How to switch broadband providers

Because not all Internet service providers are created equal and you can get a better deal.

The competitive nature of the broadband market means there’s always an opportunity to jump on to a plan that is not only cheaper but offers faster speeds and more data per month. While there are many reasons why you might want to switch broadband providers, the reality is that most Australians tend to stick to the same Internet service provider (ISP).

Switching to another ISP might seem like a daunting process, but it really isn’t. In fact, the widespread availability of month-to-month, no lock-in contracts has made it easier than ever before.

This guide is designed to take the confusion out of the process and also considers other aspects such as keeping your existing phone number and email addresses or ensuring that you don’t temporarily lose your Internet connection during the transition. It also takes into account those who might be switching from cable or ADSL to an NBN connection.

Before you leave

Firstly, you will want to ensure that you are out of contract with your existing ISP. If you’re on a month-to-month plan then be aware that these usually come with a requirement of giving the ISP 30 days' notice before cancelling.

Secondly, you might want to consider negotiating a better deal with your current provider. This includes looking at potential bundle opportunities as well.

For example, the big-name ISPs like Telstra offer Internet plans that bundle pay TV services like Foxtel and also offer additional discounts provided you have a mobile service with them. Similarly, the likes of Optus, Internode and iiNet offer Internet bundle deals with their Fetch entertainment services.

Some ISPs offer the ability to match plans from a competitor so it would be worth exploring that avenue before switching.

Step-by-step guide to switching broadband providers

Step 1: Comparing plans

If you haven’t yet decided on an ISP to switch to, be sure to use our broadband plan comparison tool to find the best value plan. We let you compare over 1,600 plans from 50 different providers so you can find the best plan for your needs.

It's important to remember that some ISPs charge a setup fee unless you agree to a long-term contract so make sure you take that into account when doing the figures.

Once you’ve decided on a plan, check with the provider in question to ensure they can provide a broadband service at your home address.

Step 2: Keeping your email and phone number

If you’ve been with your ISP for a long time, you might have an email service tied to your provider. If this is true, you should transfer your current emails and contacts across to a third-party generic email service such as Gmail or Outlook before you switch, otherwise you might lose your emails and contact information.

Similarly, if you have a landline number that you want to bring across, be sure to notify your new provider that you wish to port your number over before switching. Often, the new number will be a voice over IP (VOIP) service rather than a traditional landline, which is often the case when switching from ADSL to an NBN connection.

Be aware that you will need to keep the landline active until the port process has been completed after which the old landline and associated rental fee charges will cease.

Step 3: Avoiding downtime and settling old accounts

According to NBN Co, the downtime for customers transferring between ISPs using the service transfer process is, on average, less than 30 minutes. Essentially the ISP submits a single order and NBN manages the disconnection and connection activities.This applies to all NBN connections including fibre to the premises (FTTP), fibre to the node/basement (FTTN/B), HFC and wireless.

Once your new service is active, your old service will be cancelled automatically to minimise disruption.

If you happen to be running an FTTP, fixed wireless or satellite connection then you can have two connections running concurrently from two different ISPs. This not only removes downtime completely but also allows you to compare the performance of the ISPs directly before making the final switch. Note that FTTN/FTTB and HFC do not support this feature.

However, transferring from an ADSL service to an NBN connection will take much more time as this will require a technician to come out to your premises. That doesn’t mean you will need to go offline while you’re waiting, though, as you can keep your existing service running up until your appointment date. Your new service provider will arrange the appointment for you and the billing period will start from the day they connect you. However, you will need to cancel the old service yourself.

Ideally you want to time the switch towards the end of your billing cycle, otherwise you might be liable to pay an extra month’s worth of service from your old ISP.

Step 4: Equipment

Most modems should be ISP agnostic so your existing hardware should easily carry over with your new ISP if you're not changing your connection technology.

However, if you’re coming across from a different type of Internet connection such as from ADSL to an NBN connection like fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), then you might need to upgrade your modem.

It's best to check with your modem manufacturer directly to avoid any compatibility issues down the road. ISPs generally bundle in a new modem with select plans so be sure to check with the service provider if this is something that they can include before making a trip to the store.

Depending on how the ISP is set up in your connectivity service area (CSA), you might be required to enter login credentials within the modem itself, but your ISP will advise if this is required or if there are any other settings within the modem that will need to be changed. These changes should be accompanied by a reboot of the modem to ensure that it switches over to your new ISP correctly.

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Krishan Sharma

Krishan is an award winning freelance technology journalist who writes for a number of tech focused publications.

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