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How to switch broadband

If it’s been a while since you’ve changed broadband providers, don’t be scared to make the switch! Changing providers is hassle-free these days, and you’ll be up and running in no time. This guide should answer all of your questions about switching.

Thanks to new regulations from Ofcom, changing broadband providers is easier than ever before.

If you changed providers under the older system, you’ll be relieved to know that these days, you don’t need a migration authorisation code, also known as a MAC code. And in most cases, you don’t even need to contact the provider you want to leave to cancel your contract. Now, the responsibility for managing the switch lies with the provider to whom a customer is switching.

These changes have ultimately made it easier for you to switch, but you may still have some questions. Read on to see our answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about switching broadband providers.

If you’re ready to make the switch, check out our best broadband deals now.

Broadband switching FAQ

Why should I switch broadband providers?

If you've been with your current provider for a while, you might not know what's out there, and you could be overpaying for slower service. In recent years, fibre-optic broadband coverage has significantly expanded, so if it wasn't previously available in your area, it may be now.

Many providers increase monthly prices once you're out of contract, too, so you might be overpaying for slower speeds than you could be getting with another provider.

Check out our broadband packages page to see if you can switch broadband today to a better deal.

Can you switch broadband mid-contract?

Yes, but you may be slapped with some charges. Some providers charge an exit fee and enforce a minimum term during which this applies, which can make switching broadband while on contract a more expensive affair and potentially offset any cost savings.

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 want to. Alternatively, you can read your contract to see ahead of time if you’d be liable to pay any charges — usually called ‘early termination fees’ — or you can call your provider and ask.

There are some instances when you may be able to avoid paying any cancellation fees if you end your contract early. If your provider has raised your monthly bill by more than the line of inflation, you can cancel your service without any penalties if you do so within 30 days of being notified about the change.

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, however.

How long does it take to switch broadband?

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 may take up to six weeks.

The easier the switch, the shorter it should take. If you’re transferring an entire broadband bundle or switching the type of broadband — for example, upgrading from ADSL to cable broadband — this can take longer as your new set-up may require installation.

The good news is that once you sign up with a new provider, you should be able to set a convenient installation date, and from there, you can time the cancellation with your current provider to minimise the time you’re offline.

The installation itself should only take from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending upon what needs to be done.

Can I keep my landline phone number if I switch providers?

If you’re staying in your current home and just changing providers, your current provider should allow your landline number to be transferred to a new phone company, as per Ofcom regulations.

Of course, the new provider doesn’t have to accept this request — 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.

If not, you do have another option: VoIP. VoIP — short for ‘voice over internet protocol’ — is an internet-based phone service. Most VoIP providers will allow you to move or ‘port’ your current landline to a VoIP service for a one-time fee.

To learn more about VoIP, read our dedicated guide to VoIP.

I use my broadband provider's e-mail service. What do I do about my account?

Although free webmail services —like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail — have grown in popularity, a lot of people still use e-mail addresses from their ISPs. If you’ve been using your provider’s e-mail account, you’ll need to know how to keep your e-mail address when changing internet service providers.

Whether or not you can keep your e-mail address depends entirely on your provider. Generally speaking, most providers leave e-mail accounts alone, but you should check with your current provider when you switch. Some providers delete e-mail accounts once customers leave, and some will let you keep it — maybe for a fee.

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.

To avoid having to change your e-mail address every time you change provider, register for an e-mail service that's not linked to your broadband supplier. Pick from Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook, all of which are free. This will make switching broadband providers much easier in the future.

How to switch broadband providers

1. Check your postcode

Enter your postcode into our postcode checker to see which packages are available in your area.

2. Compare packages

Find the ideal package for your needs, taking into account your usage habits and budget. Do you really need a super-fast broadband service? What kind of download allowance is best for you? Are you looking for just broadband or do you want to get TV, too?

3. Contact the provider you want to switch to

Once you’ve worked out your needs and chosen a package, contact your new provider and tell them you want to switch to them.

If you’re switching between companies using the Openreach network — for example, making the change from BT to Sky, EE or TalkTalk —this is called a gainer-led process, which means your new provider handles the switch from start to finish and you don’t have to cancel your contract with the provider you’re leaving.

If you’re switching between cable networks – most likely switching to or from Virgin Media – you need to follow what’s called the cease and re-provide system, which requires you to call both your new provider to switch and your old provider to cancel your contract. Under this process, your current provider will switch off your broadband at some stage, so to minimise your offline time, coordinate the end and start dates.

Once you’ve set the switch in motion under either system, you'll get written confirmation that the switch is in motion. This will come from the provider you're leaving and the one you're joining. The letter from the one you're leaving must tell you which services are affected, which are unaffected and whether you're liable for any early cancellation charges.

The letter from the provider you're joining must give you a date for when the switch will occur as well as firmly set out the terms of the switch. For the cease and re-provide process, you’ll also receive a new contract from your new provider.

In the event that you change your mind while the switch is being affected, you're free to cancel without penalty. But only if you do so within 14 calendar days of the start of the new contract.