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Broadband in shared accommodation

By Claire Nottage | Monday, December 12th 2022

Unless you live alone, you will have to share your broadband connection with other people. Whether that is with one other person at home or with a university hall full of students, there are several things worth thinking about to ensure your internet access isn’t interrupted.

From knowing that your connection is going to be fast enough for everyone’s browsing habits, to logging on to a shared public wifi network securely, this guide looks at the various aspects of using a shared broadband connection.

Shared broadband in a private home

In a modern, private household, there is likely to be a growing collection of devices that connect to the internet, from mobile phones, laptops and tablets to games consoles and smart devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Next. Even fridges and watches can connect to the internet these days. With that in mind, the speed of your broadband connection will need to be fast enough to support all these devices at once.

Whether you live in a household of two or twenty, this is the most important factor in choosing a broadband package, as the more devices you connect to your broadband, the greater the speed you will need. In a household with just a couple of devices, a standard broadband connection will be enough, but with the ever-increasing numbers of internet-reliant devices available, most households will benefit from an entry-level fibre speed of around 35Mbps as a minimum.

Broadband in houseshare accommodation

If you are living in shared accommodation, then things get a little more complicated as everyone sharing the connection will need to agree to the cost as well as the speed. Even if you are living with friends, things can get difficult when it comes to finances, so make sure everyone is in agreement over who is paying what from the word go.

Decide how much you are prepared to pay

If you’re a student and looking to get as cheap a deal as possible, there isn’t actually a lot of difference in price between a standard ADSL broadband service to an entry-level fibre connection. With ADSL services costing around £18 per month, and basic fibre packages only around £24 per month, you may well agree it’s worth spending the extra few quid between you so you can all enjoy smoother streaming and faster downloading.

Work out what speed broadband you need

The broadband speed you will need depends on how many people are sharing it, how they are using it, and how many devices the connection needs to support. For small households of just one or two people, a standard broadband connection may suffice. If you do a lot of streaming or downloading, which is very demanding on download speeds, you might need to explore fibre.

For three to six housemates you will undoubtedly need a fibre connection, which can offer average speeds between 35Mbps and 80Mbps based on which package you choose. Households whose internet activity is low may be happy with an entry-level package, around the 35Mbps mark. Those whose nightly routine sees multiple housemates streaming TV in high definition or gaming online may prefer a top-end package, with speeds from 65Mbps and above.

Of course, as full fibre becomes increasingly available around the country, you may also be able to get a good deal on a package with ultrafast speeds, typically 100Mbps and beyond. For larger houseshares, or for homes where everyone is constantly online, the cost of full fibre may be a worthwhile shared expense.

If you’re not sure what to get, most providers will happily let you upgrade to a faster package if you need to, so sign up to an entry-level fibre package and you can always opt for a faster one if need be. Just make sure everyone in the house agrees to the price increase first.

Decide whether to add in a calls package or not

If you are sharing standard or fibre broadband, you will also be sharing a phone line, so it’s worth discussing whether anyone wants to use the landline for making outgoing calls. With mobiles now offering pretty much unlimited calls however, you might all be happy to not use the landline at all.

How to manage bills for shared broadband

Broadband contracts are with a person not a property, so one housemate must take on the responsibility and risk of being the bill payer. If the bill payer moves out before the end of the contract you have three choices – either they take the contract with them to their new address (subject to availability), the bill payer transfers the contract to another housemate, or you all agree to cancel the service completely. If you have to cancel in the middle of a contract then the bill payer will be legally liable for termination fees, which should be split between the existing housemates.

Before you sign up to a broadband contract, make sure you have a failsafe system for ensuring everyone pays their fair share. One way to do this is to use a bill-splitting app, which is ideal for managing finances for other shared utilities including gas, electricity and water. Alternatively, create a bank account for bills into which everyone pays a fixed amount each month or term to cover the costs. Request that everyone sets up a direct debit for this if need be.

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Shared broadband in a block of flats

Most blocks of flats have an internal distribution point, the equivalent of a local street cabinet, where the cable comes into the building. From there, the lines break off into individual flats, supplying an individual connection to the residents, so the broadband connection is not technically shared.

If you already have a functioning landline in your flat you should be able to pick a broadband provider of your choice that runs on the Openreach network, such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk, and EE. Alternatively, you can arrange a new connection with Virgin Media, which operates on a different network from the other providers.

Virgin offers several solutions to help get flat-dwellers connected so you shouldn’t have any problems as long as Virgin Media already operates in your area. If you own the flat, then the process should be fairly straightforward, but if you rent it, you will need to get your landlord’s permission, which could delay how quickly you are connected.

Fortunately, increasing numbers of flats are now having full fibre broadband installed, offering all residents access to high-speed gigabit broadband. Openreach is in the middle of upgrading its fibre network through 2026, and Virgin Media offers Gig1 – its 1130 Mbps connection – in selected areas of the UK. Local alternatives like CityFibre and Hyperoptic also have growing networks in major cities.

Shared broadband in student accommodation

If you are a student living in college or university accommodation, it’s likely your internet will be supplied by the accommodation itself. You won’t need to set up your own broadband contract, and bills are typically factored into the cost of your rent. Though the broadband is private, you’ll be sharing wifi with your flatmates and potentially neighbouring flats too, depending on how many wifi routers are installed in the building.

If you find download speeds are poor, you might consider getting a 4G (or 5G) Hub. Mobile broadband contracts let you access 4G speeds wirelessly, with a portable hotspot you can set up anywhere. Most mobile broadband providers offer monthly rolling contracts too, so you can get connected during term-time with no additional commitments. A benefit here is that you’ll be the sole user, so you have some peace of mind where security is concerned.

For additional security on the accommodation’s network, you might also consider sorting yourself out with a Virtual Private Network to protect your browsing, to reduce the risk of being hacked or phished. You should also ensure you have decent antivirus software on your devices to fend off viruses.

Using shared public wifi

Public wifi is an internet connection that you can access when you are out and about – in cafes and restaurants, libraries, universities and hotels. In most cases, access will be free, but you may have to log in first with an advertised password. Shared wifi is invariably quite slow, purely because of the number of people using it. Many premises just offer customer access to their router, usually specifically designated for public use.

Sky and BT both offer their own networks of wifi hotspots around the UK. Sky broadband customers get free access to The Cloud, also known as Sky WiFi (owned by Sky), available in over 20,000 hotspots, including a number of shopping centres. You will need your Sky login details in order to be able to access The Cloud or you can set up a free account if you are not with Sky. The Sky Cloud WiFi App will automatically alert you and connect your device if you are in proximity of the service.

BT WiFi offers around five million hotspots around the country. BT broadband customers can log in for free and will be alerted when they are near a hotspot. Non-BT customers can also use BT WiFi but will have to pay for access either hourly, daily, or monthly.

Public wifi is not as secure as either your home wifi or your mobile network, since you don’t know who else is connected to it and what level of security is being used. If you need to do anything online that involves your personal information, then you are best sticking to using the 4G connection on your mobile – or waiting until you get home.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need to pay for a landline in shared accommodation?

If there is not a landline already connected to your property, you will need to have one installed, which comes with a fee. In most cases, your landlord should have already arranged this. The cost of the monthly line rental is then included in your monthly broadband bill.

Is shared wifi safe?

If you are using wifi within your own private home, then you can install security software that will make your home wifi very secure. If you are sharing home wifi with others, then a little more caution is required and it may also be worth investing in a VPN to protect your connection if you don’t trust your housemates or the security on the shared connection.

Can I share 4G home broadband?

Yes. 4G/5G home broadband is on the rise, removing the need for cabling. In order to share the signal, you just need to give out the password that allows others to connect.

Should I get unlimited broadband in my house share?

Yes. Most providers now offer unlimited broadband as standard. An unlimited broadband connection removes the worry of busting your usage limit and incurring fees.

Will my partner’s care home have free wifi?

Care homes and nursing homes increasingly offer free wifi to their residents since for many older people, broadband offers the ability to stay in touch with family and friends and keep an active mind. Check with your chosen care home to find out what is on offer.

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