Why switch broadband providers?

Switching broadband could save you money. So it's a good idea if you’ve been with your provider a while and your contact has ended.

But it’s not all about money. You might also want to change to:

  • get faster download and upload speeds

  • go from a limited to an unlimited broadband package

  • bundle your broadband with phone and TV services

  • find a more reliable broadband service

When can I switch broadband?

You can switch broadband providers at any time. 

If you change providers before the end of your contract, you may have to pay a fee to end your contract early.

You may be able to avoid these exit fees:

  • if you’re not getting the minimum speed guaranteed when you took out the contract

  • if your provider puts its prices up within the contract period

For most people, the best time to switch broadband suppliers will be at the end of your contract. This is often 12, 18 or 24 months.

If you stay with your provider past your contract period, the cost of your broadband deal is likely to go up. 

So it’s a good idea for you to switch broadband at this point.

A few broadband providers offer 1 month contracts. So you can leave penalty free with 30 days’ notice. These tend to come with bigger setup fees and higher monthly costs. 

How do I switch broadband providers?

Price comparison sites can help you compare the best broadband deals available. 

Popular broadband switching sites include:

  • Cable.co.uk

  • Moneysupermarket.com

  • uSwitch.com

  • Comparethemarket.com

  • GoCompare.com

These sites also compare bundles. Either broadband and phone, or broadband, phone and TV.

Not all broadband providers offer service to all areas of the UK. A postcode search on a price comparison site will show you what’s available at your address.

Some providers offer better deals or cashback if you get your deal direct from them. So check broadband providers’ websites too.

After looking at deals online, you could call your existing broadband provider. They may offer you a better deal to get you to stay.

Most UK broadband services (like BT, Sky, Plusnet, EE, and TalkTalk) use the Openreach network. 

This means you can switch more easily as they use some of the same equipment.

The key exception is Virgin Media which has its own network. This means switching to or from Virgin Media has a different process.

Smaller networks include CityFibre, Gigaclear and Hyperoptic. But these only cover some parts of the UK.

If the same provider supplies your landline and broadband, it's likely you'll have to switch both. 

But you should be able to keep your phone number.

The main exception to this is if you’re moving house to a different telephone exchange area.

If you’re switching a bundle that includes a TV service, you’ll need to give up your old TV box. Your new supplier will give you a new one. 

This could mean losing access to TV shows recorded on the old box. So make sure you’re happy with this before the switch.

Switching between Openreach providers

If you're switching to another Openreach provider, contact your new one to tell them you’d like to switch to them.

You can do this by:

  • clicking on a link on a price comparison site

  • apply on your new provider’s website

  • calling your new provider

Your new provider will manage the switching process. This includes cancelling your old contract and arranging a start date for your new one. 

Your old and new provider will contact you. 

Your old provider will confirm that your contract is ending and tell you if you have any exit fees to pay. 

Your new provider will let you know when your new contract starts and how much it’ll cost.

Switching to or from non-Openreach providers

Virgin Media is the biggest company to own and run its own cable network. This is completely separate to Openreach.

When you switch to or from Virgin Media you’ll need to contact both your new and old provider to arrange the switch. 

You’ll need to coordinate cutting your old broadband connection and installing the new one. This is so there’s only a small gap in service.

Ofcom is proposing new legislation to change how this process works.¹

Under the regulator’s plans, the new provider needs to manage the switch for all customers.

Whether they’re switching between Openreach networks or not. 

Providers also have to compensate customers if they’re left without a service for more than 1 working day.

You can change your mind while the switch is being processed. You can cancel without charge within 14 days of the start of the new contract.

How long does it take to switch broadband providers?

According to Broadband Genie, most Openreach providers take 2 to 3 weeks to switch households over to their service.

The exact time scale depends on:

  • the company you’re switching to

  • if you already have a phone line installed

  • if an engineer needs to come inside your property

Virgin Media has similar installation times of about 14 days. 

They also offer a self service package called QuickStart. This is if you already have a Virgin Media connection. 

A QuickStart package can be sent to your home within 4 days of ordering. You then set up your own broadband.

Coronavirus

Switching broadband providers may take longer due to coronavirus.

Some broadband companies are not sending engineers into people’s homes. This is due social distancing rules. 

The main exceptions to this are if members of the household are elderly or vulnerable.

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Sources

¹ Ofcom: Ofcom proposes new rules to make broadband switching easier

² Broadband Genie: Guide to broadband installation and activation times