How to choose the best student broadband
A comprehensive broadband deal is probably not the first, most important expenditure if you’re studying at Uni.
If our memories of it are anything to go by, questions like ‘Where is my next beans on toast coming from?’ tended to supersede the luxuries. The top providers have finally cottoned on, and now offer broadband packages with both price and contact length geared especially towards students. Here’s everything you need to know.
In this guide...
BT and Virgin Media – it's a two-horse race
Only two providers offer specific student broadband packages, and they are two of the biggest providers in the country: BT and Virgin Media. Both offer fibre optic broadband, while only BT offers standard (ADSL) broadband. Both offer nine-month contracts to cover the duration of the 2014/15 academic year, intended to start in October and end in June.
Cable.co.uk has produced in-depth reviews of the UK's two student broadband packages; follow the links below to check out what we think about Virgin Media and BT's student broadband.
Choose the right contract length
One of the differences between student broadband packages and other home broadband packages is the nine-month contract length. This means you don’t have to pay for a 12-month broadband package that you won’t be using if you’re away over the summer.
12 or 18-month deals might suit some students
However, just because you're a student, it doesn’t mean that you have to opt for a short-contract broadband deal. If you’ll definitely be living in the same student house for more than a single academic year then you can save money by choosing a package or bundle with a 12 or 18-month contract, especially if you're staying there over the summer.
Three-month deals cost more but are flexible
Some providers offer broadband packages on short contracts that last the nine months of an academic year. Others offer 3 month contracts for greater flexibility and some even offer 1 month deals. As a rule, you’ll pay a slightly higher monthly cost for a shorter contract but, in the long run, it could save you having to pay a hefty fine at the end of your studies.
Cancelling early will cost you money
If you do need to terminate the contract early there’s a good chance that the provider will charge you an early disconnection fee. And to make matters worse they’ll probably multiply that charge by however many months of the minimum term remain. This is why it’s so crucial to buy broadband with an appropriate contract length, as early disconnection fees can run into the hundreds of pounds.
It’s important to consider how many people will be sharing your broadband connection. Some broadband packages have a monthly download allowance that you need to take into account, and a download speed that decreases as the number of users increases.
Shared houses may need higher download speeds
If you’ll be living in a shared house with a few friends then you'll need a fast connection. If one housemate is streaming music upstairs and another is playing online games while you're trying to get that coursework done it may lead to bottlenecks – and arguments. This will mean a fibre optic connection; a standard broadband is likely to be too slow.
Sharing costs makes higher speeds affordable
With a group of you splitting the monthly cost of student broadband you should be able to afford a fast connection. In fact, faster packages usually don't cost that much more; so don’t be tempted to scrimp on the cost of a higher download speed.
Living on your own is less demanding on your broadband
If you’ll be living on your own then a slower package of up to 8Mb should be fine, especially if you’ll only be using your connection for light browsing and emailing. There should be plenty of budget packages to choose from wherever you live, and the connection should be fast enough for your needs.
Only one name goes on the contract
Broadband contracts from BT and Virgin Media must be in one name only, and the responsibility for paying the bill will fall to that person. Work out between you who’s going to be responsible for the broadband package or bundle and make sure that they have the funds in their account to cover the bill when it comes.
Monthly download allowance
The monthly download allowance, or usage limit, is of paramount importance when choosing your student broadband package. You can get a cheap broadband package with a low fixed monthly download allowance if you're the only one using the connection. Just make sure to keep video streaming and downloads to a minimum.
Don't fall for false economy
If you’ll be living in a crowded house full of ardent web surfers then you really should get an unlimited broadband package. A bargain basement package may seem attractive but may well end up being a false economy. Do the smart thing and pay the extra for a package with a high or unlimited usage allowance to avoid any penalties or, worse, disconnection at a critical time.
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Broadband without a phone line
If you live in a Virgin Media area then you have the option to sign up for broadband without a phone line. This can save you some significant money over the course of your student years as you won’t have to pay line rental, which can add as much as £15.99 a month onto the cost of your broadband.
Mobile broadband as an alternative
If you don’t live in a Virgin Media area you may like to consider mobile broadband. You can choose from a range of contract lengths or pay-as-you-go plans, and you’ll be able to take your broadband with you wherever you go. Plus, if you sign up for mobile broadband from your existing mobile phone provider you may also qualify for a discount.
By opting for a bundle instead of a broadband only package you can get one or more extra services from your chosen provider, such as a digital TV package or an inclusive calls plan.
Bundles can save money
By bundling services in this way you’ll usually be able to make some savings compared to taking each service from a different provider and you’ll have the convenience of a combined bill for all your services at the end of the month.
Virgin Media student bundles
In Virgin Media cable areas you can get a Virgin Media student bundle with unlimited fibre optic broadband, inclusive weekend calls and your choice of TV packages, and all on a short 9-month contract. However, these bundles aren’t always made available all year round, so you may need to place your order early in the autumn term.
Sky and BT offer bundles but not over nine-months
More widely available are bundles from Sky and BT. Both providers offer a range of broadband, TV and phone bundles that allow you to select the specific level of each service that suits your needs. Sky and BT do not currently offer short contracts on their bundles, preferring instead to offer bundles on standard contracts of between 12 and 18 months.
Save money with a longer contract bundle
Will you definitely be staying in the same accommodation for 18 months? If so you may well be able to save even more money by signing up for a longer contract, and have more providers to choose from. And if you’re splitting the cost amongst a group of housemates then you’ll be getting all of these services for just a few pounds each per week.
Don't forget extras
Make sure you take into account the extras and freebies on offer when choosing your student broadband deal. It’s often the case that if you opt for the very cheapest deal you won’t get as many perks as you would if you’re willing to pay just a few pounds extra each month.
Extra services can make a provider more attractive
These freebies can include a free wireless router worth £50 or more, brand-name online security software to protect your precious coursework, and unlimited Wi-Fi minutes, so you can continue your browsing in any of the millions of public “Hotspots”. Consider whether opting for a cheap package with no extras will end up costing you more in the long run - and choose carefully.
Compare student broadband deals
Now you’ve got a better idea of what to look out for when selecting your student broadband package you're now ready to compare student broadband deals. Keep these things in mind as you do and you’ll be able to find the right deal in no time at all:
- Which student broadband deals are available in your area?
- What will you be using your broadband connection for?
- How many people are going to be using your connection?
- Would you benefit from other bundled services, such as digital TV or inclusive calls?
- Do you live in a fibre optic broadband area?
- Will you be in your property long enough to avoid the higher cost of a shorter contract?
- Will a bundle work out to be more cost-effective for you?
- Will you be splitting the bill with housemates?
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