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Various logos of UK mobile networks

Virgin Mobile vs EE: what's different and the same on the two networks

Virgin Mobile vs EE

The retailers featured on this page may compensate us when our readers follow links to their websites and make a purchase. More

Virgin Mobile use the EE network, so we find out if you can expect the same UK coverage and speeds on both and how their other benefits differ. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: 29th July 2019.

In our Virgin Mobile vs EE guide

Special offer news

EE's triple data on Flex SIMs

EE flex triple data banner

Order by 30th September to get triple data for three months on these EE Flex SIMs:

2GB 6GB for £10 a month (1-month contract)

5GB 15GB for £15 a month (1-month contract)

See all EE offers > (opens in new tab)

Virgin's top SIM only offers

Virgin Mobile SIMO sale banner

Hidden offer available until 31st August:
2GB for only £6 a month

Or order by 3rd September to get 6GB for £13 £9, 12GB for £12 or 25GB for £20 £15 with Virgin Mobile on the super fast EE network.

See Virgin Mobile's full offers page > (opens in new tab)

EE vs Virgin Mobile's network

Similar: mostly identical coverage between EE and Virgin

Do you get worse coverage on Virgin Mobile than EE direct?

Mobile signal bars, Virgin Mobile and EE logos

Virgin Mobile and EE are separate companies using the same network

EE logo
Virgin Mobile logo
99%
99%

Out of the mobile providers that use the EE network, Virgin Mobile are the only major one that aren’t owned by BT (Plusnet Mobile, BT Mobile and EE themselves are owned by BT).

In the UK, EE’s network covers 99% of the UK’s population with 4G, 99% with 3G and 99% with 2G. This is the same whether you’re on Virgin or EE directly (with one exception, see below).

In terms of reach, the EE network is still the UK’s biggest. And now they’ve got the places where people live covered, EE are moving on to cover more of the UK’s geography with 4G masts.

This will mean 4G signal in more places like on roads, on train lines and in the country, when you’re away from major towns and cities. Virgin Mobile customers will benefit from this investment equally.

Useful link: Use EE and Virgin's coverage checkers.

Virgin Mobile don’t have access to EE’s 5G/4G+ networks

EE 5G locations map of UK

See 5G rollout news

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

When it comes to regular 2G, 3G and 4G, Virgin Mobile customers can expect identical signal to being on EE directly but there are now a couple of differences:

EE have recently turned on their 5G network in a few UK cities and are rolling out the superfast technology to more locations in the next 12 months. Virgin don't offer 5G at all, so their coverage is effectively 0%!

Virgin also don't offer 4G+ (a faster version of 4G). This technology is deployed generally in built-up busy areas to provide a better-quality data connection.

If you've not got a 5G-ready phone and generally use your mobile away from congested areas, you're unlikely to feel a difference between Virgin and EE's signal in general.

Useful link: What difference will 5G make vs 4G?

EE and Virgin Mobile network maps

Check signal everywhere you'll use your phone, not just at home

EE checker

EE network map

Check EE coverage

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Virgin Mobile's checker

Virgin coverage checker

Check Virgin coverage

using their official map
(opens in new window)

Our verdict on coverage:

Minor win for EE

"For regular 4G, 3G and 2G signal EE and Virgin signal is identical. But because Virgin don't have 4G+ or 5G, EE have the slight technical advantage in a few selected areas of the country."

Compare pricing and deals

Similar: 4G download speeds

Is Virgin Mobile's 4G slower than EE's?

Speedometer, Virgin Mobile and EE logos

EE offer the UK’s fastest 4G downloads on average

Virgin Mobile logo

See all EE's awards

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Despite EE launching their 5G network, realistically most people are still going to spend their time on a 4G data connection with both providers until more have 5G-ready phones and the coverage improves.

We'd expect customers on EE to receive a typical 4G download speed of around 31 Mbps, which is higher than all other mobile networks by almost 50%. That rivals mid-range home fibre broadband speeds.

You'll actually often be able to go even faster depending on local conditions and the EE product you choose. Most their SIMs have a 60 Mbps cap (apart from their new 5G deals). And most phones come without a cap.

Virgin Mobile have a speed cap higher than EE's SIMs

Virgin banner with rocket-themed mobile phone

Virgin's speed claims

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

The big question is can you expect the same speeds on Virgin Mobile as EE? And we’d say the answer would be yes and no:

It’s worth noting that Virgin Mobile have a top speed cap of 70 Mbps, so you’re never going to reach the blazing 90 Mbps+ you can get in some places on EE (see those locations here).

You only really need those kind of speeds if you’re downloading absolutely huge files over a mobile signal. For regular phone usage, even 70 Mbps is way more than adequate.

We’d also note that EE’s measured download speeds are only around 31 Mbps anyway, which doesn’t even hit Virgin’s speed cap. So it's not like you're massively held back on Virgin.

Useful link: Virgin's guide to faster 4G

Our verdict on download speeds:

EE win

"For the average user, we don't expect any difference in typical download speeds on EE and Virgin. But for those that invest in EE's premium plans or 5G deals, the top possible speeds will be higher."

Compare pricing and deals

Different: other network features

What else do Virgin and EE have to keep your phone connected?

Virgin and EE logos with some cogs

EE have WiFi calling and 4G calling - Virgin Mobile don’t

EE WiFi calling scheme

See supported phones

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

One key difference between ‘connectivity’ on Virgin Mobile and EE is WiFi calling and 4G calling. These are useful features that you’ll only get on EE, because Virgin don’t have them.

WiFi calling is all about being able to make and take phone calls in places where normal mobile signal doesn’t reach, like underground or in large buildings.

It lets your phone tap into the normal mobile network via WiFi rather than a mobile signal. It doesn’t need an app but your phone does need to be compatible (check yours is on EE’s help page here).

4G calling is more to do with the sound quality of your phone calls and extending coverage (read all benefits in EE’s guide here). Calls over 4G are HD, so clearer. EE have it. Virgin don’t.

Useful link: FAQs about EE's WiFi calling

Virgin Mobile offer more comprehensive free WiFi hotspot access than EE

Virgin Media free WiFi on the Underground

How you connect

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Despite being owned by BT, EE haven’t managed yet to tap into the huge network of WiFi hotspots that BT WiFi offers. It might be that they’re happy with you using up mobile data instead.

EE do offer their pay monthly customers free WiFi on the Underground though if you live in London. This is something you’ll also get as standard on Virgin Mobile.

Virgin Mobile do manage to use being part of Virgin Media to their customers' advantage. You’ll be able to access a huge network of over 3.5 million hotspots if you join Virgin Mobile. Just download the app.

These hotspots save you from using up your mobile data allowance, and they’re located in convenient places like on the high street, pubs and restaurants and transport hubs like train stations and airports.

Useful link: Full details on Virgin's free WiFi scheme

Our verdict on extra network features:

Win for EE

"With so much free WiFi around nowadays but poor indoor mobile coverage still a problem, we think EE's WiFi calling will more useful to more people than Virgin's free hotspots."

Compare pricing and deals

Benefits on Virgin Mobile vs EE

Different: free data schemes

Free data schemes on EE vs Virgin

Subheader superior network

Virgin Mobile free social media data

How it works

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Even if you join Virgin Mobile on a SIM only or phone plan that comes with the smallest amount of data, you’ll still benefit from their scheme that doesn’t charge you for data used by selected apps:

Send messages and photos via the WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger app and the data used won’t come out your monthly allowance. The same goes for when you use the Twitter app for general use.

It effectively means you’ve got unlimited data for this kind of usage, and if you’re a really heavy messager you could save enough mobile data to take a smaller, cheaper plan than elsewhere.

That said, sending messages on these apps barely actually uses much mobile data, particularly compared to things like video streaming (which Three do have a free scheme for called Go Binge).

Useful link: How data-free messaging works

There are two ways to get unlimited streaming data on EE

EE free data schemes

How to get a pass

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

If you join EE on a pay monthly phone contract or SIM only deal, you’ll get a free trial to four different streaming services, including Apple Music for up to 6 months.

During the trials, EE will also not charge you for any mobile data that using the services use. So it's essentially unlimited streaming data for those apps.

On top of that, if you take one of EE's Smart Plans, you can choose a Video or Music Data Pass, as one of your Swappable Benefits (added features you can add/remove from your account whenever you like).

These give you unlimited streaming data for loads more services like BBC iPlayer, Netflix and more. Smart plans with phones get you up to two swappable benefits, on SIM only you only get one swappable benefit with 5G deals (not on 4G ones).

Useful link: EE's full guide to Swappable Benefits

Our verdict on this topic:

Draw

"Which scheme is best depends largely on what you do on your phone. Social media uses less data but you get it the length of your contract on Virgin. EE's scheme are either temporary or come as premium but they will save you more data."

Compare pricing and deals

Free subscriptions: what you get on each

We compare what free extras EE and Virgin Mobile throw in with their pay monthly deals

Free app subscriptions

Two free entertainment subscriptions when you join EE

Entertainment subscriptions on EE

How to claim

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Take a pay monthly deal from EE and you’ll be entitled to add four separate subscriptions to your account for free. If you’re already on EE, here’s how to claim them.

You’ll get a free 6-month trial of Apple Music (audio streaming), Amazon Prime Video (TV and movies), MTV Play (music TV) and a 3-month trial of the BT Sport app - with a combined value of £164 according to EE.

You should be aware though that these are effectively free trials. After the initial free period, you'll pay at the full rate via your mobile bill.

You can actually immediately cancel the services when you first add them too and keep it free for the whole 6 months or 3 months, so you don't have to remember later.

Useful link: EE's full guide to entertainment

12 months of online security with Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile F Secure subscription

See full features

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

While EE have focused their free subscriptions on things to get more entertainment out of your mobile, Virgin’s giveaway is about keeping your phone itself safe from internet threats.

Any Virgin Mobile customer is entitled to claim a 12-month free trial of F-Secure Safe worth £79.99. This is an app you download to your phone or up to 5 other devices that provides a number of protections:

It has a virus checker, bank details protection, remembers passwords, has a child-safe browsing filter, app privacy scanner and functions for locating and disabling your device if lost or stolen.

It’s a useful package, even if it lacks the glitz and glamour of EE’s free entertainment subscriptions.

Useful link: F-Secure's full features and how to claim

Our verdict on freebies:

Win for EE

"The overall value of all the free subscriptions on EE adds up to more than Virgin's but you'll probably pay more for your mobile deal though. A lot will depend on what you personally find useful."

Compare pricing and deals

Inclusive roaming: is EE or Virgin Mobile’s scheme better?

Now every network has to offer free EU roaming, we look at whether Virgin or EE do the best job

Globe with Virgin and EE logos

4G roaming on EE wherever it's available

EE roaming banner

All roaming costs

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

Like every mobile network in the UK, EE offer inclusive roaming within the EU. Use your plan's regular minutes, texts and data in these countries at no extra cost.

You will be limited to 15GB data usage within the EU per month, because of EE's fair usage policy. This would a very large amount to be using on a temporary trip. And is more than many even use at home.

If you join on a Smart plan (available with phones and SIMs), you can choose EE's Roam Further Pass as your swappable benefit, which unlocks a further 5 inclusive roaming destinations like the USA and Canada.

If you don't have an extra pass or go anywhere not covered, roaming can be pretty expensive on a per minute, text or MB data. Check latest costs per country here before travelling.

Useful link: Full guide to roaming on EE's network

Virgin Mobile are geared towards EU roaming only

Roaming on VOXI

Calculate costs

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Unlike EE (and all these mobile networks), Virgin Mobile don't have any inclusive outside the EU on pay monthly. You'll get the standard inclusive EU roaming that every network has to offer though.

Their inclusive roaming is subject to a few annoying fair usage policies that you probably won't ever come up against, unless you're a really heavy user.

This affects how much of your monthly data you're allowed to use while abroad based on the cost of your plan. There's a calculator you can use here that works this out depending on the deal you take.

Going elsewhere can get really expensive, really fast on Virgin Mobile, particularly for data. So check costs here before you leave. And think about other providers if you're regularly outside Europe.

Useful link: Virgin's own guide to roaming

Our verdict on roaming:

A win for EE

"If you mainly travel within the EU, there's little to split EE and Virgin for roaming. It's only if you're going further afield that EE's Roam Further pass could save you money in select countries."

Compare pricing and deals

Deals on EE vs Virgin Mobile

SIM only deals

Are SIM only plans cheaper on Virgin or EE

EE and Virgin Mobile logos and a SIM card

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Our verdict on SIM only plans:

Win for Virgin Mobile

"It's very rare that EE can beat Virgin Mobile on price for SIM only. Unless you want 5G, it's hard to see why you'd pay more for basically the same thing."

Compare pricing and deals

Special offers

Current offers compared on EE and Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile and EE logos with a percentage sticker

Fantastic SIM only deals with Virgin on the EE network

Virgin Mobile SIM sale banner

See SIM only deals

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

EE's triple data on Flex SIMs

EE Flex triple data banner

See all Flex SIMs

at EE.co.uk
(opens in new window)

EE are currently offering triple data for three months on two of their 1-month Flex SIM plans:

Both deals are available until 30th September 2019.

Meanwhile, if you're after a smartphone contract, be sure to look at the page here for iPhone deals on EE, and the one here for Samsung Galaxy plans, which show all the promotional plans EE have this month.

Useful link: See all EE's latest offers > (opens in new tab)

Phone contracts on Virgin Mobile vs EE

Are phone contracts better from EE or Virgin Mobile?

Virgin Mobile and EE logos with a phone

Virgin's phone contracts are more flexible

Virgin phone range

See full range

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin are one of the mobile providers to offer phone contracts on "split contracts", where you have a credit agreement (loan) for a handset a separate contract for your monthly minutes, texts and data.

These bring a number of advantages, like choosing your contract length flexibly (24-month or 36-month) and upgrading early or leaving Virgin altogether by paying off the remaining balance of your credit agreement in full.

We'd urge a bit of caution though. Virgin's monthly prices look low because they're spread out over 3 years (instead of the regular 2 years). That's a long commitment. And you'll need a good credit rating to be accepted.

But nine times out of ten, Virgin will work out cheaper than EE for the full contract cost for a handset. If you're not fussed about 5G or can't get it, it's almost a no-brainer to go with Virgin to get a good price and enjoy access EE's network.

Useful link: How Virgin's phone contracts work

EE's phone contracts are less flexible than Virgin

EE Carphone Warehouse deals

See EE prices

at carphonewarehouse.com
(opens in new window)

Phone contracts on EE are a lot more straightforward and conventional than on Virgin Mobile. You're signing one 24-month contract for the phone and your monthly minutes, texts and data.

You lose some of the flexibility in early upgrades and cancellations. Andd EE's prices are rarely as competitive as Virgin Mobile when you buy direct from EE.co.uk.

Where you can make a saving is by going via EE re-sellers like Carphone Warehouse and Mobiles.co.uk, who can offer cheaper deals on the network because they buy their own handsets.

Depending on the plan you choose, you can get the same EE benefits with these re-sellers but a much better overall contract price most of the time. It still pays to compare all contracts using our deal finder below.

Useful link: Carphone Warehouse vs going direct

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Our verdict on phone contracts:

Win for Virgin Mobile

"Not only are Virgin Mobile's phone contracts almost always cheaper than EE, they're also a lot more flexible in terms of early upgrades or ditching Virgin as your network altogether"

Compare pricing and deals

More EE articles

Full EE review

EE logo and review stars

EE compared with BT Mobile

EE and BT logos

EE compared with O2

EE and O2 logos

EE compared with Three

EE and Three logos

EE compared with Vodafone

EE and Vodafone logos

More Virgin Mobile articles

Full Virgin Mobile review

Virgin Mobile logo and review stars

Virgin broadband customer benefits

Virgin Media logo and a gift box

Virgin compared with Three

Virgin Mobile and Three logos

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

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