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A guide to switching mobile phone provider

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With so many contracts and networks to choose from, switching your mobile phone provider can feel a bit daunting to say the least. But don't fret; that's where we come in.

Between uSwitch's comparison pages and the advice on this page, we do all the legwork for you and make it quick and easy to find the right network and complete your switch.

Read on and we’ll answer all your questions about switching network.

Why would you want to switch mobile phone network?

There are a multitidue of good reasons to switch mobile phone provider. We list the most pertinent ones below:

  • You're unhappy with your current network's service. Whether that's the quality of coverage, mobile internet speeds or the standard of customer service.
  • You've seen a really good phone contract or SIM only deal on another network.
  • You like the look of the perks that another network is offering.
  • You don't use the perks you're already paying for.
  • Another network offers a better, more extensive international roaming scheme.
  • You can't get the phone you want on your current network.

Still not sure you want to swap network? We take a closer, more in-depth look at the key reasons you may want to switch mobile phone network.

Which network's best for perks? O2? Three? EE? Get the measure of what's on offer with our network-by-network guide.

Are you eligible to switch network?

This is crucial. If you're still under contract with your existing provider for a SIM-only deal or a phone-and-tariff contract, you may have to pay up the rest of your contract before you can switch.

Depending on how long you've got left to run, that could prove costly.

If you’re locked into a contract but still want to get a new phone or switch providers, check out our guide on cancelling your mobile contract early.

If you're not sure when your contract ends, ther are lots of ways to find out.

You can usually find your contract end date by opening up your network's app on your phone (assuming you've downloaded it, that is). If you can't see it there, just ring up your network and they'll tell you.

Under Ofcom regulations, there's no legal obligation for your network to contact you to tell you when your contract is ending.

So the onus is on you to find out the date when it ends and, by extension, when you're free to switch.

Of course, if you're on a rolling-contract SIM-only deal, you can switch whenever you like. You just have to give your existing network 30 days' notice.

Check the coverage the network you're joining offers in your area

mobile phone coverage gps car

Switching to a new network only to find that you get a poor signal in the area where you live or work is something to be avoided at all costs.

To check the coverage quality that the network you're joining offers in your locality, use postcode coverage checkers.

All you have to do is enter your postcode and you'll see a map that shows you how good coverage is in that area.

You'll find coverage checkers for all the major networks below:

So you're eligible to switch and have checked coverage in your area. What's next?

The crucial thing to decide next is whether you want to keep your phone number.

Given what a hassle it is to get a new number, which you then have to give out to all your friends, family and other contacts, we're going to start with how to switch and keep your number. Since that's probably what most of you would prefer to do.

Keeping your number when you switch mobile phone provider

Man holding two phones data transfer

Keeping your number when switching mobile networks is much, much easier than you might imagine.

All you need to do is get what's called a PAC code (Porting Authorisation Code) from your existing provider. You can do this by ringing their customer support line.

Under consumer regulations, they're obliged to provide the PAC Code within two hours of your request.

Need more help transferring your number to a new network? Take a look at our in-depth guide to porting your number.

Once you've got your PAC Code, your next task is to contact the provider you're joining and supply them with the code. And they can start the switch.

Make sure you use your PAC Code within 30 days. After that point it runs out and you'll need to ring your network and ask for another one.

You'll find contact details for all the major networks below:

EE

Ring 150 from an EE mobile phone

Ring 079 5396 6250 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

Three

Ring 333 from a Three phone

Ring 033 3338 1001 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

O2

Ring 202 from an O2 phone

Ring 034 4809 0222 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

Virgin Mobile

Ring 789 from a Virgin Mobile phone

Ring 034 5600 0789 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

Vodafone

Ring 191 from a Vodafone phone

Ring 033 3304 0191 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

BT Mobile

Ring 150 from a BT Mobile phone

Ring 0800 800 150 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

Plusnet Mobile

Ring 500 from a Plusnet Mobile phone

Ring 080 0013 2632 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

ID Mobile

Ring 7777 from an ID Mobile phone

Ring 033 3003 7777 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

Tesco Mobile

Ring 4455 from a Tesco Mobile phone

Ring 034 5301 4455 from any other phone (mobile or landline)

Sky Mobile

Ring 033 0041 2639 from Sky Mobile handsets, or phones registered to other networks and landlines.

giffgaff

giffgaff doesn't offer customer support helplines. To get your PAC code, fill in this contact form.

For more information, read our guide on how to keep your number when you switch providers.

Switching network when you don't want to keep your number

Switching mobile phone provider is at its simplest if you're not bothered about keeping your number.

In this case, you simply contact the provider you want to join and tell them you won't be transferring your old number and want a new number instead.

It's then just a matter of contacting your current provider to tell them you want to end your contract.

Of course, the smartest thing to do is to try and match up the start and end dates of your contracts.

Line them up right and you can ensure you won't be without a phone service for any period of time and won't be paying two contracts, if the dates overlap.

Help with choosing the right deal

So you've read all the above and you're ready to switch. By this point you'll probably have already made your mind up on the deal you want.

Before you get things underway with the switch, it's a good idea to have a final check to make sure the deal is the best value you can get and the best one for your needs.

Choosing a SIM-only deal

Guide - sim cards colours

SIM-only deals are becoming ever-more popular. And with manufacturers bringing out flagship phones that only feature incremental updates from previous generations, it’s not surprising that more people are choosing to stick with their current handset.

If your smartphone is still fit for purpose, getting a SIM-only deal could save you a lot of money. Without having to pay off a new handset, you’ll only need to pay for data, calls and texts.

The advent of one-month, rolling-contract SIM-only deals have made it even more attractive to take the SIM-only route.

One-month SIM deals can be cancelled with just 30 days' notice. That means you're free to change your mind and get a new phone if your old one packs up or you fancy a shiny new handset.

So rather than being locked into a two-year contract, you can opt for a 12-month or even one-month deal, giving you more flexibility.

Check out all our SIM-only deals.

How do I choose the right handset?

Cheap phones budget phones hero

If your current handset has seen better days or you’ve got your heart set on the latest Apple or Android device, it’s time to start looking at shiny new phones.

Finding the perfect phone for you can be a bit tricky. So, if you’re unsure about which phone you want, check out our guide to the best available smartphones. Or, if you’re looking to save money, read our picks of the best budget phones.

If know you want the latest model from Apple or Samsung, you can browse our iPhone deals or our [Samsung Galaxy phone deals]

Check out our mobile phone deals.

How do I ensure my plan has monthly allowances that are right for me?

Man texting

From estimating how much data you’re likely to need each month for the next two years, to working out which network will best suit your needs, picking the right plan can be a bit of a minefield.

While it’s important to know how many texts and minutes you’re likely to need, most deals will include a generous allowance of calls and texts. Nowadays, it’s all about the data. And with the majority of smartphone customers either buying far more than they need or running out of data before the end of the month, it’s important to get the right plan.

If you’re not sure how much data you need, check out our guide on data allowances.

And if you’re all about using the internet on your smartphone while you’re out and about, read our guide on the best mobile coverage in the UK.

While data is the main selling point for most phone deals, value for money is still important. So it’s a good idea to compare the perks and incentives offered by UK mobile providers.

You can find loads more information and search deals on our mobile networks page.

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