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How does Virgin Mobile stack up against the other rival networks?

Another mobile provider has been added to the mix, but is there enough there to convince people to switch?

Richard Branson at the launch party for Virgin Media last week.
Richard Branson at the launch party for Virgin Media last week.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

AFTER A HIGH-PROFILE launch party on Friday which saw UPC officially rebranded as Virgin Media, the service gets down to business by officially launching its mobile service today.

It enters an increasingly crowded market – it’s the second new addition in about as many months - but how does it compare to the competition and is there enough there to convince people to switch?

So what exactly is Virgin Mobile offering?

The big part is there are no contracts for users to sign up to. Instead, it only offers 30-day contracts meaning customers can leave or switch at any time.

Much like Tesco Mobile and ID, Virgin Mobile is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) meaning it uses the infrastructure from Three to bring its service. Three did recently announce it was investing heavily in its infrastructure but for those already on the network, the results of that investment won’t arise until much later.

For the first few months, the service will be offering 2G and 3G services. All of its plans are ’4G ready’ meaning when it introduces 4G, all customers will get it automatically. Virgin Mobile say 4G will be introduced in the first half of 2016.

Interestingly, Virgin Mobile isn’t selling any phones or handsets. Instead, it’s only dealing with SIM-cards so you will have to stick to your current phone or buy a new one elsewhere.

So what’s the cost?

The major takeaway for Current Virgin customers is the deals are a little bit cheaper for them, compared to new customers.

Since the focus is to convince existing customers to switch mobile providers, its unlimited offer is free for the first three months although the catch is you have to re-commit for 12 months on your Virgin Media fixed services (broadband and/or TV package).

Non-Virgin customers aren’t as lucky with the unlimited plan costing €30 per month and no free period to ease you in.

Here is the breakdown of both plans for current and non-Virgin customers.

Virgin customers
€15 per month - 250 mins, 250 texts, 1GB.
€25 per month - Unlimited calls, texts, and data.*

Non-Virgin customers
€20 per month - 250 mins, 250 texts, 1GB.
€30 per month- Unlimited calls, texts, and data.*

There is also the option to get an international add-on which costs an extra €5 per month. This isn’t a roaming package but instead applies to international calls and texts from Ireland.

The add-on includes 50 minutes and 50 texts to any landline and mobile in Europe Zone 1 which includes:

UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, Hungary, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Poland, Portugal, Luxembourg, Austria, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Liechtenstein, Greenland, Monaco, Andorra, San Marino and Vatican City.

*In this context, unlimited means a monthly allowance of 10,000 minutes (landline and mobile), 10,000 texts and 30GB of data. This only applies when you’re in Ireland and does not apply when you make calls or send texts to an outside number, or make them outside of the country.

These conditions are consistent across all of the other mobile providers out there.

90395378 Richard Branson with Virgin Ireland chief executive Magnus Ternsjo at the launch of Virgin Ireland. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

How does this compare to other rivals?

In terms of choice, it’s limited. Two contract options – with the emphasis leaning heavily on the unlimited plan – doesn’t give much choice, especially when you compare it to other rival plans like the ones offered by ID.

However, it is priced competitively compared to its rivals, and it needs to be as it has much to compete against both established players and new and more flexible rivals.

All prices below are for SIM-only billpay plans.

Vodafone

90344483 Source: RollingNews.ie

€30 per month - (30-day contract) Unlimited calls/texts to any network* + 1GB data.

€35 per month - (12-month contract) Unlimited calls/texts to any network* + 5GB data + 100 international minutes + 100 international texts.

*No limit was specified in the terms and conditions for Vodafone’s SIM-only plans.

Three

90354478 Source: RollingNews.ie

€25.41 per month - (30-day contract) 350 flexi-units (calls and texts) All you can eat data, Unlimited Three to Three calls.*

€39.75 per month - (30-day contract) Unlimited* flexi-units (calls and texts) Unlimited Three to Three calls.*

*Unlimited refers to 3,000 minutes per month regarding Three to Three calls, 10,000 flexi-units, and All you can eat data has a cap of 15GB where going over it could result in limited access.

Meteor

€12 per month – (30 day contract) 100 minutes, Unlimited texts, 1GB of data (No 4G)

€20 per month - (30 day contract) 400 minutes, Unlimited texts, 2GB of data 

€24 per month - (30 day contract) Unlimited minutes and texts, 5GB of data 

€31.20 per month - (30 day contract) Unlimited minutes and texts 50 EU roaming mins and texts, 50 international mins and texts,  15GB of data

*Unlimited means 45,000 minutes and 10,000 texts.

Tesco Mobile

90313949 Source: Rollingnews.ie

€10 per month - (30-day SIM<) 100 minutes, 100 texts, 100MB of data.

€20 per month - (30-day SIM) 300 minutes, 300 texts, 500MB of data.

€30 per month - (30-day SIM) Unlimited* minutes and texts, 15GB of data.

€25 per month - (12-month SIM) Unlimited* minutes and texts, 15GB of data.

*Unlimited means up to 10,000 minutes, 10,000 texts, and 15GB of data.

ID

Due to the nature of ID’s plans, there are numerous variations to choose from so listing all of the possible combinations would be both long and impractical.

All SIM-only billpay plans are 30-day contracts and all amounts (minutes, calls and data) offered are listed alongside their cost.

Minutes - 100 (€3.50), 250 (€5), 500 (€6.50) 1,000 (€7.50) and 5,000 (€8).

Texts - 100 (€3.50), 250 (€5), 500 (€6.50) 1,000 (€7.50) and 5,000 (€8).

Data - 125MB (€3) 500MB (€5), 1GB (€7), 3GB (€10), 20GB (€13).

Great, but is Virgin’s deal worth considering?

On the surface, its unlimited plans and data allowance looks great. 30GB is a generous allowance per month and its closest rival, ID, offers 20GB at best.

But the unlimited deal that Virgin offers will only be tempting to those who are already customers since the first three months, the price is reduced slightly (even without the free months, the plan would cost €300 per year) and it requires you to commit to Virgin Media services for another year.

90395325 Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

The 30-day contract offer does mean you can opt-out of its mobile service at any time, making such a transition less risky if it not quite what you’re looking for.

If you’re a non-Virgin customer, then it doesn’t quite work out as well as the cost for the unlimited plan is €360 per year, which similar to many other plans out there. You might not even need unlimited calls and 30GB, while generous, could be overkill if you’re not a heavy data user.

There’s also the small matter of waiting till next year for 4G coverage, meaning you’ll be hard pressed to reach that limit with a 2G/3G connection (something to think about if you’re switching from a plan that allows 4G).

In short, if you’re already with Virgin, then the unlimited plan is an interesting option to consider, especially if you’re a heavy data user and intend to continue using its broadband and/or TV services for the next year or so.

For those who aren’t already customers, it’s recommended you look at the breakdown of calls, texts and data you use first before you make the leap. It’s tempting, but shopping around first could be better for your wallet in the long-run.

Update: An earlier version of this article had the mobile tariffs for Meteor and not the SIM-only plans. This has now been corrected.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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