How to switch broadband providers

by Matt Powell

Switching broadband providers can save you money or upgrade your connection for faster speeds. And while it might seem daunting and disruptive, it’s actually a very simple process! We’ll answer your questions and explain everything you need to know about choosing a new provider to take advantage of the latest offers and save money on monthly bills.

Why should I switch broadband provider?

There might be many reasons why you may wish to switch providers, including:

  • Poor customer service
  • Reliability issues
  • Overpaying
  • Faster services available elsewhere

But even if you’ve got no complaints with your current service it might still be worth looking at a new deal. Switching providers regularly allows you to take advantage of the latest special offers and the lower pricing that’s often available to new customers.

Does it cost anything to switch?

Sometimes, but not always. There may be a cost for leaving your current provider (see switching mid-contract, below), and the new ISP may have a setup fee.

There are broadband deals with free setup, but you can still be charged if an engineer is required to carry out any work.

Always check with your existing provider before cancelling so you’re aware of any applicable fees, and ask the new ISP for clarification of all costs involved before handing over payment.

Is there a chance I will be left without broadband during the switch?

It is normal for the broadband to stop working for a short while as it switches from one provider to another. It does not usually stay offline for long, but on rare occasions there may be a fault which leaves you without broadband for an extended period. If this is a problem you will need to have an alternative in place, such as a mobile broadband dongle or tethered smartphone.

Can I switch broadband mid-contract?

You can switch providers at any time, but if you cancel mid-contract there will almost always be a cancellation fee to pay. This is usually based on the amount of time remaining on the contract so it can be expensive.

It is possible to cancel a contract for free if:

  • The broadband is very slow. Providers who have signed up to Ofcom’s voluntary code of conduct for broadband speeds agree to terminate contracts without penalty if they are unable to provide the minimum speed promised when you signed up.
  • The price is increased. If the provider raises prices mid-contract you may have 30 days to cancel the service without being charged.

Read our guide to cancelling broadband for free for further help.

Can I still switch broadband if I have TV and/or mobile bundled with my broadband?

You can still switch, but you may lose access to some services, or the price could go up.

With TV bundles you might lose access to extra channels or features, especially if there are freebies exclusive to the package. If you are subscribed to Sky or Virgin Media TV you can continue to pay for TV only, but this will not be an option with services such as BT TV or TalkTalk TV, where their exclusive features rely on the broadband connection. In those cases you can usually continue using the TV box, but only to receive Freeview broadcasts (and you may need to pay a charge to keep hold of it).

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

Step-by-step guide to switching broadband provider (with a BT phone line)

Step 1: Check you can leave your current provider

Remember, switching mid-contract will probably incur a fee. And you may lose access to TV services or discounts on a mobile service. Check with your current ISP about the potential costs before you sign up to a new provider.

Step 2: Compare new deals

Use our comparison table to find a great new package. When comparing, look out for:

  • Availability - always enter your postcode to see what’s on offer in your area
  • Contract length - longer contracts are often better value, but you might be committed to that ISP for up to two years
  • Data limit - Some cheap packages have a monthly data limit.
  • Free gifts and discounts - Free gifts and vouchers can add extra value. Look out for discounted pricing too, but make sure to check the cost after the discount.

Step 3: Buy your new package

Click ‘Go’ next to the deal you want to start the process, and follow the instructions on the provider’s site to sign-up. The new provider will handle the switch, and should keep you informed of progress. Switching typically takes 14 days, but can be longer if the provider is busy or you need an engineer to carry out work. On the day of the switchover you will experience a short period of disruption, but this does not usually last long.

Switching broadband to and from Virgin Media

Switching between Virgin Media and an ISP using a BT phone line (for example TalkTalk, Sky, EE, or BT itself) is a little different because Virgin has its own network which operates separately from other providers.

If you’re signing up for a new Virgin deal you must contact the current ISP and arrange for that service to end. Since they’re not using the same line you can have the cancellation date overlap with the start date of the Virgin broadband so you’ll continue to have internet access in case of problems.

When moving from Virgin to another provider, you will need to notify Virgin of the date you wish the service to end (again, this can overlap). If you do not currently have an active BT phone line an engineer may be required, and you will need to pay additional setup costs.