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How to switch broadband and get a better deal

image of girl wearing a grey jumper with long brown hair pumping her fist in joy whilst looking at her laptop

When was the last time you checked how much you’re paying for your broadband?

If you’ve been drifting along with the same provider past your minimum term, just because it’s felt like the easy option, there’s a high chance you’re paying a lot more than you should.

The broadband market is set up to offer the best deals to new customers. With annual and mid-contract price hikes to contend with, it’s easy to start over-paying for a tariff without realising there are better value options. 

Broadband customers who sign up to a new service don’t just enjoy special introductory rates and lower monthly costs. Switching your broadband package can give you access to faster speeds, updated Wi-Fi routers and special perks, like gift cards.

Making the switch is easy. However, depending on who you’re moving from, and to, there are a few steps to bear in mind to make sure the process runs smoothly.

In this guide, you'll find out:

  • How long it takes to change broadband providers
  • How to minimise your internet downtime.
  • How to change providers early.
  • How the switching process works.

Switching broadband provider: the key points

  • Switching as soon as you’re out of contract is often the best way to save money on broadband prices.
  • If you’re outside the minimum term on your current contract, switching is usually free.
  • Changing internet providers is easy. In most cases, you won't need to speak to your current provider.
  • Signing up to a new provider usually takes around two weeks.

How to switch broadband provider

Here are the steps you'll need to take for an easy switch:

Check your current contract

Checking the status of your current broadband contract should always be your first step.

To find your contract end date, we would recommend calling your provider, or logging into your account, where you should be able to see your contract details. It shouldn't take long and could be your first step to saving hundreds.

Common contract lengths are 24, 18 or 12 months. If you’re on a 1-month contract, you’ll be able to cancel at any time, as long as you give adequate notice.

We also have the following guides on how to check your contract status with certain providers:

Although you can switch providers at any time, you’ll usually have to pay a fee if you cancel early. Cancellation fees are based on the remaining term of the contract, so it can end up being an expensive move.

However, it may be possible to cancel a contract for free if:

Your broadband is very slow

If your home broadband provider is signed up to the Ofcom Broadband Speed Code of Practice, you could get out of your contract without being penalised. This will come into force if your broadband connection is slower than it should be, your provider acknowledges there’s a problem, but it can’t be fixed within 30 days (this only applies to download speed, not upload speed).

You can’t simply leave because you’re unhappy with the speeds, you must give your provider the change to improve things.

The following providers are signed up to this scheme:

See also: 'Making broadband complaints'

Your broadband monthly price has increased

If the provider raises prices mid-contract, you may have 30 days to cancel the service without being charged. Although you should check your contract for terms.

As many broadband providers are carrying on price rises on an annual basis now as standard, many have excluded customers rights to leave for this reason in their small print.

See also: ‘Broadband increases in 2024: price rises from BT, Virgin, TalkTalk & more’

Cancelling a broadband contract early if the bill payer has died

If the bill payer has passed away, you’ll be able to close the account. Each provider has difference guidance on how it deals with this. Be prepared to prove the change of circumstances with a death certificate.

We have further information about this in our guide – How to cancel broadband if you're bereaved or terminally ill.

Making use of a broadband switching credit

Keep an eye out for switching credit promotions when you’re moving between providers. Some will offer to pay your exit fees early if you switch. For example:

  • Sky will credit you up to £100 to cover the bill (this rises to £200 if you’re switching to Sky TV & Broadband). You’ll have to be prepared to pay the fees you owe, then send proof of payment within 90 days of your Sky broadband being activated.
  • EE will give you a £50 credit if you’re charged for ending your broadband contract early.

See also: ‘How to cancel early and cancel for free’.

Dynamic deal panel

Changing broadband providers when you’re out of contract 

If you’ve got to the end of your contract term, or passed that date, you’re free to switch without paying any fees.

Take some time to think about how you’ve been using your internet and whether your circumstances have changed since you last signed up. This is an excellent opportunity to check whether you can get a better deal on a new connection using our comparison table.

For more help, read our guide: 'What broadband speed do I need? Do I need fast broadband?'

You’ll be able to compare broadband deals available in your area using Broadband Genie’s postcode and address checker:

Broadband Genie deals checker

Alternatively, here are some of the best broadband deals available right now:

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The Genie

The Genie says...

Once you’ve found a deal, click the green button. Follow the instructions on the provider’s site to sign-up. It’s that easy!

How much notice period do I have to give when leaving my broadband provider?

Most providers ask for you to give 30 days’ notice, even if you’re out of contract. It’s a good idea to set up a new service with your new provider as close to this end date as you can, so you’re not left without internet.

Who’s responsible for starting my broadband switch? 

If you’re moving from Openreach to Openreach 

If you’re moving from one broadband service that runs on the Openreach network to another provider, you won’t need to contact your current provider at all. Your new provider will make all the arrangements for you.

Once this is in place, both your new provider and old provider will send you a letter confirming your switch, any early termination charges you’ll have to pay and an estimate of when the switch will happen. 

  • What is Openreach?

    Openreach is the company that maintains the former British Telecom Network used for the majority of broadband and phone services. If a repair or installation is required, it’s Openreach who will send an engineer, not your provider.

    More than 650 service providers using the Openreach network. That’s the majority of the UK’s broadband providers. This includes Sky, Vodafone, TalkTalk and BT. The exception to this is Virgin Media - it uses its own, separate cable network.

If you’re switching between networks (i.e Virgin Media to any Openreach provider or vice versa)

If you’re moving from Virgin Media, or another full fibre broadband service from a smaller, independent network (altnet), you’ll need to get in touch with your current provider yourself.

Thinking of signing up to a 4G or 5G Home Broadband service from the likes of Three? You could technically have both services running at the same time. Of course, you’d also be paying two bills, so you’d want to keep this crossover time down to a minimum.

Dynamic deal panel

Receiving a Notification of Transfer

Once you're registered, the new provider should send a 'Notification of Transfer' which will confirm the switch. This includes an estimate of the date when your new broadband will go live.

It’ll also explain that you have at least ten working days to cancel your new contract and stop the switch. 

Around the same time, you should also be contacted by the old provider. They'll give you details of any fees or terms for ending the service. You may have to return any TV boxes or routers.

All you have to do now is wait for your new broadband to be activated.

How long does it take to switch broadband providers?

The whole switching process typically takes about 14 days. But can be longer if the provider is busy, or if you need an engineer visit.

You will experience a bit of disruption on the day of the switchover, but this doesn’t usually last long. You'll probably be offline for around 30 minutes.

It can be quicker if you already have the broadband line in your home. If you’re moving to Virgin Media, for example, and already have a Virgin socket in your home, you may be able to choose the DIY ‘QuickStart’ option and reduce the activation time.

Keeping fast broadband speeds when moving to an Openreach provider

If you’re currently a full fibre provider customer, and it’s important for you to keep your ultrafast broadband speeds, check carefully whether you can sign up to a full fibre deal with a new broadband provider.

Around 41% of the UK currently have access to a full fibre internet connection on the Openreach network, with an additional 5% hooked up to Openreach’s 'G.fast' network (for speeds up to 330Mb).

A superfast broadband download speed offered from most Openreach providers without being connected to full fibre is around 67 Mbps.

If you want a bit more advice on the speeds you should be aiming for, based on the number of people in your home, you can get more help with our guide - ‘what broadband speed do you need? Do you need fast broadband?

Frequently asked questions about broadband switching

  • Do I need to pay set-up fees to start a new broadband contract?

    The easiest way to check this is by using our comparison table. This will clearly show you if you have to pay a set-up fee. Providers often waive set-up fees as a special promotion. You can also search through these broadband packages with no up-front cost.

  • How long will it take to change broadband provider?

    A broadband switchover normally takes around two weeks. However, if you’re changing to a provider on a different network, you could technically have your dates crossed over a little to make sure there’s no service interruption at all.

    Just bear in mind, you’ll also be paying for both! 

  • What happens if there’s a delay in activating my broadband service?

    If the provider you’re signing up to is on Ofcom’s automatic compensation scheme, you’ll be able to get some money back if things go wrong. You shouldn’t even need to ask for it. Compensation includes £29.15 for a missed engineer appointment and £5.83 for each calendar day of delay.

    Unless you’ve agreed otherwise, this total will come in the form of a credit on your bill.

  • Can I keep my e-address when I cancel my broadband?

    If your broadband service includes an email address, you may find this will be shut down once you leave. Some providers will give you a grace period before this happens, but this varies a lot. As an example, Virgin Media gives you 90 days before your email address is closed down, whilst TalkTalk customers are given a year. BT Broadband customers have the option to keep their emails archived, or subscribe to a standalone email service.

    For more help on this, visit our guide: ‘can I keep my email address if I change provider?’

  • Can I keep my home phone number when switching providers?

    If you’re signed up to a broadband deal that includes a landline service, you can normally keep your existing phone number when you switch broadband providers. Make sure to mention this to your new provider when you sign up.

  • Can I change my mind if I’ve switched broadband provider and not happy?

    There’s a minimum 14-day cooling-off period, which begins the day after you register for the service, not activation day. During this time, it’s your legal right to cancel for free, for any reason. Some providers also offer a longer cooling-off period.

    Make sure to get in touch as soon as possible if things aren’t working out for you, you’ve changed your mind, and you’d like to cancel. We recommend keeping a record of all communications in case of any problems.

    If your broadband was activated within this cooling-off period, you’ll still have to pay for the costs already incurred.

  • Will I need an engineer visit when I switch broadband providers?

    You’ll only need to arrange an engineer visit if you need a new line installed and don’t already have a suitable phone line, or if you need a full fibre cable connected. 

Expert Summary

Switching broadband might be something you feel the need to do quickly, especially if you’ve been plagued by technical problems. But, before you cancel your broadband package, spend some time checking the alternatives available to you. Think about how everyone at home uses the internet and how many people are online at any given time.

If you’re switching networks, you’ll currently need to initiate the switch yourself. Ofcom announced a new ruling called ‘One Touch Switch’ designed to make switching broadband easier regardless of who you are switching from, or to. However, this currently hasn’t been put into place by all providers. For this reason, we suggest processing with a bit of caution.

Please remember, you’ll need to give your broadband provider notice, even if you’re out of contract. 

When you’re moving from Virgin Media or an altnet full fibre provider to one on the Openreach network, you’ll have to think about timings careful. You could technically have both running at the same time if you were worried about losing connection completely. Of course, you’d be paying two bills if you do this, so you’d want to keep this crossover time as short as possible. 

Meet the author:

Online Editor

Broadband Genie's Editor, Emma Davenport, has been contributing to the site since 2007. She has 20 years of experience writing articles, guides and tutorials on consumer technology for magazines and online.

Specialist subject: Broadband advice for vulnerable people

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