Don't Settle for Second Best
We’ll have a look at the broadband TV bundles and phone offerings from the different providers. We’ll compare Sky and Virgin by looking at all the components of their packages and also their coverage. By the end of this piece, you should be in the position to make a good informed decision about the best way to go.
It’s clear that Virgin Media and Sky TV are the leading companies that provide broadband, TV, and phone bundles. They both offer fantastic packages for TV and a range of broadband services and telephone offerings to meet different user requirements. Packages are more competitive than ever before, and the offers more comprehensive.
A Look at the Different Components of the Providers
Both Sky and Virgin offers some really good deals. Let’s have a look at the packages.
Sky-Broadband runs speeds up to 76Mbps and Virgin Media runs speeds up to 120Mbps. They are 420 TV channels on Sky and 225 on Virgin. There are 66 HD channels on Sky and 38 on Virgin. With a home phone on Sky, you can get weekend or anytime calls and on Virgin, you can get weekend, evening on weekend, or any time goes.
Line rental with Sky is £14.50 and with Virgin it is £14.90. You have prices starting from £7.50 on Sky and £4 on Virgin. Now we’ve had a look at the overall state of affairs, let’s focus in on broadband.
Sky-Broadband and Virgin Broadband
Virgin is of course the most renowned internet service providers in the market. They have had many years of success providing top speeds to UK consumers. Sky is a more recent entrant to the market having purchased EZ Blaze and recently Telefonica. Having said all that, Sky is leading the way in terms of many aspects of their packages. For example, they do not have a fair usage policy, do not shape traffic, and have a truly unlimited monthly allowance.
Virgin on the other hand, limits uses on most of their packages to a certain cap by implementing a fair usage policy and traffic shaping. They do this to ensure stability of their networks, and it can be quite limiting for heavy consumers. Their top level packages have recently gained unlimited status but most of their packages do not include unlimited data in the true sense. Contract lengths on Sky Broadband packages tend to be 12 months and on Virgin 18 months.
Let’s go further into the packages now.
Customers with Virgin get a free Virgin Media super-hub router. With it you can get online with up to 20 devices wirelessly and four devices wired through Ethernet cables. There are three main speed levels that are offered in Virgin packages and these are:
- Up to 100Mbps
- Up to 60 Mbps
- Up to 30 Mbps
Most of the Virgin packages as we’ve seen are not truly unlimited. At peak times they will shape traffic to ensure stability on their network and will slow users and even prevent certain tasks. If users go over their daily peak allowance of data, they will have their connections slowed for five hours.
If you don’t need to have a landline to make calls, then Virgin provides the opportunity to avoid the requirement as they have their cables coming all the way to your home.
Most Sky customers are on ADSL packages through their phone lines. They have a really good entry level package called the Sky Broadband Light Package which is completely free when you have a Sky TV bundle. It only has 2GB of data allowance but it’s enough for the lightest consumers.
The Sky Broadband Unlimited Package is really where the advantage with Sky lies. They have absolutely no download limits, no shaping of traffic, and no fair usage policy. You are free to do whatever you want, whenever you want to do it on Sky Broadband Unlimited.
One challenge with the Sky packages on ADSL is that your speed is heavily dependent on your location. If you live close to the telephone exchange, you’ll likely to get good speeds, if you don’t then you won’t. With the unlimited packages on Sky, you get access to the Cloud Network and free Wifi access.
The Broadband Verdict
Both providers are excellent players in the broadband industry. Sky has the advantage of offering truly unlimited broadband. Virgin doesn’t have many public WiFi networks but they have recently set up a relationship with London Underground where they have installed their cables and are offering free WiFi to their consumers on the Tube.
The fair usage policies by Virgin, although restrictive, are very generous. Most people will not be affected by them at all. The super hub router from Virgin is also better than the Sky router in my opinion and you get better speeds with the Virgin media connections.
All in all, Virgin Media is probably a better broadband provider but if you can get Sky ADSL to a decent level of connectivity, you should be happy with that too.
A Quick Look at Digital TV
Sky offers 300+ channels compared to Virgin Media’s 35 and also more HD channels. The digital recorder for Sky is the Sky Plus HD Box, and for Virgin it is Tivo. You can record one extra program at a time with Virgin which can be a good positive. However, the Sky HD Box has a higher capacity than the Virgin box.
Certainly, Sky wins the digital TV race because of the volume of TV channels available and also the Sky specialities such as Sky Atlantic and Sky Sports F1 HD.
The Home Phone
Many of us don’t use our phones that much these days because of our smartphones. We have such large allowances of data and talk on our phones that it really is unnecessary to get on the landline except for non-geographical numbers.
When it comes to getting a deal, Sky offers better packages than Virgin. You also can call overseas much cheaper through Sky.
There are excellent offerings and deals from both Sky and Virgin Media for bundles. You can get discounts of line rental broadband and many other things and the best deals really do come down to what’s available at any particular time. Look out for Marks and Spencer vouchers through Sky and get a referral from a friend to his own Sky if you want them to benefit too.
Sky and Virgin Media deliver their services very differently. Sky is a satellite TV provider using a dish with coverage all over the country. Virgin on the other hand uses their fibre optic cables to provide their TV network. Virgin Media is available to around 50% of the country and they are rolling out their fibre optic network further as we speak. However, Sky certainly is more widely available in terms of satellite and the ADSL connectivity that Sky uses for much of its broadband is available widely as well. In fact, there are probably only around 200,000 homes in the UK that can’t get both the Sky TV and Broadband package. Where you live will dictate what speeds you can get on Sky but on a coverage basis, Sky certainly wins this race.