You need to think about these 5 things when buying broadband

When the internet is down, a laptop is reduced to little more than a box. An expensive box, sure, but a box nonetheless. Not even a fun one that you can turn into a fort.

Let's face it, the web is a superhero. It's got the knowledge of Stephen Fry, only it's faster and dirtier.

The main providers all do pretty similar things, at pretty similar prices. While it's tempting to go by price alone, they do differ slightly, so find out what matters most for your house.

Scroll down to the bottom for a comparison of the top broadband packages out there.


Student Broadband Deals

Is there anything more frustrating than the infinite 'loading' loop? I mean, it's 2013. I thought we'd have lost that with dial-up. Speed is measured by 'mb' and to be honest, Virgin is far and away the fastest. In fact, it's typically twice as fast as it's competitors, running at 30mb vs 14mb from TalkTalk.

Visit SMS's exclusive Virgin Media Broadband offer page for best deals on this provider.

Download limit

broadband download limit

You might think 'I never download' - but you do. Everyone does. Constantly - when you're reading articles, streaming programs, composing Tweets, stalking ex's on Facebook. That's not to mention the odd TV series or fifty that you're downloading. The more the merrier, especially as it affects your browsing speed.

Fortunately, Sky, BT, TalkTalk, Relish and Virgin all offer unlimited downloads - though Plusnet don't.

Contract length

broadband contract length

You don't want your broadband provider telling you this.

If you're only staying in your house for nine months, why pay for a twelve month contract? It's just three months of money wasted. Broadband providers typically withdraw their 9 month offerings around October or November time, knowing most students will already be signed up. So if you don't see any offerings, don't worry - they'll likely bring back a student friendly contract before the next academic year.

Virgin and BT tend to offer nine month contracts.

Relish are terrific because they offer a rolling contract, meaning you're not tied into anything. Fab.

Extra charges

broadband extra charges

Broadband is often advertised as "just £X a month!", which is usually an absurdly low figure. Until you notice the tiny asterisk which points out that you'll also need to pay for line rental at £15-ish pounds every month, and to even get set up in the first place, you'll have to pay a huge set-up fee.

TalkTalk, BT, and Sky all have free set-up costs, but watch out for line-rental.

Relish have no installation fees or line rental costs - they just come around and set up your router and away you go. The only thing to note is that should you choose a one month contract, they'll charge you for the router at £20 - but if you choose to stay with them over a month, this fee is waived.

Customer service

broadband customer service

You know the customer service is truly awful when even the person on the end of phone seems to hate themselves. I hear that 'kill-me-now' voice with depressing frequency.

Everybody has their own take, but Virgin seem to have a pretty rough reputation while Sky do pretty well. The best you can do is ask your friends and course-mates - someone usually has a horror story which they relish relaying. At the very least, it'll be an entertaining ten minutes.

Who offers the best student broadband deal?

Unfortunately, this question is impossible to answer; one provider is yet to provide the best of everything.

Contracts and offerings change constantly - your best bet is to check, who are dedicated to keeping on top of every offer.

If only there were a table to help with this - oh, wait...

Provider Speed Download
Installation Fee Price
(inc. line rental)
Virgin 30mb Unlimited 9 months £49.99 (but often given free - watch out for the sales!) £22.50 Depends who you go with - often free £50+ wine voucher.
Relish 4G Unlimited Rolling Monthly None! £20 per month No installation or line rental needed - so no delays getting online! Just beware Relish currently operate in London only.
Sky 16mb Unlimited 12 months None £19.40 (for twelve months, then £29.40.) For £1.25 extra, get TV too. Or go without TV and get £25 M&S voucher.
BT 16mb Unlimited 18 months None £31.99 (£15.99 is line rental)
TalkTalk 14mb (pay an extra £10 to get up to 38mb) Unlimited 12 months £30 connection fee. £17.90 Free calls between TalkTalk customers.
Plusnet 16mb Unlimited 12 months £49.99 (only if you need a new phone line installed.) £17 N/A