Switching mobile phone provider

If you’re not happy with your mobile network, it’s never been simpler to switch to a new provider. You could save money too. This guide tells you what you need to do.

First, check for charges

First, check whether you've been with your provider long enough to be able to switch without paying a penalty. To leave for free, you’ll probably need to have passed your ‘minimum contract period’.

Find out if you’re in or out of contract. 

If you bought your handset with the service from your current provider, you should also have the option of keeping it after you switch. But keep in mind that it might be tied (or ‘locked’) to your existing network.

Mobile providers have different policies and processes for unlocking phones. Some will only unlock your mobile after a certain period of time has passed and will charge a fee, while others will unlock it at any time for free. Check with your provider.

You can find out more in our guide to locking and unlocking mobile phones.

Switching and keeping your number

Keeping your number when switching provider is called 'porting' your number.

You’ll need to contact your current provider and request a Porting Authorisation Code (PAC). This is a numerical code that you must then give to your new provider.

You can call them to get your PAC. Or, thanks to Ofcom's 'text to switch' rules,  you can get your PAC by sending a simple, free text.

Your current provider must give you a PAC immediately over the phone, or within a minute by text. Once you have a PAC, it is valid for 30 days. If it expires, you can request a new one in the same way. In some circumstances there may be a charge for porting.

Once you have given your new provider the PAC, your number should normally be ported and ready to use with your new services within one working day.

Don't forget that if you’re still in contract with your old provider, you might face early termination charges. If you get your PAC by text, your old provider’s reply will include information about early termination charges or pay-as-you-go credit balances.

Switching without keeping your number

If you don't want to keep your number, first contact your new provider to request a new service. Then contact your current provider to end your existing contract. You do this by text too.

You might want to coordinate the end date of your old contract and the start date of your new one, to prevent an overlap.

Remember, you also have a 14-calendar-day ‘cooling off’ period, from the date you enter a contract with a new provider. During that time, you can cancel your request to switch without being charged.

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