Student broadband: 5 questions to ask yourself before you buy

One purchase that it’s very easy to overspend on is broadband, especially if you decide to get a bundle with digital TV and phone calls. To help you make the right decision we recommend that you carefully consider your answers to these five questions before you sign on the dotted line.

Do I really need broadband at home?

There are plenty of places on campus where you can get online, including all three libraries. The Robinson library alone has more than 350 computers, and as a registered University student you’re free to use them right up until the library closes. So, do you really need broadband at home too?

By limiting your online activities to university computers you'll be able to save yourself a fortune on home broadband fees and you should still have more than enough opportunities to get everything done in plenty of time.

A word of warning though, the library computers are of course very popular and students may spend hours at a time logged on, so get there early to make sure you get a computer – and if you're only using one for keeping in touch with friends then do spare a thought to students who may be waiting to research or complete their coursework, especially during busy periods.

If you still think that you absolutely must get broadband where you live, take the time to compare your options, and find yourself a good deal by visiting an Ofcom approved student broadband comparison site.

What contract length is right for me?

Most broadband packages have a minimum contract term of at least 12 months – and if you leave before that’s elapsed you may be left with a very hefty fine. So, make sure you get a package with an appropriate contract length.

The key is to get a broadband deal with a nine months contract if you’ll be leaving your student accommodation in the summer to move back home. Nine month broadband contracts are pretty rare, but some top providers including Virgin Media do often offer them during the first couple of months of the autumn term.

Having said that, if you’ll definitely be staying in your student home over the summer you won’t need to worry about short contract broadband. Packages with 12 month contracts often work out cheaper than short contract deals, and you’ll still be able to get online during the holidays. So, if you’re 100% sure that you won’t be leaving or moving once the summer term ends you’ll most likely find that you’ve got many more options for getting a good deal on broadband.

What can I afford?

As with anything else you need to work out what your budget is and then stick to it!

When you place your order you may well find that for “just” an extra £5 a month you can get some added bonus that sounds like a bargain - but something’s only a bargain if you need it and you can afford it.

Bear in mind that with almost all types of broadband you'll have to pay line rental too which can add up to £14.60 a month to your bill. Be careful to take any one-off charges into account, such as installation or activation fees, non-Direct Debit charges etc. so you know exactly what you're going to pay before you buy.

If you're in a shared house do the smart thing and pool your funds together to get a good package that will be fast enough to support you all (see below), and try to resist the temptation to buy anything that you don’t really need.

What speed and download limit will I need?

If you're going to be living alone then speed and download limit (or “monthly usage allowance”) probably won’t be too much of an issue, especially if you keep the movie downloads to a minimum. Look for a budget deal and make sure you stick to your download limits, or get one of the cheaper and slower fibre optic broadband packages.

If you're going to be sharing a single broadband connection amongst a houseful of fellow students then you will need a faster option with a high or unlimited usage allowance.

Do I need any other services?

Some providers such as BT, Sky and Virgin Media offer broadband in bundles with home phone and digital TV. Buying two or three services from a single provider usually works out cheaper than if you were to go to a different provider for each. But, as with anything else, this only represents good value for money if you were going to buy these services anyway, and if you can actually afford them!

You may find when ordering your broadband that the provider tries to “upsell” to you, i.e. encourage you to take other services, so be careful what you agree to order. By all means, if you can afford it then do get digital TV to go with your broadband, but make sure your budget can cover it.

Also, bear in mind that if you if you do get a package with TV you’ll also have to buy a TV Licence – or risk a very heavy fine.

Information provided by Ofcom Accredited comparison site