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How to switch mobile phone networks

What are the pros and cons of changing mobile provider, and how do you make the switch? This guide tells you everything you need to know.

Hand holding phone

If you’re not getting the services you need for the best price, it might be time to shop around for something better.

Answering these questions might help you decide:

Could I save money?

If you think you’re paying too much, it’s worth looking into changing network provider. The mobile phone market is a competitive one, so, there are some great offers around for phone contracts and SIM only deals. 

Am I getting enough coverage?

Different networks have different coverage maps across the UK. If you're constantly dealing with poor signal where you live or work, it might be time to switch to a new network for a more reliable signal.
Signs of a poor signal include:

  • dropped calls or difficulty in connecting
  • messages taking ages to send
  • videos buffering
  • losing signal completely in certain areas

You might also want access to a faster 5G connection. Many devices are now 5G-enabled, and the UK rollout is underway, though coverage is still limited to major towns and cities. You can track its progress at 5g.co.uk and use the coverage checker to find out if 5G is available in your area.

Do I want a new phone?

Switching phone contracts means you could also upgrade to one of the latest high-spec handsets! It’s also a good time to make the move from Apple to Android, or vice versa.

Do I want a better bundle?

There are plenty of perks out there from inclusive data roaming to discounted access to premium TV channels. Switching can give you more than data, texts and minutes too. 

Depending on where you live, the likes of Vodafone, Virgin Media, and Sky offer mobile phone deals that come bundled with broadband.

Do I want a better value data deal?

The average user gets through 5.6GB of mobile data a month. If you’re paying for more than you’re using – or you often have to top up your allowance – switching to a new phone contract could save you money.

Use our data usage calculator to find out exactly how much you can do with your data allowance. It can help you decide whether you want more data to work and play with.

If you frequently tether other devices to your handset or do a lot of live streaming, gaming or P2P activities, the more data the better.

You need to tick a few boxes before you can change mobile network.
You can switch if one or more of the following applies:

  • your current contract has expired
  • you’re outside the minimum contract length
  • you’re in a contract but you’re happy to pay the early termination charge (ETC) for leaving it early. This is typically the total cost of the remaining months on your contract
  • you’re on a pay as you go deal
  • you’re on a 30-day rolling contract, although you may have to give a month’s notice
  • you’re within the cooling-off period of a new contract, usually 14 days.

How do I find out if I’m out of contract?

Check your online mobile account or get in touch with your network provider. If you’re out of the minimum contract period, chances are you’re paying too much.
It’s now a rule that your network provider has to tell you when your contract is coming to an end. They should also tell you about their best available deals and send you annual reminders if you’re out of contract.

Once you’ve found and signed up for a new deal, switching providers is usually easy. In some cases, you’ll need to contact your old provider or cancel your old direct debit. If you want to transfer your current number to your new contract, you simply ‘text to switch’ to change your mobile phone network by SMS. Here’s how it works:
1. Text PAC to 65075. PAC stands for Porting Authorisation Code
2. The message back will give your code, plus any important contract information such as the ETC or your credit balance if you’re a PAYG customer.
3. Give the PAC to your new provider within 30 days.
4. Service is switched within one working day. You won’t have to pay any notice period charges.  

You can also get your PAC via your network provider’s website. It shouldn’t take any longer than getting it by text and the next steps are the same.

If you’ve got more than one number linked to your account, you’ll need to ask for your PAC online or by phone.

The ETC can be expensive. This is often reason enough to stick with your current provider a bit longer. However, you may have an argument for leaving without paying an ETC if:

  • you’ve had bad customer service
  • you’ve got poor coverage
  • your provider has raised prices above the retail price index (RPI) rate of inflation.

You will need to argue your case, so give your provider a call. Make sure you’ve got your facts straight and all the relevant information to hand before you pick up your phone.

Once you’ve asked for a PAC code, your current network provider may get in touch with you to offer you a better deal. Compare quotes and plan features so you’ve got some bargaining power. After a bit of haggling, you might find that staying with them is your best option.

Remember to cancel your old contract before you carry out the switch.

Comparing mobile phone deals and SIM only plans with us gives you access to a wide range of network providers, including:

  • Asda Mobile - SIM only
  • EE –SIM only. EE have opted out of comparison websites for mobile phone deals
  • giffgaff – SIM only
  • iD Mobile – SIM only
  • iD Mobile – mobile phone
  • Lebara – SIM only
  • Lyca Mobile – SIM only
  • O2 – SIM only
  • O2 – mobile phone 
  • Sky Mobile – SIM only
  • Sky Mobile – mobile phone 
  • SMARTY – SIM only
  • Talkmobile – SIM only
  • Talkmobile – mobile phone 
  • Tesco Mobile – SIM only
  • Tesco Mobile – mobile phone 
  • Three – SIM only
  • Three – mobile phone
  • Vodafone– SIM only
  • Vodafone – mobile phone 
  • VOXI – SIM only
You can also compare deals by handset brand if you’ve got a particular phone in mind. These include:
  • Apple
  • Samsung
  • Google
  • Sony
  • Honor
  • Oppo
  • OnePlus

It depends on where you are and a few other factors too, including:

  • Trees and building materials like metal that can get in the way of mobile signals.
  • Your distance from the mobile tower. The signal can only travel so far. On average, the maximum usable range is 25 miles, although it’s typically 1-3 miles and less in cities.
  • Heavy network traffic, particularly at peak times or in densely populated areas.
  • Hilly or mountainous landscapes. Network boosters can help if you’re dealing with natural barriers to the signal.
To find out about the mobile availability in your area, use Ofcom’s coverage checker. You can also check out the coverage by network:
  • EE coverage and network status checker
  • O2 coverage checker
  • Vodafone network status checker
  • Three coverage checker
These ‘Big Four’ also host mobile virtual network operators (MNVOs) which run on their networks. For example, if you’re with Asda Mobile, you’ll be using the Vodafone infrastructure.
Here’s where some of the most popular MNVOs belong:
  • EE: BT Mobile, Plusnet Mobile, Lyca Mobile ecotalk, 1p Mobile
  • O2: Sky Mobile, giffgaff, Tesco Mobile
  • Three: iD Mobile, SMARTY
  • Vodafone: Asda Mobile, Lebara Talkmobile, VOXI
Just because a network covers your area, it doesn’t mean your service will be exactly as promised by the provider. 


If you’re out of contract or able to leave your current contract, then yes – absolutely. You can switch to a SIM only tariff immediately. If you’re on a rolling monthly contract, you may need to give 30 days’ notice.
Just remember, if you’re moving from a mobile phone plan to a SIM only deal, the handset won’t be included. You just pay for the SIM card, which gives you access to your network services.
If you’re happy with the phone you’ve got, that’s not a problem. If you want to upgrade to a newer model, you’ll have to buy it yourself.  
Find out more about the pros and cons and compare quotes for SIM only deals. 

Getting a PAC code means that you’ll automatically take your phone number with you. It’s called number porting. In fact, according to Ofcom regulations, your network provider is obliged to make that happen if you ask. If they’re not cooperating, get in touch with your new provider and let them know.

You can check your number’s been ported successfully by putting the new SIM card into your phone and asking someone to call you.
If you want to change your mobile number, text 75075 for a Service Termination Authorisation Code (STAC). Just remember to update the contact details on any accounts you have and let your chosen contacts know how to reach you.

Switching mobile providers means choosing a plan that works for you. Compare tariffs online to help you decide.
Before you start searching, it’s useful to have the following information to hand:

  • Your monthly data usage
  • Your monthly texts and minutes
  • Any additional requirements, like roaming, either within the EU or further afield
If you don’t know what you use each month, have a look at your phone bills. It’s also helpful to know the kind of tariff you want. Would you prefer PAYG, or to have the predictability of a monthly rolling tariff/30-day plan or a 12-month or 24-month contract?
As a rule, the longer the contract, the cheaper the monthly payments. However, PAYG SIM only deals start from as little as 89p a month for 3GB of 5G data with Lyca Mobile, though this increases to £3.90 after three months. 
For a SIM only deal with unlimited data, you’re looking at around £8.99, increasing to £24.95 after three months with Lyca Mobile or £15 a month and no three-month price increase with iD Mobile.  
Mobile phone contracts start from £13.95 per month for 30GB of data, no upfront cost and a Galaxy A14 phone. For unlimited data, it’s £25 a month with no upfront cost and a Galaxy S22 handset.
When you switch mobile providers, you can also snap up some great special offers and discounts, including free roaming or, with Apple phones, free access to Apple TV+ for a limited period.
Many network providers also include 5G at no extra cost in certain areas. Good news if you’ve already got coverage in your area.


Going for the cheapest deal can be a false economy if you’re not getting what you need. Compare mobile phone contracts online and it’s much easier to weigh up the pros and cons.
With Confused.com you can filter results by:

  • Monthly cost price
  • Upfront cost
  • Data allowance
  • Contract length
  • Network
  • Refurbished phone deals
  • Deals with 5G.

Have a chat with your current provider to see if they can do you a better deal. They want to keep you as a customer and you might be surprised by what they offer.

Compare deals first and then prepare to politely haggle!

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