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Virgin Mobile UK review: 4G coverage, speeds & benefits in 2020

Virgin Mobile logo with a phone and a SIM card

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

We look at whether Virgin Mobile's appeal stretches beyond cheap phone contracts and SIM only plans to a good network and extra benefits. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: April 6th 2020.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates Virgin Mobile as good, for the money
 (3/5, good)

"Virgin Mobile's main draw is still their cheap pricing, combined with superfast 4G that's quicker than Three, O2 and Vodafone on average. We're also pleased they've added much-missed WiFi calling now too.

We've got reservations about their poor customer service record and the fact their coverage isn't the same full experience as being on EE directly, which could cause frustration if you're in an unlucky area.

Join for the low prices but don't expect as slick a ride as being on one of the UK's big four networks."

The 3 best bits

1) Superfast 4G data speeds
2) Ultra-competitive deals
3) New WiFi calling feature

The 3 worst bits

1) Worrying customer service record
2) No 4G calling
3) Conditions on roaming

In our Virgin Mobile review

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

4G and 3G coverage
Data speeds
WiFi calling
Free WiFi hotspots
Tethering

Perks review

Benefits & features

Data rollover scheme
Inclusive EU roaming
Customer reward schemes
Free app subscriptions
Free data schemes
Spending caps
Shared / family plans

Deal review

Deals & plans

Special offers
SIM only plans
Phone contracts
Pay As You Go
Mobile broadband

Customer service review

Customer service

Ofcom data

Virgin Mobile's network

Coverage: Virgin Mobile use the EE 4G, 3G and 2G network

Virgin Mobile network map screenshot

Make sure there's 4G, 3G and 2G in your areaCheck Virgin signal

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin Mobile are part of the wider Virgin Media brand and use the EE network for coverage. For 3G and 2G, the reception is identical to being on EE directly. For 4G there are some slight technical differences:

Your phone won't access some of EE's 4G transmitters on Virgin, mainly the ones in rural locations that send signal long range and ones in urban places to increase capacity (read our Virgin vs EE guide for more details).

There's no 5G data on Virgin Mobile. In late 2021, Virgin will move to using the Vodafone network instead of EE for all coverage. But Virgin say their 5G service via Vodafone may start before this.

For a while, that'd mean the interesting situation where you get 2G/3G/4G via EE alongside 5G from Vodafone on Virgin. But they do have a record of delivering changes late, so we'll wait and see if this ever happens.

For now our message would be: Virgin don't have 5G now and we wouldn't take out a contract with them expecting it to be added mid-way through.

This all makes it difficult for us to rank Virgin Mobile accurately against others for coverage. For basic calls and texts, signal nationally is slightly behind Vodafone and O2. For 4G, we expect similar results.

The real key is to just use their coverage checker here. Input everywhere you'll use your phone most often, not just at home. If the signal's fine, the national picture is less important.

Useful link: Virgin's guide to their network

Virgin Mobile will be moving to using the Vodafone network

Virgin Mobile press release

The switchover will happen in 2021Read press release

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

If you're thinking about taking a long phone contract or a 24-month SIM only plan now, it's worth knowing that Virgin will be switching over to using the Vodafone network in "late 2021".

It means you'll effectively need to be happy being on both the EE network and Vodafone network if you're going to choose Virgin Mobile today (see Vodafone's coverage checker here).

There will be winners and losers from this in terms of coverage, because EE and Vodafone are slightly different in each area. For basic calls and texts, this should be an improvement to today.

While on today's stats for 4G data, it's more complicated. EE have more of the physical landmass covered than Vodafone but Vodafone may bring 4G to slightly more residential areas than EE.

Useful link: How EE and Vodafone compare

Our coverage rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd
(out of 4 places)

Not as good as:
EE, BT Mobile

Similar to:
O2, Vodafone
(and all providers that use them)

4G speeds: Virgin Mobile customers could go faster than EE!

Rocket themed mobile phone

Virgin claim faster speeds on averageRead why

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

It's well known that Virgin Media have the fastest widely available broadband speeds in the UK, and they've made the right choice in EE to deliver their 4G to Virgin Mobile customers too:

We expect EE customers to get typical download speeds over 4G of around 31 Mbps, which is faster than any other provider. The key question is how that translates for Virgin Mobile customers.

This page on the Virgin Media website explains Virgin’s 4G speeds deliver a maximum 70 Mbps. That's home fibre broadband fast. And it's actually faster than the majority of EE plans with a 60 Mbps cap.

On average, we'd expect little noticeable difference to joining the fastest network EE directly, unless you chose one of EE's 90 Mbps Max plans and use your phone regularly in a 4G+ area.

Useful link: Read our full EE vs Virgin Mobile guide

Our speed rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
Joint 2nd

Not as good as:
EE

Better than:
Three, Vodafone, O2
(and other providers that use them)

WiFi calling: Virgin have just added the feature

Virgin Mobile WiFi calling

Not many phones currently supportedCheck models

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

All these mobile providers now offer WiFi calling, which lets your phone connect to a mobile network to make and take calls via WiFi, instead of conventional phone signal - useful indoors where reception is weaker.

And we're pleased to say that Virgin Mobile now offer WiFi calling too. And we've managed to do a few early tests with it, on an iPhone and an Android. There were mixed results.

If your phone's not on this list of supported devices, it's unlikely to work on a SIM only plan. Incoming and outgoing calls worked fine on Virgin's WiFi calling and we were able to send (but not receive) SMS over WiFi.

There doesn't seem to be any 4G calling active on Virgin, so calls will drop if you move away from a WiFi connection mid-call. It's a good start but Virgin need to increase the number of phones they support fast.

Useful link: Our guide to the networks with WiFi calling

Our WiFi calling rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
5th
(we're still investigating)

Not as good as:
Three, EE, BT Mobile, iD Mobile, Vodafone

Same as:
All others

WiFi hotspots: 3.5 million(!) free locations on Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile free WiFi hotspots

Free WiFi hotspots in the UK and abroadSee WiFi locations

in Virgin Mobile's guide
(opens in new window)

Nowadays, free WiFi is really easy to access in loads of businesses and transport hubs. But quite often it’s still limited by time or needs you to register and log in.

That’s why we think it’s good when mobile networks offer a universal free WiFi service to their customers that logs them in automatically. Using WiFi instead of your mobile data saves using up your monthly allowance.

This is one Virgin Mobile’s real strong points. All their mobile customers get access to Virgin's network of 3.5 million+ (!) free WiFi hotspots in the UK.

Just download the free app, log in once and then every time you're in range, your phone will connect to the hotspot, saving you on your mobile data allowance.

Useful link: How to get free WiFi with Virgin Mobile

Our hotspots rating:
★★★★☆ (excellent)

Rank:
2nd

Not as good as:
BT Mobile

Tethering: Virgin Mobile now allow it on pay monthly

Chat conversation about tethering

An online chat agent confirms tethering's allowedSee Virgin Mobile terms

We've seen Virgin Mobile are a solid choice for superfast 4G data and extensive coverage but there was previously one thing holding them back:

Until recently, you weren't allowed to use their pay monthly phones or SIMs for tethering (making a WiFi hotspot with your phone using mobile data).

We're pleased to say Virgin have now seen sense here and have started allowing tethering for all their pay monthly customers (see screenshot of our chat conversation).

So now you're free to use your superfast 4G data connection on Virgin to connect other WiFi-enabled devices like laptops, tablets or even other phones to your phone for internet when you're away from tradititional WiFi.

Useful link: Read all Virgin Mobile terms and conditions from their legal stuff section

Our rating:
★★★★★ (joint best choice)

Rank:
Joint 1st

Same as:
Most other networks

Better than:
iD Mobile

Virgin Mobile benefits

Data rollover: keep unused data for next month

Virgin Mobile's data rollover scheme

It's a second chance to use unused dataHow it works

from Virgin's own guide
(opens in new window)

Most people's data usage goes up and down each month. A lot of the time you won't use your full allowance and waste what you've paid for. Then one month you could go over and could end up paying more.

Virgin Mobile have a solution for this on all their pay monthly plans. You'll get a second chance to use any unused data from your plan this month, next month. It's called data rollover (read their full guide here).

They automatically keep track of your unused data and add it to next month's allowance. And your rolled over data gets used first. It's a good system but it's not the very best of its type (read our data rollover guide here).

It'd be better if you could keep data longer than a month like some networks let you. If you're regularly using over your monthly allowance or under, you should look at changing plans to a more suitable one, which Virgin let you do free of charge.

Useful link: Read all ins and outs of Virgin Mobile’s data rollover plans

Our data rollover rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Better than:
All others

Free data schemes: Virgin offer it on messaging apps

Free social media messaging on Virgin Mobile

Unlimited data for messaging on select appsRead full details

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

In our guide to free data schemes, we notice two ways that mobile networks are giving people free data for certain activities: either for video/music streaming (Three and EE) or social media (Virgin, VOXI and Three).

Join Virgin Mobile on either a pay monthly SIM only plan or phone contract and whenever you use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger to send messages or Twitter they won’t charge you for the data it uses.

The full ins and outs can be read here on the Virgin Mobile website but there a very few restrictions: you will be charged for the data if you’re abroad and you’ll need some of regular data allowance left for it to work.

As free data schemes go, Virgin’s is on the less-valuable side: messaging doesn't use as much as video/audio streaming like on Three's Go Binge. But if you’re a heavy messaging user, Virgin’s scheme will be useful.

Useful link: All details on how Virgin's free messaging works

Our free data rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Not as good as:
Three, EE, VOXI

Better than:
All others

Roaming: have a fiddly fair usage policy

Free EU roaming on Virgin Mobile

Mostly pay no extra to roam in 43 countriesLatest destination list

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Now that every mobile network has to let you roam abroad in EU countries at no extra cost, we’re looking for any providers that go above and beyond these requirements and let you go further afield too.

Virgin Mobile aren’t one of them. You’ll get free EU roaming in these 43 destinations with any of their pay monthly SIM only plans or mobile phone contracts but you can't use your whole data allowance while abroad (calculate how much you can use here). It varies per plan.

To travel anywhere else gets very pricey, very quickly with Virgin. You’ll pay per minute, text and MB of data you use (see costs per country here). In the USA for example, it's £5 per MB (that’s £5000 per GB!!!)

If you like the idea of free roaming anywhere elsewhere, read our guide to the best worldwide roaming mobile network here. It’s Three we still rate best with 71 destinations where you can roam for free.

Overall, we can't give Virgin Mobile a good rating for roaming because of the finickity fair usage policy on EU roaming and shockingly expensive world roaming. It's just not their strength.

Useful link: Virgin's full guide to roaming on their network

Our roaming rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
Last

Similar to:
Most others

Customer rewards: exclusive unlimited data plan and more

Virgin's truly unlimited mobile plan

Unlimited data if you have Virgin's broadband or TVSee exclusive deal

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

In this section, we’re looking for how mobile companies reward existing customers who are already with them, through loyalty programmes like O2's Priority or other existing customer perks. Virgin do quite well here:

If you have broadband or TV through Virgin Media, there’s an exclusive unlimited data plan on phone contracts (see here) and SIM only (see it here) that only you can access.

Otherwise, the benefits for TV or broadband customers are limited to getting unlimited calls to Virgin Mobile numbers. There are no discounts like we see on BT Mobile or Sky Mobile for their home customers.

Another nice scheme, is Virgin Mobile’s refer-a-friend scheme, which offers some sizeable cash rewards (up to £100) if you get one of your friends to join the network.

Useful link: How Virgin’s refer-a-friend scheme works

Our rewards rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
TBC

Not as good as:
TBC

Similar to:
TBC

Free subscriptions: get F-Secure Safe for 12 months

Free F-Secure Safe on Virgin Mobile

Use it for up to 5 devices at once for freeSee the offer

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Plenty of networks now throw in one or more subscriptions to particular services to add a bit more value to your deal. So what do Virgin Mobile offer?

Well it’s not glamorous but every pay monthly SIM only or phone contract customer on Virgin is entitled to claim a 12-month subscription to F-Secure Safe internet security software, to use on up to 5 devices at once.

It’s an app you download to your phone that protects you from viruses, hackers, internet content unsuitable for children and can help locate your phone if stolen. You can trial it and delete it if you don’t like it.

Credit to Virgin here, because this isn’t one of those offers that lures you to sign up free so they can charge you for later. You can get the software free without giving any bank details. You’ll only renew if you actively choose to.

Useful link: All features of F-Secure Safe and offer terms and conditions

Our rating:
★★☆☆☆ (average)

Rank:
TBC

Not as good as:
EE, BT Mobile, Vodafone

Better than:
Most others

Spending caps: Virgin now let you limit extra bills

Virgin Mobile spending caps

Avoid spending more than you're expectingHow they work

from Virgin's own guide
(opens in new window)

Running up extra bills for additional usage like going over your data limits or phoning internationally can be a worry for some, especially if you’re taking out a contract for someone else like one of your children.

In fact the government regulator Ofcom has just made it compulsory for mobile networks to offer customers the chance to set a cap on how much extra they can spend if it's something they want to do.

Virgin were offering this before the deadline came in. Their page here explains all the ins and outs of the scheme but we rate it as one of the most flexible, because you can set your cap at absolutely zero or in intervals up to £100, or choose not to have any cap.

But because every network now offer them, spending caps needn't be the deciding factor between Virgin Mobile and any other provider any more.

Useful link: Costs for extra usage on Virgin | Virgin's guide to spending caps

Our rating:
★★★★★ (joint best choice)

Rank:
TBC

Similar to:
All others

Better than:
TBC

Family plans: discounted extra SIM only plans

Virgin Mobile Family Plan banner

Save £2 a month on extra SIMsHow they work

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Virgin have just started offering Family Plans, which give you a £2 monthly discount on any 12-month SIM only deal you add to your account alonside your main pay monthly phone or SIM contract.

You can add up to 4x extra SIMs to your deal at any point, giving a total possible saving of £96 a year (£2 discount x 4 SIMs x 12 months). And it's Virgin's regular low-priced SIM only range you get to choose from.

All the plans get added together into one single bill. And you can manage them all from your online account or via Virgin's improved My Virgin Mobile app - we think people are going to like this simplicity and convenience.

The main major downside is that Family Plans are a benefit reserved solely for Virgin Media home broadband or TV customers. Even if you're a loyal Virgin Mobile customer but not Virgin Media, you don't qualify.

Useful link: Our guide to the best shared mobile plans

Our rating:
★★★☆☆ (very good)

Rank:
2nd

Not as good as:
BT Mobile

Better than:
All others

Virgin Mobile deals and plans

What type of deal are you interested in?

Choose an option to skip to the right section:

Special offers running on Virgin Mobile

Here are the latest promotions on SIM only or phone contracts.

Virgin Mobile's SIM only plans

Use our price comparison tool further below to find the right deal

Key facts about Virgin's SIM only plans

You’re allowed to move both up and down plans on Virgin. So if you need more minutes and data, you can switch to a more expensive plan that gives you more.

But if you find you’ve always got minutes or data spare at the end of the month, you can move down to a cheaper plan, to pay less each month. You can do this once a month, as many times as you like.

Find a SIM only plan

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Phone contracts from Virgin Mobile

Here's what like and don't like about Virgin's smartphone contracts:

What we like about Virgin’s phone deals

Smartphone range screenshot Virgin Mobile

See all phones

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

You’ll find a broad range of well-priced smartphones in Virgin Mobile’s pay monthly range, from the latest iPhone and Samsung models, to mid-range Androids, down to cheap basic handsets.

We think it’s fair to say Virgin have the UK’s most flexible smartphone deals (as long as you’re taking a Freestyle deal, rather than a ‘Classic’ contract).

You can upgrade early or quit Virgin Mobile altogether by paying off just the phone part of your overall deal. And you can change your monthly mins, texts and data plan up or down according to your needs.

The closest level of flexibility is with O2’s Custom contracts, which are even more flexible but we’d say are usually a fair amount more expensive than Virgin Mobile’s monthly prices.

Useful link: Browse Virgin Mobile's phone range

What we don’t like about Virgin’s phone deals

How Freestyle contracts work

How Freestyle works

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Many of Virgin’s lowest monthly price deals are based on 36-month deals. So even though the monthly rate is lower, remember you’ll be paying that rate for an extra year, compared to 24-month deals. So the total cost could be more.

Also, because most of Virgin’s smartphones are on their “Freestyle contracts”, you’re basically taking a loan out to pay for the cost of the device. For this reason, you’ll need a very good credit rating to get accepted for a deal.

Lastly, we’d advise against about getting too excited about the promise of early upgrades. Virgin have a scheme where you trade in your phone with them to upgrade early by paying off your loan.

We find this sort of scheme poor value. You’re effectively surrendering a phone you’ve been paying full price for, at a price that might not be as good as selling it second-hand yourself, just to take another full-price phone contract.

If you want to upgrade early and can afford it, we’d recommend just paying off the rest of your handset loan with your own money, and selling the phone yourself or keeping it for someone else. You’ll keep more value that way.

Useful link: Browse Virgin Mobile's phone range

Compare phone contracts on Virgin Mobile

Here's how Virgin's handset deals stack up for price with the competition

A white smartphone

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Pay As You Go: Virgin no longer offer it

1p Mobile pay as you go rates

Cheap rates on the EE networkSee PAYG rates

at 1pmobile.com
(opens in new window)

You can no longer get a pay as you go deal from Virgin on a phone or SIM. We don't think this is a huge loss, as their old plans weren't cheap and they only gave you 3G, not 4G data.

If you're looking for a simple pay as you go deal where you only pay for what you use, 1pMobile are worth a look, as they only charge 1p per minute, text or MB data.

Like Virgin, 1pMobile use EE's 4G and 3G networks to bring your phone signal (check 1p's coverage here). There aren't any real extra perks like you'd expect with a no-frills deal.

Useful link: Read our 1pMobile review

Mobile broadband: WiFi dongle but no data-only SIMs

Virgin Mobile mobile WiFi device

Limited choice but a decent deviceSee device features

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

If you're after a data-only SIM card to put in a tablet, iPad or dongle, then Virgin Mobile aren't the place to look. They no longer offer them, you can only get a plan with a device included:

Virgin Mobile's mobile broadband plans here are pretty cheap on a monthly basis and we'd describe the pocket WiFi device included as standard quality.

You can choose between a 30-day rolling plan (you'll pay an upfront charge for the device) or a 12-month deal with the same monthly cost but no upfront fee for the device itself.

Overall, it's hard to get excited about Virgin Mobile's mobile broadband but it's reasonably priced and does get you access to a large and fast 4G network from EE.

Useful link: Mobile broadband on Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile customer service

Customer service: above-average Ofcom complaints

Ofcom complaints data table

A table you don't want to be near the top ofRead Ofcom's report

at ofcom.org.uk
(opens in new window)

We'd say that customer service is still one of Virgin Mobile's weakest points. The industry regulator Ofcom receives an above-average number of complaints about them.

While the typical UK mobile network were complained about 3 times per 100,000 customers, Virgin's rate was over double that at 8 per 100,000 - top of the hall of shame.

Things go wrong with every mobile network. What's crucial is that they deal with issues when they come up. Ofcom only get involved if complaints aren't resolved. So a high rate of Ofcom complaints means the network is poor at dealing with issues.

The three main issues that Virgin Mobile customers raised with Ofcom were Virgin failing to deal with complaints, billing, pricing and charges and issues with contracts.

Virgin's complaints rate has come up from 6 per 100,000, so they've not got to grips with issues. Most people won't have a problem but it's worth bearing in mind if you want the best shot at a hassle-free experience.

Useful link: Read Ofcom's latest telecoms report

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