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How to switch broadband

How to switch broadband

Life is slowly starting to return to normal after the COVID-19 lockdown, meaning that you can once again switch broadband quickly and easily. During lockdown, many providers stopped or limited their home engineer visits, offering self-install options for customers looking to switch broadband.

Engineer visits have now restarted, and in less than an hour you can get yourself faster speeds, better service and a lower price. So if you are thinking of getting a new broadband deal, here are a few things you should know about switching providers:

Why should I switch broadband providers?

Now that the switching process is becoming increasingly streamlined, the time it takes to switch (which tends to take no more than an hour of admin) is far outweighed by the benefits of getting a better broadband deal.

You might be out-of-contract


If you’ve been with the same broadband provider for over a year or two, then the chances are you’re already paying more for your monthly broadband than you should. It’s common practice for providers to offer introductory discounts when you first switch, and then increase your monthly prices drastically from the first month you’re out of contract.

If you're still using the same package but your initial contract has finished, your monthly bill will almost assuredly have increased significantly.

If you’re still in contract with your provider it is still possible to switch, however you might incur an exit fee if you’re still within your minimum term. In this case, it might be better to compare broadband deals now but switch later, when the additional fee doesn’t offset your savings.

The exception to this rule is when a provider increases its prices within the agreed contract. In this instance, you would have 30 days to cancel your contract with them and switch to a new broadband provider.

Another way you might be able to get out of paying cancellation fees is if your provider is in breach of contract — for example if your actual speeds are significantly slower than promised. This one can be tricky to prove, but it can be done.

using wifi in new home

You could actually get faster broadband for a cheaper price

There are more benefits to searching for a new broadband deal beyond a cheaper price. A lot can change in a year or 18 months, and access to better broadband speeds and services is constantly improving. Superfast broadband is now available to over 95% of the UK, so if you’re on an old ADSL contract, you could probably be getting faster speeds and quite likely at a lower price too.

In contrast, you may have services on your subscription that you no longer need, such as paid TV or landline calls. With the boom in online streaming networks and ubiquitous minutes on your mobiles, you might want to reduce the number of services you’re paying for from your broadband provider in order to save money.

See some of the top cheap broadband deals available to you.

You can keep your landline phone number when you switch provider

In much the same way that you would transfer your mobile number over when you switch to a new contract, your current home broadband provider should allow you to keep your landline number when you move to a new provider, as per Ofcom regulations.

Your new provider doesn’t have to accept your request to transfer over your number, but it’s typically in their best interest to do so. To make sure you can take your landline number with you, ask your new provider if they’re able to make this transfer when you’re arranging the switch.

You can usually keep the same email address if you switch

The popularity of free webmail services like Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo has grown exponentially in recent years, however, there are still those that access their provider’s email services.

The option to maintain access to your email address, unfortunately, depends entirely on your provider. For the most part, providers tend to leave email accounts alone, but it would be a good idea to check with your current provider about this before you switch.

If you’re able to keep your e-mail account, you'll still want to turn set up auto-forwarding on the account you're not going to use any more and create a new account to receive your e-mail.

How long does it take to switch broadband?

time online

Although there’s no hard and fast rule about how long you’ll have to wait before your new service is up and running, the general rule of thumb is two weeks — but again, this is just what you can generally expect.

Some providers can take up to six weeks while others can get you set up in less than a week. When cancelling with your current provider, you might be required to give 30 days notice in some cases.

The simpler the switch, the shorter it should take. If you’re transferring an entire broadband bundle or changing the type of your home’s broadband connection — for example, upgrading from ADSL to cable broadband — this can take longer as your new set-up may need to be physically installed.

The process is still an easy one, though. Once you sign up with a new provider, you should be able to set an installation date that’s convenient for you, and from there you can coordinate the contract cancellation date with your current provider to keep the time you’re offline to a minimum.

The installation itself should only take from 30 minutes for a simple switch, and at more a few hours for those upgrading to cable or full fibre broadband.

elderly couple using a laptop

How to switch broadband providers

In a lot of cases, the process of switching providers is seamless and they can do all the legwork for you, including cancelling your current broadband contract. Broadband providers like Sky, Plusnet, BT, EE and TalkTalk all operate on the same network, so switching between them is very straightforward.

However, you might have to factor in more time if you’re switching to a provider that uses different infrastructure, like Virgin Media or Hyperoptic.

Ready to switch to a new broadband provider? Here are the three simple steps to switching broadband:

1. Check your postcode for available broadband

We now have the ability to tell you exactly what broadband speeds are available in your home, rather than simple averages for your postcode. Enter your postcode and door number in our beta-stage broadband network checker to see exactly what speeds and packages are available in your home.

Despite superfast fibre broadband being available to 95% of UK premises, it’s still worth checking to see if you have access to certain packages and speeds. Enter your postcode into our postcode checker and we can show you which broadband deals are available in your area.

2. Compare broadband packages

The best broadband package is what’s best for you, so take into account your usage habits and budget when you compare what’s on offer. Does your household really need superfast broadband speeds over 100Mbps? Do you want to bundle digital TV in with your broadband and landline? And for that matter, do you actually need a landline?

There are plenty of options out there, and the best broadband package is going to be the one that suits you.

3. Contact the provider you want to switch to

Once you’ve chosen the broadband deal that you want, simply click through the steps to contact your new provider to tell them you want to switch. At the moment, this process is then handled entirely by your new provider from this point on. They will cancel your contract with your old provider and set up the new start date for your contract.

Currently, the exception to this rule is when switching to providers on their own cable networks, the most common being Virgin Media. When switching to or from Virgin, you will currently need to contact both your new and old provider to arrange the switch. However, new legislation coming into place will mean that even those providers on separate networks –– like Virgin Media and Hyperoptic –– will now have to adhere to the gainer-led process, just like all the other providers.

You will receive written confirmation from both new and old providers confirming the switch. Your new provider will confirm your subscription details, including prices and contract end date. Be sure to keep this confirmation and note down when your contract expires in order to avoid unnecessary price hikes this time next year.

The confirmation form your old provider will need to detail which services are affected by you switching and if there are any charges that you are liable for.

If you change your mind while the switch is being processed, you're still free to cancel without any penalty. But only if you do so within 14 calendar days of the start of the new contract.

Thinking of switching your broadband provider? Take a look at our latest broadband deals.

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