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. However, 4G and 5G Home Broadband is beginning to compete more seriously and prices are coming down.
- 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, except in the case of a 4G or 5G home broadband router that you intend to take with you wherever you go.
- The right speed - The speed you need depends on the number of people in your home, and what they will be using the internet for. Faster is better, obviously, but perhaps more important is a package without monthly download limits.
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
Broadband providers often have special deals for students that they run towards the end of the Summer until the end of October.
This year BT are offering 9 month student broadband and Virgin Media have 30 day rolling contract student offers. Both these shorter contract options can be found in the table 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 several providers offering no contract broadband, these can be found in the table below.
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.
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 - although you're likely to be frustrated by how long it takes to download software updates and DLC!
If gaming is your thing, then you'll probably find it useful to check our Broadband for Gamers guide to help you choose a provider.
4G or 5G Home Broadband
This is the latest offering from mobile providers, but classing it as 'mobile' isn't strictly accurate. While it does use the mobile network, it acts just like any other home broadband router with the same features and capabilities. The performance can actually be comparable to fibre broadband, and they're completely portable because you don't need a fixed landline! It can even come with an external antenna to boost your mobile signal if it's not usually strong enough indoors.
Vodafone are the only supplier currently offering 1 month contracts (or 18 months if you don't want to pay the steep upfront cost), with EE contracts at 18 months and Three at 24 months. However, it's worth considering these longer contracts as there are some excellent deals, and when you move out of your digs you just take your router and internet with you to your next student accommodation, or to your new home when you graduate! It'll just work wherever you are and removes the hassle of having to switch broadband and worry about cancelling contracts.
If you want to know more about how it all works, we have all the info in our 4G Home Broadband guide!
The following fixed line broadband deals all have contracts of 9 months or less, come with unlimited usage allowances and should offer some of the best performance in areas where they're available. The 4G and 5G Home Broadband deals may have longer contracts and usage restrictions, so make sure you consider what you'll do with them outside of term time, and how much data your student household is likely to use - Three's 4G Home router has unlimited usage, so this isn't always a factor!
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.