How to Switch Broadband Providers

We know how it is. You have your broadband package - sure, the internet is slow and it seems to cost more than everyone else's - but who can be bothered to switch right? It's a real effort.

But no - not anymore. Many people are put off by the thought of switching - but they shouldn't be. Most people find it easy to do and you're likely to end up with cheaper packages and faster speeds.

In June 2015, Ofcom introduced big changes to make the process of changing broadband providers much easier. You no longer have to obtain a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) etc and in most cases you'll no longer have to contact the provider you want to leave - the new provider will sort everything out for you.

Finding your perfect new package is only the first step towards switching - there's a process to follow if you want to change services with the minimum downtime.

Reasons to switch

Although the UK has some of the lowest prices available for fixed broadband services, many customers are not actually paying the lowest prices because they do not switch broadband regularly enough to benefit from better pricing.

The worst bit is - people stay with their providers and many are dissatisfied with their broadband package. Many customers are on outdated and overpriced "legacy tariffs" because of a number of barriers to switching provider.

Reasons people stick around with pricey packages while newbies get better deals and freebie, not believing they will find a better deal elsewhere, or fear of being left without a connection during the switching process.

Benefits include:

  • Fast download speeds
  • Better value for money
  • Higher download allowances
  • Improved customer service

Get comparing deals and providers

The best way to find a package is to use an Ofcom-approved site that details hidden costs like installation charges, line rental and monthly prices after any special offer discounts expire.

It is import to get a realistic picture of what you will have to pay in the first year, so get your sums right before switching.

Unsure of a new provider's reputation? Customers make for the harshest critics - so ask around and search online for opinions and reviews.

Remember, as much as cheap broadband is brilliant, if the customer service is awful - you'll be in for a rough time if anything goes wrong.

Things to think about when comparing:

  • Consider fibre optic - More providers than ever before are offering fibre - and it is not as expensive as you may think. Fibre optic might be worth the extra cash for busy households or gamers who use a lot of bandwidth.
  • Pay line rental upfront - Line rental is a 'hidden cost' of broadband and in many cases is pricier than the package itself. Some providers like Sky and BT offer a significant discount - so if you can afford to do it - it's worth doing.
  • Sign up online - Don't call up to arrange a broadband package as you're far likely to get a better deal online.

Decide on a broadband deal

The first thing you should do is enter your telephone number and postcode into our comparison tool. This will let you search for all the best deals available for your location.

Next it's important to decide on the package that you need. Check your usage from your current provider (it should be on your bills - or give them a call to ask) because you don't want to pay top whack for unlimited data if you only use a few GB a month browsing Facebook.

Once you've got a deal in mind, make sure you have all the details on exactly what you'll be signing up for - and for how long.
If you're not given one, ask for a speed estimate for your address, as well as checking contract length, connection charges, and the total monthly cost, including any hidden charges such as mandatory line rental.

Put this information somewhere safe, then in a few months if you are not getting what they said you would get, it's time to get haggling.[LINK]

The switch

Contact your new chosen provider

If you're switching between providers who use the Openreach telecoms network - such as BT, EE, Sky and TalkTalk - then your new provider will arrange the whole transfer for you.

They'll let your old provider know that you want to move on and you'll then be sent notification letters or emails (from your old and new providers) confirming what's happening and when the transfer should take place.

You'll also be told if you will have to pay any early termination fees.

If required - contact your existing provider

If you're switching to or from a cable network, you'll need to stop your service with your current provider and start a new one with a new provider (sometimes known as 'cease and re-provide').

In these circumstances you'll need to contact both your current provider to cancel your contract and your new provider to arrange your new broadband service. You'll then receive notification from the provider you are leaving that your contract is ending (and notification of any charges with this), and will be given a new contract from your new provider which will tell you when your contract is due to start.

Are there costs involved in switching?

Before starting any broadband switching process, check your current contract and make sure you've completed the minimum term. If you're still under contract, you could be hit with a heavy cancellation fee for leaving early.

It maybe worth considering haggling down your current deal [LINK] for a few months and leaving when your contract has ended.

If there is a charge to pay, you'll be notified of this once the switching process is in motion, at which time you're free to cancel the switch if you want to.

Pre 2015, you may have been charged for a 'new line' installation fee - but not any more. If you're outside the minimum contract term you signed up for with your old provider then all you should usually expect to pay is the cost of any calls and usage since your last bill.

Will I lose service during the switch?

Under the new rules Ofcom brought in in 2015 you're now much less likely to experience lengthy downtime when switching broadband providers. Your new provider can advise you when the switch will happen and if you can expect any loss of service while it takes place.

If you're only switching the broadband on your existing telephone line and not any bundled phone service (you're only changing between two broadband-only suppliers) then you'll literally only experience a few minutes of downtime as the switch automatically takes place.

If you're also switching who you pay for phone calling and line rental with at the same time as your broadband, it will take a bit longer as an engineer may have to visit your local exchange to make changes to your phone line - this will take a few hours tops.

Cancelling one service then signing up for another could cause a lot of down time, but there's no reason why your old connection has to be switched off before your new service can be activated.

Will I have to lose my phone number?

Under the old system, switching between particular providers could sometimes result in losing your phone number. This was because the same phone line had to have its service stopped and then restarted by the new provider as it was a totally new line.

Under the new system, this should never need to happen, so your phone number should not be at risk.

Some contracts are reduced in price if you already have services with the supplier.

For example, if you have BT Broadband, you save £5 per month on a BT Mobile SIM, or if you add an additional EE SIM to your account you can save money too.

Select any of the products you already have below to ensure that you find the best deals available.
The UK has four licenced network operators: EE, Telefonica UK (O2), Three and Vodafone providing services using a variety of mobile technologies.

There are a number of other companies that provide mobile network services such as Tesco, giffgaff and Virgin. These are known as MVNO (mobile virtual network operators) which lease network capability from one of the four licenced operators.

These are all listed below so you can determine which of the four network operators provides service.

EE O2 Three Vodafone
ASDA giffgaff ID Mobile Lebara
BT Mobile Lycamobile Three Sainsburys
co-op O2 Talkmobile
EE Tesco Mobile Vodafone
Family mobile
The People's Operator
Utility Warehouse
Virgin Mobile