Student Broadband Information guide
Although there’s an extensive IT network and Wi-Fi across our Marjon campus - including our Village Houses and seven Halls of Residence – you may still need to arrange your own broadband if you’re living elsewhere in Plymouth. But with so much choice available, it can be difficult to decide what package is right for you.
If you are an international student finding the best way of staying in contact with friends and family back home can be confusing – especially if it’s your first time in the UK.
2. What type of broadband can I get in Plymouth?
You’ll find Plymouth has good access to both ADSL and fibre optic broadband networks, along with numerous Wi-Fi hotspots. You could also sign up for mobile broadband.
To get online through your landline, choose an ADSL (or Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) connection. Speeds of around 24Mbps are possible, but a number of factors can impact on the speed you get, like how far you are from your nearest telephone exchange.
Fibre broadband, with optimum speeds of up to 150Mbps or more (and with top speeds of up to 300Mbps available in some places in the near future) is the fastest way to get online in Plymouth.
To find out if you can access fibre optic broadband, enter your postcode into a fibre optic broadband availability checker. If it’s not yet available where you are, you can sign up for a broadband availability alert. With this free service, you’ll get an automated email informing you when fibre arrives near you.
An increasingly popular option amongst students is mobile broadband, where you connect a USB modem dongle into your laptop or PC or place a 3G or 4G data SIM in your tablet. A final option involves using your smartphone to ‘tether’ to your computer – using your handset as a portable modem.
3. What broadband speed is best for a shared student house?
The right speed for a student house is determined by how many people will be online at the same time and what they’ll be doing.
The more people connecting to your router and the more data heavy their online activity, the faster your speed needs to be.
Data intensive activities like peer-to-peer file sharing, streaming HD movies or online gaming put a strain on your bandwidth, so a slow connection may struggle if more than one housemate is online at the same time.
You should also consider whether you’ll be subject to download limits. Although many broadband providers offer ‘unlimited’ data, there are often download allowances in the small print. Instead, you should look out for ‘truly unlimited’ broadband, which won’t have a daily data allowance and may not have any traffic management policies to slow you down during peak times.
4. What broadband speed can I receive where I live in Plymouth?
If you’re based near the campus, the optimum speed available is currently 76Mbps with a fibre connection, or around 2.5Mbps with ADSL.
Students in Peninsula Student Living north of our campus get bandwidth managed broadband as standard, but can get up to 76Mbps fibre or 17Mbps ADSL broadband with their own contract. Residents in Astor House get up to 20Mbps included in their rent.
International short stay students living in Homestay Accommodation should check the postcode of their term-time address to find out what’s available where they are.
Wherever you live, an Ofcom accredited broadband availability checker will show you the fastest broadband speeds where you live and also display the different internet service providers in your area.
5. What’s the best contract length?
Although most broadband contracts are 12 or 18 months long, a growing number of providers offer deals aimed at students. These nine month packages are designed to start just before and end just after an average academic year.
This means if you’re travelling home during the summer, you won’t have to pay for a broadband connection you won’t use while away from Plymouth. Providers only offer these deals in the run-up to the start of the academic year, and withdraw them in October, so it’s important to plan ahead.
If you’re staying in Plymouth during the summer, then a traditional 12 month or 18 month contract would be more suitable, and means there wouldn’t be a break in your broadband between academic years.
6. How to save money on your student broadband deal
Know your rights
A change in rules provided by telecoms industry regulator Ofcom means that if broadband providers raise the price of your bill mid-contract, you can cancel your service without penalty – even if there’s still time left on your minimum term.
Previously, consumers weren’t protected against these unexpected price hikes, and were faced with the choice of paying more for their service or paying penalty fees to leave early.
If you have a complaint about your provider and cannot resolve the matter with them, you can go to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. All broadband, TV and phone providers in the UK must belong to one of the two ADR services, which act as middlemen between you and your provider. The organisations are Ombudsman Services: Communications and the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme (CISAS). Alternatively, you can take your complaint direct to Ofcom. If you’re concerned about consumer issues or want to talk to seek further advice, you can speak to the Student Advisory on campus. You can also visit Advice Plymouth for further impartial guidance. You’ll find the service at Ernest English House, Buckwell Street, Plymouth, PL1 2DA.
Switch to e-billing
It’s possible to save up to £35 per year by switching to e-billing. This means you’ll not receive paper bills by mail, and manage your account online instead.
Get all your names on the contract
If your broadband provider allows it, put all of your housemates’ names on the broadband bill. You’ll then share responsibility for the debt.
Get a bundle
If you need broadband, digital TV and a landline, consider a bundle or collection of services.
A broadband, TV and phone comparison site can help you find out what’s available near you. By getting all of your services from one provider, you have just one bill, one point of contact if there are issues – and some companies offer discounts if you get broadband, TV and phone together.
You’ll find lots of places to discuss your broadband and phone options. You’ll find stores like the Carphone Warehouse, the 3 Store, O2 Shop and the Virgin Media stand in the Drake Circus Shopping Centre.
Walk a little further and you’ll find more telecoms stores along New George Street – just look for the Sundial Fountain on Armada Way.
Pay phone line rental up-frontMost UK broadband providers require you to have a landline, but paying for a whole year of line rental in advance means it’s possible to save money.
Ask about ‘line saver deals’, which could help you save up to £50 per year on your line rental.
Compare broadband deals
Shop around: compare what’s available online in order to ensure that you and your housemates get balanced, impartial, accurate and up to date advice. As with most things, it pays to shop around for broadband, and if needed, digital TV and phone services, and once you’re locked into a contract it’s usually not possible to extract yourselves without considerable cost.
Don’t over spend!
It’s easy to fall into trap of thinking that you and your friends probably can’t save money; when there may actually be a number of other ways you can reduce your bills, without changing your habits. It is also very important to have a good idea of how much money you’re likely to need whilst at university, to ensure that you can cover your bills and living expenditure.
7. For international students - Getting a UK broadband or phone contract
If, like many international students at Marjon University, you’re in the UK for the first time, you’re unlikely to have a credit history (a report showing examples of repayments for any goods or services you’ve purchased on credit). This could make it difficult to sign up for a regular monthly contract for your broadband, TV or phone.Getting a basic bank account will help the process. You can get one by applying to any UK bank and presenting your passport, student visa or national photo ID card with a Letter of Introduction for UK Banking Facilities or confirmation of your UK study details from the University. Once your account is set up, you should be able to apply for any of the wide range of mobile phone or broadband offers available to UK consumers.
There are many ways of keeping in touch with friends and family online. Whether you’re sending and receiving regular emails from home or making VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) calls, the internet provides low-cost ways of catching up with the people that are important to you.
Free software packages like Skype or Vonage enable you to make voice and video calls to others using your broadband connection at no cost – as long as they have it installed on their computer too. If you need to contact someone without a computer, you can also make calls to overseas numbers via Skype and Vonage by buying international minute bundles, with calls starting at 1.4p per minute.To use Skype or Vonage, you’ll need good quality internet connection. You can find out what broadband deals are available where you are by using an Ofcom accredited broadband, TV and phone comparison service. Just enter the postcode of where you’re staying to find the most appropriate deal available locally.
If you’ve brought a cellular phone with you to the UK, using your existing SIM could be expensive – particularly if you’re planning on calling home with it. Instead, consider buying a dedicated international SIM card while you’re here. Although you won’t always be able to keep your existing number, such SIM cards allow you to make international calls for as little as 1p per minute – often far cheaper than using your own SIM in the UK.
Ofcom – Your consumer rights, The Office of Communications and the Government’s telecom watchdog http://www.ofcom.org
Ombudsman Services: Communications to: http://www.ombudsman-services.org/communications.html
Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme to: http://www.cisas.org.uk
Cable.co.uk provides impartial, expert advice to UK consumers in matters of broadband, TV and phone. As a comparator, it is fully accredited by Ofcom and has, in its continuing pursuit of reputational excellence, provided free, authoritative and bespoke guides for the websites of dozens of UK academic institutions. www.cable.co.uk