Student Broadband Buyers Guide
Students rely on internet access. Be it registering for courses, receiving important news via email, downloading course content, researching your subject or submitting coursework, much of your work takes place online. Combine this with your usual online activity and social networking, and it becomes vital that you have a good Internet connection available in your digs.
What to look for in student broadband
When signing up for student broadband, make sure you get the right kind of deal.
There are three main things to look out for when choosing your package:
- Fixed line broadband - As a general rule, fixed line broadband (through your telephone line or via cable) is superior to mobile broadband for speed, usage allowance, responsiveness (latency) and reliability. This is especially true in shared households like the average student house. It's also a lot cheaper.
- Short or no contract - Look out for the shortest, or most appropriate, contract length. Some providers offer broadband with no contract, some have special nine month deals for students, and some have 12 month deals that can actually be as, if not more, affordable. Avoid anything longer.
- The right speed - The speed you need depends on the number of people in your house, and what they will be using the internet for. Faster is better, obviously, but perhaps more important is a package without monthly download limits.
This guide will focus mostly on fixed line broadband. However, you can skip ahead to our mobile broadband section if you do wish to explore the alternative.
Also, the nine month student offers may only be available for a limited time, but don't worry - there are plenty of no contract or 12 month deals to choose from instead.
Affordable student deals
Some of the biggest names in broadband have special deals for students that they run towards the end of the Summer until the end of October. Deals are now over for this academic year, but if you're still looking for broadband then there are regular short and no contract offers you can explore below.
No contract broadband
For unrivalled flexibilty some providers offer broadband without a contract. Your deal automatically renews each month, and you can cancel at any time.
One month, no contract deals are not student specials, anyone can sign up. You'll typically pay a little more than you would on a 12 month contract, but if you only want the service for eight or nine months then you should come out ahead. There are sereral providers offering no contract broadband:
- TenTel has very affordable standard broadband deals with speeds up to 17Mb. There's a one-off connection fee, or you can waive that by signing up to a six month contract instead. Keep an eye out for usage limits, especially on the cheapest offers.
- NOW TV runs on Sky's broadband network and bundles a TV pass - including Sky Sports or Sky Cinema - into the price. There's an up to 38Mb fibre option, too.
- The no contract deals from Direct Save are all up to 17Mb standard broadband, and the cheapest come with monthly download limits, so may not be suitable for shared households. There are unlimited options, and they come with the Direct Save Discount Card which can save you money at many major retailers.
- Zen Internet has a few standard broadband deals with rolling contracts, although some come with download limits and you may also experience slower speeds during peak hours. Zen are highly rated but can be more expensive, so are only worth considering if you can afford the extra.
Rolling contracts like these often have one-off set up fee, and in some cases the price might go up after a year. As such, they're not the right option if you do want something more long term.
A 12 month contract is not ideal if you're moving out of your student accommodation after nine months. But some deals are so attractive that they can work as cheaper.
If you're tearing it up in Magaluf next summer, you don't want to still be paying for broadband at the student digs you no longer live in. However, some introductory offers are cheap enough that you can get a year's broadband for a very low rate, sometimes only paying line rental.
As these aren't student specials, we recommend using our coverage checker to see what packages are available in your area and then finding the right combination of price and length to suit your needs. Here are some options to get you started:
- Plusnet have affordable short standard broadband deals, and as a provider have high levels of customer satisfaction. They also frequently run cashback offers which can cover the cost of ending your contract early.
- Origin Broadband has an up to 17Mb package that is free for 12 months - you only pay line rental. This works out as the cheapest 12 month contract on the market.
- Sky has 12 month standard broadband where you only pay line rental, and it also regularly has special offers for new customers. Keep an eye out for download limits.
- BT offers fibre broadband on 12 month contracts with free access to BT Sport and TV channels bundled. Some of their short contracts may also be subject to usage limits.
What speed broadband do you need for your shared house?
There's a good chance you'll find yourself living with a group of other people at uni, all wanting to stream, download and game at the same time.
A slower, cheaper connection might be good enough for a couple of people in a household, depending on usage. Even when one housemate is downloading or streaming on a slower connection the others may notice a slowdown. More importantly, the cheapest deals often have download limits and it's hard to imagine these being suitable for any student household - you'll burn through your allowance in no time.
Fibre is the better option, then, which is also more expensive. Fortunately, a shared internet connection also means a shared broadband bill, and the more expensive packages often come with attractive introductory offers to sweeten the deal.
Check out our guide to what broadband speed you need to find the most suitable package, and if you're confused by all the different types of 'unlimited' being thrown around by the providers our guide to unlimited broadband explains it all for you.
If you like to de-stress over the evening and weekends with a few hours of online gaming, you're going to need a broadband package that can deal with that.
You want a reliable speed, a decent usage allowance, and a connection that isn't going to keep dropping your game during peak hours when everyone is online. However, you might be surprised to find not all games need a superfast connection, and even a 2Mb connection is plenty to play games.
Virgin Media offers the fastest connections in any area with no traffic management on its fastest deals. These include a specialist Gamer package, although it's only available on an 18 month contract so is unlikely to be suitable for students. Also look at TalkTalk, Sky and Plusnet's unlimited packages, which mean you won't use up any usage allowances while playing.
You can often save money by adding a calls package to your broadband, and if you want to push the boat out some providers will let you add premium TV channels too.
You've got a mobile, so why would you want to add landline calls? Well, all but Virgin Media's fixed line broadband require a landline to supply the broadband service anyway, and many suppliers offer phone packages with unlimited free calls during certain hours. Many providers also offer a substantial discount on line rental if you pay for a year up front. However, this may not be ideal for many students as it does tie customers into a one year contract.
If your landlord allows you to change your call plan or line rental supplier, it's likely that a bundle deal that includes a phone package works out to be better value than taking broadband on its own. Some providers, such as TalkTalk, will give you the option to take out a no-calls bundle, where you only pay for the calls you make, so you're not paying extra for a call package you're not going to use. Other providers - for example, Virgin Media - also have bundle deals that include television packages. Just remember that line rental isn't usually quoted up front in the prices for these providers, but this is usually cheaper than line rental from BT.
If you want to add TV as well, there's a good chance you'll find it cheaper if you buy it as part of your broadband service. Sky, Virgin Media, BT and NOW TV are among the providers that offer these deals. You can also subscribe to NOW TV's streaming service separately.
The following deals all have contracts of 9 months or less, 40GB or more usage and should offer some of the best performance in areas where they're available.
If you're a solo light user or are unsure which providers are available near you, use our Ofcom accredited price comparison calculator to compare broadband in your area, or you could skip to the Mobile Broadband section of this guide.
Don't forget, these tables are sortable, so you can prioritise results by contract length, expected speeds and download allowance.