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BT Infinity 100 vs Virgin Media 100: Clash of the 100Mbps broadband titans

BT Infinity, BT’s cable services finally launched after Virgin Media had enjoyed being the sole mainstream provider of cable since 2006. We’ve taken a comprehensive look at the top tier fibre broadband services available from BT and Virgin Media: BT Infinity 100 and Virgin Media 100, the 100Mbps heavyweights.

BT Infinity 100 vs Virgin Media 100: Clash of the 100Mbps broadband titans

BT Infinity 100 features

Available to a just a handful of subscribers right now, BT Infinity 100 promises top download speeds of 100Mbps (natch) and max upload speeds of 15Mbps.

As with BT’s other fibre broadband products, you can enjoy unlimited downloads with BT Infinity 100. Bear in mind though that the traffic management policy means use of P2P services will see your connection speed drop.

The monthly cost of BT Infinity 100 (not including anything else) is £35/month.

Evening and weekend landline calls (to 01, 02, 03 and 0845 and 0870 numbers) are bunged in for free, and there’s the option of adding Anytime calls for an extra £4.90 a month.

BT line rental works out at £10.75 a month.

BT Infinity 100 costs

Monthly cost: £35/month
Top download speed: 100Mbps
Top upload speed: 15Mbps
Download cap: Unlimited
Line rental: £10.75/month
Installation charge: N/A
Minimum contract: 18 months
Total Monthly Cost: £45.75/month

BT Infinity 100: Things to consider

Adding extra phone calls for £4.90 a month with BT Infinity 100 will see the monthly cost climb to £50.65/month.

Oddly, the upload speeds you get with BT Infinity 100 are a little slower than what you get with the cheaper BT Infinity 2 package. Depending on whether you prioritise slightly faster downloads over uploads, you’ve got an interesting choice on your hands here.

Shelling out for BT Infinity 2 will see you paying a total of £36.75 a month (including line rental) and getting up to 76Mbps downstream and 19Mbps upstream.

BT Infinity 100 gives you faster downloads (up to 100Mbps) and slower uploads (up to 15Mbps) for £9 more a month.

Depending on how long you’re prepared to wait, this could be academic; BT will start upgrading all of its 100Mbps services, bringing top speeds of 300Mbps across the network, in Spring 2013.

You’ve also got the option of adding BT Vision to either package for an extra £4 or £12.50 a month. This gives you access to catch-up TV through the BBC iPlayer as well as 70 Freeview channels.

The £4 BT Vision offer lets you purchase extra on-demand content from 50p per programme whereas the £12.50 BT Vision deal gives you unlimited access to the library of Picturebox, Film4, Cartoon Network and ESPN content. Sky Sports 1 and 2 are available as options on both packages.

BT Infinity 100 Traffic Management Policy

From BT’s site: 

“To protect the performance of the network and to ensure the best experience for all users of the service, at peak times we may manage the speed of non-time critical applications such as P2P.

P2P refers to certain applications that enable files and program sharing between groups of people logged on to a P2P network. Because they use uploads and downloads and are often left running 24/7, they consume significant bandwidth, even when being used by just a small number of customers.

Because a lot of P2P traffic is not time-critical – for example, downloading and uploading TV programmes or movies for later viewing – we treat P2P traffic differently from time-critical traffic (such as surfing, streaming or internet telephony) and apply speed restrictions to all P2P traffic. We manage these restrictions daily based on the demands on the network, but downstream restrictions will typically be in place 4pm – midnight on weekdays and 9am – midnight on the weekend. Upstream restrictions may be in place at other times.”

Read the full policy here.

BT Infinity 100 vs Virgin Media 100: Clash of the 100Mbps broadband titans

Virgin Media 100 features

Virgin Media 100Mbps is available to a greater number of customers than BT Infinity 100 currently is. Though BT plans to connect two-thirds of the UK to its fibre network by 2015, not all of these connections will be able to get the fastest 100/300Mbps services.

Virgin Media by comparison has a much bigger reach – over 50 per cent of the UK can access Virgin Media’s cable services.

As well as this, Virgin Media is currently upgrading its 100Mbps service so that 120Mbps downstream speeds will come online across the network by the end of February 2013. So chances are if you can get Virgin Media in your area you might be able to get speeds of up to 120Mbps!

P2P and newsgroup/Usenet will see your connection speed drop however. Virgin Media also throttles traffic at certain times; we’ll detail the ins and out of this in the section below.

No calls are included with Virgin Media 100 on its own, but if you take a Virgin Phone line (£13.90/month line rental) then you get Virgin Media Talk Weekends (free calls to 01, 02, 03 and 0870 and to Virgin Mobile numbers) thrown in.

Talk Evenings & Weekends can be added for an extra £4.60 a month and Talk Unlimited can be had for an extra £8 a month.

For the interests of comparison with BT Infinity 100, which throws in free calls (and requires you pay line rental) we’re looking at the prices of Virgin Media 100 with the phone line thrown in.

Virgin Media 100 costs

Monthly cost: £20.50/month
Top download speed: 100Mbps
Top upload speed: 10Mbps
Download cap: Unlimited
Line rental: £13.90/month
Installation charge: N/A
Minimum contract: 18 months
Total Monthly Cost: £34.40/month

Virgin Media 100: Things to consider

Virgin Media 100 is considerably cheaper than BT Infinity 100 and is more widely available. Should you wish it, the digital TV options available give you a greater number of channels and on-demand options.

The Virgin Media TiVo set-top box is more advanced than the BT Vision box, allowing you to record up to three programmes at once, supporting 3D TV broadcasts as well as HD transmissions. The 1TB hard drive also gives you plenty of recording space.

The high end VIP Collection bundle of services gives you 100Mbps broadband, 205 channels, the Virgin Media TiVo box and the Talk Unlimited phone package for £45/month.

Factor in the line rental and this climbs to £58.90/month.

The closest BT bundle equivalent would cost £58.25/month – 65p less – and doesn’t offer half as much in the way of digital TV services.

Plus, with the 120Mbps speed upgrade happening right now, you’re more likely to get a faster service right now than you would with BT Infinity 100.

On the downside, Virgin Media’s traffic management policy is a hair more confusing than BT’s.

Though you get unlimited downloads with Virgin Media 100Mbps, there’s a couple of ceiling limits which, if exceeded, will see your download speed throttled by 50 per cent for a 5 hour period.

Between the hours of 10am and 3pm, there’s a 20GB cap and between 4pm and 9pm there’s a 10GB cap. Basically, anything you download after 9pm until 10am the next morning will be free from throttling.

For P2P traffic, there’s a separate policy altogether: between 5pm and midnight on weekdays and midday and midnight on weekends, all P2P traffic will be throtted; see the section below for a more detailed explanation.

Though it might not mean much, the upload speeds on BT Infinity 100 are faster; 15Mbps compared to the 10Mbps you can get with Virgin Media 100. Theoretically, this will climb to 12Mbps once the speed boost upgrade rolls out in your area, but you’ll need to ask yourself if that’s really more important than a faster download speed.

Virgin Media 100 Traffic Management Policy

From Virgin Media’s site:

“At peak times we also slow down the speed of file sharing traffic – that’s services like Limewire, Gnutella, BitTorrent and Newsgroup (Usenet) traffic. You will, of course, still be able to use these services, but downloads and uploads will take longer during these peak periods.”

There is also a separate policy for P2P traffic: 

“We moderate the total volume of file sharing traffic on our network between 5pm and midnight on weekdays and midday and midnight on weekends. This policy, which applies to all broadband packages, is restricted to Peer to Peer (“P2P”) applications which are commonly used to distribute large amounts of data.”

BT Infinity 100 vs Virgin Media 100: Clash of the 100Mbps broadband titans

Read the full policy here.

BT Infinity 100 vs Virgin Media 100: Conclusion

Going by the fact that it’s cheaper, more widely available and that speed upgrades are happening right now, it’s hard not to recommend Virgin Media 100 as the superior service over BT Infinity 100.

Throw in the superior digital TV offerings and it’s a no brainer, that is if you want your home phone, broadband and TV eggs in the same basket.

If you’re able to get BT Infinity 100 though, you might be enticed by the prospect of accessing a 300Mbps service in a year’s time. Seeing as both ISPs will ask you to sign an 18 month contract, by the time 300Mbps starts rolling out, you might be well positioned to be the first in the UK to get these next gen broadband speeds.

If you can get both services in your area then it’s really a question of what you value more; fast broadband that’s future proofed for 300Mbps downstream speeds or a comprehensive digital TV, home phone and a broadband service that’s getting upgraded to 120Mbps right now.


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