Cookies on the SIM Sherpa website

We use cookies to track which pages on our website readers visit most. This helps us understand which topics people find interesting, to write more articles about them.

You can accept these tracking cookies or choose to block them. You can change these settings at any time.

X close

✖ Tracking cookies deleted and blocked

Ok, we will not track your page views as you move around any part of the SIM Sherpa website. But we will use that one cookie to remember you don't want to be tracked.

Click here to unblock tracking cookies

X close

✔ Cookies accepted

Thank you for accepting cookies for the SIM Sherpa website. This will help us constantly improve our content.

If you ever want to change your cookie settings for our website, go to our Cookies page here.

Various logos of UK mobile networks

Virgin Mobile review: the UK's best low-cost network in 2019?

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

Are Virgin Mobile UK just about cheap SIM only plans and handset contracts? We investigate their 4G network coverage, speeds and benefits too. SIM Sherpa is your trusty guide. Last updated: September 5th 2019.

Overall rating

SIM Sherpa rates Virgin Mobile as a very good provider
 (3.5/ 5, very good)

"There's no doubting Virgin Mobile offer extremely competitive prices on the EE network that reaches more places and delivers faster 4G than anyone else. But we're a bit concerned about worrying customer service complaints data and some of their benefits are being overtaken by other providers."

Our guide below finds the things Virgin aren't great at but plenty of other positives to balance them out.

The 3 best bits

1) Use the UK's largest, fastest network
2) Low monthly prices on SIM only and phones
3) Added benefits like data rollover and free data

The 3 worst bits

1) Too many conditions on roaming
2) No WiFi calling or 4G calling
3) Worrying customer service record

In our Virgin Mobile review

Overall rating

Our verdict

Overall rating

Network review

Network

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

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 get you access to EE's 4G 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. They're the only major provider that use the EE network to not be owned by BT (even EE themselves are owned by BT).

Using the EE network is a huge advantage for Virgin Mobile customers, because it's the UK's largest for 4G and joint largest for 3G and 2G. Unlike EE, Virgin don't yet offer 5G data.

Virgin haven't yet publicised when they will have 5G. We suspect their hosts EE may want to keep the faster speeds exclusive to them for a while before allowing Virgin to have 5G.

When 4G launched on Virgin Mobile, existing customers could upgrade from 3G at no extra cost. Virgin were late to the party with 4G, so this might not be the case with 5G when it does come.

Virgin Mobile's 4G signal is available to 99% of the UK population, while 98% can get their 3G. That's a better combination than any other network (although the same as EE, BT Mobile and Plusnet).

Despite the impressive stats, no network has universal geographic coverage, so we highly recommend checking Virgin's signal everywhere you use your phone (not just at home but on your commute, at work etc).

Useful link: Check Virgin Mobile's coverage now on their official map

Our coverage rating:
★★★★★ (joint best choice)

Rank:
Joint 1st
(out of 4 places)

Same as:
EE, BT Mobile, Plusnet Mobile

Better than:
O2, Vodafone, Three
(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)

Call quality: Virgin’s host network scores well recently

No 4G calling on Virgin Mobile

Virgin have 4G data but no 4G calling yetAbout Virgin's 4G

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

This is another area where it’s a big advantage to Virgin Mobile customers that they use EE. They’ve just scored well in tests on how fast calls connect and the quality of the audio.

Independent network testers P3 Analytics do an annual report into how each of the UK’s 4 main networks (EE, Three, O2 and Vodafone) perform for call quality. Note they don’t measure virtual operators like Virgin.

In their 2018/19 report, Virgin’s host network EE came top of the scores for call quality, receiving a ‘very good’ rating, having made large improvements on the year before.

There is a difference though that could be crucial here. Virgin Mobile don’t yet support 4G calling (which offers better sound quality), so we wouldn’t expect Virgin to score quite so highly if they were measured directly.

Useful link: BT explain why 4G calling is useful (BT also use EE's network)

Our calls rating:
★★★☆☆ (good)

Rank:
Mid-range

Not as good as:
EE, BT Mobile or Vodafone

Better than:
O2 and Three

WiFi calling: it’s not supported by Virgin Mobile currently

BT Mobile logoEE Mobile logoiD Mobile logoO2 logoThree logoVodafone logo

All these networks have WiFi callingRead our guide

to the networks with WiFi calling
(opens in new window)

This is one area where Virgin Mobile are at a disadvantage to two of the networks that use EE’s network: BT Mobile and EE themselves. Both offer WiFi calling on pay monthly plans but Virgin Mobile do not.

Some of Virgin’s competitors such as Three and iD Mobile also offer it now. In fact, we actually rate Three’s InTouch WiFi calling scheme as the best in the UK.

If you’re unfamiliar with WiFi calling, read our guide here. It’s basically a system that beats indoor mobile signal black spots by letting you make calls over a WiFi signal instead of 2G/3G/4G mobile signal.

If you’ve been with a provider who uses EE before and have found their signal gets indoors fine in the places you use your phone, then Virgin not offering WiFi calling shouldn’t be a problem.

Useful link: Our guide to the networks with WiFi calling

Our WiFi calling rating:
★☆☆☆☆ (poor)

Rank:
Joint last
(we're still investigating)

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

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: Virgin Mobile were one of the firsts to offer it

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)

We all use different amounts of data each month. Sometimes we’ll get through our whole monthly allowance. Sometimes we might not get anywhere near it. Isn’t it a waste of money if you’ve paid for data you’ve not used?

Quite a few networks now have started to address this problem by launching plans that either let you keep unused data for future months, or even pay you back for the cost of data you’ve not used (see SMARTY).

Virgin Mobile are one of the few networks that offer data rollover. On their pay monthly smartphone contracts and SIM only plans, you’ll keep any of your regular data allowance you’ve not used to use next month.

We really rate this as a feature because it’s basically another chance to use up data you’ve paid for. It'd be better if you could keep data longer than a month though (Sky Mobile let you keep it the longest, up to 3 years).

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 seasonal SIM deals

Virgin Mobile 8GB SIM banner

See these deals

at virginmedia.com
(opens in new window)

Order soon to get this excellent 25GB SIM only offer from Virgin Mobile:

Or there's a competitively priced 1GB 3GB for £7 offer which expires on 18th December.

Virgin's Christmas deals on smartphone contracts have some decent discounts and valuable gifts:

 Samsung Galaxy S10+ and Nintendo Switch from £42 £36 a month

 iPhone XR and Airpods from £28 a month

Useful link: See all Virgin's special offers on one page at virginmedia.com

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

Number of plans available:
Price range: £ - £ a month
Contract lengths:
SIM card sizes: Standard, Micro, Nano

Minutes allowances:
Texts allowances:
Data allowances:
Data speed: 4G on all 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

Choose what you want in your deal:

Deal options >
Choose mins, texts and data >
Choose data speed (4G or 5G) >
Choose max contract length >

Close options

Minutes

Texts

Data

Done

Minimum data speed

Any
4G
5G
Done

Maximum contract length

Any
1 month
12 months
Done

Close filters

Choose which networks you'd consider:

Three logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
ID logo
O2 logo
Plusnet logo
Sky logo
SMARTY logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo
VOXI logo
Showing SIM only deals with at least
 mins |  texts |  data on 4G or 5Gedit search
( possibilities) on any length contract.

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)

minutes
+
texts
+
G data
=
£ a month
on a -month contract
Features: Point1 | Point2 | Point3
(opens in new tab)
Want more results?
Use these filters to make your search more specific
minutes
texts
data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
100MB data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
100MB data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
100MB data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract
minutes
texts
data
on G
£ a month
on a month contract

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

Choose a manufacturer

Which make of phone do you want?

Find a plan for your phone

Choose what you want from your deal

Deal options >
Mins, texts and data >
Data speed (3G or 4G) >
Max contract length >
Max upfront cost >

Close options

Minutes

0+

Texts

0+

Data

0MB+

Done

Maximum contract length

Any
12 months
24 months
Done

Upfront cost

Any upfront cost

Done

Close filters

Choose which networks you'd consider:

Three logo
BT Mobile logo
EE logo
giffgaff logo
ID logo
O2 logo
Sky logo
Tesco logo
Virgin Mobile logo
Vodafone logo

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 double that at 6 per 100,000 - joint top of the hall of shame with Vodafone.

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 down from 7 per 100,000, so there is some improvement work going on. 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

SIM Sherpa can help you find your next SIM only deal

network logos