sport Ultimate for EE pay monthly mobile customers only + 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 5GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup
Fibre Plus + Apple TV 4K 67Mb average £44 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Apple TV 4K with BT Sport Ultimate for EE pay monthly mobile customers only + 10% off for EE pay monthly mobile customers + 5GB extra data for EE pay monthly mobile customers + Free setup

As we can see, EE TV deals are only available if you're already an EE mobile customer but they don't come with any extra upfront costs and customers can still get the perks of being both a broadband and mobile customers.

On the other hand, Virgin Media are one of the top names for pay TV in the UK, rivalling Sky with their content and technology.

Unlike EE, Virgin provide customers with Freeview channels and more, depending on what packages they choose.

While the Big Bundle contains Freeview channels, for example, extra channel packs can be added on to cheaper Virgin deals to expand the amount of content on offer.

Here are some examples of Virgin TV packages alongside selected broadband deals:

Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Big bundle 117 132Mb average £33 Free 18 months
offer Offer: No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 30/04/2024)
Bigger Combo bundle 190 264Mb average £40 Free 18 months
offer Offer: No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 30/04/2024)
Bigger Combo bundle + Movies 200 264Mb average £61 Free 18 months
offer Offer: £200 Bill Credit or a Nintendo Switch 1.1 Gaming Console (Red/Neon) + No setup fee (was £35) (Ends 28/04/2024)
Mega Volt bundle 230 1.13Gb average £85 Free 18 months
offer Offer: £200 Bill Credit or a Nintendo Switch 1.1 Gaming Console (Red/Neon) + No setup fee (was £35) + O2 mobile SIM with Unlimited data, minutes and texts (Ends 28/04/2024)

There are plenty of customisation options with Virgin Media TV and it's a far more comprehensive TV service to combine with broadband in comparison with EE.


Customer service

Winner: EE have a better customer service record than Virgin Media.

EE has a stellar record on customer service and topped the table in our analysis of the best broadband provider for customer service in the UK.

They have one of the lowest complaints rates of all the major ISPs and also performed well in Ofcom's Comparing Service Quality 2021 report, registering above average satisfaction and the lowest call waiting times of all providers.

On the other hand, Virgin Media's customer service record has been patchier over recent years.

Their complaints skyrocketed in Q1 2021 and they were the worst performer in that quarter with 33 complaints per 100,000 customers.

They brought their figures down in the more recent data for Q2 2021, although 17 complaints per 100,000 was still higher than the industry average and significantly higher than the 4 per 100,000 registered by EE for that period.

Here's how the two providers compare on some key metrics from Ofcom's 2021 customer service report:

EE Virgin Media
Satisfaction with overall service 82% 80%
Satisfaction with speed of service 78% 82%
Customers with a reason to complain 30% 29%
Overall satisfaction with complaints handling 47% 48%
Complaints resolved on first contact 34% 34%
Average call waiting time 1 minute 15 seconds 7 minutes 40 seconds

EE and Virgin were neck and neck on some metrics, yet EE were the only provider customers said they would recommend to their friends, so they're a clear winner here.


Availability

Winner: EE has better coverage for superfast fibre but Virgin win for ultrafast deals.

EE broadband is delivered on the Openreach broadband network, so it has 96% coverage across the UK.

This is great for the superfast 36Mb and 67Mb deals that use the fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) network, meaning those deals will be available to most customers.

However, the EE full fibre network only reaches around six million premises so far. Again, this is the Openreach network and, while hundreds of thousands of premises are being reached every month, it's still slow going.

Virgin Media services are not comprehensive yet either. Their network covers over 15.5 million premises across the UK, yet this is not much beyond half of all available properties.

They are expanding their network every month, yet there are many people for whom Virgin Media services won't yet be an option and EE's faster services might not be available either.

That will leave customers with EE's superfast deals if they're intent on choosing between EE and Virgin.


Verdict: is EE or Virgin Media best?

Overall winner: EE's fastest broadband deals are better value and their superfast deals are available to almost all homes.

EE and Virgin Media are finely matched, with each provider having their own strengths.

EE have an excellent customer service record coupled with almost comprehensive coverage for their superfast deals and competitive pricing on their packages.

However, Virgin Media offer slightly faster top speeds and allow customers to combine their broadband with an excellent TV plan if they wish to.

Another benefit of Virgin Media services in comparison to EE is that all Virgin customers can install a landline with their broadband if they want to. With this option missing on some of EE's deals, this can cause many customers to look beyond them.

EE's pricing is better than Virgin's for the very fastest deals, but Virgin make up for it by having more mid-range tiers to choose from and the pricing on those deals looks attractive too.

Ultimately, for most customers the choice will come down to which provider is available in their area, especially if they're looking for ultrafast broadband deals of more than 100Mb.

Which broadband deals are available in your area?

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