Virgin Media Essential Broadband

Last updated: 7 January 2024   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Virgin Media offers two social broadband tariffs, offering lower cost connections for those on means-tested benefits.

Essential and Essential Plus are Virgin Media's social broadband tariffs aimed at keeping low income households connected to the Internet.

While Essential offers average download speeds of 15Mbps for just £12.50 per month, Essential Plus offers superfast speeds of 54Mbps for £20.

Eligibility for Virgin Media social tariffs now covers more benefits too, including Universal Credit, Income Support, Jobseeker's Allowance, and Pension Credit.

virgin media shop sign
Credit: Jevanto Productions/Shutterstock.com

Virgin Media social tariffs

Virgin Media offer two social broadband tariffs, each aimed at providing a low-cost option to new and existing customers.

Aside from lower monthly fees, especially compared to out of contract prices, the benefits of social broadband tariffs also include:

  • No setup costs
  • No annual price rises
  • Can be cancelled at any time with just one month's notice
  • Existing Virgin Media customers in-contract can switch to a social tariff without penalty if they're eligible and need to reduce outgoings

While Virgin Media previously only offered the Essential package, they launched Essential Plus in November 2022 to reach more customers who might have been deterred by the slower speeds of Essential and inability to access any Virgin TV services.

When Essential Plus launched, Virgin Media also reduced the price of the original Essential plan from £15 per month to just £12.50 per month, making it one of the cheapest social tariffs available.

Essential Broadband

Virgin Media Essential broadband is the cheapest social tariff offered by the provider, and now costs just £12.50 per month, making it one of the cheapest ways to get fixed broadband in the UK.

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Essential 15Mb average £12.50 Free 30 days

There is no setup fee to pay, and the minimum term on Essential Broadband is only 30 days, which means customers aren't tied in to long contracts with social broadband tariffs.

It's also worth noting Virgin Media Essential broadband can't be bundled with any other Virgin service, so those with an existing phone line or TV plan will lose those services when they move to this tariff.

While Essential broadband is cheap, it also only offers 15Mb per second download speeds. For those whom price is the most important factor, the package serves a need to keep costs as low as possible. However, other households may decide they'd rather spend a bit more for a faster connection.

That's where Essential Plus Broadband comes in, and why Virgin Media launched this second social tariff in November 2022.

Essential Plus Broadband

Virgin Media Essential Plus Broadband is also a social tariff, yet it offers faster average download speeds of 54Mbps, and can also be bundled with Virgin Media Stream for those who don't want to lose their TV service entirely.

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Essential Plus 54Mb average £20.00 Free 30 days

Essential Plus Broadband also comes without a setup fee and a 30-day minimum term. It does however cost slightly more, although £20 is about average for faster social tariffs.

There's no option to bundle a phone line, and customers can't take Virgin's 360 TV service. However, Essential Plus Broadband customers can have Virgin Stream TV instead.

Essential Plus customers can add Stream for a reduced setup fee of £20 (usually £35) for the box and then there are no on-going monthly subscription fees to pay unless a customer signs up to a TV pack, such as Sky Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, TNT Sports, Netflix, or a range of other on-demand apps.

All Stream TV packs come on a rolling monthly contract so they can be cancelled at any time, and customers also get a 10% credit for paying via their Virgin bill, which means some of the channel packs like Sky Sports and TNT Sports have the lowest monthly cost with Stream.

Virgin Media Essential Plus does cost a little more, but it should be more attractive for eligible customers who need a superfast connection and still want to enjoy some home entertainment.


Market comparison

Most people who take out Virgin Media Essential Broadband are likely to be switching from an existing Virgin Media contract, however the social tariff is also available to new customers.

Households looking at various social broadband tariffs from different providers may want to understand what's available, as well as how Virgin Media Essential Broadband compares to other options.

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Essential 15Mb average £12.50 Free 30 days
Fibre 1 Essential Up to 38Mb
Unlimited
£12 Free 12 months
Home Essentials 36Mb average £15 £9.99 12 months
Broadband Basics 36Mb average
Unlimited
£20 Free 18 months

Virgin Media offers one of the cheapest social tariffs available in the UK, coming in only slightly more expensive than Vodafone's Fibre 1 Essential package.

BT Home Essentials is one of the most popular social tariffs, yet the cheapest deal available costs a few pound more at £15 per month, and has a £9.99 setup fee.

The difference with BT however, is customers will also get a home phone line and from 700 minutes worth of calls to UK landlines and mobiles.

While we've included them for comparison purposes, at the time of writing Sky's social broadband tariff is only available to existing customers, although it does include a free mobile plan.

Virgin Media customers

In terms of prices of standard Virgin Media broadband plans, existing customers could well be paying more expensive out of contract prices, making the Essential social tariffs greater value for money.

However, in terms of new customer deals, households who are eligible for social tariffs can still save money.

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Essential 15Mb average £15 Free 30 days
Essential Plus 54Mb average £20 Free 30 days
M125 Fibre Broadband 132Mb average £26 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £26 per month + No setup fee (was £35)

The current cheapest standard deal from Virgin Media is the broadband-only version of the M125 package. This offers 132Mbps average download speeds and currently costs £26.50 per month for 18 months for new customers.

In contrast, the Virgin Media Essential Plus package offers 54Mbps average download speeds but is cheaper at just £20 per month.

However, it's also worth repeating some of the benefits of social broadband tariffs, which don't carry over to standard deals.

Social tariffs have no early termination charges, so if a customer needs to cancel early they can do. In addition, they're not subject to annual price rises, which standard packages are - and Virgin Media increase prices by Retail Price Index (RPI) + 3.9% - so that can be a notable extra expense especially for those on lower incomes.

Standard deals will also increase in price when the minimum term ends, which social broadband tariffs won't - so for out of contract customers the price saving is much more noticeable. For example, M125 broadband-only increases to £49 per month out of contract.

This means social broadband tariffs can be much better for customers who want the simplicity of staying with one provider and not having to switch between deals for lower introductory prices, where they could be subject to credit checks.


Am I eligible for Virgin Media Essential Broadband?

Virgin Media Essential Broadband and Essential Plus Broadband are both available to new and existing customers.

Customers still in a minimum term contract with Virgin Media can also switch to one of the deals without paying any early termination charges. However, if they are in arrears or on a repayment plan, they won't be eligible.

Eligible households must be in receipt of one of the following benefits to apply:

  • Universal Credit
  • Pension Credit
  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance*
  • Income-based Employment Support Allowance*

*If both income and contributory-based, your income-based ESA or JSA must be higher.

Virgin Media now work with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), which means customers only need to provide their name, postcode and date of birth, and Virgin Media can run an automated check with the DWP for eligibility.

Every 12 months Virgin Media will re-check any customers on social tariffs to ensure they're still eligible. Customers who become ineligible for the Essential tariffs will continue on the plans but will be charged at the standard rates for the packages.

To apply, customers just need to use , and provide their details and consent for the DWP check.


Need to know

Virgin Media's Essential Broadband plans are designed to be affordable options for those on low incomes who may be struggling to pay their existing bill.

However, as well as the eligibility criteria covered above, there are other terms and conditions on Essential Broadband that differ from standard broadband plans. Some of terms mean the package may not always be the best choice, so it's worth knowing about.

Broadband only

Virgin Media Essential and Essential Plus are both broadband-only packages, which means they don't come with a home phone line and customers can't request one.

Virgin Media even say customers who are reliant on their home phone for emergency calls, telehealth alarms or care devices may not be suitable for the Essential plan.

In addition, it's worth being aware any existing Virgin Media customers who switch to one of their social tariffs will lose their home phone service as well as their phone number.

Virgin Media services

As with a home phone line, mobile and TV plans can't be moved to an Essential broadband tariff, so these services will be lost.

Existing Virgin Media customers with a Virgin TV or call plan will have those services cancelled if they switch to an Essential plan.

The only exception to this is Volt customers who have an O2 mobile plan. Virgin Media terms state O2 SIM benefits will continue until a customer recontracts, although other Volt benefits like the WiFi Max add-on will be cancelled.

Mobile customers with an older Oomph bundle will have to transfer their SIM to a current O2 SIM only tariff or cancel it.

Availability

For customers new to Virgin Media, it's also worth bearing in mind Essential Broadband is only available on the Virgin Media network.

So far, over 16 million premises in the UK have access to Virgin Media broadband, which is around 55% of homes.

Those who can't get Virgin Media (and you can check here) could look to BT Home Essential, or any other social broadband tariff.


Summary: Is Virgin Media Essential Broadband any good?

There is concern around social broadband tariffs that take-up is low because customers feel the service isn't as good, and the speeds won't be as fast.

For very cheap social tariffs like Virgin Media Essential Broadband, it's true they offer slower speeds, but they also offer a vital way for those struggling financially to stay connected and continue to access services like online GP appointments, job applications, and home work for those with children at school.

However, providers including Virgin Media, also offer faster social tariffs to ensure households who definitely want superfast broadband can also access a low-cost tariff with faster broadband speeds.

Essential Plus Broadband fills the other gap, offering 50Mbps average download speeds for £20 a month and all the other benefits of social tariffs. In addition, we like that customers can access a discounted Stream box so they don't have to miss out on Virgin Media's standard TV content and home entertainment packages.

In addition, before discounting social tariffs because they're slower, customers should familiarise themselves with their additional benefits, as they're also not subject to annual price rises or out of contract prices - so customers can stay with the same provider and won't need to pass credit checks to access cheaper introductory deals.

Overall, Virgin Media Essential Broadband is a useful option for households who need to cut back, offering them either a very low cost for an 'essential' connection, or more substantial broadband speeds with the option to keep a TV service.

Find out more about Virgin Media Stream here.

Comments

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