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A guide to switching broadband providers

A guide to switching broadband providers

Switching broadband is increasingly simple. Thanks to Ofcom, you may not have to pay a penalty fee to exit your broadband contract early if your broadband speed falls below the minimum guaranteed level. However, be sure to check your provider’s minimum guarantee terms and conditions.

There are many reasons for switching your broadband provider, including looking for better value or a service upgrade, or if you’re currently putting up with poor performance or bad customer service.

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

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 13 MAY 2020

How to switch broadband providers

1. Compare the best deals on the market

Whether you simply want to switch broadband for a better service or want a new package including landline and TV, we can help you compare prices to find a broadband deal that’s right for you.

All you need to do is input your postcode, who your current provider is and what service you’re looking for (broadband or broadband and TV), and we’ll show you a list of packages to choose from.

2. What are the terms of your existing contract?

If you want to switch before the end of your contract period, you might have to pay an early termination charge. That’s unless you can prove your broadband speed falls below the minimum guaranteed level. Make sure any potential cancellation fee is less than the amount you could save by switching.

3. What’s your broadband speed?

Knowing how fast your broadband is, and whether that’s too slow for your household’s online needs, will give you a good idea of what to look for in a new contract. Speeds vary with the type of broadband and location.

Types of broadband and speed

  • ADSL is the most common type of broadband and uses your phone line. It can provide speeds of up to 24Mb, although this depends on how far you live from the telephone exchange.
  • Fibre uses fibre optic cables. There are two types: Fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) is the most common, providing 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.

You can test your broadband speed here using our broadband speed checker.

4. Will you have to pay connection charges?

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

5. What’s 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 carefully to see what’s included in the cost and whether there’ll be an installation fee. It’s possible to get broadband without a phone line, but it’s likely to be considerably more expensive.

6. Your total contract cost

The amount you pay for broadband is just one part of your broadband package, so as well as early exit fees, connection charges and line rental, make sure you consider the total cost of:

  • set-up fees
  • new router charge
  • technical support costs
  • upfront fees for things like set-top boxes or wifi-boosters if you get a broadband and TV package

Each provider will have their own fees and charges, so be sure to double check.

7. Do you want a bundle?

You might find 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 and decided to switch, your new provider should arrange the whole transfer for you.

This includes letting your existing provider know that you’re moving. You‘ll then be sent notification emails or letters from both new and old broadband providers confirming the move.

These will include details of the date of transfer and if there are any outstanding charges to settle.

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

Then you’ll just need to follow three easy steps:

  • Contact your new broadband provider and ask them when they can transfer you over 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 won’t normally lose service. Switching broadband suppliers is a lot smoother than it used to be and, in many cases, you should be able to switch with little or no service interruption. Your new provider will advise you when the switch will happen and if you’re likely to experience any loss of service.

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

If you're also switching landline providers – it’s worth checking with your new provider that there’s no additional downtime, so you can make plans to minimise the effects of any potential 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?

Typically, it takes about two weeks to switch providers, although it might be longer if you need any installation or engineering work done. This doesn’t mean you’ll be without internet though – you should only have a few minutes of downtime if you’re just switching broadband.

Currently, in this time of COVID-19, a lot of broadband providers are prioritising essential jobs, to lessen the amount of work engineers are required to do inside people’s homes. You can read our guide on Broadband engineers and coronavirus for more information.

Can I keep my landline phone number if I switch?

You can usually opt to keep your existing landline number. It’s often a checkbox when setting up your new contract. Your new provider will then inform your old provider of the transfer.

However, if you’re moving home at the same time as switching, you may not be able to keep your landline.

Will I lose my email address when I switch?

Some internet service providers (ISPs) allow you to keep your ISP email when you switch (sometimes at a cost), while others will delete your email when you leave them.

If your email’s going to be deleted, you’ll usually get a grace period where you can access your messages and save everything before losing the account. You can use this grace period to create an email address not connected to your broadband, for example 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, cable broadband provided by Virgin to a fibre optic service provided by BT or vice versa), your old service can’t be switched automatically. You’ll need to completely cancel your existing provider and start a new contract with a new provider.

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