Provided in partnership with Ofcom Accredited comparison site Cable.co.uk
London boasts one of the most widespread broadband networks of any city in the world, and wherever you're living while studying at Queen Mary you should be spoilt for choice with broadband providers and packages.
It’s really important to think carefully before you commit to a contract. You don’t want to pay more than you have to, but still need to make sure you get a package that does everything you want.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the main things that you need to consider when choosing the right student broadband package:
Broadband prices and availability can vary greatly by location, even in London, so the best place to start your search is by finding out what your options are. You can do this by visiting the websites of the main providers, but it’s quicker and easier to use a reputable broadband comparison site. Look for ones that feature an Ofcom accredited broadband comparison to make sure you’re getting impartial results.
The greater the number of people sharing a broadband connection the faster it will need to be. If you’re buying broadband to use on your own you should find that almost any package available in the London area will be fine. However, if you're splitting a connection between a house full of students you should try to get fibre optic broadband, which can go up to 152Mbps in some parts of the city. But you're unlikely to need a package that's quite that fast. A 38Mbps broadband package will be more than enough for a household of three to five students.
Monthly usage allowance
A lot of broadband deals offer unlimited monthly downloads but you can often save money by choosing a package with an allowance of just 10GB to 20GB per month. However, these more basic packages are only suitable for light users who avoid content-rich sites or apps like the BBC iPlayer and Netflix. For larger groups in shared houses, it’s really not worth risking anything less than an unlimited package.
Be sure to watch out for the use of the word ‘unlimited’ though. As a rule, only packages described as ‘truly unlimited’ offer broadband with no restrictions, despite what you might expect.
This may seem like an obvious point, but it simply cannot be overstated: when you buy broadband you are agreeing to every one of the provider’s terms and conditions. It’s crucial that you get a contract with an appropriate length because if you try to leave early your provider will be entitled to charge you for early termination – and these charges can be incredibly high. If you're staying in the same accommodation all year and over the summer then a 12 month contract will keep you online - and it should save you money by offering the best ‘day-on-day’ value.
However, if you're likely to be leaving your accommodation at the end of the summer term you should try to get broadband with either a nine month deal, or perhaps a rolling one to three month contract. Some providers even offer specific student broadband packages if you sign up around the start of the academic year – click here to see what’s on offer at the moment. As you’d expect, these are usually only offered from August through to October, and what’s available can change each year.
Remember, when your contract is up, your provider may ask you to return any hardware (routers, modems etc). If you fail to do so, you could find they’ll charge you for them and ultimately chase you for unpaid bills if you don’t settle your account.
Similarly, if you’re sharing your broadband with others, it’s worthwhile checking if you can put the bill in more than one name – that way you all share responsibility for making sure your bills are paid and up to date when it comes to cancelling at the end of your term. Not all providers will permit you to do this, but it’s always worth asking – if only to ensure nobody’s left paying the bill at the end of the year.
Line rental and other costs
Every broadband package you see will have a clearly advertised cost but you need to be mindful of any other charges too. With the exception of Virgin Media’s fibre optic broadband, every provider requires an active phone line and regular line rental payments, which can add as much as £18 a month to the cost. Often you can reduce this by paying the full contract-length’s line rental in advance – but that could put a strain on your finances just when you need them most.
You may also have to pay activation and installation fees, so make sure you know exactly what you’ll have to pay to get your service up and running and what you’ll be paying each month.
It’s also worth knowing that until recently broadband providers (along with mobile phone service operators) were perfectly within their rights to increase your monthly charges at any time during your contract! However, Ofcom has recently taken steps to change this, and should your provider increase your charges you’re free to walk away from the arrangement. It pays to know your rights.
A bundle (or in some cases referred to as a ‘collection’) is the term given to mean a package of broadband, TV and phone calls, all from the same provider, for which you pay one monthly fee. The great thing about bundles is that you get the convenience and ease of having all your charges on a single bill and you only have one provider to deal with should anything go wrong.
You can find advice on some of the best value bundles that combine broadband, TV and phone by checking online - you could be saving money while getting your ideal collection of services.
Just be careful not to get too carried away – it’s a really common mistake to order things like sports and movie channels under the assumption that you and your housemates will save money by having fewer nights out, and then find out you really don’t use them fully. Don’t end up paying for things you don’t need!