How to switch broadband providers: process explained

A woman uses a tablet as broadband signal dances around her (images: Getty Images)

The cost of living crisis has forced household bills up across the board. While many of these hikes have been unavoidable, there are ways to get around some of them.

Broadband is one area where you can make major savings. We’ve listed all of the best broadband deals that could save you £100s compared to your current deal. It’s also worth checking out our broadband comparison tool.

If you’re in the middle of your minimum term, you won’t be able to shield yourself from mid-contract price hikes – although regulator Ofcom is seeking to end the practice.  But if you’re coming to the end of your contract, there’s no time like now to consider switching providers – especially if you’re unhappy about the service you’ve had. And you should definitely go on the hunt for a deal if you haven’t switched at all for more than two years.

We have listed the cheapest rates currently available on the market. Some products may even allow you to make savings on your TV and streaming too.

Catherine Hiley, Deputy Editor at Look After My Bills, says: “There are millions of UK customers currently out of contract with their broadband provider. If you’re one of them, you’re almost certainly paying more than you should for your Wi-Fi.

“Once your broadband contract expires, the price will normally shoot up, leaving you paying over the odds. Many are paying upwards of £40 a month for standard fibre speeds. So you could cut your bill in half by switching to a cheaper deal.

“Run a broadband comparison to see what deals are available. You might well be able to get faster speeds for less than you’re paying right now. Even if you’re not out of contract yet, it’s worth keeping an eye on what deals are out there. And make a note of your contract end date, so you don’t get caught out paying more than you should.”

So, if you’re on the hunt for a better deal, how does switching broadband providers work – and can you break out of your current contract early? Here’s everything you need to know.

How to switch broadband provider

The process of switching a broadband provider can usually be completed in a few easy steps:

  1. Check whether you’ve completed the minimum term on your current contract (you can do this by calling your supplier).
  2. Compare broadband deals, factoring in broadband speeds, download limits, contract length and cost.
  3. Contact your chosen new broadband provider – if you’re switching between providers using the Openreach telecoms network, your new provider will complete the switch for you.
  4. Contact your existing provider if you’re switching to or from a provider that doesn’t use the Openreach network

Below, we’ve mapped out the process in greater detail – from contract minimum terms, to what you need to do when moving to another supplier.

Can I cancel my broadband contract?

If your original contract has expired and you haven’t signed up to a new one, you should be able to switch right away. But it’s a bit more complicated if your contract is still active. To escape without a hefty exit fee, you will need to be outside of the contract’s minimum term.

This is the time period during which you’re locked into the contract with your existing supplier. Its length will depend on how long your deal runs for. But it normally kicks in once your cooling off period expires and will last for between 12 to 24 months. To check if you’re within this period, it’s best to call your existing provider.

If you decide to leave during the minimum term, it’s likely to cost you £100s. Under Ofcom rules, providers can charge customers up to 100% of the value of the remaining monthly payments, minus the amount they save by not having to supply the service anymore.

So, it’s normally worth sticking with it until your minimum term ends. If you’re desperate to leave your current deal, look at whether the savings you’d make after switching would make up for the exit fees. Sometimes, another supplier may offer to buy your existing provider out of your contract. But accepting this sort of offer may give you a weak hand when it comes to haggling with your provider.

You can only escape the minimum term without facing a penalty if the service you’re receiving is below the standards set out in the contract. For example, if your provider is not giving you the broadband speed it promised it would. You may also be able to get out early if your provider increases prices within the agreed contract term – something that gives you a 30-day window to decide whether you should switch.

Young woman typing on a laptop at home figuring out how to complain about broadband (image: Getty Images)

How do I cancel my broadband contract?

If you can get out of your contract without facing minimum term exit fees, it’s best to do so before the contract term ends. This is because suppliers tend to whack your monthly prices up when you fall onto a rolling contract.

The easiest way to cancel it is to switch to another broadband provider in the Openreach telecoms network. Brands you can go to include: BT, EE, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone.

Ofcom’s ‘one touch’ switching process means you only need to call your new provider to arrange a switch. They will contact your existing provider on your behalf to let it know you’re leaving them. You will then receive notification letters from both your existing provider and your new one to inform you of the switch.

The process is slightly more complicated if you’re switching to or from a broadband provider that uses its own network, such as Virgin Media or Hyperoptic. In this instance, you’ll need to directly approach both your new and old providers to complete the switch. Ofcom is planning to extend one touch to these different networks in the coming months.

Do I have to give my current broadband provider notice?

The notice you’ll have to give varies from provider to provider. It also hinges on the circumstances behind why you’re cancelling. But you’ll usually be required to give up to 30 days’ notice.

BT, for example, requires 30 days if you’re simply disconnecting, but only 14 days if you’re switching to another provider. Your contract will usually be cancelled at the end of the required notice period.

How long does it take to switch providers?

The switching process usually takes no more than two weeks. You’ll be given a date and time for when your new provider will deliver your router and/or come to fit it for you.

If you’re switching between Openreach providers, it won’t usually be necessary for an engineer to come to your home. It’s often just a case of plugging it into a socket and your internet connection point. But if you’re switching to Virgin Media from an Openreach provider, for example, an engineer will usually need to pay a visit to complete the installation process – something that’ll take them one to two hours.