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How to switch your mobile phone network

Published 4 January 2016 by

There are a number of reasons why you might be looking to switch your mobile network provider – maybe you’ve just received a new phone for Christmas or you might simply want to find a contract that gives you a little more for your money.

Whatever the reason, it’s not difficult to make the switch and doing so could be well worth your while. According to consumer data firm ctrlio, mobile phone users in the UK are wasting around £160 a year on the wrong contact, either from being on one that they don’t use to its fullest or that comes with limits that they regularly exceed.

To help you with the switching process, we’re going to walk you through it step-by-step.

Find a new deal

First things first, you need to find yourself a new deal before you look at leaving your current provider, or you’ll have nowhere to switch to! Whilst browsing, carefully consider whether you want to opt for a SIM-only deal or a contract. If you want to keep your phone handset once your contract comes to an end, crtlio predicts you could be £246 a year better off if you switch to a SIM-only package.

There are a range of SIM-only deals out there and sites like moneysupermarket and uSwitch can help you find the right one for you. Giffgaff, for example, offers a basic SIM-only deal for £7.50 which comes with 250 minutes, unlimited UK texts and 500 MB data per month and it operates on the o2 network.

Another option is to see what deals your home phone provider has to offer. TalkTalk, Virgin or BT have competitive SIM-only or contract deals and you could see whether you could get a further discount as a current customer. If you decide on a contract, make sure that it comes with the features that you use frequently and at the right level for you – for example, unlimited texts and fewer minutes if you tend to text rather than call.

If you’d rather keep the phone that you have but switch to a SIM-only deal, you’ll probably have to unlock your phone. You can do this by heading down to an independent phone shop or calling your current network to ask them to unlock it. Whether they apply a charge and how long it will take to unlock your phone, will depend on their policy.

Request the PAC

If you ultimately decide to leave your current provider, you’ll need to ask them for a nine digit Porting Authorising Code (PAC) to give to your new provider. This should be given to you straightaway over the phone or within a few hours by text. If you’re opting for a SIM-only contract and want to keep your mobile number, inform your new provider of this when you get in touch with them. The PAC is only valid for 30 days, and if you don’t use it within this period you’ll have to request another one.

When you call your current provider and ask for the PAC, you’ll most likely be transferred to the customer retention team. Their job is to try and keep as many customers as possible, so they may offer you a better deal than the one you’re currently on – it could be worth considering this if you’re happy with the network that you’re currently with.

If you’re switching contracts, remember to apply for your new contract before your current one expires if you want to keep your mobile number, as networks are unable to transfer deactivated numbers. Do check though whether your current provider charges for the release of a number – it might not be worth switching to save if this costs too much.