Even though many broadband providers had to reduce the number of installations and engineer visits to homes during lockdown, broadband switches have finally returned to normal. Or whatever we can call normal these days.
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?
Take a few minutes to compare broadband deals and you'll be glad you did, as it usually takes no more than an hour of admin to switch broadband, and is far outweighed by the benefits of getting a better broadband deal for the next 12-24 months.
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.
Your monthly bill will almost assuredly have increased significantly if you've been using the same package for more than a couple of years.
If you’re still in contract with your provider it is possible to switch, but cancelling your contract within your minimum term might incur an exit fee. 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 above the rate of inflation or outside its terms and conditions while you're within the agreed contract. In this instance, you would have 30 days from the day you received the notification 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 and the provider can't fix anything to make it faster. This one can be tricky to prove, but it can be done.
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 copper ADSL contract, you could probably be getting faster speeds and quite likely at a similar or even 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 services and unlimited 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.
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 significantly 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 email account, you'll still want to set up auto-forwarding on the account you're not going to use any more and create a new account to receive your email.
Get more information on how to keep your email address when you switch providers with our dedicated guide.
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.
It's worth noting that this doesn't mean you'll be offline for two whole weeks while the switch is prepared, just that you'll be using your existing service until your new one is swapped over. You should only expect a maximum of 30 minutes offline while the switch actually takes place.
It's also worth considering that some providers can take up to six weeks to organise an installation, while others can get you set up in less than a week. Also, when cancelling with your current provider, you might be required to give 30 days' notice so be sure to plan accordingly.
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 and your downtime during the switch may last a couple of hours.
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.
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 BT, Sky, Plusnet, Vodafone, 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 runs on a different network, like Virgin Media, Hyperoptic or Openreach full fibre.
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 to your home, rather than simple averages for your postcode. Enter your address in our broadband network checker to see exactly what speeds and packages are available at your address.
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. If you enter your postcode into our postcode checker, we'll 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 from 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.
"The secret to saving money on your telecoms bill, is just to be aware of what you're paying each month. End of contract notifications now give you a perfect snapshot of both current and future spending, and should be the trigger to check what's going on in the market. Two years can be a lifetime in technology, so there could be better value deals available when your contract nears its end - simply check, compare your bill to what's out there, and make the switch. Be sure to see whether the new provider is up to the coverage and connectivity standards you're on right now, and feel free to haggle with your current provider to see if they can improve your deal if you wish to stay put."
Ernest Doku, broadband expert at Uswitch.
Thinking of switching your broadband provider?