During lockdown, the demands on our broadband have increased dramatically. If you were struggling with slow or unreliable broadband before, it may be even more stressful now, especially if you're working from home or your child is attending school remotely.
And since streaming TV or making video calls with friends and family are some of the only things keeping us sane right now, you may benefit from moving to a new and better broadband service that can handle all your newfound needs for internet.
The good news is, despite coronavirus restrictions, the vast majority of broadband switches can still go ahead as normal. While in-home engineer visits have understandably been paused for now, most switches and installations can be completed completely remotely, outside your home, or sometimes even by yourself.
Read on to find out which broadband installations are still running as usual during lockdown, and which ones you might have to wait a few more weeks to get done.
Most broadband switches can still go ahead
Households who are currently with a broadband provider on Openreach's network (such as BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Plusnet, Vodafone, EE, NOW Broadband and many more) will be able to switch to another Openreach provider completely normally, with no issues. This is because they won't need to install any new equipment, as the new connection would be using exactly the same infrastructure as their existing provider.
Most broadband users in the UK will be on one of these connections, so this situation could well apply to you and you might still be able to switch broadband without any concerns. In these cases, it’s a simple matter of connecting your new router to your broadband phone line and powering it up.
However, if your current broadband connection requires a new line to be installed, or your switch involves a provider that uses another network like Virgin Media's cable broadband or full fibre, then your installation might be a little different.
Openreach engineer visits
For those without an existing Openreach-based connection, switching your broadband might be a little trickier at the moment. As of the new national lockdown imposed in January 2021, Openreach has once again scaled back its in-home engineer visits to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
It has delayed almost all new in-home broadband installations for connections above 30Mbps until 1 March, instead prioritising its home visits for three distinct groups:
- Vulnerable customers
- Those with no existing broadband service
- Customers who need to work or learn from home during the lockdown but whose broadband speeds are too slow.
This means that ultrafast installations of Openreach's new and growing full fibre network won't be taking place until at least 1 March 2021.
An Openreach spokesman said the following, “as key workers, we’ll continue to conduct work outside the home.
Where we do need to go into homes, we’ll be prioritising urgent provisions and critical repairs for those customers who need a more stable connection and to avoid a total loss of service. This will mean that non-urgent provisions, such as those who already have a superfast broadband service and require us to work inside homes, may be delayed.
If an engineer does need to enter your home they will contact you beforehand to talk you through how to make their visit as short and safe as possible."
If you're eligible to still schedule an in-home engineer visit, be sure to do the following before they arrive:
- Clear a path to the main telephone socket or fibre connection point, if you have one.
- Clean any surfaces around the telephone socket the engineer may come into contact with.
- Open any windows or doors where the Openreach engineer will probably need to work.
While it may not be business as usual, the major broadband providers are still carrying out switches and set-ups for new customers, with some products currently unavailable due to the restrictions of engineer visits.
BT has said the following: "Most connections, upgrades, installations and repairs are still going ahead as normal but engineer visits might be cancelled or delayed if an engineer needs to enter your home."
This means that the following broadband products might not proceed as normal for the next several weeks:
- Full Fibre/Fibre-to-the-premises installations
- Socket adjustments or extensions
- Home Tech Expert visits
- TV Aerial fits
- Other in-home product set-ups
However, if you would still prefer not to have an engineer visit your home, you can still switch to and fro comparable services that don't require any changes or upgrades to your phone line, such as other providers on the Openreach broadband network.
Upgrading from ADSL broadband to superfast fibre broadband can still go ahead as normal as the only engineering work that needs to take place is at the cabinet level.
According to Vodafone, 75% of current customer orders do not require an engineer to enter the home. Vodafone has a range of methods already in place for making sure they keep vulnerable customers connected in the event of a fault with their broadband service (or a connection delay) which include:
- Providing free extra mobile data for tethering (for Vodafone Together customers)
- Providing a free MiFi-style device, for use while we’re waiting for the fixed broadband service to start working
- Providing a free basic mobile phone and credit, for use while we’re waiting for a landline to start working
- Removal of its standard £60 fee for installing a new line in the home
A Vodafone spokesperson said, “Vodafone UK are working closely with Openreach to install home broadband without the need for an engineer to enter the premises. We are prioritising vulnerable customers to ensure they can stay connected during this difficult time.
“Installations that do not require an engineer to visit the home will not be impacted. This means customers can plug-and-play their Vodafone Wi Fi Hub on the day of activation. Any existing Vodafone Home Broadband services will continue to run as normal.”
Switching to TalkTalk should still remain straightforward when switching from another Openreach provider. However, there may be some potential complications if you were looking to purchase TalkTalk’s G-Fast ultrafast product.
The majority of TalkTalk installations can be done yourself and won’t require an engineer visit, but TalkTalk has said that under no circumstance will its engineers be entering customers' homes at this current moment.
Like BT, Vodafone and TalkTalk, Plusnet are continuing to connect new customers to their broadband services, provided an in-home engineer visit isn't required.
A Plusnet spokesperson said, “Our number one priority is to keep our customers connected at this time. Following guidance from our network partners at Openreach, we are continuing to provision new customers where an engineer visit is not required or where work we do can be completed outside the home as normal.
“For new customers requiring an in-home visit, we are looking to prioritise essential work for vulnerable customers and those without service, however for all other customers this may result in a delayed connection date.”
While switching your broadband and TV to Sky is still possible, all new pay-TV and Triple Play installations will now take place outside of the home, with any troubleshooting, questions or fixes with engineers talked through with you without them coming inside.
However, you don’t have to miss out on Sky’s extensive range of channels as you can access all of them during this period either via Sky Go or its streaming platform NOW TV, which you can install yourself.
NOW Broadband is still able to connect customers who already have an existing line. The provider simply sends new customers a new hub and sets them up remotely. For those requiring a new line, it's the same story that Openreach has laid out.
NOW TV, on the other hand, is a streaming service and so no engineering work is required. This allows customers to get access to the full range of Sky TV content without a need for any equipment installation.
Check out the latest streaming subscription deals from NOW TV.
Virgin Media installations
If you’re switching to Virgin Media from any of the previously-mentioned providers, then you might need a new connection installed in your home unless it has previously been installed in your property and there is a Virgin Media wall socket still in place.
At the time of writing, Virgin Media has stated that, as a critical service provider, they will continue to carry out in-home installations where necessary. Where possible, Virgin Media will ask customers to self-install where possible, sending out QuickStart packs so that there is no need for an engineer visit.
QuickStart setup is currently available to approximately 60% of customers, and Virgin Media will not be charging any additional fees for this service at this time.
If an engineer visit is required, Virgin Media has also implemented some precautionary measures for its engineering team to follow.
- Checking with their technicians to confirm they don’t have flu-like symptoms, aren’t self-isolating, and haven’t been to high-risk areas.
- Sending a text three days before the visit to confirm if anyone living at the property has any flu-like symptoms or has been asked to self-isolate. If you respond ‘yes’ they will reschedule your installation for two weeks later.
- Asking the same questions on the day of the visit by phone, roughly 30 minutes before the engineer arrives.
The Virgin Media website currently states the following: “We’ve implemented strict hygiene and distancing measures in our retail stores, including providing extra hand sanitiser gels and wipes, to help keep our people and customers safe while we provide product and service information and support.”
Three Mobile Broadband
Mobile network operator Three, which runs a range of mobile broadband services, has made its 4G Home Broadband offer available as a rolling month contract, to ease the pressure on households who are struggling with their current broadband speed during COVID-19.
The deal can be purchased online and the 4G hub (which you can self-install) will be delivered the next working day.
At the moment, internet service providers are still connecting new customers to their services, albeit with some limitations on which products are available to order.
If you’re looking to save money on a better deal or get a better, more reliable broadband service, then check out our broadband Network Checker to see which services are available at your address.