All about student broadband
In this guide
- Student broadband deals
- Special student broadband contracts
- Rolling broadband contracts
- Mobile broadband
- Frequently asked questions
Going through university without an internet connection isn't an option. Odds on, this will be the first time you have signed up for broadband. Ideally, you will look for the best student broadband deals: reliable, flexible, and above all, affordable.
Student broadband deals
Students have certain needs that set them apart from most other households. Of course, if you're living at home during university, this doesn't apply. For those of you sharing the typical student flat, here are a few things to look out for:
- Length of contract — A rolling contract is probably the best option if you’re a student and only plan on living in student accommodation during term time. You’re not locked into a contract for 12, 18 or 24 months and you won’t have to pay a fee to end the contract early.
- Type of connection — You'll probably want to go for fibre broadband rather than ADSL for a faster, more reliable connection. That goes double if there are a few of you sharing the flat — especially if anyone's a gamer or someone who enjoys bingeing on Netflix.
- Credit checks — Some providers run a credit check when you sign a contract. Others don't. If your student finances are tight, and you're concerned about your credit rating,NOW Broadband andDirect Save Telecom don’t do credit checks.
- Mobile broadband — If you're bouncing from one flat to another, thenmobile broadband may suit your lifestyle. You'll get a Mifi device to create a hotspot, for totally portable broadband. With the advent of 5G it’s quite possible that you’ll get a faster connection than you would from an Openreach connection, though this depends on what is available where you live. In addition, there are plenty of unlimited data SIMs to choose from these days. It's generally not worth it for anyone permanently settled in one place – but not many students fit that description!
Remember, one of your first steps should always be to see which providers are available in your area. The broadband provider your family uses at home might not be available in your student flat or may not offer the best bandwidth. Use our postcode checker to get started.
Special student broadband contracts
At certain times, you may be able to find a deal specifically for students. While there may be a number of freebies and special perks thrown in, the main thing that sets a student contract apart is its duration. Usually, a student contract will last for nine months rather than 12, leaving you free during the summer.
Not sure if you should go for a student contract? Here are somethings to consider:
- Availability— Specifically, student contracts are on offer in September and October – as you'd probably expect. That means they're not so great if you're spending one term abroad, or if you just miss the boat on signing up.
- Student-only perks— Providers know that students love freebies. You might find a lot of enticing specials attached to a student contract. Just make sure you'll actually take advantage of them! Remember that as the academic year progresses you may find a cheaper contract more useful than a new toy.
- Expensive— It's worth shopping around and paying attention, as you might find a full 12-month contract is actually cheaper than a student special. It sounds counterintuitive, but providers are always trying to undercut each other, especially at the budget end of the market.
- Summers away— If your summer plans are set in stone, you might want to take advantage of one of these special offers. That way, you can leave your student accommodation in June without any fuss. However, some students end up staying in their university town, for work, re-sits, or social reasons. If this is the case, you might as well get a contract for a full year.
Rolling broadband contracts
Some people call these no-contract broadband deals, but that's not quite accurate. They’re actually contracts that roll over each month. Rather than committing to 9, 12, or 18 months right at the start, you'll have more freedom.
These contracts are great if you're uncertain about your living situation, or you're going to do a term abroad. You have a lot more flexibility, as you can get out of the contract by giving 30 days’ notice.
Having said that, they're not for everyone, and they may not be the answer to every student's dreams. Here's the lowdown:
- Upfront costs — Some provider’s upfront costs will set you back as much as £80, while others don’t have any at all.
- More expensive per month — Of course, deals vary and change all the time, but in general, you can expect to pay a higher rate for a rolling contract.
- No cancellation fees — You can get out of one of these contracts any time you like, with just a month's notice. When you compare that to the enormous fees you'll often have to pay for cancelling a fixed-term contract, you can see the appeal.
- Short-term contracts — Apart from the nine-month student deals that may appear in September/October, this is it. There are no three or six-month contracts out there. If you know that you'll only need a home broadband connection for a few months, a rolling contract is essentially your only choice.
- Availability — Unlike a special student contract, rolling contracts are available at any time. That's because they're not just for students.
Mobile broadband offers another solution for the student household. The main benefit is its total portability. The only problem is it’s not as reliable as a fixed-line connection. You need to think about how much data you will use as well. Mobile broadband often comes with a set data limit each month but there are plenty of unlimited data deals available these days. If you happen to live in a town or city with 5G, you may even get a faster connection than you’d get from an Openreach fibre connection. However, mobile broadband is rarely a good solution if you're living in one fixed location. If you're moving about a lot, though, it can work as a handy alternative to home broadband.
Frequently asked questions
Do I need a student card or number to get student broadband?
Some deals may request some form of identification that proves you are a student. It depends on the provider and their terms and conditions, so check in advance.
What happens if I leave a contract early?
You'll have a fee to pay. This fee is usually very large, but it varies according to the time left on your contract. Normally, you'll have to pay a certain amount per month left on the contract. Therefore, if you sign a contract in September and try to leave in November, your fee will be extremely high. If you try to leave in July, it will be significantly lower. It is often possible to take your broadband with you when you move, but that may not be useful if you are moving to another student house which is already connected.
What sort of connection should I get for gaming?
If you download a lot of games, then you'll need high speeds. Look for fast fibre broadband of 50Mbps or more. This still might be a bit frustrating when you're downloading upgrades; if that's the case, you'll need an ultrafast connection of 100Mbps or more.