Most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) these days will offer student broadband services on flexible contracts which are either rolling – available on a 30 day basis, allowing you to cancel whenever suits – or are available on nine months contracts, reflecting the fact that you might not be living at the same address for any longer than that.
Chances are, this will be the first time that you or your housemates will have signed up for a broadband service, so this guide will tell you what to look out for and where you might be able to make a saving.
At the time of writing, there are few student broadband deals currently available – typically, most new student broadband offers are launched towards the end of August and early September, while students are still house hunting, and before the new term properly begins. We will update this article as and when new deals are announced.
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Best BT Student Broadband Deals
BT’s Student Broadband Deals include Broadband Unlimited, Superfast Fibre, Superfast Fibre 2, available for £25, £30 and £40 a month respectively – plus one-off connection fees of £29.99, £44.99, and £49.99.
Broadband Unlimited is an ADSL-based service, and so gives you average download speeds of 10Mbps.
While that’s just about fine for one person’s use – streaming Netflix or iPlayer content in HD, for example, requires 5Mbps of spare bandwidth – busier student households will need something a bit roomier.
Superfast Fibre gives you average download speeds of 50Mbps, while the faster Superfast Fibre 2 gives you 67Mbps downstream on average. These packages will be better suited for homes of 3 to 4 students, and will allow for multiple devices to stream content simultaneously.
All packages come with a wireless router included – either a BT Home Hub 4 (Broadband Unlimited) or a BT Smart Hub (Superfast Fibre and Superfast Fibre 2).
As Broadband Unlimited uses the older ADSL technology, it’s available virtually everywhere in the UK. At the time of writing, the FTTC footprint of the Openreach network – the network BT and other ISPs use to reach customers’ houses – passes around 90% of UK address.
So while you’ve got a very good chance of being able to order a Superfast Fibre or Superfast Fibre 2 student broadband contact from BT, depending on where you’re studying, you might be too of-grid to get this, and Broadband Unlimited will be your only option.
BT Broadband Student Deals
BT is now so confident in the speed of its broadband service that the company will give you £20 back if you don't receive the internet speeds you were promised. Get in.
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Best Virgin Media Student Broadband Deals
Virgin Media offers a number of deals aimed at students living in rented accommodation.
Virgin Media’s M50 and M100 services offer average download speeds of 54Mbps and 108Mbps, respectively. In terms of monthly payments, they are also the cheapest student broadband deals Virgin Media offers, costing £28 a month and £33 a month each, plus a £35 set-up fee.
On the downside, these services require you to sign up for 12 months, which, if you’re not staying in one place for more than nine months, can be restrictive.
You can get the M200 and M350 services from Virgin Media on a rolling 30 day basis, which is far more flexible – if you need to cancel quickly, for whatever reason, just let Virgin Media know a month in advance, and you can walk away from the contract.
Average download speeds are 213Mbps and 362Mbps – significantly faster than the 12 month deals – and there are no one-off connection fees to pay.
On the minus side, Virgin Media M200 and M350 are more costly per month – £40 and £45 a month respectively.
For your money though, you’re getting much more bandwidth than you would with the equivalently priced BT Superfast Fibre deal, and in a busy household of four students, this works out at just £10 each every month.
While Virgin Media’s cable broadband network offers much faster speeds than what you can get from an Openreach FTTC connection, but the footprint of the network is much smaller, available to roughly 60% of UK addresses.
Virgin Media Student Broadband Deals
Unlike most other broadband services, Virgin Media offers 30-day rolling contracts which are perfect for students who need to get online temporarily at short-term accommodation.
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Things to consider when buying student broadband
Aside from cost – do you all need a 300Mbps service or can you make do with something cheaper? In terms of coverage – how far away is your house from the local exchange/cabinet? There are a number of other things for students, often first-time broadband buyers, should consider.
Do I need a long term contract?
Think about your tenancy agreement – if you’re only going to be living in one place for less than a year, it doesn’t make sense to get a 12 month contract. Get something shorter or, better yet, get a flexible rolling contract that lets you pay on a monthly basis.
Do we need a TV licence in our student house?
Yes – if you’re planning on watching or streaming live TV, or accessing BBC iPlayer, for whatever reason.
If you’re planning on watching anything live, whether that’s through a TV set or streamed on your laptop, you need a TV licence. New rules also mean that if you want to access BBC iPlayer, whether you’re watching something live or on catch-up, you still need a licence.
If you and your housemates are only going to be streaming non-live content – Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV – then you don’t need a TV licence, but in order to avoid any visits from TV Licensing inspectors, you might want to formally opt out.
I just need the Internet to check my emails – can I just use my phone?
In theory, there’s nothing stopping you from using your phone and Wi-Fi tethering, and if your requirements really are that light, you could just about get away with doing this.
However, unless you know for sure that indoor mobile coverage in your rented house will be good enough to allow for this, it’s a bit of a risk to take.
Everyone else in my house wants Internet access, but I’m not bothered – should I pay?
You shouldn’t feel pressured into paying for something you won’t get much or any use out of, but at the same time, if you’re living with people, and you’re not paying for the Internet service but you are occasionally ‘hopping on the Wi-Fi’, then consider chipping in – if not for the Internet service if you can’t make monthly payments, then for something else. It’s really not worth getting into arguments with friends and housemates over unpaid bills.