A guide to switching broadband providers

There are many reasons why you might want to switch broadband provider. You may be looking for better value or service, or even faster speeds.

Whatever your reason for switching, here’s what to expect when you change your broadband.  

There are many reasons why you might want to switch broadband provider. You may be looking for better value or service, or even faster speeds.

Whatever your reason for switching, here’s what to expect when you change your broadband.  

Holly Cox
Digital expert
minute read
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Last Updated 31 MARCH 2022

Can I switch broadband provider if I’m still in contract?

You can switch your broadband provider whenever you like. But if you’re still within your contract, you’ll likely have to pay an early exit charge. This could be quite high, so be sure to factor it into your switching costs. 

However, if your broadband speed falls below the minimum you were promised when you signed up to the service, you shouldn’t have to pay a penalty to leave your broadband contract early. But you need to contact your provider first and give them the chance to fix the problem. Don’t forget to check your provider’s minimum-speed guarantee terms and conditions too.

How to switch broadband provider

1. Find out what’s available in your area

Not all broadband packages are available everywhere – some areas don’t have cable broadband, for example, and some providers don’t operate nationwide. To see what’s available where you live, use our broadband postcode checker. Simply tell us your postcode, current provider and what you’re looking for (broadband or broadband and TV), and we’ll show you a list of packages to choose from.

Whether you’re looking for better service or a new package that includes landline and TV, we can help you compare prices to find a broadband deal that’s right for you.

2. Check your contract terms

If you want to switch before your contract ends, you might have to pay an exit fee. That’s unless you can prove your broadband speed falls below the minimum guaranteed when you signed up to the deal. Make sure any cancellation fees are less than the amount you could save by switching.

3. Find out your broadband speed

Knowing how fast your broadband is, and whether it’s too slow for your needs, will give you a good idea of what to look for in a new contract. It will also show you whether you’re getting the speed you were promised. Broadband speeds will vary, depending on your broadband package and the type of broadband you have.

Types of broadband and speed

The most common type of broadband is Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), which uses your phone line. This can provide speeds of up to 24Mb, although your exact speeds will depend on how close you are to the telephone exchange.

Fibre broadband uses fibre optic cables. There are two types – fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) is the most common, which offers speeds of between 38Mb and 76Mb. Fibre to the premises (FTTP) is faster, providing speeds of up to 1Gb.

Cable uses a combination of fibre optic and coaxial cables to deliver speeds of up to 152Mb.
Test your broadband speed using our broadband speed checker 

4. See what other people are saying

To help you choose the right provider, read independent reviews of their services. Ofcom publishes research showing customer satisfaction with broadband providers – not just in terms of speed, but also how happy customers are with value for money and overall service.

5. Check if you’ll have to pay connection charges

Some providers charge a connection fee to get your new broadband set up. The cost can vary, so take this into consideration when looking at the best-value deals.

6. Check the cost of line rental

Most deals include the cost of a phone line (line rental), but it’s important to read the terms and conditions to see what’s included in the cost and whether you’ll have to pay an installation fee. It’s possible to get broadband without a phone line, but it might not be any cheaper.

7. Consider your total cost

The price of your monthly broadband is just one part of your package. Along with early exit fees, connection charges and line rental, make sure you consider the cost of:

  • Set-up fees
  • New router charge
  • Technical support costs
  • Upfront fees, such as set-top boxes or WiFi boosters.
    Each provider has its own fees and charges, so be sure to check.

8. See if you should get a bundle

Depending on what you want from your service, you may get a better deal if you buy broadband in a service bundle:

Broadband and phone

Broadband, phone and TV

Broadband and TV 

Making the switch

Once you’ve found the right broadband deal, your new provider should arrange the switch for you. This includes letting your current provider know you’re moving. 

Your new and old broadband providers will both contact you to confirm the move. Then they’ll let you know your transfer date and if there are any outstanding charges to pay.

What if my new broadband provider can’t arrange the switch?

If your new provider doesn’t arrange the switch, simply follow these three easy steps:

  • Contact your new broadband provider and ask when they can transfer you to the new contract
  • Book the date for the transfer
  • Call your old provider to confirm that you want to cancel on the day your new service starts.

Will I lose service during the switch?

You shouldn’t lose your broadband service. Switching providers is usually smooth, and you should be able switch with little or no interruption. Your new provider will tell you when the switch will happen and if you’ll experience any loss of service.

If you're only switching your broadband (and keeping your existing phone line) – you should only experience a few minutes of downtime during the automated switchover.

If you're also switching landline providers – check with your new provider that there’s no additional downtime. That way you can make plans to minimise any disruption.

Can you switch mid-contract?

You can switch your broadband contract whenever you like. However, if your existing contract has a minimum term and you’re still within that period, you’ll likely have to pay an early exit charge. This could be quite high, so be sure to check and factor this into your switching costs. Under Ofcom rules, you may not need to pay a penalty if you leave your contract because you’re not getting the speed you were promised. However, you need to contact your provider first and give them the chance to fix the problem. And check your provider’s minimum speed guarantee terms and conditions, too.

How long does it take to switch broadband?

It usually takes about two weeks to switch broadband provider, although it may take longer if you need any installation or engineering work done. That doesn’t mean you’ll be without internet though – you should only have a few minutes of downtime.

Can I keep my landline phone number if I switch?

You can usually keep your landline number when you switch. You’ll often see this a checkbox in your new contract. Your new provider will then tell your old provider about the transfer.

But if you’re moving house at the same time as switching, you might not be able to keep your landline number.

Will I lose my email address when I switch?

Some internet service providers (ISPs) let you keep your ISP email when you switch – although sometimes at a cost. Others will delete your email when you leave.

If your email’s going to be deleted, you’ll usually get a grace period – during which you can access messages and save everything before you lose the account. You can use this grace period to create an email address not connected to your broadband, perhaps through Gmail or Hotmail, and set up an automatic forwarding request for e-mail from the address you’re going to lose. You can also start changing your email address on your accounts.

Do I need to cancel my broadband before switching?

If you’re switching between completely different types of broadband – for example, moving from cable broadband from Virgin to a fibre optic service from BT (or vice versa) – your old service can’t be switched automatically. You’ll need to cancel your existing provider and start a new contract with a new provider.

Should I switch broadband provider?

If you’ve been with the same broadband provider for a while, it’s worth checking to see whether you’re still getting a good deal. Broadband prices change all the time, and you may find you can get faster speeds and better service for the same price you’re paying now – or even less.

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