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How to switch broadband and get a better deal

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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.

Switching your broadband isn't difficult. But there are some hints and tips that will make the process much easier, stress-free and more beneficial for your bank balance.

In this guide, we'll cover:

1. Check: How to find out your current contract end date

2. Compare: How to search for a great new deal using our comparison tables

3. Contact: Whether you need to get in touch with your old provider

4. Cancel: Helpful tips, such as whether you can cancel early.

Here are some of the basic reasons why you should consider switching your broadband:

  • Your current broadband is slow and unreliable
  • You want to save money
  • You’d like to explore bundled broadband, phone and TV options
  • You’re moving home where your current provider isn’t available, or you’ll have access to better options
  • You want to explore new features and perks from a new broadband provider

How to switch broadband provider

It’s important to do some research beforehand before you make any decisions on switching your broadband. After all, some packages involve two years of commitment!

Broadband Genie makes this easy to do with a simple postcode checker. By adding your address into the box below, we’ll be able to show you what’s available to your door, without you wasting time looking through providers and packages you can’t actually get.

Try it now!

Broadband Genie deals checker

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

1. Check your current contract

Leaving a broadband contract early can end up being expensive. Your first action should be to find your current contract end date. You should be able to find this when you log into your customer account. If not, call your provider’s customer service line.

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.

Although anyone is entitled to 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.

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

2. Find a great new deal on Broadband Genie

Type in your postcode and select your address, and you’ll be presented with a list of the best broadband deals available in your area.

Don’t forget to use the filters and the ‘sort by’ option to fine-tune your search.

Here are some of the options you might want to consider:

Average Speed

We recommend that everyone should sign up to a broadband package with an average download speed of at least 36Mb. This will be good enough for light to average usage. However, if there are more of you at home, or you have many devices connected at one time, you’ll need a faster service.

For more help with this, you can visit our guide: ‘what broadband speed do I need? Do I need fast broadband?’

Get Ultrafast Broadband

Monthly budget

Slowest doesn’t necessary mean cheapest! You can often get great deals on fibre broadband packages, and as the UK works towards closing down its copper telephone network, basic ADSL deals aren’t necessarily the most economical any more.

Use our ‘Monthly Price’ filter to make sure you stay in budget.

You also might want to check out the ‘Effective Monthly Price’ in the ‘Offer Details and Pricing’ dropdown. If you can snap up a gift voucher or Bill Credit when you sign up, we’ve worked out how much that will save you across the contract length. We also consider any upfront fees for this calculation. Occasionally, you might be asked to cover the cost of shipping a new router.

Get Cheap Broadband

Dynamic deal panel

Bundled TV or Calls

If you’re already paying out for home phone calls or streaming services, you might save a bit of money in the long-run by signing up to a bundled deal.

Just be warned, that sometimes you may have to pay an upfront fee for set-top boxes.

If you don’t use your landline that frequently, try slashing the costs by changing the filter to ‘Free Weekend Calls’.

Most broadband packages come with the option of Pay As You Go calls as standard. It’s now getting increasingly more common not to have to pay for extra line rental. For some part-fibre, cable and full fibre optic broadband deals, to use a landline phone, you’ll need to plug it into your Wi-Fi router.

Get Broadband, TV and Phone Bundles

Dynamic deal panel

Contract Length

Generally, longer, 18 or 24-month contract lengths come with cheaper monthly tariffs. Shorter contracts, including rolling monthly deals are more flexible, but tend to come at a premium. You may find they also include a higher set-up fee.

Get 1-Month Deals

Reviews of broadband providers

We know it can sometimes be daunting to choose the best option just from a list. We recommend digging a little deeper and reading Broadband Genie’s broadband provider reviews before you part with any money. We’ll let you know if there are any hidden details you should be aware of, such as mid-contract price rises, or less than average customer support levels.

3. Contact your new and existing provider

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. 

Popular providers on the Openreach network include:

You can check if your current provider and the provider you'd like to switch to are on the Openreach network, here:

  • 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, 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.

The Genie

The Genie says...

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.

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.

4. Hit the green ‘get deal’ button

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

Can I cancel my broadband for free?

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. 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.
  • Hyperoptic will provide you with up to 9 months of free service while your current contract ends, if you sign up to any 24-month contract.
  • ‘How to cancel early and cancel for free’.

Does it cost anything to switch broadband providers when 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?'

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?

Start your broadband switch

FAQs 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 £30.49 for a missed engineer appointment and £6.10 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 change internet 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. 

  • Will my provider give me an end of contract notification?

    Yes. All broadband providers are expected to send out-of-contract alerts. These are officially called Annual Best Tariff Notifications (ABTNs). This system was set up by Ofcom, for notifying customers of broadband, mobile, phone and pay TV services that they're no longer in their minimum contract period.

    While the exact wording of an alert might look slightly different, depending on your provider, all messages should contain the following information:

    • Your contract end date
    • The cost of the service before the contract end date
    • Any changes to the service after the contract ends
    • The cost of the service after the contract end date
    • The minimum notice you must give to cancel the service
    • The best deals currently offered by the provider, including those available to new customers

    Out-of-contract notifications may be sent via text message, email or letter and are typically sent 10-40 days before the contract end date.

    End of contract alerts are only intended to make you aware that your contract is ending and to notify you about the cost going forward. Your provider won't switch you to a cheaper deal. If you don't do anything in response to the alert your service will continue at the out-of-contract price given in the notice.

  • I've opted out of communications from my provider. Will I still receive an out-of-contract alert?

    Out-of-contract notifications are classed as service messages and do not violate GDPR regulations. This means you should still receive an alert.

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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