The basics
THE UK: Once you arrive

Setting up broadband and phone services in the UK

Cable provide a simple guide for international students arranging broadband internet and phone services once they’ve arrived in the UK...

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Attracting around 500,000 international students every year, the UK offers some of the most prestigious places to study in the world. Whether you’re reading Science, History, Medicine, Law, Creative Arts or any number of other subjects, you’re part of a proud heritage of further and higher education. Whatever your course, you’ll want to know how easy is it to keep in touch with friends and family back home. Here’s your answer...  

 

How do I get a mobile, landline or broadband deal in Britain?

To sign up for most telecoms contracts in the UK, you’ll need to pass a credit check and have some kind of credit score (accumulated from signing up for and paying off credit on goods and services). If this is your first time in the UK, or if you’ve been in the country for a while but have yet to sign up for credit, the initial first step can be tricky.

One essential ingredient is to have a valid UK bank account; this should be your first step in applying for credit. Should you find you’re unable to get a mobile contract because of your credit history (or lack of one), you can opt for a pay-as-you-go plan instead – although landline or broadband services can be trickier to get without a credit score.

 

Who can I get broadband from in Britain?

There’s a wide and growing number of providers offering broadband, landline and mobile deals, with many giving you the option of signing up for two or more services at the same time.

The fastest widely available broadband in the UK offers up to 152Mbps download speeds on a fibre optic connection. You’ll find that if you’re staying in an urban part of the country, you’ve a good chance of being in a fibre area. The further you go from major population centres, the less likely you are of finding superfast connections; ADSL broadband is more common in some suburban or rural parts of the UK.

 

What’s the best way for me to call home from Britain?

Be cautious using a mobile phone or SIM that you’ve purchased at home; international roaming charges could mean you’re paying more than you’d have to on a better plan.

While many international providers do offer good overseas call packages, it’s worth considering getting a UK mobile phone contract (or alternatively a SIM to use in your existing phone) to help keep the costs of calling home down.

If you’ve got internet access where you’re staying, you could also consider making VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) video or voice calls to friends and family back home. You can either call for free if the person you’re trying to reach is online at the same time as you and you both have matching software installed (Skype is a popular choice for voice and video calling online), or alternatively purchase credit to call landlines or mobiles from your computer. Prices can be as low as 2p per minute to talk to international numbers from the UK using this method.

 

What are my rights as a consumer in Great Britain?

You’ll find some of the world’s most stringent consumer protection in the UK. Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, you can either seek either a refund or compensation if a product or service you purchase is of low quality, not as described or contains hidden charges.

Since the majority of landline, mobile or broadband contracts are arranged either online or over the phone, you also benefit from Distance Selling Regulations. These guidelines give you a ‘cooling off’ period to change your mind after purchase (usually seven days after first receiving the product or service). Should you wish to cancel within this time, you can do so without financial penalty.

In addition to this consumer protection, telecoms regulator Ofcom has ruled that, should a provider increase your regular monthly charges at any point mid-contract, you can cancel without incurring any early termination fees. Before this change, consumers had to accept the higher price or pay to break the contract before the minimum term has passed.

If you have a problem with your phone or broadband and can’t resolve it by contacting the provider, you can escalate your complaint by going to one of two independent telecoms adjudicators that operate in the UK. All broadband, TV and phone providers are registered with either the The Communications and Internet Service Adjudication Scheme or Office of the Telecoms Ombudsman (Otelo). Either group can help you resolve such complaints.

 

Is there anything else I should know?

When signing up for a broadband service, you should be aware that there’s a difference between ‘unlimited’ and ‘truly unlimited’ packages. If you sign up for an unlimited deal, you’ll find that although you don’t have a monthly data allowance to worry about, should you exceed a daily, weekly or monthly fair usage limit, your connection could be slowed down by the provider.

Truly unlimited packages don’t impose this kind of traffic management, so if you want to spend a lot of time online at the fastest possible speed, this is the better option.

Depending on where you call home, you may find some of the terms used in the mobile phone sector differ. While most countries use the term ‘Pre-Paid’, for example, the UK uses ‘Pay-As-You-Go’. Similarly, the term ‘cellular’ isn’t widely used, with consumers and retailers referring to ‘mobile’ in most instances.

3G is the most widespread mobile technology across the country, but the fourth generation of mobile is becoming increasingly more widespread as more and more providers start offering the faster service.

 

 

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About Author

Dean Reilly is the news editor of Cable.co.uk, and has been writing about technology since launching the UK's first MP3 magazine in 1999. His pastimes are mostly geeky, including comic books, movies and video games.

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