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How to switch mobile phone providers

How to switch mobile phone providers

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Last updated: 09 July 2021

So you want to switch your mobile phone network. Maybe you’re not getting good enough coverage in your area, you’ve found a better mobile phone deal elsewhere, or you’re not happy with the standard of customer service. This guide will talk you through how to make the change from your old network to another, saving you unnecessary hassle.

Can I switch network?

Firstly you need to establish whether you can switch mobile network immediately, or whether you are contract-bound to stay with your current provider for a certain amount of time. If you have just recently signed up with this network provider, you will have a 14-day calendar period during which you can back out of a contract without being charged. If you are within this period then great - switching mobile phone provider will be quick and easy for you.

If you have been with your current network for a while but do not know when your contract ends, you can find out by consulting the mobile app of your network, or giving them a ring.

If your contract term is not yet over, you will likely have to pay an early termination fee, which will typically involve paying off the remainder of your contract in one big sum. If you can’t afford to do this, there may be other options depending on your reasons for switching. For example, if you are motivated by poor coverage, contact your mobile network provider and they may offer you a discount for the remainder of your contract.

If you paid off your handset as part of your contract, you can keep this phone even if you plan to switch mobile provider. However, you will need to check if it is locked to your current network. Don’t panic if it is, just research your network’s policy for unlocking phones - some may demand a fee.

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Is my new network suitable?

If you have a new network in mind, it is crucial that you check the coverage quality of that network in your area. This is easy enough to do - simply use a postcode coverage checker online. These can be found on the websites of all the major networks. If you discover that coverage in your area is poor, you should take the opportunity to compare mobile phone deals, to find the cheapest deal you can with the best coverage in your neighbourhood.

Can I keep my phone number?

Yes! It’s not as complicated as you may think, and worth it to avoid the hassle of updating your details for every service you receive, and letting every friend and relative know.

You need to obtain something called a PAC code (Porting Authorisation Code) from your current mobile phone network. You can do this by giving them a ring and requesting one. A quick google search will give you the phone number for your network’s customer service line if you are unsure.

They have to give you the code within 2 hours of your request to stay in line with consumer regulations, so this won’t take long at all.

Once you have your PAC code at hand, you can ring your new provider and give them the code, and they will do the rest for you. Keep in mind that PAC codes expire after 30 days.

If you’re not bothered about keeping your old number, you can skip straight to contacting your new network and letting them know you would like a new number. Make sure your current network knows you are ending your contract before you do this. Do your best to align the end date of your old contract and the start of your new one, to avoid paying for two services at once.

How do I pick the best deal?

You probably already have a new network in mind, but it is worth double checking to see if they really offer the best mobile phone deal for you. You can do this by comparing mobile phone deals on our website. If you are planning on getting a new handset with your new network, check out our mobile phone contract comparisons.

If you are planning on keeping your current headset, then a SIM-only deal could be for you. Naturally, these are much cheaper as you are only paying for your SMS, calls and data usage, and not paying off a new handset. They also have the benefit of flexibility - you can opt for one-month SIM deals so you are not tied down, allowing you to cancel them whenever you like (you usually only need to give 30 days notice) without having to pay exit charges. We compare SIM-only deals for you, saving you time and money.


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Danny Lord

Author: Danny Lord

Danny is our Editor-in-Chief, and has been writing news and guides for comparison sites for the last five years.

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