A Guide to Student Broadband

Guest's picture

In the UK we're lucky enough to enjoy a wide choice of broadband providers with a huge number of packages up for grabs. That's great because we get to select a service at whatever price suits our budget, but the array of options can be slightly bewildering.

And if it's confusing for those of us who have lived in the country for some time, the problem is worse for visitors, particularly students coming to the UK to study who already have enough to contend with. While libraries, coffee shops, universities and colleges all offer free Wi-Fi it's very useful, if not essential, to have your own connection at home.

If you're new to the country and looking to sign up for internet service, here's what you need to know about getting broadband in the UK as a student.

Broadband and Contracts

Signing up to a fixed line broadband service will involve some kind of commitment to stay with the provider for a set amount of time. If you break this contract by leaving early you are liable to be charged a fee for the remaining months.

This can obviously be problematic for students who may not be staying in one place for a long period of time, and don't typically have a lot of cash lying about.

However, some broadband providers do recognise that there is a demand for shorter contracts so there are alternatives. Some offer one month contracts so you only ever need to give 30 days notice to cancel, while there are also three month options available.

Occasionally you can find offers designed just for students. For example, Virgin Media provide a nine month student contract to fit with term times.

The shorter contracts will often be slightly more expensive, though, particularly as you may need to pay for setup costs and the router. If you do decide to sign up for a long contract make sure you're fully aware of the cancellation fees.

Telephone Lines

Adding to the complications with broadband contracts is the need to have a telephone line. Almost all broadband services in the UK require telephone service, and this is not available with anything less than a 12 month contract.

The only major exception is Virgin Media, which operates its own cable network and does offer broadband without a phone, but it is not the cheapest and only has limited coverage compared to the much larger BT network.

Unfortunately, if you want fixed line broadband and can't sign up with Virgin Media, you'll have to get at least a 12 month phone service contract. That means that even if you get a short term broadband deal there will still be fees to pay for the telephone if you need to cancel early.

Cheap Broadband Deals

Dealing with these contracts can be a pain, especially when it comes to cancelling them, but to offset this there are always many cheap broadband offers available.

These can give you broadband internet for less than £5 per month (plus line rental), so even if you do end up having to leave a few months early it may not be too expensive overall.

If you work out the cost of the broadband and phone service over the full length of the contract and take into consideration cancellation fees, you may discover that it's worth paying that final charge to enjoy fast access at home.

To make things easier when comparing offers side-by-side, sites like Broadband Genie list broadband deals in order of price, cheapest first.

Mobile Broadband: Perfect for Students?

Don't want the hassle of a fixed line broadband service? Then check out mobile broadband, because this could be the ideal solution for foreign students.

Mobile broadband utilises mobile networks to provide internet access, using either a USB dongle which connects to Windows or Apple Mac computers, or pocket Wi-Fi hotspots that work with any device supporting wireless networking.

For students, it has a couple of big advantages over fixed line services.

Because it is mobile you never need to worry about transferring the service to another home, so long as there is a signal it will work all over the UK. Mobile broadband is also available with a huge selection of payment options - including pay-per-day, 30 day pay-as-you-go and longer contracts - eliminating the concerns about cancellation fees.

Speeds are not as good as fixed line broadband, though. 3G networks average 2-3Mb, with some faster devices capable of 10-20Mb. 4G is slowly spreading throughout the UK and can provide in excess of 20Mb, but it is currently expensive.

But as long as you're not regularly downloading large files or wanting to stream a lot of high definition video then 3G is perfectly adequate. And even if it's not as fast as you'd like the flexibility of mobile broadband could prove to be far more useful and affordable than home broadband services.

Share with friends