8th October 2013
Dean Reilly is a guest contributor from Cable.co.uk. The views expressed may not represent those of Virgin Media.
Ask the parent of an undergraduate what a pre-uni shopping list should contain and you’ll get the usual stock answers: textbooks, toiletries, bedding and maybe a nicely topped up Pay As You Go SIM card.
Go straight to the student however and technology will top their essential must-haves, with the first thing they’re likely to mention is broadband to power all those gadgets. Really fast broadband. So with that in mind, what do the latest crop of higher education entrants need to know about getting and staying online while at university?
Remember that however fast your broadband is, if you’re in a shared student house, it’s not just the fridge space you’ll need to divide up between you: you’ll be sharing your broadband too.
No matter what broadband deal you sign up for, your optimum speed will be shared between whoever is connected to your WiFi at the time. The more devices that are online at once, the more your bandwidth gets divided up between users. Admittedly, not everyone will always be online at the same time, but you should consider the busiest periods in your student house (at a guess, we’d say the night before a deadline is going to be pretty hectic) and get a broadband speed that can keep everyone happy.
Before you start arguing over who gets the best bedroom, take some time to think about where your router is going to live. Where you position the technology can have a big impact on how well it can perform. Ideally, you should try and position it so as many devices as possible have line-of-sight to it. Naturally, there are going to be devices in other rooms that won’t have this advantage – but there’s ways to help those too.
You should make sure your router isn’t surrounded by heavy or dense obstacles –things like walls can reduce the signal strength – so as a rule, try and leave as much free space around it so that the signal can spread. Similarly, your signal can bounce off reflective surfaces like mirrors or windows, and other electrical items – especially those that send radio signals like TVs or cordless phones – can interfere with your router too.
With many students relying on mobile phones rather than landlines to keep in touch and turning to online entertainment rather than watching live TV, you might be tempted to get a stand-alone broadband connection.
The faster you get, the less time you’ll need to wait to download a file or stream a show and the most widely available top speed is currently Virgin Media’s 120Mb. With the exception of Virgin Media though, even fibre optic broadband typically requires a landline to work.
That said, if you’re going to get a landline to share anyway or want to all contribute to a TV package, you can actually save money by combining one or both of these services with your broadband deal.
When you’re thinking about contracts, it’s worthwhile looking for a nine month deal that will cover the duration of the academic year rather than a more typical 12-month option. If you time it right, a nine month student deal will make sure you’re sorted from the start of the new term until you break up for the summer in July.
This makes a lot of sense, as with a 12 month contract you could end up paying for broadband in a house you might no longer be in.
If you’re a fresher, you’ll need to be careful with the timing, as many first year courses start a little earlier. That being said, since most undergraduates start their studies in halls with broadband provided, this might not be that big an issue.
When it comes to actually signing the contract, we’d suggest that you don’t have your broadband in just one name. Although we’re sure that your new housemates wouldn’t just disappear at the end of the course and leave you holding the bill, it’s possible they could – so make sure there’s more than one name on the contract.
So there you have it: doing a little research before committing to a broadband contract will help you save money on bundles, get the speed you’re after, position your tech in the perfect spot and make sure you share the responsibility for the bill at the end of each month. Then you can relax and get busy studying online. Or maybe just browsing to look at pictures of cats.