Broadband is absolutely vital when you’re a student, whether you want to download journal articles, book tickets to club nights, or just watch a bit of Netflix. It’s also yet another piece of annoying life admin to deal with when you’re moving into your student house - sigh.
But if you do it right, sorting out your broadband is an absolute breeze. Here's how you can pick the right package, find the cheapest deal, and keep the whole thing stress-free.
For more tips, take a look at our guide to getting broadband for a houseshare too.
What speed do I need?
For a smaller household - say, two people - you'll probably be fine with standard ADSL broadband, which usually has download speeds of up to 17Mb.
However, if there are three or more of you - or if you're just big on streaming videos and gaming - you'll want to go for fibre optic broadband. A download speed of up to 38Mb will suit most homes just fine, but it can't hurt to bump to something even faster if you all use the internet a lot.
For a household of five or more people, you'll definitely want fibre, and a particularly fast package at that - like BT's up to 76Mb offering, or even Virgin Media's up to 200Mb. This is more expensive, but when the cost is spread out over lots of people, you'll barely notice the difference.
What download limit do I need?
Some broadband packages keep your bill down by having a download limit - around 50GB per month is pretty common - but believe us, in a student house, you'll want unlimited downloads. Come exam season, when you're downloading from JSTOR, listening to your favourite studying music, and watching Netflix at home in the evenings instead of going out, you'll breeze through that usage limit in a day or two.
Luckily, the majority of broadband packages these days have unlimited downloads, and prices are very reasonable - you'll have plenty of choice.
What contract length do I need?
Be warned - if you cancel your broadband contract early, you'll have to pay a cancellation fee… and it can be pretty hefty. It's best not to choose a contract that's too long unless you're absolutely certain you want to stick with it.
Most broadband contracts last for 12 or 18 months, though you can also get special student ones that only last for nine, and others that work on rolling 30-day terms. The shorter the contract, though, the more expensive it tends to be per month - so try and find the perfect balance for your home.
Broadband without a one-year contract
If you'd rather not sign up for a whole year of broadband, you have a few options:
- Nine-month student broadband - These are intended to start in October and end in June, i.e. while you're actually living in your student house. You'll find them available from Virgin Media, BT, and Sky.
- Contract-free broadband - These give you broadband on a rolling 30-day contract rather than a big commitment, so you can start it when you move in and cancel it (without a penalty!) when you all move out. Take a look at Now TV broadband, or choose a package from Plusnet and select a 30-day contract at the checkout.
- Mobile broadband - This uses 4G rather than phone lines to get you online, and is almost always available on a 30-day basis. However, it also tends to come with pretty restrictive download limits, and a higher price than fixed line broadband. Read more about mobile broadband.
Broadband without line rental
The vast majority of broadband packages require line rental, as broadband is delivered through phone lines.
Of course, if you don't want line rental with your internet, you have a few options:
- Get broadband from Virgin Media. Because it has its own cable network, it's the only major UK provider that doesn't require line rental, and you can get it as broadband-only.
- Go for mobile broadband. Because it uses 4G, there's no need for line rental - but remember those tight download limits and higher costs.
- Suck it up and pay for line rental. On a cheap deal you won't see a whole lot of difference in price compared to a broadband-only plan - especially spread out across a few of you - and it doesn't mean you have to get a landline phone.
How to find a cheap deal on student broadband
- Get a dedicated student broadband deal. These only last nine months, and have special deals and offers on to make it good value.
- Decide what you want from your broadband - think about speeds, contract length, TV options, and so on - and run a price comparison based on that. Then see what's available, and how much it costs, and pick the one that suits your budget best.
- Calculate packages by their total first year cost, like our comparison calculator does. £5 per month broadband might sound great, but doesn't factor in line rental costs, postage and packaging for the router, connection fees, and the cost bumping up to £10 after a few months. Looking at the first year cost is a much more accurate way to budget.
- Keep an eye out for offers. Providers often run limited time only deals, which may give you a reduced price, vouchers, cashback, or other goodies. You'll have to hurry if you find one though, as they don't last long.
So you know how to find a cheap deal that suits your student house - but here are a few extra things to bear in mind when you sort out your broadband.
- Timing is everything. Remember that broadband can take up to a couple of weeks to switch on, and you don't want to be without internet. Get it sorted before the new term starts - and time it with everyone moving in if you can. You don't want to be too early either; providers usually launch student deals around August.
- Ask older students in the area what their broadband experiences are. Ask what kind of package they picked, and whether it works for them, then take their advice on board when you're choosing one for your own house.
- Decide upfront how you want to split the bill and handle finances. Remember that only one name and bank account can be attached to a broadband contract.
- Have one person in your house handle the broadband bill, then have another handle the energy bill, another handle the TV license, and so on. That means you won't leave one single person a bit out of pocket each month, and you'll all have proof of address should you ever need it.
- Do your washing up. This won't help you find a broadband deal, but housemates who leave dirty plates around are the worst and you don't want to be that person, right?