In a nutshell
The best student broadband deals are 9-month contracts or work on a monthly rolling basis (as well as being cheap and fast, of course!). That way, students don’t have to pay while they’re home for the summer.
If you’re a student, we bet you can’t picture life without the internet! Whether you’re researching for an essay, carrying out an online assessment, responding to emails from your professors or simply staying in touch with family and friends, broadband is a must.
Here, we’ll take a look at the best student broadband deals and how to pick one, so that you can carry on doing what you do best – being the fantastic student that you are!
What is student broadband?
Student broadband is exactly what it says on the tin: broadband, but for students!
Basically, as a student, you’ll have different needs from someone who’s in a full-time job. You probably won’t have the most money in the world (unless the bank of mum and dad is particularly generous!). So, cheap broadband is a must. BUT you’ll also be reliant on the internet for pretty much everything, from uni assessments and revision to skyping your fam. So, it’s never been more important to have fast internet at the best price.
On top of that, even though most broadband deals last for at least 12 months, you’ll probably only need your broadband for 9 months of the year if you go ‘home home’ for your summer holidays.
To help, a few broadband providers (companies that give you access to the internet) have created 9-month student broadband deals that are designed especially for students who won’t be using their broadband all year round.
Does this mean that you have to get an official student broadband deal if you’re a student who needs broadband? Absolutely not!
You can get any broadband deal you want and the best deal for you might not be one that’s designed especially for students. In fact, official student broadband deals are fairly rare and often only become available in the summer when the new academic year is due to start.
Instead, it’s important to understand what kind of broadband is most likely to fit your requirements as a student, so that you can focus on finding the very best deal for you. Which brings us onto...
How to pick the best broadband deals for students
So, we keep banging on about how, as a student, you have very specific needs when it comes to your broadband (have we made you feel special yet?!). With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most important considerations you’ll have to factor in when you’re searching for the best student broadband deals.
The chances are that as a student, you’re on a strict budget. We get that! Of course, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the best possible price for your broadband.
BUT (and there’s always a but!) there’s no point in opting for the cheapest broadband around if it’s not suitable for your needs. You’ll need fast broadband that’s reliable, especially if you’re in a house share and all your housemates are going to be using it at the same time (we don’t want to be the ones to say ‘I told you so’ when your Netflix keeps buffering because your housemate is uploading her video project in the next room!).
Even though one of you will have to be the one to actually get the broadband, remember you’ll normally be able to split the cost between all your housemates. So, you might be able to fork out a bit more than you expect.
Either way, when you’re comparing prices, don’t forget to factor in things like set-up costs and router delivery costs. Some broadband providers won’t charge you for these at all, while with others, these costs can add up quickly.
If you’re a student, you probably won’t need broadband all year round. But most standard broadband packages last for 12, 18 or even 24 months! If you want to cancel your contract early, you’ll be hit with early exit fees that are often equivalent to the amount you have left on your contract.
To avoid paying for broadband you’re not using for however many months of the year, you could look for broadband deals with shorter contracts. Most specially designed student broadband deals last for 9 months, so that you don’t have to pay over your summer holidays.
However, there are other home broadband options that are even more flexible, offering monthly rolling contracts that you can cancel just 30 days in advance! A couple of examples are Cuckoo and Hyperoptic.
Just remember to compare the price of any short contract options against longer contracts. Monthly ‘no contract’ deals can be more expensive and they tend to have higher setup costs as well (we’re talking around £60 for Cuckoo and £65 for Now Broadband’s no contract deals).
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t go for these shorter-term contracts (in fact, Cuckoo is probably our favourite provider of all time, as we’ll explain in a bit!). We’re just saying that there’s a chance a 12-month deal could be cheaper overall.
Normally, the lowest prices are reserved for the slowest internet speeds. So, if the idea of waiting for (what feels like) an age for your Google doc to open or your Netflix to buffer fills you with dread, you’ll probably want to splash out just a little bit on your broadband to get access to those faster speeds.
Okay, so what speed should you go for?
Well, it all depends on how you use the internet and on how many other people you’re living with. But if you live in a house share where there are going to be at least a few of you using the internet at the same time, or you’re big on gaming, you’ll probably want to opt for fibre broadband, which is generally quicker and more reliable than the cheapest option (ADSL).
If you’re living in a massive house share with 10 or more people, or your housemates are all doing a film degree that requires them to export film projects on a daily basis, you might even want to consider upgrading to Virgin Media, which uses something called cable broadband. Virgin Media has some of the fastest internet speeds in the country, plus it has specially designed student broadband deals to boot. More on that later...
Bundles and perks
Like the idea of streaming films between lectures on your shared TV?! Lots of broadband providers offer bundles where you can get your broadband and a TV subscription (or other cool services) together for less money than you would if you paid for them both individually.
You might also find that some providers offer you special gifts or voucher giveaways if you choose them.
Just bear in mind that these perks and bundles are mostly only available on contrasts that last 12 months or more. Does that mean you shouldn’t pick them? Not necessarily!
Instead, it just means you should add up how much extra you’ll be paying by taking out a 12-month contract rather than a 9-month or monthly rolling one, and compare it to what you’d pay if you had to buy those gifts and bundles separately. At the end of the day, it’s just about working out which will save you the most money overall.
Most broadband deals include a phone line in the price. This is because most providers use the Openreach network which needs an active telephone line in order to work.
However, if you don’t need a landline phone (and let’s be honest, why would you these days?!), you might be able to save money by choosing a deal that doesn’t have inclusive calling. Or, you could even look into a broadband provider that doesn’t need a phone line at all, like Virgin Media. This could reduce your overall price as your provider wouldn’t need to factor in line rental, which often makes up a big proportion of your monthly broadband cost.
Nearly all broadband deals come with ‘unlimited usage,’ which means you can use the internet for as long as you want each month without incurring extra charges. However, there are still a few providers that have usage limits.
As a student, especially one living in a house share with others, you’re best off checking that any deals you’re umming and ahhing about include unlimited usage. That way, you won’t have to limit the amount you use the internet each month, and you won’t have to worry about any unexpected bills landing through your letterbox!
Let’s be honest, if you and your housemates all use the internet on a regular basis, a limited usage deal could lead to things getting very expensive, very quickly. Not only is it a sure-fire way of running out of funds, but it’s also a guaranteed route towards an argument. And no one wants that!
The 5 best student broadband deals
Right, so what are some of the best broadband deals for students? Although only you can answer that question (as every student is different!), we’ve listed our favourite suppliers when it comes to broadband that fits students’ needs perfectly.
Just bear in mind that many student broadband deals aren’t available all year round – or even, necessarily, every year. So, when the time comes to swan off to uni and pick a deal, make sure you head over to a comparison site to see exactly what’s available at the time.
1. Cuckoo broadband
Remember how we said earlier that most broadband providers offer you a contract that lasts at least 12 months, and that they then charge you really high exit fees if you try and leave early?
Well, Cuckoo doesn’t do that. First, they don’t do contracts. Instead, they operate on a monthly rolling basis so all you have to do is give them a month’s notice if you want to leave. That means no exit fees and tons of flexibility – perfect for students who don’t want to pay for broadband they’re not using over summer.
Second, because they don’t do contracts, they don’t do hidden price hikes either.
Say you want to stay in your house share for longer than the length of your initial broadband contract (maybe you’ve renewed your lease for your student house, for example). Most providers will whack up your prices as soon as your initial contract ends, hoping that you can’t be bothered to switch to a better deal or that you don’t know how to. Sneaky!
That’s not a thing with Cuckoo. Instead, you’ll always know exactly what you’re going to be paying each month.
It’s not the cheapest provider but it’s not far off. And, when you take into account the lack of exit fees and price hikes, we’re sure you’ll agree it’s a great deal. Either way, we think it’s worth it to be with a provider that has ethics 😉
Read our Cuckoo review to learn more and to get access to a special offer we’ve managed to negotiate for you. You’re welcome!
Why Cuckoo is great for students:
- No contracts.
- No exit fees.
- No hidden price hikes.
- Great customer service.
Best Cuckoo deal for students:
2. Virgin Media broadband
Virgin Media provides some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country, with its fastest widely available broadband speeds being a whopping 9x quicker than BT and Sky (and BT and Sky aren’t exactly slow!). In fact, Virgin Media has a package coming out soon that’s so fast you could probably watch 100 movies at once!
However, it’s not just about speed. Virgin Media also offers dedicated student broadband packages that operate on a monthly rolling basis. That means you can cancel at any time, as long as you give 30 days’ notice (so there’s no paying for broadband you’re not using over summer!).
Not only that, but Virgin Media doesn’t scrimp on its broadband for students. You’ll be able to access speeds that are just as fast as those available on the provider’s 12 or 18-month contracts.
As you can see, Virgin Media can be a great bet. But there are also a couple of downsides.
First, this provider uses a type of broadband called cable broadband. While it’s what makes its speeds so fast, it does make it a little more tricky to switch broadband providers. Basically, most broadband providers are part of the Openreach network and if you change between providers who are part of it, your new provider will sort out the whole switch so you don’t have to lift a finger.
On the other hand, if you switch to (or from) Virgin Media, you’ll need to cancel your old contract and arrange a start date for your new contract yourself. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not hard. It’s just a bit more time consuming than it would be.
Now for the second downside: Virgin Media’s customer service is… well… awful. And we mean AWFUL. That won’t be an issue if everything runs smoothly, but if you run into any issues, they could be a nightmare to resolve.
You might be wondering why we put them on our list given their less-than-ideal customer service. But depending on your priorities, the pros might well outweigh the cons. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide!
Read our Virgin Media review for more info that could help you make your decision.
Why Virgin Media broadband is great for students
- Insanely fast.
- 30-day rolling broadband contracts for students.
- No early exit fees.
Best Virgin Media broadband deal for students:
3. NOW Broadband
The chances are you’ve heard of NOW TV (who hasn’t at least taken out a free trial to watch the Friends Reunion episode?!). But did you know the same company also offers broadband? Yep, that’s right, and it’s actually really fab.
Just like Cuckoo, NOW Broadband’s no-contract deals give students the option to leave whenever they like without having to face early exit fees, which is kind of awesome as far as we’re concerned!
Just bear in mind that there’s no activation fee for NOW Broadband’s 12-month contracts but there is a £60 activation fee if you want to go for the no-contract option (there’s also a £5 router delivery fee for both). So, depending on how many months of the year you’re going to be living in your student digs, it might still be cheaper overall to go with the 12-month deal. Worth checking, anyway!
Whichever deal you choose, one of the best things about NOW Broadband is that it comes with some sweet bundling options. Into the idea of catching up on the latest movies, TV series or sports games? Just bundle your broadband in with a NOW TV membership and you’ll be able to access some nice discounts perfect for entertaining friends in your shared house.
Oh, and we forgot to mention that they’ve also won some nice awards recently for ‘best value broadband provider’ and ‘broadband provider of the year’ at the 2020 Uswitch awards. Not bad, eh?
However, it's a very much a commercially driven company, it's all about maximum profit. Did that £5 delivery fee ring any alarm bells?
This type of company culture means their customer service is somewhat lacking, in fact it's awful – don't expect any help if you encounter any problems. And worse, you'll be sent 'special offers' relentlessly to try and tie you into a longer contract and they make cancelling as hard as possible – expect to be on the phone for hours. The router is also on the very cheap end.
But if you can put up with all of that, then you'll be able to snag one of the cheapest deals out there.
Why NOW Broadband is great for students:
- No contract options (with no exit fees or hidden price hikes).
- 12-month contract options.
- Good value.
- Great bundling deals.
Best NOW Broadband deal for students:
4. BT broadband
Most people who sign up with BT have to sign onto a 2-year contract. But students get it good! All you have to do is sign up with your uni email address and you’ll be able to access shorter 9-month or 12-month contracts. That way, you can make sure it fits in around your term times and avoid paying for broadband you’re not using. Not bad, eh?!
The only problem is that BT’s student broadband deals aren’t available to new customers all year round. Urgh! But, if you’re due to move into a student house soon, it’s worth checking back regularly to see if you can get your hands on one because they are pretty good.
Not only does BT offer fast and reliable broadband, but all new BT broadband customers get a BT Smart Hub as part of their deal. This is basically a super powerful router (you know, the thing you plug into the wall to get wifi), which BT claims is the most powerful in the UK.
Although we can’t confirm or deny that fact, we can say that it will work well in a house share that’s got lots of different devices using the internet at the same time. It will also work well if you’re in a big student house where the wifi has to stretch far.
If you want even stronger, faster wifi and you want to eliminate any risk of arguing about who’s online and when, you could even upgrade to BT’s Complete Wi-Fi deal, which comes with an even more powerful router. This is ideal if you’re in a really big student house with lots of wifi dead spots as if you’re on this deal and you don’t get strong wifi throughout your house, they’ll give you £100 back (obviously we hope that doesn’t happen, but if it does, drinks are on you!).
Why BT broadband is great for students
- 9-month student broadband deals.
- 12-month student broadband deals.
- Fast and reliable.
- Powerful router.
Best BT Broadband deal for students:
Ready to get a student broadband deal?
Ultimately, no two students are the same. So, finding the best student broadband deal for you is all about finding that perfect balance between speed, cost and contract length for your needs.
Want the fastest speeds at all cost? Read our Virgin Media review and enjoy £50 off just for you. Want super-fast, reliable broadband with no fixed contract? We think you’ll love Cuckoo – check out our review and get £20 off too.
Now, all that’s left is to move into your student digs and make the most of all the skyping, gaming and streaming you can fit in (after you’ve finished your assignments, of course!). Enjoy!