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Virgin Mobile 4G Coverage and Network Review

20th January 2020

Virgin Mobile Network Coverage

Virgin Mobile isn’t just any mobile network. It aims to stand out with low prices along with data allowances that roll over each month - so if you don't use all your data you get the remaining amount added on to your next month's allowance.

Plus, all customers can use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter without eating into their data allowances, Virgin Media customers can get unlimited data, and you get access to Virgin Mobile's network of over 3.5 million Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK.

So there’s a lot to like about Virgin Mobile, but it won’t be the best fit for everyone.

Summary

Pros

Cons

Data rollover

No VoLTE

Free WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger use

No Pay As You Go plans

Unlimited data for Virgin Media customers

Only offers standard 4G speeds

Our Verdict 

Coverage

Through its use of EE’s infrastructure, Virgin Mobile has 99% 2G coverage, 98% 3G coverage and over 99% 4G coverage. In other words then you’ll be able to get a connection – and usually a fast 4G one – almost anywhere in the UK.

Note however that Virgin will be switching to Vodafone’s infrastructure in 2021, which will have an impact on coverage, though will still mean its 4G covers around 99% of the UK’s population overall.

Virgin Mobile Coverage

Network Type

Coverage by population

4G 

> 99%

3G

98%

2G

99%

Use Virgin Mobile’s coverage checker above to find out more about Virgin Mobile 4G coverage in your area, including signal strengths and details on both indoor and outdoor coverage.

4G from Virgin Mobile is now available in thousands of towns, cities and villages. Locations with 4G coverage include but are not limited to the following cities:

Aberdeen, Armagh, Bangor, Bath, Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Chester, Chichester, Coventry, Derby, Derry, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Ely, Exeter,  Glasgow, Gloucester, Hereford, Inverness, Kingston upon Hull, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Lichfield, Lincoln, Lisburn, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Newport, Newry, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Peterlee, Perth, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Ripon, Sheffield, Southampton, St Albans, St Asaph, St David’s, Salford, Salisbury, Stirling, Stoke, Sunderland, Swansea, Truro, Wakefield, Wells, City of Westminster, Winchester, Wolverhampton Worcester and York.

5G coverage

Virgin Mobile has said that it will be switching to Vodafone’s infrastructure in a deal running from 2021 – 2026. So that means it will have the same 5G coverage as Vodafone, even though it uses EE’s infrastructure currently.

That’s no bad thing, as Vodafone was the second UK network to launch a 5G service and its coverage is expanding quickly. And Virgin Mobile likely won’t even have to wait until 2021 to launch 5G. Based on its comments we might see it launch at some point in 2020.

Network Speeds

With 4G, Virgin Mobile customers can get speeds which are roughly five times faster than a standard 3G connection.

OpenSignal – Mobile Network Experience, October 2019

Network

4G download/upload speeds

4G latency (ms)

Virgin Mobile (EE)

33.7/8.9Mbps

37.3ms

Three

21.6/7.4Mbps

46.3ms

Vodafone

25.1/7.8Mbps

39.4ms

O2

16.9/5.7Mbps

37.4ms

An OpenSignal report from October 2019 found EE to be faster than any of its rivals, with average 4G download speeds of 33.7Mbps, average 4G upload speeds of 8.9Mbps, and an average latency (the time the network takes to respond to a request) of 37.3ms.

That’s EE, not Virgin Mobile, but as the latter uses the former’s infrastructure, Virgin’s results may well be similar. That said, they probably won’t quite be a match for EE’s, since EE users can also tap into 4G+ and Double Speed services, while Virgin Mobile is limited to standard 4G speeds.

Frequencies

Virgin Network Frequencies

Frequency

Frequency Band

Network

1800MHz

Band 3

2G & 4G

2100MHz

Band 1

3G & 4G

2600MHz

Band 7

4G

As Virgin Mobile is an EE MVNO it uses the same 4G spectrum bands as EE. That means it has access to the 1800MHz band, the 2100MHz band and the 2600MHz band. Between the three bands Virgin Mobile is equipped to deliver reliable 4G signals both in urban and rural locations, over long distances and through walls, while still being able to deliver the capacity needed in busy areas.

As noted above though, Virgin Mobile will be switching to Vodafone’s spectrum and infrastructure in 2021, which will affect the frequencies it uses.

Find out more in our 4G frequencies guide.

Planned improvements

EE (and by extension Virgin Mobile) is seeing a lot of improvements in rural areas. Looking ahead though, it could more be Vodafone’s improvements that benefit Virgin Mobile, since the latter will be switching to Vodafone’s infrastructure in 2021. Regardless, the big thing on the horizon for Virgin is of course 5G.

Traffic management

Virgin Mobile states that 4G plans are not subjected to any traffic management policies, meaning your upload and download speeds won’t be limited other than by the overall speed caps of the network, which stand at 70Mbps for downloads and 35Mbps for upload – of course, your actual speeds may vary, but that will be due to things like your distance from the nearest mast, rather than any policy in place.

Plans

Virgin Mobile offers a range of Pay Monthly and SIM Only plans with 4G offered as standard on all of them. Its plans also include Data Rollover, so you can keep your unused data, and free messaging on WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Twitter, so you can keep communicating even if you’ve used up your data for the month. Plus, you can make use of free Wi-Fi at over 3.5 million hotspots.

Pay Monthly Plans

 

Mobile Phones

SIM Only

Plans Available

Max Data

100GB

* Unlimited if Virgin Media customer

100GB

* Unlimited if Virgin Media customer

Contract lengths

24 or 36 months

12 months

Tethering

VoLTE

WiFi Calling

Data Rollover

Spending Caps

EU Roaming

 

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Virgin Mobile

12 Month Contract

2 GB data

1000 mins

UNLIMITED texts

£6.00 a month

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12 Month Contract

8 GB data

5000 mins

UNLIMITED texts

£9.00 a month

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Virgin Mobile

12 Month Contract

25 GB data

5000 mins

UNLIMITED texts

£15.00 a month

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Virgin Mobile has a number of Pay Monthly plans with different allowances. They top out at 100GB of data and can last 24 months, however interestingly you can also opt for a 36-month plan, which isn't something many networks offer. You can also change your 4G plan up or down every month, making it quite flexible.

Virgin Mobile also has a number of SIM Only plans, each of which lasts for 12 months, so they’re a bit more flexible. They’re also cheaper than its Pay Monthly plans as there’s no phone included, and they top out at 100GB of data.

And those data limits only apply if you’re not a Virgin TV or Broadband customer, if you are then you can access a special plan that offers unlimited data, whether you’re on Pay Monthly or SIM Only.

The upshot of all this is that Virgin Mobile’s plans are good if you want lots of data or lots of flexibility.

Pay As You Go

As of August 2019 Virgin no longer offers Pay As You Go plans.

Tethering

Although Virgin Mobile didn’t used to allow tethering it now does, however, the network doesn’t appear to have published whether there’s any cap to how much data you can use while tethering – presumably that means there are no restrictions.

WiFi Calling

Wi-Fi Calling lets you make and receive calls and get SMS messages over a Wi-Fi network. You still use your normal phone number, it just means you can essentially get a signal in places where there’s no 2G, 3G or 4G coverage. This comes as standard on Virgin Mobile, but is only supported by select handsets, including many recent Samsung and Apple phones. Head here for full, up to date details.

VoLTE

VoLTE stands for Voice over LTE and is sometimes called 4G Calling. It refers to making and receiving calls over 4G and is notable as typically a 2G or 3G signal is required. The main benefit to VoLTE is that it lets you call in places where you wouldn’t be able to otherwise, as they only have a 4G signal. At the moment VoLTE isn’t supported by Virgin Mobile.

Roaming Destinations

Virgin Mobile lets you use your minutes, texts and data at no extra cost across the EU, but not beyond. Having said that, there is a fair usage limit for data when roaming which varies depending on your plan. You can use Virgin Mobile's Data Calculator to find your fair usage limit.

Customer service

While customer service can be hard to judge, based on the available evidence Virgin Mobile’s doesn’t look all that strong.

In an Ofcom report from 2019 the network was found to have received 44 complaints for every 100,000 customers. This might not sound like much, but the industry average is apparently 18 and Virgin Mobile's is the highest and therefore worst of those networks reported on.

The report also found that only 44% of customers were satisfied with the way complaints were handled – that’s fewer than any other tested network.

Conclusion

Virgin Mobile has strong 4G coverage and some near-unique extras, like data rollover and free WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook Messenger messaging. Its prices aren’t too high either, making it a strong overall choice of mobile network. It’s even better if you’re already a Virgin Media customer, as this gives you access to plans with unlimited data, which is something few networks offer.

However, the network no longer offers Pay As You Go, so if that is what you're looking for you need to look elsewhere.

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