About Virgin Mobile
The Virgin Group runs everything from gyms to trains to a wine company, and they were the first mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in the UK, launched in 1999.
Virgin Mobile doesn’t own and operate its own mobile network infrastructure. Instead it has a contract to use EE’s network, the strongest and most widespread in Britain. The reliability of EE, paired with discounts and perks from Virgin, can make Sir Richard Branson’s foothold in the mobile market a good use of your monthly phone bill.
At a glance
|The good:||The bad:|
|Automatic data rollovers each month||Fairly limited choice of handsets|
|Fast 4G and 5G download speeds||No pay as you go plans available|
|Free gifts and rewards, including games consoles, are often included in deals||To get their cheapest deals you will need to sign up to a lengthy 36-month contract|
|Flexible mobile plans allow you to adjust your allowance every month according to your needs||Expensive out-of-contract price hikes|
|Use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Twitter without eating into your data allowance||No tethering available|
|Spending caps available to limit your monthly costs||Expensive roaming charges outside of Europe|
|Unlimited data plans available for Virgin Media broadband customers||Customer service could be improved|
|3.5 million free WiFi hotspots across the UK|
|Get a free 12 month subscription to anti-virus software F-Secure SAFE with any pay monthly contract|
Virgin Mobile: Wide Range of Handsets & Contracts
Virgin Mobile offers a full gamut of handsets, often purchased on contract for no upfront costs. There are two types of mobile phone contracts they offer. Classic contracts run for 24 months and cover both your phone and usage and allow you to adjust your allowances up and down each month. Freestyle contracts technically have two parts for added flexibility - a contract of 24 or 36 months that covers the loan of your handset and a second, rolling 30-day contract that includes your airtime plan (your minutes, messages, and MBs of data).
Sick of your current device but still in contract? Use Virgin’s Trade Up scheme to trade in your phone and put its value to a new handset and tariff.
Virgin SIM-only Deals
You can also get pay-monthly and pay-as-you-go SIMs through Virgin. Virgin Media TV and broadband customers can even get unlimited mobile data, minutes and texts. Not a Virgin bundler? Your allowance tops out at 5000 minutes and 50GB a month.
Free Virgin WiFi
To conserve these data allowances, Virgin Mobile customers can hop onto more than two million Virgin Wi-Fi hotspots for free. These are located in shops, restaurants, transit hubs and even the London Underground (although just in stations and not in the tunnels). Virgin also allows you to use apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter without making a dent in your data allowance.
Virgin Mobile Network Coverage
While you’ll be paying bills to Virgin Mobile, your phone will be connecting to EE’s network, and that’s good news because it’s the fastest and most comprehensive in Britain. In independent researcher OpenSignal’s latest survey of Britain’s mobile networks, EE performed the best in all metrics including 4G availability, video experience, download speed experience, upload speed experience, and latency experience. It’s 4G clocks in at 32.5 Megabits per second and customers are able to connect to its 4G network 89% of the time and avoid slower 3G and 2G services. O2 currently boasts more than 99% population coverage and 90% geographic coverage and is investing heavily in its infrastructure to achieve 95% geographic coverage by 2020.
However, beyond EE’s network reliability, customer service performance from Virgin Mobile is middling. In Ofcom’s league table of the seven largest mobile providers, Virgin Mobile ranked sixth in customer service, with 91% of its customers reporting satisfaction. That’s near universal satisfaction but is below the market average of 93%. Virgin also had the largest number of customer complaints in 2018 - 11 per 100,000 customers, above the industry average of four per 100,000.
Still, Virgin has respectable mobile deals, especially for existing Virgin Broadband and TV customers. Furthermore, its contracts on handsets with no upfront costs and easy trade-in upgrades mean it’s painless to snag a new device and get texting.