Why switch broadband providers?

If you’ve been with your broadband provider a long time and have finished your contract, you might be able to save a lot of money by switching broadband providers.

But it’s not just about money. There are other reasons to switch broadband deals too, such as:

  • to get faster download and upload speeds

  • to switch from a limited to an unlimited broadband package

  • to bundle your broadband with phone and TV services

  • to find a more reliable broadband service

When can I switch broadband?

You can switch broadband providers at any time. 

But if you change providers before the end of your existing contract, you may have to pay a hefty 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 increases its prices within the contract period

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

When you stay with your provider beyond your contract period, the cost of your broadband deal is likely to increase. 

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

A few broadband providers offer one month contracts you can leave penalty free with just 30 days’ notice. However, these tend to come with bigger setup fees and higher monthly costs. 

How do I switch broadband providers?

Step 1: Use comparison sites

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 broadband providers offer better deals or cashback if you get your deal directly from them – so check broadband providers’ websites too.

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

Step 2: Understand broadband infrastructure

Almost all UK broadband services (for example, BT, Sky, Plusnet, EE, and TalkTalk) use the Openreach network. 

This means switching can be done fairly easily as some of the same equipment is used.

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

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

Step 3: Which services are you switching?

If your landline and broadband are both supplied by the same provider, switching your broadband is likely to mean also switching your phone service. 

However 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. You’ll be given a new one by your new supplier. 

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

Step 4: Switching between providers

Switching between Openreach providers

If you're switching between providers which use the Openreach network, contact your new provider to tell them you’d like to switch to their service.

You can do this in several ways:

  • 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, including cancelling your contract with your old provider and arranging a start date for your new contract. 

You’ll receive communication from both your old and new providers. 

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 which 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 the new one being installed so that there’s only a small gap in service.

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

Under the regulator’s plans, the new provider would need to manage switching for all customers, whether they’re switching between Openreach networks or not. 

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

Step 5: Cooling-off period

If you change your mind while a switch is being processed, you're free to cancel without any penalty 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

  • whether 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 if you already have a Virgin Media connection. 

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

Covid-19

Switching broadband providers may take longer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some broadband companies have stopped sending engineers into people’s homes because of 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