Tips for the best student broadband deal

Published by Mark King on 22 August 2013.
Last updated on 22 August 2013

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With standard ADSL ('copper wire') broadband services costing an average of £219 over 12 months, and fibre optic even more expensive at £390, a broadband connection is now a considerable chunk of the average student's living costs.

But broadband providers are now "waking up" to the specialist needs of students and launching nine-month packages to offer greater flexibility. However, Dominic Baliszewski, telecoms expert at, says students shouldn't necessarily opt for the shorter deals.

"Savvy students can get a great deal on their broadband as long as they do their homework and remember that a nine-month 'student' contract may not automatically be the right choice for them," he explains. "For example, the average cost of a fibre optic student broadband and phone deal is £330 over nine months. This is actually more expensive than the average ADSL package and only £60 cheaper than the average 12-month fibre optic package.

"Bigger savings can be made if students decide to opt for a broadband-only package, but Virgin Media is currently the only provider to offer this option with an average cost of approx. £270 over nine months.

"Students must look beyond contract length and price, considering things like connection speed, data allowance, added extras and also the number of people they will share a broadband package with if they are in communal housing."

Top tips for the best student deal

1. Timescale

If you are living alone or with one other person, consider a 12-month ADSL deal, even if you intend to go home for the summer. This is because 12 month ADSL packages tend to be much cheaper than the nine-month fibre optic deals for students, and are suitable for one or two users.

2. Speed

Broadband speed is dependent on your house's distance from the local 'broadband exchange,' so ask your provider for an estimate of the connection speed you can expect before you actually sign up. If they can't give you what you need, shop around other providers.

3. Consider mobile

A mobile broadband deal (only suitable if you are a very light downloader) allows you to take your connection with you wherever you end up living. But mobile broadband coverage is still not available to 100% of the UK, so check your chosen provider's coverage in the area you will be living – particularly if your university is in a rural area where signals are usually bad. If their coverage is patchy and your service does not work properly you will only have a limited amount of time to cancel the service, so don't delay and get your money back.

4. Go Monthly

A monthly contract can help you budget – you can cut the service if you're overstretched. But bear in mind some 'monthly' contracts come with restrictive download limits that may cramp a student's online style. Supplement your use with free wi-fi hotspots in cafes and bars.

5. Sharing is caring

If you are sharing accommodation with two or more students, you may find that your combined spending power allows you to get a better quality broadband service that bundles in other services such as paid TV. But do a comparison first to check who offers what.

6. Ignore freebies

Ignore special incentives and judge any freebie on whether you need it/will use it and compare that against the other factors of the broadband deal. BT broadband packages with BT Sport included are no good, for example, if you don't like sport. If your parents have a paid TV service at home that includes access to online TV services such as Sky Go or Virgin TV Anywhere, you can ask them if you may register your device with these services and watch premium TV content from your uni digs – all without having to pay a penny extra

7. Download with caution

Some broadband deals, especially mobile ones, do not always have the most generous download allowances. So be careful not to breach your usage cap as excess data costs can seriously inflate your bill.

8. Beware traffic management

Despite a huge number of 'unlimited data' broadband deals available on the market, there are still some conflicting definitions of what 'unlimited' really means. Some providers impose 'traffic management' policies on their unlimited broadband packages, designed to make sure the excessive downloading of one customer does not hog all the bandwidth, thus slowing down the broadband connections of all other customers nearby. If you're a heavy user – opt for a truly 'unlimited' service.

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