Student broadband deals
Compare cheap student broadband deals & short contract broadband offers from the UK's biggest providers. Find out which deals are available in your area with our postcode checker.
Buyers guide to student broadband
Before you buy student broadband you should read our impartial buyers guide to help you make the most informed decision possible.
This independent guide will give you information on how to choose the best student broadband deals, including how to find out what’s available in your area, the important questions to ask yourself when looking for a good deal and what to consider before signing up.
Why choose student broadband?
Starting university or college can be a hugely influential period, and with so many things to think about it can be easy to lose track of the ‘little details’ of everyday life.
However, one of the most important aspects of student life in the 21st Century is internet access, so the ‘little detail’ of a good broadband supply should actually be pretty high up your list of priorities.
If you are in Halls of Residence then you may be able to simply connect onto the network provided by your college. But if yo’re in your own student accommodation, finding the right broadband deals is crucial. There are broadband deals that are specifically aimed at students, with shorter contracts that correspond with the length of time you’ll spend in your term-time accommodation.
These include Virgin Media, who advertise their 9 month student broadband packages during the summer and autumn, and other suppliers who offer one or three month contract deals all year round.
What are my options?
Your first consideration has to be availability, so you should start with our postcode checker at the top of the page to see what’s available where you’ll be spending your academic year.
Next up you need to work out the right contract length, which will depend on how long you intend to stay in the same house or flat. Short-term contracts of one, three or nine months tend to be the best fit as they fit in with accommodation agreements.
Then consider the features of the packages available to you, in terms of monthly usage allowance, speed and any added extras. To help you make that decision, think about:
- How many of you will be sharing the same connection
- How demanding you’ll be (i.e. can you cope with a capped allowance, or will you need to go unlimited)
- Whether to choose standard broadband over a phone line, or superfast fibre broadband (if that’s an option in your area)
If you’re in a shared house and everyone is in agreement, a standard contract package is probably the most cost-effective choice. However, as we said, look for short-term deals, especially if you are not going to be at the property for a full 12 months.
Alternatively, there are other providers who offer ‘contract-free’ services, which basically equate to a rolling monthly service. These are considerably more flexible in nature, but there may be additional set-up and activation fees. However, when compared to the penalty fees longer term contracts can saddle you with if you leave early, they may well turn out to be the most affordable option - especially when split between everyone in the house. Do remember, though, that you will have to include monthly line rental charges for all packages bar Virgin Media broadband only deals.
If you don’t want to tie yourself to a contract at all, or if you just want broadband for your sole use, then a mobile broadband service may be preferable.
What equipment do I need?
First off, you’ll need a wireless router. In most cases you’ll get one free, but you may be charged for postage and packaging. Our advice is to always check before you buy to find out exactly what the deal does and does not include.
Keep in mind that you may have to return or pay for the router if you terminate your contract before the end of the minimum term, so look after it and make sure to keep hold of the packaging it came in.
Will I have to pay line rental?
For almost every broadband deal you’ll need a phone line and to pay line rental at up to £15.99 each month, so factor this in when you’re comparing your options.
You can often get a discount on your line rental by paying for a full year’s worth in one lump sum - although if you’re not sure how long you’re going to be at that address this may turn out to be a false economy, or not an option at all.
Six essential questions to ask before you buy
When weighing up the pros and cons of the different broadband providers and packages in your area it’s a good idea to think about how you would answer each of these six essential questions
- How many people will be sharing my broadband connection?
- What speed will be sufficient to give us all a good service?
- Will I need to pay line rental, and/or any one-off fees?
- How long a contract should I choose?
- What kind of early termination charges apply if I need to cancel early?
- Do I want to get a bundle of broadband with calls, and maybe digital TV too?
Choosing the right speed
The more people you’ll be sharing with, the slower your download speed will be – so if you're comparing deals for a house full of fellow students it’s essential to get a broadband connection that’s up to the task.
For one, two or even three users a traditional ADSL package should be fine, especially if you’re considerate and don’t all start streaming HD iPlayer content at the same time. For larger homes of four or more, a superfast fibre broadband connection at up to 30Mbps or faster is probably a better ideal – assuming of course that this is an option at your address.
Unlimited verses capped usage
If you are a heavy user or there’s more than two of you then it may be a better idea to go for unlimited usage. However, if you’re going to be vigilant and stay within a fixed usage limit then a cheaper option with a monthly cap may be all you need.
Be warned though – it’s all too easy to go over that limit, and if you do you will be charged extra or even get put onto a higher tariff without any notice. So you need to ensure that your contract includes enough monthly usage to cover everyone’s needs.
Use our comparison checker to see what limits individual suppliers put on their usage policies (including ‘fair usage’ and ‘traffic management’ activity), as well as what additional fees you may have to pay for unlimited services.
Get the right contract
A nine-month contract is the ideal length for students in their last year, or for those who head back home for the summer break. But with so many different types of contract available, it’s worth reiterating how important it is to check the small print and choose a contract length that suits your plans. If you’re only going to be at the property for a term, then look for very short-term contracts of around three months.
Rolling contracts of 30 days are perhaps preferable if your plans are even more fluid. If you’re spending the entire year in a property then it’s worth looking for a 12-month contract that’s more affordable than shorter-term contracts. Basically, if you want the ability to chop and change your contracts by taking a 30-day deal or a three-month contract, then expect to pay a higher rate.
Providers like customers who commit to them for at least 12 months, so if you do take a longer contract then there’s a good chance that you’ll get a better deal on price. You’ve also got more of a choice on unlimited usage with longer-term contracts, and the whole thing can be managed between everyone within the house relatively easily.
Get out of Jail not-so-free…
If you do decide to cut your contract short, again, expect to be charged for the privilege. You’ll probably end up paying the full monthly cost, multiplied by the number of months you have left on your contract – and that could run into hundreds of pounds. You may also be charged for that ‘free’ router they sent you, or asked to return it at your own expense.
Payment may be taken automatically out of your account, especially if you’ve set up a direct debit, and if you don’t pay it can seriously affect your credit rating, making it nigh on impossible to sign up with another provider further down the road. So think carefully before bailing out early – it could in theory cost you much more than you thought.
The temptation may be to ‘bundle’ everything together for ease, but that can also tie you into lengthy contracts with high get-out fees.
Also remember that if you do leave early, the more services you have bundled together, the higher the early-exit fees will be, and you may also have to return equipment or pay hundreds of pounds to keep it. The same applies for broadband routers – it’s important to check whether you have to return it if you leave your contract early, as ‘free’ doesn’t always actually mean free!