Hyperoptic vs Virgin Media: how do they compare?
FOR most of us there's only one way to get anything approaching ultrafast broadband, and that's with Virgin Media.
Virgin Media's superfast fibre broadband is available to about half the population, mostly in large towns and cities, with speeds of up to 300Mb available to an increasing number of those covered by the network.
But for some lucky souls, they're not the only superfast option. Hyperoptic provide up to 1Gb fibre broadband, on a building by building basis, in the kind of densely populated areas that seem like prime Virgin Media territory.
And as we hope to show in this guide, where both are available (check here), the difference in price between superfast and ultrafast isn't as great as might be expected.
Virgin Media are one of the UK's four biggest providers. While they may be the only one of the four to offer only fibre broadband, and at much faster speeds, the competition between them keeps the promotions and introductory offers flowing.
Here are some of their latest deals for new customers:
Given that Hyperoptic sell what could be considered a premium product to a much more targeted audience, we'd be forgiven for thinking they wouldn't go in for introductory offers - but we'd be wrong.
In fact, they run introductory discounts on each of their 12-month packages; these are the main deals they're offering at present:
As we'll explain further below, they also have another trick up their sleeve to help convince those unsure of whether to sign up.
Comparing the packages
One of Virgin Media's big selling points is that because they don't use the copper phone network like the majority of the UK's other ISPs, their customers can get broadband without having to pay for a phone line.
Hyperoptic, being a pure fibre provider, can offer the same choice: just broadband, or broadband with a phone line.
In both cases it's cheaper to go without the landline, but not by as much as we might expect given the general cost of line rental these days: Virgin's standard broadband-only prices tend to be about £7 cheaper than getting both; Hyperoptic's fibre-only deals are around £3 less than getting fibre plus phone.
In the following comparisons, we'll show prices for broadband with phone, and without, for both providers.
Entry level packages
Hyperoptic seem to be aware that because they sell ultrafast FTTP, they're going to get a reputation for being horribly expensive and out of the reach of most people.
It's possible that's why their entry level package offers what feels like very ordinary broadband - up to 20Mb for the standard price of £25 a month (with phone) - it makes plain that they can offer something for everyone.
|Package||Broadband||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|20Mb Fibre Broadband||Up to 20Mb
for 12 mths,
|20Mb Fibre Broadband & Phone||Up to 20Mb
for 12 mths,
Virgin Media, on the other hand, need to stand out from their rivals, so their entry level deal not only beats standard broadband but measures up to standard fibre offered by most - and for not much more than those slower fibre to the cabinet packages:
|Package||Broadband||Contract term||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Vivid 50||Up to 50Mb
|Vivid 50 + Talk Weekends||Up to 50Mb
for 12 mths,
But for many people, the whole point of going for a fibre provider rather than one who uses the fibre-and-copper network, is those much higher connection speeds.
While everyone else tops out at up to 76Mb, both Virgin Media and Hyperoptic really hit their stride in terms of what they can offer with their 100Mb packages - and this is where the comparisons get really interesting:
When it comes to what we could consider their "standard" package, Hyperoptic are cheaper than Virgin Media - both during the promotional period and at full price.
And because Hyperoptic's fibre comes all the way into the building, there's practically no drop in speed, either because of degradation or contention - the latter of which seems to be a particular problem for Virgin Media customers.
Furthermore, Hyperoptic can offer their 100Mb customers symmetrical uploads and downloads - that is, uploads as fast as downloads.
Virgin Media's upload speeds, however, are somewhat underwhelming: up to 10% of the download speed at best.
According to Ofcom, the regulator's definition states that "ultrafast" is a connection of at least 300Mb, far higher than the unofficial definition of 100Mb or more that's been used by many for a few years.
With Virgin's most recent speed upgrade, their fastest package, up to 300Mb, can now be considered ultrafast.
But even with this latest speed boost, there's still a fairly wide gap between Virgin's top tier fibre and Hyperoptic's: up to 300Mb versus up to 1Gb (1,000Mb).
We'd expect a service that's more than three times as fast as the next fastest to be considerably more expensive - but as the table below shows, those ridiculously ramped up speeds don't cost all that much more:
Again, Hyperoptic can boast of symmetrical upload/download speeds, while even Virgin's Vivid 300 broadband can only offer uploads of up to 20Mb.
For those who have the choice, the ultrafast ISP therefore seems to offer a lot more for not that much more in price.
What to consider
But there are a couple of other factors to consider too.
Virgin may be best known for their superfast broadband, but they're also Sky's biggest rival, offering everything from the basic Freeview line-up via the supercharged Tivo set top box to more than 245 channels with the Full House package - as well the option to add Sky Cinema and Sky Sports.
Hyperoptic, meanwhile, provide broadband fast enough to deal with any number of ultra HD Netflix streams, but anyone looking for more than broadband and phone is out of luck.
Both Hyperoptic, since July 2015 and more recently Virgin Media, also offer their various packages on a flexible, no contract - or 30-day, basis.
It could be taken as a sign of supreme confidence on the provider's part - assuming that once we've experienced the kind of speed they can offer, we'll never go back.
Going contract-free does cost more with Hyperoptic: monthly prices are higher, but with Virgin they are the same. There's also a flat fee with both - £40 for Hyperoptic or £65 for Virgin - for setup, but it allows those who aren't sure if they're ready to commit for a year to dip their toes in for a month or two without fear.
Compare both Hyperoptic and Virgin Media's 30-day contract options here.
Are they available in your area?
Having shown just how competitive even ultrafast broadband providers can be, it's time to return to the initial issue for most of us: availability.
To find out if Virgin Media and/or Hyperoptic are available in your area, check with the postcode tool below:
Enter your postcode above to check availability in your area.
Since Hyperoptic connected their first building in London in 2011, the ISP has extended their network to cover well over 100,000 residential properties in numerous high density buildings in 21 cities.
Like other ultrafast FTTP providers, they can only survive commercially by focusing on small pockets where they'll get plenty of custom, so of course they're limited in their availability.
But for all Virgin Media are widely available in towns and cities, they still only cover about 13 million homes and businesses across the UK - less than half the population - and even in fairly solid Virgin Media areas there are pockets of streets or buildings that miss out.
The good news
Both are in the process of expanding, however, and each can boast that those plans are ambitious given their relative sizes.
In May 2016 Hyperoptic announced that they plan to bring the number of residences passed to half a million by 2019; including developments in Newcastle upon Tyne, Welwyn Garden City and Edinburgh, and they can already say they are available or installing in 28 towns and cities across the UK.
They aim to cover another four million premises by 2019 - and since spring 2016 they've been considering extending the network to smaller communities that fit certain criteria.
Both providers make use of public demand to assess where they should go next: Hyperoptic assess locations building by building and invite people to register their interest, while Virgin Media have shown themselves open to persuasion by a well organised community application to their Cable My Street service.
Overall: Our verdict
For most people the issue of availability means there will likely only be one winner - Virgin Media. But we hope we've shown that when ultrafast is an option, it doesn't have to be that much more expensive.
There are other examples of ultrafast providers pricing themselves to compete with their more widely available rivals - Gigler, who operate in Bournemouth, sell 1Gb packages for as little as £25 a month for 80GB of usage per month, and £35 for a 250GB cap.
Certainly it's expensive to build fibre to the premises on a wide scale - that's why its providers work on small projects where they know they're going to get plenty of interest.
But once it's there, FTTP is futureproof - and likely to become even more competitive in the coming years.