How to switch broadband provider

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Whether you’re looking for faster speeds or just want a better deal, many people switch broadband provider when their contract is up.

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In a recent Ofcom survey, 82% of UK respondents said they were very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their broadband service. And 81% were very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their broadband’s reliability. That leaves almost a fifth of people who aren’t satisfied with their broadband.

If you’re one of them, it might be time to shop around and see who has the best broadband deals.

When changing internet provider, there are a few steps to follow:

1. Think about why you want to change broadband provider

Do you need to find a new broadband deal to reduce your outgoings? Or perhaps your broadband isn't fast enough for your current needs?

If you’re frustrated with your internet speed, check out Ofcom’s tips for improving your broadband speed before you switch. It may also be worth calling your current provider to negotiate a better deal.

If you decide to switch, run a broadband speed test to see what speeds you typically receive at the moment and decide what you’re looking for from a new package - do you need faster speeds?

Potential new providers should give you accurate information on internet speeds before you sign up. Speeds advertised must show the average speed that at least 50% of customers get at peak times.

2. Find out when you can switch

Check where you are in your minimum agreed term ie: how many months you have left on your contract. Usually, there’s a penalty for switching early. Most people choose to wait until their contract ends before they switch. However, you can switch earlier if you’re happy to pay the exit fee.

If you’re switching between different broadband networks, you’ll need to give your current provider notice that you’re switching –  at least 30 days for some providers. If you’re switching between providers on the same network, you won’t have to give notice, they’ll be automatically notified.

3. Check which providers cover your area

Different providers cover different parts of the UK. To find out who offers broadband deals in your area, use our postcode search.

4. Choose a new package

Browse the contracts and bundles available to you. Check for any upfront costs and limited-time promotions, such as half-price for the first few months. Or see if you could bundle more services like TV or landline in with your broadband package.

Legally, internet providers must offer contracts that are no longer than 12 months, although you may choose to go with an 18- or 24-month option. There are also rolling 1-month contracts from a limited number of providers. These tend to be expensive but can be useful as a stopgap.

5. Make the switch

Agree on your switch-over dates with your provider. You usually need to pay for any new broadband equipment. These fees should be shown upfront. If you’re switching between providers on the Openreach network your new provider will contact your current provider for you. However, if you’re switching between networks you’ll need to get in touch with both providers.

The switching process depends on which provider you’re with and whether they’re on the Openreach network. If you’re switching between Openreach providers, it can be a seamless process, while swapping across networks or shifting to a new type of broadband i.e. installing full fibre, can take longer.  If your switch requires an engineer, allow 7-10 days for your appointment to be set up. If you’re switching to Virgin Media, you may need an engineer if your property’s never had it before.

Currently, the switching process works like this:

  • If you’re switching within the Openreach network
  • If you’re with one of the providers that use the Openreach network – BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone, for example – the switch should be fairly seamless. Simply ask your new broadband provider to contact your current provider and arrange the switch.
  • If you’re switching between networks
  • If either provider is not on the Openreach network, you need to contact both providers. This typically applies if you’re switching to or from Virgin Media or switching to full fibre broadband for the first time. Your current broadband contract needs to end before your new contract can start. This is known as ‘cease and re-provide’ and may mean you have a few days without internet.

Check if your provider is on the Openreach network

Both providers must send you a letter outlining which services are being switched and when the switch may take place. The letter from your current provider will also include details of any exit fees or early termination charges (ETC).

Ofcom’s upcoming ‘One Touch Switch’ will mean that in the future, customers will only need to contact one provider to start the switching process. This was originally scheduled to be introduced in April 2023 but has been delayed a number of times and is now expected some time in 2024.

Yes, you can usually switch your bundled services at the same time. If you have satellite TV from Sky, this may be slightly more complicated, so talk to your new provider about your options.

When you switch broadband bundle, you’re legally entitled to keep your current landline number. This is known as number porting. However, some customers report being told they can’t keep their phone numbers. If this happens, you can report it to Ofcom who will help you resolve things.

If you want to keep your landline number, let your new provider know as early as possible.

It’s usually best to wait until the end of your contract. Contact your chosen new provider about a month before your contract runs out. Many people switch broadband providers regularly and save significant amounts of money when they do.

If you’re still in your initial broadband contract period, you may need to pay to the end of the contract or pay an exit fee. If you move house while still in contract, you’ll have to pay an exit fee if your current package isn’t available at your new property.

It’s worth asking your provider if there are any incentives to stay. Although many providers reserve their best offers for new customers, haggling for a cheaper broadband deal can be successful.

You can switch broadband provider without penalty if you’re not getting the broadband speeds advertised when you signed up. You should also be able to switch everything in your bundle if you have one and any linked products.

Find out more about broadband speeds from Ofcom

Ofcom advises that if there’s a problem on your provider’s network and it’s not fixed within 30 days, you can switch without penalty.

If you want to change providers mid-contract, you may need to pay until the end of the agreed term and/or pay a cancellation fee.

Your current provider should give you a breakdown of your exit fee. This is usually calculated by looking at:

  • How many days are left on your minimum term agreement
  • How many days you’ve been billed in advance
  • Which products are in your bundle

You may also be charged for any unreturned equipment, for example, routers.

How do I change my internet provider and keep my email address?

It depends on which broadband provider you’re using. With most providers, you can’t keep your email address, while some charge a fee to keep it.

If you’re concerned about keeping your email address when you switch internet provider, you may want to sign up with a neutral provider.  This means you won’t be tied into your broadband package feeling that you can’t switch in case you lose all your emails.

Within the first 14 days, you can cancel your request to switch broadband free of charge. This is known as the ‘cooling off period’. Sky Broadband offers an extended cooling-off period of 31 days.

If you’ve activated any services or used any equipment, there may be a charge for this.

Any bill credit should be refunded to your bank account.

  • Give your current provider the opportunity to price match before you switch. 
  • Broadband-only deals tend to be more expensive than broadband-plus-phone deals.
  • If you’re renting, it’s best to check with your landlord before you switch internet providers, particularly if the switch involves drilling holes.

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