How long does it take to switch broadband providers?

broadband when moving home
Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

From saving money to moving house or even increasing the speeds you're receiving, there are a number of reasons why you may want to switch broadband providers. 

If you're currently looking at the best broadband deals on the market and you're thinking about moving from one provider to another, then it's likely you'll have questions about this process and how much disruption you're likely to experience. 

Thankfully, help is at hand. In this guide, we've outlined everything there is to know about switching broadband providers, including how long the process takes, whether your provider will handle that process for you and whether you can expect to spend any time offline. 

The switching process explained

How long does it take to switch internet providers? 

Sadly, there's no official timeline on how long the broadband switching process takes. However, if you're switching from one Openreach provider to another, then you should expect the process to take around two weeks. 

If you need an engineer to come and install your new connection, or other complications, then you should expect it to take a bit longer. 

This is because it takes some broadband providers up to six weeks to organise an installation that requires an engineer. That said, some of the best broadband providers on the market will look to complete this process in around a week. 

If you're transferring an entire broadband bundle (like a broadband and TV bundle), or if you're changing the type of connection from fibre to Full Fibre, then it can take even longer. This is because your new set-up will need to be physically installed. 

How long will I be offline during the switching process? 

Broadband Speed

(Image credit: Future)

You will be thrilled to hear that although the switching process will likely take around two weeks, you won't be offline for all of this time. Instead, you should only expect to spend around 30 minutes offline while the physical switch actually takes place. There's also usually no need for an engineer to visit your home, so any disruption should be minimised. On occasion, you may actually experience no interruption whatsoever. 

Even if you need an engineer to come and physically install your broadband, you should only be offline for a couple of hours. 

Our step-by-step guide to the switching process

1. Check your contract status

If you're still within your minimum contract period, then you'll likely need to pay a penalty to leave your current contract early. As a result, you should check your contract status carefully. This will confirm how much, if anything, you'll need to pay in order to leave. 

Added to this, your contract will also tell you how much notice you need to give your current provider about the switch. Using this information, you can decide whether it's worthwhile switching now or waiting until the end of your contract and moving then without paying a penalty. You can also ensure you're giving the right amount of notice to your current provider. 

Speaking from experience, it's often worthwhile waiting until the end of your contract, unless you're incredibly inconvenienced or you've realised your current package is now unsuitable. This is because cancellation fees can be very hefty and usually apply on a per-month-remaining basis. This means that if you have a long time left on your contract, you'll have to pay a lot of money to leave. 

2. Find a new broadband deal

If you've discovered that you're out of contract (or you need to pay so little to leave that it's worth the cost), you should search for a new broadband deal on our best broadband deals page. 

Alternatively, put your postcode into the widget below. We'll then show you all of the best deals that are currently available in your area. 

3. Take out a new deal

Sign up with your chosen provider and confirm your installation date. They'll then run you through the next steps. 

The good news is that if you're switching from one Openreach provider to another (such as BT, Sky, NOW, Plusnet, EE and TalkTalk), then you won’t even need to alert your current ISP. Instead, your current provider will handle the switch for you

BT's Openreach - bringing speedy broadband to the masses

(Image credit: Openreach)

4. Speak to your current provider about the switch (if required) 

However, if your switch involves moving to a different provider that uses its own network, such as Virgin Media, Hyperoptic or Community Fibre, then you may need to cancel your current contract and tell your old provider about the move. Again, your new provider will confirm that you need to take this step. 

Next, you'll need to tell your old provider that you're moving and the date the switch will take place. Remember though, most providers require at least 30 days' notice. So, to avoid paying twice, schedule your start date with your new provider about a month in advance.

At this point, you've done everything you need to and the switch should take place automatically on the agreed date. Your current provider should also notify you this is the case and confirm both the agreed moving date and whether any fees are applicable. 

Broadband switching: Your FAQs answered

What are the costs associated with switching providers?

When it comes to switching broadband providers, there are two forms of associated costs: early cancellation fees and set-up costs. 

You'll be charged an early termination fee if you leave before the earliest agreed date. For example, if you signed a 12-month contract and you attempt to leave after nine months, your provider will ask you to pay an early termination fee. Each provider calculates this fee differently, but it's usually based on the amount of time that's left on your deal and the cost of your overall package. 

If your initial period has expired and you're out of contract, you won't have to pay any early termination charges at all and you can leave for free, as long as you give the required period of notice.  

Similarly, you may be charged set-up fees by your new provider (these are sometimes known as activation fees, installation fees or equipment costs). They essentially cover anything that's needed to get you online, such as the delivery of your new router or the cost of installing a new line. 

That said, set-up fees are less common than they used to be and many ISPs remove them entirely when they start sales. This means that, if you're leaving your current provider when you're out of contract and you're moving to a deal that doesn't have any set-up fees at all, you'll have nothing to pay. 

Can I change providers if I'm under contract?

Yes, you'll just need to pay early termination fees. Sadly, these costs can be substantial and they'll likely cancel any savings you'll make by switching. 

That said, there are limited circumstances where you can leave for free, even if you're under contract. For example, if your provider raises its prices above what's stated in the terms of your contract, or is unable to provide you with the services you signed up for.

If you believe your supplier is in breach of the contract, then you should contact them to discuss the issue. 

Can I keep my landline number if I switch providers?

Yes, your new broadband provider should allow you to keep your current landline number, as long as you notify them in advance and you purchase a package that includes a landline. 

If you'd like to take your current landline number with you, then we recommend that you ask your new provider if they’re able to make this transfer before you've finished arranging the switch. 

Tom Brook

Tom is a freelance copywriter and content marketer with over a decade of experience. Originally from an agency background, he is proud to have worked on campaigns for a number of energy providers, comparison sites and consumer brands.