If you’re a student, broadband is essential. It helps you study, access important university services, stay in touch with friends and get the best deals on things you need to buy.
Student broadband deals
Students have specific needs when it comes to broadband
packages. What works in a family situation may not be right for a
student who has just left home for university.
There are a number of things to take into account when you shop around for an internet connection, including how many people will be sharing the same connection, how much time you'll spend online, what you'll be using your connection for - and crucially - how long you'll be at your student house.
You don't want to be tied to a broadband contract for 12 months or 18 months if you'll only be at your student house during term time, for example. If you're looking for a provider offering shorter, rolling contracts, then Plusnet (www.Plus.net) and O2 (www.O2.co.uk) are both great options.
Both providers offer short contract options, so you can simply cancel in time for your lease to expire - and you won't have to pay for any internet you're not using.
With Plusnet broadband you can pay for your router plus a one-off activation fee and then you only need to provide 10 days notice to leave the service. Its broadband packages come with speeds of up to 16Mb. The Plusnet Value package gives you a 10GB download allowance, and the Plusnet Extra package costs more, but gives you 60GB monthy usage. Both packages give you free overnight downloads - perfect for late-night study sessions - but if you're planning to do a lot of downloading in the daylight hours, it's better to go for the more generous allowance. For both packages, you'll also have to pay an activation fee.
O2 offers rolling one month contracts on its three broadband packages; The Basics, The All Rounder and The Works. Each comes with speeds of up to 16Mb plus either a 20GB set data allowance or truly unlimited downloads, subject to a traffic management policy. Again though, you'll have to pay a connection charge to enjoy the freedom of a 30-day contract, as well as an extra chunk of cash if you're not an existing O2 customer.
Three-month and nine-month contracts
If you are only looking for broadband for a single term, you might want to consider a three-month contract.
BE broadband (www.Bethere.co.uk) offers this, either through its Be Unlimited and Be Pro packages. Both offer 16Mb broadband with unlimited downloads (subject to a fair usage policy). Be aware that if you sign up to a shorter contract you will have to pay a connection charge.
Alternatively, to cover your broadband requirements for all three semesters, but to avoiding paying for broadband you aren't using over the long summer holidays, you should look to Virgin Media (www.Virginmedia.com) which offers nine-month contracts for students. The company provides superfast cable broadband, with download speeds ranging from up to 30Mb to up to 100Mb. Virgin Media's nine month contracts are made available during the summer in time for the start of the next academic year.
Virgin Media offers the UK's fastest widely available broadband so you and your housemates can all go online at the same time without slowing each other down. And even better, you can take the nine-month contract without have to sign up to a landline.
Student broadband with digital TV
If you're a more affluent student and want a TV service that lets you watch more than just Doctors, then again, Virgin Media is an option.In addition to broadband, which has download speeds of up to 30Mb, 60Mb or 100Mb depending on the package, you can also sign up for home phone calls and digital TV.
Virgin Media offers three Collections, which bundle these services together. The lowest tier "Essential Collection" offers 30Mb broadband and 75 channels including Sky 1, Sky Living and Discovery as well as six high-definition (HD) channels.
If you want even more telly options, you can upgrade to the Premiere or VIP collections.
Although these deals are pretty expensive, and you may have to sign onto a 12 month contract if Virgin Media has stopped offering student-specific broadband, there are four of you sharing a house, a Virgin Media broadband, home phone and digital TV bundle won't set you back a lot if you split the bill.
Sky (www.Sky.com) is another option if you're looking for a triple-play bundle. It offers an even wider selection of channels than Virgin Media, including sports and movies packs, but you'll need to have a satellite dish installed - which isn't always possible at student properties.
Before you pick your broadband provider you should find out if your mobile operator offers a home internet service as you could land yourself a discount.
For example, as an existing O2 customer, you can get a monthly discount on your broadband.
If you want to share your connection - and bills - with your housemates, then a fixed line broadband connection is the best solution. Providers should give you a free wireless broadband router when you sign a contract, though you can always buy one from a computer hardware shop or online for around £30 if necessary.
If you are sharing your connection with other people, you need to be aware that your download speed will be affected when more people are online at the same time - especially at peak times such as weekday evenings. You should also keep an eye on your download allowance to make sure that you don't exceed your limit or break your fair usage policy.
Mobile broadband can be a great add-on to a home broadband package, or even a standalone solution, allowing you to log on at home, in the library or from the pub. It also offers a great choice of package types, from pay-as-you-go-to one-month contracts or longer length plans.
Pay-as-you-go mobile broadband packages are great for students because you can't exceed your download allowance and run up high bills - and you can simply stop using your dongle when you go home during the holidays. However, if your pay-as-you-go credit runs out, you won't be able to get online until you top-up again - which is where pay monthly plans can offer better value.
The biggest downside of mobile broadband is that download allowances are usually much lower than fixed line broadband - as little as 1GB in some cases. If you're planning to use the net to watch iPlayer, play games, download music and other typically student-y activities, mobile broadband might not be appropriate.
Compare broadband packages by monthly and yearly cost, get more information on providers and packages, and switch.