|Product name||Contract length||Download limit||Download speed*||Monthly cost|
|Direct Save Telecom Unlimited Broadband||12 months||Unlimited||11Mb||£18.95 /month|
|Plusnet Unlimited Broadband & Phone Line||12 months||Unlimited||10Mb||£18.99 /month|
|John Lewis Unlimited Broadband with Evening & Weekend Calls||12 months||Unlimited||10Mb||£19 /month|
|EE Unlimited Broadband||18 months||Unlimited||10Mb||£21.50 /month|
|Shell Energy Fast Broadband||18 months||Unlimited||11Mb||£21.99 /month|
|TalkTalk Fixed Price Unlimited Fibre 35||18 months||Unlimited||38Mb||£22 /month|
|TalkTalk Fixed Price Unlimited Fibre 35 TV||18 months||Unlimited||38Mb||£22 /month|
|Plusnet Unlimited Fibre Broadband & Phone Line||18 months||Unlimited||36Mb||£22.50 /month|
|EE Unlimited Superfast Fibre||18 months||Unlimited||36Mb||£23 /month|
|SSE Unlimited Fibre and Line Rental Only||18 months||Unlimited||35Mb||£23 /month|
This table has been limited to display a maximum of 10 deals, sorted by the lowest monthly price first.
*The average download speed displayed in Mb is the speed available to 50% of customers with this product during peak time (between 8pm and 10pm). The actual speed you will get depends on a variety of factors such as your cabling, your area, how far you are from the telephone exchange as well as time of day. The majority of providers will tell you the speed you will likely receive when you begin your online sign up — this may differ from the average speed displayed on our table.
The deals available at your postcode are subject to local availability. The provider will confirm availability for your line.
Money services are provided at no cost to you, but we may receive a commission from the companies we refer you to.
Broadband is an essential utility for students. Many schools, colleges and universities upload a great deal of material, keeping in touch with students and even teaching online amid the ongoing Covid pandemic. However, with academic calendars diverging from the usual 12- to 24-month broadband schedules, a standard deal can prove costly for students who may not use (or need) it for the whole year.
Some internet service providers (ISPs) sell broadband packages on terms that are better for students, either on a month-to-month basis (often called ‘no contract’ broadband) or for nine-month terms. Some promote introductory offers tailored to students.
Students need reliably fast speeds to keep up with the demands of multiple housemates using various devices at once. Fibre broadband tends to be best for this, although not all areas have access to it.
Here is a rundown of the options available.
ADSL broadband, often referred to as ‘standard’ broadband, reaches the building via copper telephone wires. It is usually the slowest broadband option. That said, ADSL generally offers speeds of around 11Mbps which is adequate for light, everyday household use. For a student house with just one or two other light internet users, this would be fine.
Faster speeds need a fibre broadband connection. That can be either Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) or Fibre to the Premises (FTTP). FTTC connections use fibre to reach the local cabinet, and copper wires to run from the cabinet to the home. FTTP is a fibre connection throughout, but at the time of writing (November 2020), it is not widely available for domestic broadband deals.
In a shared house, the superfast speed provided by FTTC connections generally ranges between 24Mbps and 100Mbps. With superfast broadband, multiple residents can connect at the same time, without the delays or interference that would occur using ADSL.
The very fastest speeds are provided by an ultrafast student broadband connection. These are higher than 100Mbps and ideal for heavy internet use, even when several members of the household are online at once. This is great for houses with multiple gamers, and/or streamers of HD/UHD content.
The above are all fixed-line, domestic options, but there is another approach. The roll-out of 5G (alongside decent-quality 4G) networks in the UK means a mobile broadband connection can work for students. This uses a mobile dongle device or SIM (which can be placed in a portable router) to generate a 4G or 5G internet connection.
Some mobile network operators offer mobile broadband on flexible terms, which can be convenient for students. However, speeds can be slow compared to decent wired broadband, and it’s unlikely to satisfy heavy internet users and/or gamers.
Anyone living in shared accommodation will do well to pick a student broadband plan with unlimited data. Check that the deal includes both unlimited data and no traffic management. Lots of providers offer these, so finding one should not be a problem, and will save the worry of unexpected bills or – perhaps worse – throttled broadband speeds!
Student broadband can be purchased with a host of added extras including TV and phone packages and money off mobile SIMs.
If everyone in the house has a mobile, a landline for broadband might be a needless expense. Broadband-only packages like those from Virgin Media eliminate the cost of line rental, although some ISPs (like Plusnet student broadband) include line rental in their prices anyway. There are also broadband-only fibre connections available nowadays, known as SOGEA and provided by a growing number of ISPs.
Another option is to bundle fibre broadband with TV and entertainment services. Virgin Media student broadband and NOW Broadband, among others, bundle broadband and TV into student-friendly packages. In the case of NOW, the contract can be maintained on a month-to-month basis.
While Virgin Media student broadband doesn’t need line rental, most other ISPs use the Openreach network. Barring the SOGEA contracts mentioned above (like Sky’s G.fast), they require an active phone line. Many provide phone and broadband as a bundled service, with either inclusive or pay-as-you-go calling.
In shared accommodation, a decent router is essential to make sure all devices are supported. Almost all broadband deals throw in a free router, but some charge a one-time fee, so it pays to check the fine print.
At time of writing (November 2020) very few UK student broadband providers offer nine-month contracts. One of these is BT.
However, several more offer either cheap 12-month deals (where users pay less in total than they would on a nine-month contract, even if they don’t use the broadband for three months) or rolling month-to-month (‘no contract’) deals.
Virgin Media, Hyperoptic and NOW Broadband all offer monthly ‘no contract’ deals.
Choosing a broadband deal can be intimidating, especially if you are committing for a year or more. To make things a little easier, here’s a list of features to look for.
Students vary in their contract needs. Anyone planning to stay in their accommodation all year will be fine with a 12-month contract or even longer, others will prefer a month-to-month or nine-month deal. However, it is sensible to remember that more flexible terms often cost more, and sometimes a fixed-term contract of 12 months can be more cost-effective than the alternatives, even for students who don’t use the broadband throughout the contract.
Generally, the bigger the household, the faster the connection should be. A house with one or two occupants and no heavy internet users, gamers or HD streamers could get by with mobile broadband or standard ADSL. Larger households (and any household with avid gamers and streamers) will require fibre connections.
Streaming TV and online content is increasingly the norm. For those sharing the cost between members of a household, it can be surprisingly affordable. Most providers offer a TV plus broadband deal, while a few (NOW Broadband, for example) even offer this on a month-to-month rolling basis. However, as with broadband generally, it may be cheaper to choose a 12-month deal.
Will the bill for student broadband be shared among housemates, or is one person paying? Both the monthly costs and any associated fees, such as set-up charges, should be considered. Many student Wi-Fi packages include these, but rolling contracts often have higher upfront costs.
It’s always a good idea to check out a broadband provider before signing up to a deal. Comparing reviews from a range of websites can be very enlightening.
Now and again – particularly in the summer – ISPs will offer perks and incentives for students. These can be vouchers, cash incentives, reduced-price routers and all sorts of other goodies.
Having compared broadband deals and chosen a likely provider, it’s time to sort out the details.
Most providers require a designated bill payer whose name will appear on the contract. This should be someone responsible enough to pay the direct debit each month and manage any contact with the ISP. Before anything is signed, all members of the household should agree how any disagreements about usage or unpaid bills will be dealt with.
Most contracts will require a credit check, although this probably won’t be as strict or rigorous as that for a loan or credit card. Broadband deals without a credit check are available, but they may cost more.
The designated bill payer can usually choose to pay for the whole contract up front or monthly. Either way, he or she will also need to decide how the costs will be split and recovered. Will all housemates pay a share each month, and if so, how? Setting up a monthly direct debit tends to be easiest.
It’s always a bad idea to thoughtlessly renew a contract. Shopping around for good deals is the way to go. Extending an expired broadband on a rolling contract can give consumers the flexibility to search for a new provider without interruption to their broadband service.
If the package is specifically sold as a student broadband deal, very often the purchaser must prove their status as a student during the sign-up process. However, many packages that are student-friendly are not marketed to students specifically, and customers don’t have to be in education to buy them.
The broadband service is identical, whether it is a student or regular broadband package. Student broadband deals are distinguished by the flexibility in contract terms and occasional introductory offers at the start of the academic year.
Student broadband deals require the same equipment as any other broadband deal. An active phone line is usually required, along with a wireless router (which will probably be supplied by the ISP).
Most broadband deals now offer unlimited data, which means there should be no data caps and no traffic management (except within strict limits) by the ISP.
Most students need a deal with unlimited data because their households are likely to consume a lot of data. So it makes sense to check with any ISP that their deal offers genuinely unlimited data.
Although there are often packages available from major providers like BT, smaller broadband providers may not offer student deals throughout the year. Student broadband deals are often limited to the start of the new academic year, so they often can’t be found before the summer or after early autumn.
Student broadband deals tend to offer limited options, but they could save the purchaser a great deal of money. In many cases, a student who is renting student accommodation for nine months out of the year can save money in comparison to paying the early cancellation fees associated with a lengthier contract. That’s not always true, though, which is why shopping around for a good deal is very important.
Students who plan to stay in their accommodation for a full year might be better off looking at unlimited broadband deals. A longer-term contract is likely to offer more choice – not only of speed and provider, but also perks, from cashback bonuses to free setup and equipment.