Switching broadband providers

According to the Office of National Statistics, nearly 17 million households in the U.K. had access to the Internet in 2008, and of those, 86% had a broadband Internet connection of one form or another. The most popular forms of domestic broadband Internet connection are ADSL, or "Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line", which works via the existing BT telephone network, and cable broadband, which requires a special cable connection – probably provided by Virgin Media which holds 24% of the U.K. broadband market – into your home.

The number of new subscribers to broadband Internet was down in the first quarter of 2009 year-on-year, suggesting that the market has become constrained by demand rather than supply, and may be oversaturated.

One thing is certain however; competition in the marketplace is rife, and understanding how to switch between broadband providers – and perhaps, technologies – in the future should allow you to get the most from your broadband Internet connection.

How to Switch Broadband Providers

Depending upon the type of your existing broadband Internet connection, you may need to consider switching from one ADSL provider to another, switching from an ADSL provider to a cable provider, or vice versa.

This may be for reasons of quality of service, speed, monthly download limit, length of contract or cost, or a combination of some, or all of these factors, based on the way you use your broadband Internet connection.

Switching from one ADSL provider to another is, perhaps, the simplest scenario, insofar as your BT telephone line, telephone number and ADSL connection remain the same. What you will require however, is a 17-character to 19-character unique identifying code – known as a "Migration Authorisation Code", or MAC for short – which can be obtained from your existing broadband Internet provider.

You will also need to refer to the terms and conditions of your existing contract, so that you can give your existing ISP ("Internet Service Provider") due notice of your intention to switch elsewhere. Your new ISP will require details of your previous provider, and your individual MAC, to arrange transfer of your service, but this should only take 30 minutes or so to complete.

ADSL broadband and cable broadband are, essentially, two different technologies, so there is no way of switching directly between the two. Provided of course, that you live in a cable area in the first place, and your computer is of high enough specification, a cable provider will supply all the equipment you need for cable broadband, and an engineer to install it.

Cable broadband may take up to a week to install, but because cable and ADSL can run simultaneously, you need not experience any downtime at all. You simply need to give your existing ADSL provider sufficient notice of your intention to cancel the connection, without affecting your telephone service or number.

Switching in the opposite direction – that is, from cable broadband to ADSL – requires a BT telephone line, an ADSL modem (rather than a cable modem) and microfilters for each telephone extension in your home, to prevent interference.

You may also require additional equipment, such as a wireless router, if you want two or more computers to share a broadband Internet connection. ADSL can take up to 10 days to install, on average, but, once again the services can run simultaneously for as long as required.
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