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How to switch broadband provider

Fact checked
Fact Checked.
Updated on
June 13, 2021

In a nutshell

Switching broadband is actually pretty quick and easy. Most broadband providers will let you follow a ‘one-stop’ switching process, which means all you have to do is just sign up with them. They’ll sort out the rest of the switch for you!

Nuts About Money squirrel

Tired of slow internet speeds? Terrible customer service? Unexpected price hikes? 

Switching broadband provider is easier than it’s ever been. Plus, if you haven’t switched internet provider for a couple of years, the chances are you’re overpaying (read on to see what we mean!). 

Here, we’ll show you how to switch broadband provider so you can pay less for more.

Why switch internet provider?

Okay, so first things first, why bother switching broadband provider in the first place?! Well, there are two main reasons...

1. Price

If you haven’t switched internet providers in a while, then you’re probably paying more than you need to. Let’s take a look at why.

When you first sign up with a broadband provider, they’ll normally put you on a contract with a lovely discount to encourage you to choose them. Nice!

However, this deal won’t last forever. Most people are on a contract that lasts between just 12 and 24 months. And sadly, as soon as your contract ends, your internet provider will suddenly charge you through the roof for the exact same service! You could see your bill rocket by a whopping £17 per month. Ouch!

Broadband providers price rise after contract
Broadband providers price rise after contract

If you’re thinking, ‘Huh? How can they get away with that?!’ then listen to this: they’re basically just hoping that you can’t be bothered to switch or that you don’t know how to. It’s known as the broadband loyalty trap and according to Ofcom (the people who make sure you’re treated fairly when it comes to things like bills), around 25,000 households are falling into it every day. Crazy, right?!

By switching broadband provider (or asking your current provider if they can give you a better rate) you’ll be able to avoid these price hikes and benefit from a nice introductory offer all over again. In fact, Ofcom says that customers who shop around for a new deal pay on average 20% less for their internet than people who are out of contract. Kerching!

2. Service

Even though we all hate paying more than we have to, it isn’t all about price. More of us are working from home than ever before, so it’s never been so important to have good broadband that lets you get stuff done.

Lots can change in a year or two and broadband speeds are constantly improving. In fact, Ofcom says that 96% of the UK can now access superfast broadband. So, if you haven’t switched broadband providers in a while, you’re probably not making the most of the best internet speeds or services available to you.

By switching broadband provider (or asking your current provider if they can offer you a better contract) you’ll be able to access the best services that are available in your area. You might even get them for a lower price than what you’re currently paying!

On top of that, remember how important things like great customer service are. Although most broadband providers are greedy and will put their prices up as soon as they can, some newer providers like Cuckoo are trying to change things by offering simple broadband with excellent service, no contracts and no hidden price hikes. We’d say that alone is worth switching for! 

When can I switch broadband?

Technically, you can switch broadband whenever you want. But if you switch when you’re still in the middle of your contract, you’ll probably have to pay an early exit fee.

This will normally be the same amount as what you’d pay for the rest of your contract, so if you’re leaving quite a few months early, it can add up a LOT. For that reason, you’re normally best off waiting until your contract is finished. If it’s been a while since you last changed, the chances are you’re already out of contract. But you can find out for sure by checking your online account, your latest bill or giving your broadband provider a call. 

That said, there are a couple of scenarios where you can switch early without having to pay a penalty.

First, if your provider increases their prices more than the rate of inflation (that’s the rate at which the cost of living is going up in the UK) – or more than what they state in your terms and conditions – you’re legally allowed to leave without having to pay a fee. You’ll have 30 days to do this from the day you get told your rate’s going up.

Second, if your internet speed is a lot slower than what your broadband provider promised, your provider will be in ‘breach of contract.’ You’ll have to let them know and give them a chance to fix it first. But if they can’t, you can leave without having to pay the cancellation fee. 

Just be aware that it can be a little bit tricky to prove your provider’s in breach of contract. So, unless things are really bad, it might just be worth waiting until your contract’s over and then switching broadband providers immediately. Which brings us onto...

How easy is it to switch broadband?

Switching broadband is really easy. Seriously. Once you’ve done it, you’ll wonder what on earth you were so worried about.

In the olden days, you’d need to get something called a ‘migration authorisation code’ from your old provider and give it to your new provider so that you could switch. However, nowadays, most broadband providers will let you follow a ‘one-stop’ switching process.

What that means is that you just need to sign up with your new provider and they’ll do all the running around to sort out the switch for you. Better still, you shouldn’t lose internet connection for more than a moment. Phew!

That said, for this to work, you’ll need to be with a provider that uses the Openreach phone network, and you’ll need to switch to a new provider that’s on that network too. 

Don’t worry, most of the big providers are. We’re talking BT, Vodafone, EE, TalkTalk, Sky… the list goes on. However, there are a few that aren’t, like Virgin Media. If you want to switch to or from one of these providers, you’ll need to tell your current supplier that you’re leaving them and set up a new service from scratch with your new provider. 

Before you start panicking, hear us out. This doesn’t mean you’ll have to go without the internet while you’re switching. Instead, you’ll just need to find out what date your new contract can start, and schedule your current contract to end on that same date.

In other words, it’s a little less easy if your provider doesn’t use Openreach. But it’s still easy and so worth doing to save money on your bills each month and get access to faster broadband. Honest!

How to switch broadband provider

Okay, okay, we know we said that switching was easy. But now you’re wondering how to switch broadband. Just follow these simple steps to find a cheaper (and better!) deal and start making a saving.

1. Find your current broadband details

Start by taking a look at your current deal to see where you stand at the moment. 

The easiest way to see your contract terms is by logging into your online account with your broadband provider. If you don’t have one, you’ll be able to find a fair bit of info on your latest internet bill or, if all else fails, you can just give your provider a call. Here are the main questions you’ll want to find the answers to.

Are you mid-contract or out of contract? 

If you haven’t switched broadband in the last year or so, you’re probably out of contract. But if you are still in the middle of your contract, check when it ends and put that date in your diary. There’s nothing to stop you from finding a new provider now, but ideally, you’ll want to hold off switching until your contract runs out. That way, you won’t have to pay those early exit fees we told you about.

What’s your current broadband speed? 

Find out how fast your current broadband is and then consider whether it’s fast enough for your needs or whether you want to find something faster with your next provider. You can find this information out by looking at your broadband contract. Or, you can use an online broadband speed checker to find out whether you’re getting what you’ve paid for.

What’s your current broadband type? 

This ties into the last question to do with broadband speed. There are three main types of broadband – ADSL, fibre and cable. ADSL is the most common but will probably be too slow if you use the internet a lot, for example for gaming. In fact, it’s in the process of being phased out. On the other hand, fibre and cable are both much faster and more reliable.

Once you’ve found out these details, you’ll be in a much better position to know exactly what you want from your next broadband contract. At the end of the day, there’s no point in picking the cheapest deal if the internet speeds aren’t going to be fast enough for you. But there’s no point in paying more for superfast speeds that you just don’t need either!

2. Choose a new deal

Now you have a better idea of what kind of deal you’re on currently, you can do the easiest part of all – choose a better one!

The best way to find a new deal is by using a comparison site like MoneySuperMarket, GoCompare or Confused.com (check out our reviews page for our recommendations).

Most of the big comparison sites will ask you to enter your postcode so they can show you what kinds of deals are available in your area. Then, they’ll let you filter by things like internet speed and what length of contract you want so that you can find the perfect fit for your needs.

When you’re comparing deals, remember one thing: even though the monthly price is important, it’s not the only important thing to check. You’ll also want to take into account things like speed, customer service, whether a deal includes any perks and whether you could save money overall by combining your broadband with a phone package or TV subscription.

The chances are that the right broadband for you will be about finding the best balance between all these things based on your priorities. 

Take Virgin Media, for instance. They have some of the fastest broadband speeds in the country (so much so that, on one of their packages, you could probably watch 100 movies all at once if you wanted to!). But their customer service is the absolute worst (read our Virgin Media review to see what we mean). Is fast broadband worth it when you know that contacting them will be a pain if things go wrong? Only you can decide!

3. Make the switch

Last but not least, you’ll need to make the switch official! Luckily, this can be done in only a few clicks.

If you’re using a comparison site, you’ll just need to select the provider and deal you want to switch to, enter your details and voila! Most of the time, your new provider will handle everything else for you, including contacting your old provider to let them know that you’re leaving and arranging a date to switch you over. Easy!

That said, sometimes, your new provider won’t be able to arrange the whole switch for you (remember, this can only be done if both your old and new providers use the Openreach network!). 

If that’s the case, you’ll need to get in touch with your new provider to find out what date they can start your contract and confirm you’re happy. Then, all you have to do is let your old provider know that you’d like to leave on the day your new contract is scheduled to start (they’ll probably try and give you a better deal to encourage you to stay, but stay strong! You’ll almost always be able to get a better rate by switching.). See? It’s not rocket science!

How long does it take to switch broadband?

It normally takes around 2 weeks to do an internet switch. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend 2 weeks worrying about it. And it doesn’t mean you have to spend 2 weeks without internet either! 

So, what does happen during this time?

Well, it just gives both your old and new providers time to get prepared for the switch. Your old provider will make sure you’re up-to-date with your payments and will take some time to settle your account with them if you owe them any money. And your new provider will normally send you a new router (your router is that box you plug into the wall to get wifi).

Then, when your transfer day arrives, you’ll just need to swap your old router with your new one and ta-da! After just a few minutes of downtime, your new internet connection will be all ready to go.

Can I keep my landline number and email address when I do an internet switch?

Most of the time, yes! 

Just like how you can keep your mobile number when you switch mobile phone contracts, you should be able to keep your landline number when you switch broadband providers. Normally, you can do this by just ticking a checkbox online when you’re selecting your new deal. Your new provider will then simply let your old provider know about the transfer.

To be frank, they don’t have to accept your request to keep your old number. But there’s no real reason for them to say no. If you’re worried about it, just ask them before switching, so you can be sure.

Now for your email address. Many of us are now using free webmail services like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. If that sounds like you, switching internet providers won’t make any difference to your email. 

However, some of us are still using our internet provider’s email address (think addresses like ‘@bt.com’ and ‘@virginmedia.com’). In this case, keeping your email address when you switch providers isn’t always so simple. Essentially, it’ll all depend on how nice your old broadband provider is.

Some providers will let you keep your email address indefinitely (like BT and Sky), while others will delete it when you move (like Post Office). There are also some that will let you keep it for a set period of time only, to give you a chance to arrange a new email address (like TalkTalk and Virgin Media). 

Basically, if you’re using your current provider’s email address, it’s worth contacting them before you switch to find out what the deal is. Fingers crossed, it’s not something you’ll need to worry about!

How much does switching broadband cost?

Even though switching broadband should save you money in the long run, there will be some upfront costs you’ll need to budget for. Make sure that you factor these in when you’re comparing providers and picking your new deal.

  • Set-up fees: Some providers will charge you set-up fees to connect your new broadband, often due to the cost of a new router. These fees tend to be between £30 and £60. They’ll normally be clearly listed though so don’t worry, you shouldn’t be caught out!
  • Line rental: Most of the time, the cost of your phone line (called line rental) will be included in your deal. However, it’s worth checking to be sure.
  • Cancellation fees: You’ll only have to worry about these if you’re leaving your current contract early. However, if you do leave early, they can add up very quickly – especially if you still have a number of months left on your contract!
  • Extras: If you take out a new deal that includes a TV package, you might have to pay an upfront cost for things like wifi-boosters or set-top boxes.

You may also end up paying extra if you need a visit from an engineer. Most of the time, this won’t be necessary as the main part of switching broadband won’t actually happen inside your home. However, if you have a new house, a phone line needs to be installed, or you just want someone to help you set up your router, your new provider will normally be happy to send someone along. It just might cost extra!

Ready to switch broadband provider?

We know that switching providers can sound daunting, but it can be a lot quicker than you might think. And let’s be honest: it’s so worth it to save money on your internet bill and get access to faster speeds. If you’re ready to make the switch, it all starts with taking a look at your current deal and then finding one that’s, quite simply, better. 

Want to search through all the deals available to you to find the right one at the best price? Head to a comparison site. Is speed the most important factor of all? Check out Virgin Media. Or are you after a transparent provider with great customer service and no price hikes? See Cuckoo.

Whatever you choose, if you haven’t switched providers in a while, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a deal that gives you more for less. Good luck (not that you need it)!

Our review of Cuckoo

Want super-fast broadband that supports charity? You’ll want to check out our review of Cuckoo.

Read reviewRead review

Our review of Cuckoo

Want super-fast broadband that supports charity? You’ll want to check out our review of Cuckoo.

Read reviewRead review

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