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Broadband and Mobile for International Students in the UK

If you’ve come to study in the UK you'll find it can be tricky to get your first mobile phone or broadband contract, and the options that are easily accessible can be very expensive.

There are, however, some simple steps you can take to keep prices down.

Getting a mobile or broadband contract

Most UK providers will run a credit check on you. If this is your first time in the UK, you won’t have a credit score, so you may find that getting a broadband or mobile contract is difficult.

  • To overcome this, you should set up a bank account (most universities can help with this process). With that, a permanent UK address and proof of your status as a student, you should find it a little easier.

Choosing the right mobile deal

International london phone

To avoid the process required for a credit check, you could go for a pay-as-you-go (often referred to as 'pre-paid' in other countries) SIM-only deal.

  • Many UK providers offer additional bolt-on extras that can give you free minutes, texts, data or international calls – useful if you’re planning on calling overseas.
  • Be realistic: if you’re unlikely to use your phone for data-heavy online activities, don’t worry about high download limits. Try and find a plan that fits the way you use your phone.
  • Avoid using a SIM or contract that you’ve brought with you from home. International roaming charges could make any calls you make from the UK to your country very expensive.

Choosing the right broadband deal

You have three main options when it comes to broadband in the UK:

  • ADSL or Fibre Optic – these are fixed-line connections which require a physical link to the wider telecoms network.
  • Mobile – broadband using a 3G or 4G SIM, or dongle, isn’t as fast as the others but does give you the flexibility of taking your broadband connection with you.

If you’re going to be online infrequently, sending emails or browsing websites, then you won’t necessarily require fast download speeds or unlimited data allowances.

  • If you’re planning on downloading or uploading large amounts of data then a faster fibre optic connection could be for you.
  • If you are sharing your broadband with housemates, it’s worth checking if you can put everyone’s name on the contract; this means you’ll share responsibility for the bill.

Your rights as a UK consumer

You’re protected by a number of laws, regulatory bodies and independent groups as a UK consumer:

  • Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 – this guarantees that you get good quality, fit for purpose and as described products and services – and you can seek refunds or compensation if they aren’t.
  • The Distance Selling section of the Sale of Goods Act 1979 – this means that if you’ve purchased a mobile or broadband contract over the phone or online (or any other product or service for that matter) you can change your mind, cancel and get a refund up to seven days after your order starts.

Should you have any problems with your mobile or broadband, you should contact the provider first. If that doesn’t resolve your problem, you can take your complaint further by going to one of the two independent adjudicators that oversee the UK telecoms industry:

  • Ombudsman Services: Communications 
  • Communications and Internet Service Adjudication Scheme. 
  • You can also complain to Ofcom, the independent telecoms regulator.

Save money while keeping in touch

All but one UK broadband provider requires you to have a landline to get online, even if you don’t plan on using a home phone.

  • Student Finance Tips
    Fortunately, some providers offer line rental saver schemes that allow you to pay for one year’s worth of line rental at the start of the contract. By clearing the bill at the start of your term, you can save money.
  • If you’re only staying in the UK for the duration of the academic year, look at the range of student broadband deals for nine-month contracts that are available.
  • Instead of making costly calls on your landline or mobile, consider making Voice Over IP (VoIP) calls instead using packages like Skype. With this and similar packages, you can make voice or video calls to other people online. If you want to dial landlines rather than computers or tablets, you can also purchase credit to make traditional calls using VoIP technology.

Developed in collaboration with Ofcom accredited broadband, TV and phone comparison site www.cable.co.uk