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Where to start with student broadband

Whether it’s for knuckling down with coursework or binge-watching your favourite TV series, broadband is an absolute necessity for student households. With so many things to consider, from contract length and price, to data allowances and bundles it can be tricky to know where to begin when choosing the right package.

Thankfully, we’ve got you covered with our handy guide explaining the ins and outs of student broadband and how to find a deal that won’t break the bank. .

Why is broadband different for students?

There are a few important factors that students need to keep in mind when choosing a broadband deal. For starters, living in a shared house with friends usually means splitting the cost between you all – so you’ll more than likely be able to afford an all-singing, all-dancing package. 

One thing to remember though is that most providers only allow one name to be on the contract, making that person responsible for paying the bill. Before jumping into a shared package with your friends, you’ll need to work out who’s going to take charge of the contract and make sure that they have the funds to cover the payments each month.

You’ll also need to think about how many people are sharing the internet connection. If you’re a household of avid web-users and are likely to be online day and night, then a standard package might not cut the mustard. Not only that, with most students living in their accommodation short-term, and many broadband contracts geared towards homeowners or long-term renters, it’s important to check contract length when comparing prices. 

What internet speed do I need?

The speed of your connection all depends on how many people will be using the internet and what they’ll be using it for. 

A shared house of say 3 or more people will quickly eat up bandwidth. If you’re all online at the same time - streaming music, watching catch up TV, gaming or researching your latest assignment, the last thing you want is for your connection to slow down, or even worse, cut out completely.

If this sounds like you then it’d be wise to opt for a high-speed package, something that can be found with fibre-optic broadband.

However, if you’re flying solo, you’ll probably be able to get away with a standard broadband package. Your individual internet use isn’t likely to be anywhere near as demanding as a full house, so choosing an 8Mb broadband deal will make things more affordable.

Will I need a download limit?

All that binge-watching, music streaming and online gaming is pretty taxing on your data. An unlimited download broadband package is a god-send for student households, especially when you’re staying in to save money. While packages with a set download limit are cheaper, they can work out more costly in the long run as you’ll get charged for going over your monthly allowance.

To put it into perspective, a 10GB download limit equates to a measly 20 hours of Netflix streaming, for the entire month, between you all. We’re betting you could smash that on your own in a week if you put your mind to it!

Fortunately, most broadband providers offer unlimited downloads, just keep in mind that some ‘unlimited’ packages do in fact have limits tucked away in the small print. ‘Fair Usage’ policies involve a data cap to curb any one user from hogging all the internet and slowing others down. Luckily these limits are usually way higher than even a house of avid online gamers could rack up. Still, to be on the safe side it’s always best to check with your provider.

Our handy broadband comparison tool is great for comparing data limits from different providers so you can be sure you’re going to be able to make use of your full data allowance.

Do I need a phone line?

Luckily, broadband isn’t a one size fits all affair. There are a couple of different options to choose from with or without a phone line.

ADSL broadband

The majority of broadband packages include a charge for line rental, as that’s how providers connect to your home. Broadband providers such as Sky and BT run their networks on ADSL connections and use a phone line to send broadband to you. This is slower than fibre-optic but to make up for this, providers have created plenty of packages with hefty data allowances.

Fibre-optic broadband

Fibre-optic broadband packages are the ideal choice for house shares since they offer an ultra-fast connection. Virgin Media runs a fibre-optic cable network which means you don’t have to have a phone line. The pros of fibre-optic include: a low chance of disruption or delays, increased bandwidth to support multiple users at a time and faster download speeds compared to ADSL connections. However, all of this comes at a price, fibre-optic packages tend to be more costly, although if you’re splitting it between friends, this may not be a problem.

Mobile broadband

If you’d rather not have a landline or any of the costs associated with it then mobile broadband could be for you. It gives you total freedom to set up a connection wherever you choose using a mobile dongle on the 3G or 4G network. 

This is perfect if you’re just looking to surf the web and peruse social media every now and then. The only pitfall of mobile broadband is that it does tend to have smaller monthly data allowances and download speeds are reliant on having good network coverage.

How long do I have to sign up for?

Entering long term contracts whilst at university can make things a little complicated. With most students only living in one place intermittently for 1-2 years and many broadband providers looking to make you a lifelong customer, it’s important to be cautious about what you sign up for.

Short term and no contract deals

While longer contracts usually mean better savings, great value 9-12 month contracts have been created especially for students in short-hold tenancies. Unless you’re positive you’ll be staying in your accommodation long-term, we’d avoid anything over 12 months to be on the safe side.

If you’re still feeling uneasy about locking yourself into a contract for an extended period, no contract deals are a great option for students. Many trusted providers offer a rolling 30-day contract, which you can cancel for free at any time.

Should I get a broadband bundle?

Although students are known for their streaming prowess, sometimes you need live TV in your life. Most providers offer packages including phone call minutes or TV subscriptions. By bundling your services together, it means you’ve only got one bill to worry about each month and you’ll normally find that you can save yourself some money. 

Some providers won’t allow bundles on contracts less than 12 months, so you could find yourself being locked into an 18 month deal to see any real benefit. To make sure you find the package that’s right for you, use our broadband and TV package comparison tool, and you’ll never have to miss another episode of Game of Thrones again.