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Virgin Mobile vs EE: how they compare on different networks

Virgin Mobile vs EE

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Now that Virgin Mobile no longer use the EE network, we look at what differences there now are for coverage, speeds and benefits. Last updated: 15th February 2022.

In our Virgin Mobile vs EE guide

Special offer news

EE vs Virgin Mobile's network

Different: coverage between EE and Virgin is now separate

Is coverage better on Virgin Mobile or EE?

Mobile signal bars, Virgin Mobile and EE logos

EE use their own network, Virgin use O2’s

Laptop with Virgin's EE coverage checker on screen

Read network guide

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

If you’ve been on Virgin Mobile for a while, you might remember that they used to use EE’s network for coverage, then Vodafone. Now they’ve switched networks again and use O2’s network to provide signal.

This gives Virgin an advantage for call signal (3G/2G). Their hosts cover more of the geographic area of the UK than EE do, and their indoor coverage tends to be a bit better as well.

But EE hold a clear advantage for 4G data (see 5G below). In fact we’d say it’s the best thing about being on EE. They cover more of the UK’s landmass for 4G and more of the areas where people live.

Either way, it’s worth checking both networks' latest coverage checkers before signing up to see which one has better reception in your area. Check everywhere you’ll expect to use your phone.

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

5G is expanding rapidly on both networks

EE 5G locations map of UK

See latest locations

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

EE and Virgin both have 5G live in many large towns and cities up and down the country and offer 5G on all of their plans at no extra cost. So, which one offers better 5G coverage?

These plans come with 5G data:

EE currently sit in second place in our rankings for the best 5G networks, while Virgin’s hosts sit in last place. But Virgin’s hosts have 5G live in 750+ UK towns and cities compared to EE’s 317+ locations.

So why do we put EE above Virgin for 5G? Well, EE tend to be better at covering their declared locations as they only claim to have 5G live in places where 5G covers at least 50% of its area.

That also means EE have 5G live in more locations than they claim, just with less widespread coverage. Still, it’s worth using their network maps below to see which is better in your area.

Useful link: What difference does 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:

Win for EE

"EE have by far the best 4G coverage of all networks and it makes up for their weaker call signal, as you can make calls over 4G calling. While Virgin’s 5G coverage is strong, their 4G coverage is what lets them down here. EE win overall."

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Different: data speeds

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

Speedometer, Virgin Mobile and EE logos

EE have the fastest 4G data speeds in the UK

EE best network banner

See all EE's awards

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

In terms of sheer 4G speeds, EE are by far the fastest UK provider. Along with their brilliant 4G coverage, these speeds are one of the main reasons to join on the EE network:

Results from independent network testers Opensignal show that 4G speeds on EE are around 44.7 Mbps against Virgin’s average speeds of 16.8 Mbps. That’s a pretty big difference.

In real life we got speeds up to 130 Mbps on EE vs 95 Mbps on Virgin in the city centre. In rural areas speeds slowed down on both, but we got speeds around 12 Mbps on EE vs 5 Mbps on Virgin.

So if you’re an urban dweller and you want fast speeds, we think you’ll prefer EE. And if you travel around a lot or you live in the countryside, EE or providers that use them might be the better option for you.

Useful link: Our best 5G networks guide

5G speeds are much faster on EE

Virgin banner with rocket-themed mobile phone

Virgin's speed claims

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

As 5G has been live on both networks for a while, independent network testers Opensignal and Speedtest by Ookla have had time to measure typical 5G speeds on both networks:

They found typical speeds on EE between 122.32 Mbps - 130.5 Mbps, while speeds on Virgin’s hosts were between 80.57 Mbps - 92.3 Mbps. Peak speeds got up to 350.41 Mbps on EE and 214.2 Mbps on Virgin.

Those results show that you’ll almost always get faster speeds on EE than on Virgin. However this can change per location. You can get superfast speeds on both, EE are just typically the faster network.

Both networks’ speed results have gone down over time, but we think this is due to more people using 5G at the fringes of coverage. To get the best speeds on either you’ll have to use 5G where signal is strongest.

Useful link: Our full Virgin Mobile review

Our verdict on download speeds:

EE win

"Since you’ll still spend most of your time on 4G with either provider, EE’s much faster average 4G speeds get them a win here. But add on top of that EE’s typically superior 5G speeds and you can see there’s basically no competition here for speeds. EE win easily."

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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 better WiFi calling than Virgin Mobile

EE WiFi calling scheme

Check supported phones

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

EE have offered WiFi calling for a longer time than Virgin, and so have had more time to develop their technology and offer it on more device models.

On both you can make/take calls and send/receive texts both via WiFi signal and 4G signal. But only EE let you transfer a call from WiFi to 4G and vice versa without your call dropping (check your phone's supported).

Also Virgin support fewer models than EE (check yours here). And as soon as you lose WiFi signal or 4G signal, we found that your call will drop. It’s just not as slick a system.

In the end, EE has one of our favourite WiFi calling schemes, while Virgin’s is still a bit limited in our view, though it has got better over time.

Useful link: Our best-rated networks for WiFi calling

Virgin Mobile offer a massive network of WiFi hotspots

Virgin Media free WiFi on the Underground

How it works

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Since Virgin Media are also a broadband company, it makes sense that Virgin Mobile are able to offer the second largest network of WiFi hotspots in the UK. EE offer comparatively few.

EE only offer 250+ hotspots on the London Underground. These are only at ticket barriers and stations, but not yet in the tunnels themselves. It’s a shame they don’t get any of BT’s 5 million+ hotspots despite EE being owned by them.

On the other hand, you’ll get access to Virgin’s 4.3 million+ hotspots on all of their plans. Their app has been subject to poor reviews, but it should be able to log you in automatically.

Like EE, Virgin get you WiFi hotspots on the London Underground. Their other hotspots will be found in restaurants, shopping centres and you also get 20 million hotspots around the world.

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

Our verdict on extra network features:

Win for EE

"While having free WiFi hotspots is nice, there’s plenty of free WiFi out there anyway. EE’s WiFi calling is easier to get working and generally works better than Virgin’s."

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Benefits on Virgin Mobile vs EE

Different: data rollover

Which is the best for unused data?

Recycle symbol with EE and Virgin logos

Virgin Mobile’s data rollover is pretty standard

Virgin Mobile data rollover banner

How it works

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

There are a few networks with data rollover. This is where the data you don’t get through in one month gets added onto your data allowance for your next month. Both Virgin and EE offer this in some form.

On any of Virgin Mobile’s plans the data you don’t manage to get through will be automatically added onto your next month’s allowance. It can help prevent you from going over your allowance if you have a bit leftover.

You only get to keep it for a month, however. It’s nowhere near as generous as Sky’s, which lets you keep unused data for 3 years, trade it in for discounts on devices and share it with other users on your account (see Sky’s scheme here).

You’ll get through your rolled over data first, so you have the chance to use it up before it’s gone and you have the chance to get rolled over data again. At that point you should probably take a smaller deal though.

Useful link: Virgin Mobile's data rollover help guide

EE only offer data rollover on pay as you go

EE data rollover banner

See PAYG bundles

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

EE are largely geared towards pay monthly plans and phone deals, but they don’t actually offer data rollover on these. The only way to get data rollover on EE is by getting a pay as you go monthly bundle.

With these bundles you’ll be able to keep your unused minutes, texts and data for a month so long as you renew your bundle. If you don’t you’ll lose them entirely.

It’s essentially the same as Virgin’s, except you don’t get it on pay monthly. This is a drawback because EE’s pay as you go bundles are fairly pricey even compared to their regular pay monthly SIMs.

EE are one of the most expensive networks. So we would like to see them add data rollover, as it would mean you could comfortably go with a smaller plan and get the most out of your data. But they don’t offer it.

Useful link: See latest PAYG plans

Our verdict on data rollover:

Win for Virgin Mobile

"The vast majority of users will hop onto a pay monthly plan, so Virgin will be the better choice if keeping your data is a priority for you. Virgin’s deals are already better value, but with data rollover you get the most out of your deal."

Compare pricing and deals

Family plans on EE vs Virgin

Icon of a family between EE and Virgin logos

EE's family accounts offer data sharing

EE data gifting

See EE's family plans

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

There are two major benefits of getting other users onto your account with EE, whether that be adding friends or family members on new deals:

The first is that you get 10% off phone contracts, SIM only plans, tablet deals or data SIMs added onto your main account - whether that be for friends or family. You also get a 1GB boost for adding new users.

But you’re also able to gift data, meaning if one of the users on your account runs out of data and another has a decent amount to spare you can transfer data over. Helpful for avoiding extra data usage charges.

Add to that the convenience of having all of your plans in one place and all on one monthly bill and you’ll see why EE’s Family Plan is one of our favourites out of all the networks.

Useful link: EE's full guide to their family accounts

Virgin no longer offer their family plan scheme

Virgin Mobile family plans

Calculate discounts

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin Mobile have got rid of their great family plan scheme that offered a discount on extra plans added to your account if you were a Virgin broadband customer.

You used to be able to get £2 off 4 additional SIMs on your existing Virgin Mobile account, which made Virgin’s already low prices even more appealing. Now that’s no longer an option.

In all fairness, Virgin are typically cheaper than EE even after EE’s 10% discount is applied. And you can still manage your bills in one place, it’s just that there are no extra benefits for doing so.

We think it’s possible that Virgin will bring this scheme back in the future, as they essentially offer nothing exclusive to their broadband customers any more. But for now, EE take this category.

Useful link: Full ins and outs of Virgin Mobile family plans

Our verdict on family plans:

Win by default for EE

"The fact that EE win this category by default doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s a fantastic scheme. Even if Virgin reintroduced their old scheme, we still think EE would win. It’s that good."

Compare pricing and deals

Different: free data schemes

Free data schemes on EE vs Virgin

Free unlimited social media data on Virgin

Virgin Mobile free social media data

How it works

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

If you join on any Virgin SIM only or phone plan then you’ll get access to one of Virgin’s brilliant benefits that makes it so the data you use on certain social media apps won’t come out of your allowance.

When you send a message over Facebook, download a picture from Whatsapp or scroll on Twitter you won’t use up any of your monthly data allowance. Video/audio calls on these apps will come out of your data though.

It basically means you’re getting unlimited data to use on these apps. It’s nice to have to have some peace of mind while you’re on social media. What’s even better is that it comes on even their cheapest plan:

In fairness, messaging doesn’t use up much data in the first place. The biggest data savings will be from videos on Twitter, but even this doesn’t come close to networks that offer free unlimited streaming data (read our guide here).

Useful link: How data-free messaging works

You can buy unlimited streaming data on EE

EE Smart plan banner

Read Smart plan guide

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

Joining EE on any SIM only or phone plan gets you free trials to Apple Music, BritBox and Apple TV+ for up to 6 months which you can redeem at any time.

While you have your trials the data you use to stream these apps won’t come out of your monthly allowance, meaning you can stream without worry. But you can also get unlimited streaming data permanently:

If you take a Smart Plan on EE you can choose a Video Pass that gets you unlimited streaming data for these popular video services. These are premium plans, so you’re paying a bit extra for this.

All these deals come with at least one Smart Benefit:

With their Video Pass you can stream Youtube, Netflix, BBC iPlayer and more. If you often go over your data allowance then it’s worth thinking about, but you might just be better off with a bigger data plan.

Useful link: EE's full guide to Smart Benefits

Our verdict on this topic:


"It really depends on what you want to use your phone for. If you’re using it mostly for social media then Virgin’s benefit can help you save a bit of data, while EE’s benefits will save more data overall but come at a cost."

Compare pricing and deals

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

We look at whether Virgin or EE offer the better provision for roaming abroad

Globe with Virgin and EE logos

No more inclusive EU roaming on EE

EE roaming banner

All roaming costs

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

Like Vodafone and Three, EE have changed their EU roaming scheme so you can no longer access your regular allowance of minutes, texts and data for free while you’re abroad.

Instead you’ll have to pay a daily rate to access your allowance. At the moment they say it’s about £2 a day while you’re in their EU destinations. Even though you’re paying, you’ll also be restricted to 50GB while abroad.

If you’re going further afield you’ll have to pay a daily rate for a data pass. These give you a small amount of data at fairly pricey daily rates (currently between £5 - £6 depending on the destination).

Or, if you’re on a Smart Plan you can choose their Roam Abroad benefit as an extra, which lets you roam for free in their EU destinations and five worldwide destinations. But remember, these are premium plans.

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

Virgin Mobile still offer inclusive EU roaming

Virgin Mobile roaming calculator

Calculate costs

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Unlike their hosts O2, Virgin don’t offer any sort of worldwide roaming passes. But they have kept their EU roaming scheme in place, letting you roam in these EU destinations at no added cost on all plans.

There are a few finickity fair usage policies, but unless you’re a really heavy data user we don’t think this will ever be an issue. Usually you can use around half of your data allowance.

You can use their calculator here to see how much data you can use while abroad. It depends on the size of your regular allowance and the cost of your plan.

Going outside the EU can get expensive very quickly on Virgin Mobile (1GB can cost £5000!) so you might be better off looking elsewhere if you’re going far away.

Useful link: Virgin's own guide to roaming

Our verdict on roaming:

A win for Virgin

"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

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Our verdict on SIM only plans:

Win for Virgin Mobile

"EE aren’t really known for their cheap deals. Virgin have some very competitive prices. The main reason to join EE is their brilliant network, rather than their prices."

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Special offers

Current offers compared on EE and Virgin Mobile

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Phone contracts on Virgin Mobile vs EE

Are phone contracts better from EE or Virgin Mobile?

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Virgin's phone contracts are more flexible

Virgin phone range

See full range

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin offer their phone deals on what are called “split contracts”, where you have two separate payments. You get one finance agreement (loan) for the cost of your phone and another payment for your usage (mins, texts data).

So you get a bit of flexibility in choosing your contract length (24-month or 36-month) and you can upgrade early and leave Virgin altogether by paying off the rest of your loan all at once.

Before you sign up on a 36-month contract because the monthly price is cheaper, bear in mind you’re paying the same amount in the end and three years is a long commitment. You’ll also have to pass a credit check to be accepted.

But in general, Virgin will work out cheaper than EE for the whole contract due to their cheaper usage plans. If you want a good price and you like the look of Virgin’s network, then they’re certainly a good choice.

Useful link: How Virgin's phone contracts work

EE's phone contracts offer less flexibility

Screenshot of phone deal finder

Compare phone deals

at simsherpa.com
(opens in new window)

EE’s phone contracts are a lot simpler, but a lot less flexible. All of their contracts are 24-months with a single payment for the cost of your phone and usage plan.

This means you can’t upgrade early or change your usage plan until your contract is up, nor can you choose a contract length to suit your budget. EE’s prices also tend to be pricier when buying directly from EE.co.uk

Instead, it might be a good idea to go with a reseller like buymobiles.net as they buy a lot of phones in bulk to sell them at a cheaper price.

You’re getting the same benefits as being on EE directly and it’s not like you’re sacrificing flexibility as your contract should be the same. It’s worth shopping around to see what you can get.

Useful link: Compare all ways to join EE and Virgin on phones

Our verdict on phone contracts:

Win for Virgin Mobile

"You might get a better deal going with a reseller, but Virgin are already fairly competitive for pricing and also give you a decent amount of flexibility that we think a lot of users will appreciate."

Compare pricing and deals

More EE guides

More Virgin Mobile articles