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How to switch broadband and get an amazing deal

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Right now, millions of broadband customers are out of contract and probably paying too much for home internet access.

The great news is that many of us can switch broadband providers for free and get a cheaper deal. In fact, studies have shown you could save hundreds of pounds per year!

However, we know from our own research that many people are put off switching because they think it’ll be too complicated, or expensive.

Broadband Genie is here to help! If you’re thinking of switching, but you’re not quite sure about how to go about it, you’ve come to the right place.

In this guide, we’ll help make you an instant expert by breaking down the steps and answering some common questions related to switching.

Switching broadband provider: the key points

  • Switching broadband is often the best way to save money on your broadband bill.
  • If you’re outside the minimum contract term, switching is usually free.
  • Changing internet providers is easy. In most cases, you won't need to speak to your current provider, even if you're moving networks.
  • Signing up to a new provider usually takes around two weeks. Switching can be as quick as one day.

How to switch broadband

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

1. Check your 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 by 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.

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 in the middle of a contract. Cancellation fees are based on the remaining term of the contract, so it can be expensive if there’s a long time long left.

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

  • The broadband is very slow.
    Ofcom has a voluntary code of conduct for broadband speed. Providers who have signed up agree to cancel contracts without penalty if they can’t provide the minimum speed promised when you signed up. However, this only applies to a handful of ISPs.
  • The price is 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.
  • You complain about the service.
    It’s possible that you could be allowed to leave without penalty following a complaint. But this isn’t guaranteed.

More helpful guides:

Once you know you’re out of contract, you’ll want to see what new deals are available.

2. Compare new deals

You can use our broadband comparison table to find the best broadband package for you. When you compare broadband deals, look out for:

  • Service availability. Not every home can get the same speeds and services. Our deals checker will tell you what’s on offer in your area.
  • Contract length. Longer contracts often deliver better value. Just remember, you might be committed to that provider for up to two years.
  • Free gifts and discounts. Free gifts and vouchers can add extra value. Look out for discounted pricing, but check the cost after the discount.

Start comparing now by entering your address to see what's on offer in your area:

Broadband Genie deals checker

Alternatively, here are some of our favourite deals available right now:

Dynamic deal panel

So now you know what deals are available, how do you sign up?

3. Buy an amazing new broadband deal

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! This is also the point you'll need to mention if you want to keep your current phone number.

4. Receive 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.

5. The new broadband is activated

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.

Switching to and from Virgin Media and other networks

When moving between networks, you may be able to have the cancellation date overlap with the start date of a new broadband service. In that case, you’ll continue to have internet access in case of problems. We always recommend this if possible, even if you effectively pay slightly more to ‘double up’ connections for a short period of time.

For more help on this, here are some other useful guides:

So, that’s how you switch! If you’ve got any more questions, you can find the answers to some common queries below.

Frequently asked questions about broadband switching

  • Why should I switch broadband?

    There are many reasons why you might wish to switch providers. Top of the list is the fact you’ll often get a cheaper deal and you can switch to a provider with better customer service if you've been having problems. You might also be facing reliability issues, increased prices, or just that faster services are available elsewhere. Switching providers regularly allows you to take advantage of the latest special offers and the lower pricing that’s often available to new customers.

  • When should I switch my broadband?

    Ideally, you should switch broadband either near the end of your contract, or when your agreement has already ended. If you want to avoid any exit fees, then wait until the end of your minimum term. But if you need to switch for any other reason, you can do this whenever you like, as long as you're willing to pay any potential cancellation fees.

  • How long does switching take?

    Switching typically takes a maximum of 14 days, but can be longer if the provider is busy, or you need an engineer.

    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.

  • Are there any costs involved with switching?

    If you’re still under contract, you’ll probably need to pay a cancellation fee when switching. Your new provider may charge a setup fee, but free setup broadband deals are available. However, free setup offers don’t always apply if a phone line needs to be installed. Costs for a new line vary, but they can wind up being more than £100. Don’t worry, this isn't very common.

  • Could I lose broadband service when switching?

    Ideally, there won’t be major interruptions to your broadband service. If you’re moving between Openreach network providers such as Plusnet to TalkTalk, you should only experience a short period of disruption when the line transfers.

    Technical problems are always a possibility, though. If broadband access is critical, then it’s best to have a backup. One of the easiest options is to use a tethered smartphone, but you can also look at mobile broadband options. 

    When going to or from different networks like Openreach to Virgin Media, the lines are separate and can operate side by side. This means you can keep the old service a few days past the activation date. That way, there’s still broadband access in case of problems with the new connection. Otherwise, you’ll need to try to arrange the cancellation of the old broadband and activation of the new line for the same day to minimise disruption.

  • What types of broadband are available in my area?

    The best way to find out what types of broadband are available in your area is to use a postcode checker. Certain areas may be able to access full fibre broadband. Others may only be able to get more basic fibre options or broadband through a traditional phone line (ADSL).

    We always recommend that you go for fibre if it’s available. Fibre optic broadband uses cables separate to the typical copper phone lines and allows faster speeds. You’ll find two varieties of fibre:

    Full Fibre (or FTTP - 'Fibre To The Premises')

    Providers who offer this include Virgin Media and Hyperoptic. It means that your internet is only provided through fibre cables and no copper wires are used at all. It's remarkable the difference in speed this can have. With full-fibre broadband, you can expect to receive broadband speeds up to 1Gb+!

    FTTC broadband ( 'Fibre To The Cabinet')

    There’s also FTTC broadband. This is where your provider uses fibre cables but only up to the green cabinet on your street. This service uses the standard copper phone lines that run from the cabinet to your home. Speeds with FTTC are pretty fast, but not as high as FTTP. However, FTTC is more commonly available than FTTP, so you’re more likely to see this.

  • What broadband speeds am I likely to get in my area?

    At Broadband Genie, we do the hard work for you and tell you what download speed each deal offers. 

    If you’re looking for a fast connection, we recommend fibre. Unfortunately, full fibre availability is still fairly limited across the UK, so you may not have this as an option.

  • Can I keep my landline phone number when I switch broadband?

    Yes, your landline number can be transferred. Your new provider should ask for information on your home phone number during registration. If they don’t, contact them to confirm that it’ll be moved.

  • Can I keep my email address?

    If your email address is from the broadband provider as part of the broadband service, then you may not be able to keep it when switching. Some providers may allow you to keep it, but it could involve payment.

    It is best to avoid using email addresses from the provider for this reason. Instead, sign up for an email service which is not linked to your broadband. This way, you’ll never lose access to an address when switching. Popular choices include Gmail or Outlook - both of which are free.

    We have more information on this in our in-depth guide: 'Can I keep my email address if I change broadband provider?'

  • Will an engineer need to visit my home?

    An engineer will be required if you need a new line or equipment - which is usually not the case. Your new provider will book the visit if one is necessary. If you already have an active line, setup is just a case of plugging in a new Wi-Fi router.

  • Can I still switch broadband if I have TV or mobile phone services bundled with my broadband?

    It's certainly possible to switch broadband providers even when the current package includes extras. But you may lose access to some services, or the price could go up.

    With TV bundles, extra channels or features may no longer be accessible, especially if there are freebies exclusive to the package. If you are subscribed to Sky TV or Virgin Media TV you can continue to pay for TV only and look for a broadband only deal elsewhere. This won’t be an option with services such as BT TV or TalkTalk TV as their TV services rely on the broadband connection. In those situations, you can usually continue using the TV box, but only to receive Freeview, and you may even have to pay a charge to keep hold of it.

    For mobile, you can continue to use the SIM as normal, but you’ll lose any discounts which were applied for being a broadband customer.

Expert Summary

Switching broadband doesn’t have to be complicated. You can save money and might even be able to get a deal with no setup fees.

Before you switch networks, make sure you check out our deals checker. We’ll let you know what the best deals in your area are. If you want to compare that to your current service, then you can use our speed test too.

Once you sort out what deal you want, you need to cancel your current package. You may have to pay an exit fee if you’re still in your contract. Whether you pay a fee or not, you’ll then have a date when your new internet will begin. And switching really can be as simple as that.

Meet the author:


Matt has been working with Broadband Genie since 2009. A lifelong tech enthusiast, he has 20 years of experience writing about technology for print and online.

Specialist subject: The technicalities of broadband

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