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Virgin Mobile vs Sky Mobile: which is the better network?

Sky Mobile vs Virgin Mobile

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We compare joining Sky Mobile vs Virgin Mobile for a phone contract or SIM only plan, looking at coverage, speeds and extra benefits. Last updated: 6th April 2023.

In our Sky Mobile vs Virgin guide

Latest offer news

Their mobile networks compared

UK coverage on Virgin Mobile vs Sky

Are there any coverage differences between Virgin and Sky?

Sky and Virgin Mobile logo with mobile signal bars

Both provide identical coverage via O2’s network

Sky and Telefonica logo

Read press release

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Sky and Virgin are both virtual providers, meaning they use another network to provide signal. Both use the O2 network for call (2G/3G) and data (4G) signal (see 5G below). But are there any differences?

From our experience we can confidently say coverage is identical on both networks. That means you get access to the joint-largest network for calls and texts, with excellent indoor coverage as well.

Their 4G data isn’t quite as widespread as on other networks (such as Virgin’s previous hosts Vodafone or EE), but you’ll get strong signal in the places where people live such as towns and cities.

It’s worth using either networks’ coverage map before joining them, just to see what signal is like in your area. Test at home, along your commute and anywhere else you’ll use your phone.

Useful link: Our full Sky Mobile network review

5G coverage is the same on both providers

5G data on Virgin Mobile

Read their 5G guide

at virginmedia.com
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Both Virgin and Sky include access to O2’s 5G on all their SIM only plans and phone contracts. Like with 2G/3G/4G coverage, the two networks are identical for 5G signal. But what does that mean?

You get 5G on every Sky and Virgin Mobile SIM only deal. Here are their best value ones at the moment:

Well you’ll currently get 5G in a massive 750+ UK towns and cities. That’s more than any other network claim, so there’s a decent chance of getting 5G in your area on either network.

On a street-by-street basis both networks offer good coverage. You’ll get 5G in lots of different places, not just in the most populated areas. However, some locations get worse coverage than others.

It’s best to check your local area to see if you’re covered for 5G and how good coverage is in your area. There should be no differences between the two, but it’s worth checking on both anyway.

Useful link: Getting 5G data on Sky Mobile

Official network maps on Sky and Virgin

Use these to check everywhere you take your phone

Virgin Mobile checker

Virgin Mobile coverage checker

Check Virgin signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Sky Mobile checker

Sky network coverage checker

Check Sky signal

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:


“There’s nothing to split them on when it comes to coverage. Your choice between the two networks will come down to the prices and extra benefits they offer. We go over those further down the page.”

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Data speeds on Virgin vs Sky Mobile

Are speeds also identical on Virgin and Sky 4G/5G?

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4G download speeds are the same on both networks

Don’t let anything slow you down and rocket-themed phone

Read benefits page

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Just like with coverage, Virgin and Sky Mobile offer identical data speeds to each other. And neither network has any built-in speed differences to being on O2. So what does that mean for 4G speeds?

According to independent network testers Opensignal you’ll get typical 4G speeds of 16.8 Mbps on both networks. That puts them in last place of all UK networks.

But in real life we were able to get speeds of up to 95 Mbps over both networks in the city centre. In more rural areas you can crawl down to 5 Mbps, however. So we can see how the testers get their results.

Overall, both networks are typically fast enough to browse the internet or watch HD videos comfortably. But you’ll notice a bit of lag when doing anything particularly data intensive like downloading big files.

Useful link: What difference 5G will make on Sky Mobile

5G speeds are also the same on both

Hello 5G

Latest 5G news

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Both networks get access to the same 5G speeds as their hosts O2. We use results from independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla to see what typical 5G speeds look like.

Their latest reports showed typical 5G speeds between 80.57 Mbps - 92.3 Mbps on their network hosts with peak speeds up to 214.2 Mbps. That does mean they use the slowest UK network for 5G speeds.

In any case it’s still a massive improvement over 4G and you get access to it as standard on both networks. But for Virgin it means they’ve moved from the third fastest to the slowest 5G network.

Mobile gamers and filesharers may want to look at other networks for the fastest 5G possible. But otherwise we think most people will be happy with Virgin and Sky’s 5G speeds.

Useful link: Our guide to the best 5G networks

Our verdict on data speeds


“Both networks provide the same 4G and 5G speeds. We go over the different benefits either network offer further down in this guide.”

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Extra network features on Sky vs Virgin

How do extras like WiFi calling and hotspots compare?

Virgin and Sky logos with phone

Both have WiFi calling and 4G calling

WiFi calling explained

Check supported phones

at sky.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin and Sky both use networks with signal on theoretically-good frequencies for getting through buildings and indoors for calls and texts, so you’re less likely to suffer from poor indoor signal on them both.

Both also have WiFi calling and 4G calling to help. WiFi calling connects your phone to the network via WiFi if signal is weak. 4G calling provides more signal types to use for calls (so better coverage).

Virgin and Sky’s schemes are separate technology to their host’s WiFi calling. Check Sky support your phone here and Virgin support yours here. Older Android phones are less likely to work.

Out of the two, only Virgin say they support SMS texts over WiFi. We could only send one though, not receive, when we tested it. Sky’s works for calls only. Other than that, they’ve very similar.

Useful link: Our best network choices for WiFi calling

Virgin Mobile have more free hotspots included

Virgin Mobile WiFi hotspots

How it works

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Both Virgin Mobile and Sky Mobile belong to companies that provide broadband too. We’d say Virgin Mobile make better use of this though, with exclusive access to millions of Virgin Media hotspots.

All you have to do is download their Virgin Media Connect app to your phone and it can connect your phone to their free and unlimited WiFi whenever you’re in range - saving you on mobile data.

It works automatically, so you don’t have to log in over and over. And you only get the benefit from being a Virgin Mobile or Media customer. It also works on London’s TFL network (Sky don’t offer this).

Sky Mobile don’t have any similar automatic integration with the Sky WiFi network for their customers. It’s a little advantage for Virgin we think people on smaller data plans will appreciate.

Useful link: Our favourite networks for free WiFi

Our verdict on network features

Minor win for Virgin Mobile

“There’s not a huge gap between Sky Mobile and Virgin Mobile in this category. But we’d say having free access to more hotspots on Virgin just about puts them ahead for extra ways to stay connected.”

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Comparing their benefits

Data rollover on Virgin vs Sky Mobile

Which provider has the best data rollover scheme?

Virgin and Sky logos with a wallet

Hold onto your leftover data for 3 years and trade it in

Sky Mobile themed piggybank

Read full benefits

at sky.com
(opens in new window)

Sky and Virgin both offer data rollover on all of their plans. However, Sky are our favourite network for data rollover as they give you three years to get through your unused data.

Every month, Sky will check if you’ve not got through your entire allowance and add anything unused to your Piggybank. Then, if you ever run out of data, you can withdraw some 1GB at a time whenever.

You can then gift your banked up data to other users on the same account, which can help prevent your kids from incurring extra data charges. And you can trade in your rolled over data for discounts on new devices.

It’s a really nice benefit that avoids the problem you get on pay monthly, where you pay for data, whether you use it or not. On Sky, they give you more opportunities to get back its value.

Useful link: How to share data on Sky Mobile

Virgin let you hold onto unused data for one month

Rolled over data on Virgin Mobile

Read help guide

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

If you don’t get through all your data on Virgin Mobile, they’ll also total up what you didn’t use automatically and give you another chance to use it.

However, unlike Sky, Virgin Mobile only let you hold onto your rolled over data for a single month. If you don’t get through it in that time then it vanishes. So Sky’s scheme is more generous overall.

You will use up rolled-over data first each month. That means you’re more likely to roll over your regular data allowance in the month after that. If this keeps happening, you should probably switch down plans.

We’d like to see Virgin offer a bit more with their data rollover scheme like Sky Mobile do. But it’s still a nice scheme that works as it should.

Useful link: Full ins and outs of Virgin’s data rollover

Our verdict on data rollover

Win for Sky Mobile

“We like Virgin’s data rollover scheme, but of the two networks Sky’s scheme is a lot more generous. Sky let you hold onto your data for longer, gift it to other users and trade it in for discounts on new devices. An easy win for Sky here.”

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Free streaming or social media data

Do Sky or Virgin offer more with their schemes?

Virgin and Sky logos with phone streaming

Sky let you stream their TV apps without eating your data

Sky Mobile unlimited streaming banner

Read full terms

at sky.com
(opens in new window)

Whether you’ve got Sky TV from Sky directly or via Virgin Media, joining Sky Mobile can actually help you get more out of your home TV package. All Sky’s phone contracts and SIM only plans include Watch:

This essentially gives you unlimited data to watch their TV apps. So you can stream these apps on the go without it coming out of your data allowance, letting you use your home TV package away from home too.

Amazingly, you even get the benefit on Sky’s smallest, cheapest SIM only plans. Here’s the current lowest-cost deal to include it:

We tried it in real life and it works exactly how it should. The main downsides are that you can’t use it abroad and you have to be a TV customer to watch most channels. But otherwise it’s a fantastic benefit.

Useful link: Sky’s full guide to their streaming data

Virgin give you unlimited social media data on all plans

Logos of streaming apps

See included apps

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

When you use Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp or Twitter on the go it will eat up bits of data here and there. However, Virgin let you use these apps on data without it coming out of your allowance.

So Virgin are among our list of networks that give you free streaming or social media data. But their scheme isn’t as generous as some of the others, or Sky.

Messages on these apps won’t come out of your allowance, but these don’t use much data anyway. You’ll save more data when downloading or watching videos on Twitter.

Audio and video calls still come out of your allowance. These can use a lot of data, so it’s a shame they’re not covered. Virgin’s scheme is good for saving a bit of data, but it’s not groundbreaking.

Useful link: Full terms and conditions

Our verdict on free data schemes

Win for Sky Mobile

“You’ll most likely save way more data using Sky’s scheme than Virgin’s if you’re a Sky TV viewer. We still like Virgin’s scheme, it’s just nowhere near as generous as Sky’s.”

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Roaming on Virgin Mobile vs Sky

Which network is better for taking your SIM abroad?

Virgin Mobile and Sky logos with globe

Virgin still offer inclusive EU roaming on all plans

Virgin free social media data

Full details and terms

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

More and more UK networks are removing their inclusive EU roaming schemes. So we like that Virgin have kept theirs in place. Their fair usage limits are still complicated, but you can still roam at no added cost.

Rather than having a standard limit on data usage abroad, Virgin set a different limit depending on your plan. That means even small data plans are restricted abroad. It’s an annoyance on an otherwise decent scheme.

If you’re going further afield then you’ll want to look elsewhere. Roaming beyond the EU can get ridiculously expensive on Virgin Mobile (1GB costs £5000!). You can cap overspending if that’s a concern for you.

While there are a few downsides, we still appreciate the fact that EU roaming is included at no extra cost on every Virgin plan. It’s a lot better than what some networks offer.

Useful link: Our guide to the best UK roaming networks

Sky don’t offer inclusive EU roaming any more

Sky Mobile roaming passports

See costs & countries

at Sky.com
(opens in new window)

Sky Mobile no longer offer inclusive EU roaming on their plans. These days you have to pay £2 a day to use your SIM in the EU. That can add up to a lot, especially if you go away often or for a long holiday.

One upside to their scheme is that there are still no fair usage limits on your data while abroad. That means you can use up to your entire data allowance while you’re there.

You also won’t benefit from Sky’s free data streaming on their apps while you’re abroad. At least, they still don’t impose a fair usage policy, so you’re free to use as much of your allowance as you want.

However, roaming beyond the EU costs the same amount now as EU roaming (it used to be £6 a day). That makes Sky one of the cheaper networks for worldwide roaming, but we think more people care about EU roaming.

Useful link: Which networks still offer free EU roaming?

Our verdict on roaming

Virgin Mobile

“Virgin Mobile are fairly middle of the road when compared to every other network for EU roaming. But their scheme is much better than Sky’s. While Sky may be better for worldwide roaming we think most customers care more about EU roaming. Virgin take this one.”

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Comparing their prices and deals

SIM only plans on Sky Mobile vs Virgin

Which offers better value on pay monthly SIMs?

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Added features

Special offers on Virgin Mobile and Sky

Here’s what promotions each have on this month

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Phone contracts on Virgin Mobile vs Sky

Which offers the best phone contracts?

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Sky and Virgin offer similar value on phones

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Compare phone contracts

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Both Sky and Virgin sell their phone contracts on credit agreements (loans) for the cost of your device which is then combined with the cost of your usage plan (mins, texts, data) to make your monthly bill.

This way of doing things means both can offer a choice of spreading the cost of the phone over 36 months or 24 months. You’ll find the two are usually neck-and-neck on price among the cheapest providers.

The system also builds in flexibility. You can upgrade early on both by paying off the loan in full. You can change your data plan once a month, up or down. They also both offer trade-in schemes like Sky’s Swap.

The downside to this kind of contract is that it can be harder to be accepted for one if you’ve missed any payments in the past. It’s like getting a loan from a bank, they need to be responsible about it.

Useful link: Compare phone contracts with us

Our verdict on phone contracts


“In terms of how both networks’ phone contracts actually work there’s little to separate the two. Ultimately the main difference between them will come down to price and extra benefits you get on either network.”

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More Sky Mobile guides

Other Virgin Mobile guides