Switching providers is commonly known as a migration, and for the vast majority of broadband providers (namely those using ADSL or ADSL2+) it is simply a case of:
Since 2007 broadband providers are required to provide a MAC within 5 working days of you asking for it. Not all broadband migrations require a MAC, so check whether you need one to change provider at all.
With network upgrades, and sometimes providers changing their wholesale supplier, it is possible they may be using a MAC to move your broadband already. This can result in a delay to you receiving your MAC.
In February 2007 Ofcom announced General Condition 22, which provides rules for how migrations should take place. A summary of the rules can be read here.
The Migration Authorisation Process does not apply to every form of broadband, cable broadband from Virgin Media and the various wireless broadband solutions do not use the MAC process. The general rule is that if your broadband provider is using ADSL/ADSL2 or ADSL2+ to connect you then a MAC code will be available, the variations to this rule are fully unbundled connections.
A number of providers use fully unbundled connections including TalkTalk, Tiscali and Sky being the main ones. In areas of the UK where these companies do not have their unbundled network, a MAC will be available as they simple resell a BT Wholesale based service.
The answer is probably, two types of unbundling exist.
Some broadband providers purchase wholesale services from companies such as C&W or Tiscali (there are others), and this means even though the people you pay your broadband bill to do not have their own hardware in the exchange your line may be unbundled. One example of a provider using this method is Eclipse who utilise shared unbundling via Tiscali Wholesale.
If TalkTalk or Sky have unbundled your telephone exchange, then as they use a fully unbundled service to provide their broadband and telephone services you do not need a MAC.
Migrating to a fully unbundled line is simply a case of telling your new broadband provider that you want to move to them, and the new provider will arrange everything. After the migration has happened it is very important to ensure your old provider knows you've left and the final bill needs to be settled.
With the way some providers handle the notice period, you may want to obtain the MAC before ordering from TalkTalk or Sky.
Sky only use a shared unbundled service at this time. Thus to switch providers they should be able to supply a MAC.
Sky actually use Wholesale Line Rental (WLR) or Carrier Pre-selection (CPS) to provide their Sky Talk products. This means the telephone line remains connected to BT kit at the exchange but billing and customer support is all handled by BT.
The broadband provider should avoid ceasing a broadband line at all costs, and suggesting this method rather than a migration is not the best practice.
A cease order will result in broadband being removed from your telephone line, and may lead to a delay of a week or more in getting broadband back again.
Ceases used to be free, but to encourage broadband providers to use migrations they are now charged £18.50 for every cease, and some providers pass this cost onto you.
The key thing to remember is that with a fully unbundled service both the broadband and telephone products are unbundled. This has often made switching provider difficult.
The best method is to decide who you want your broadband and telephone service with (they could be the same provider) and assuming the broadband is not another fully unbundled service the following applies.
If you are moving to another fully unbundled product, then simply talk to the new provider who will arrange everything.
Telephone and broadband from the same provider has become very common as a way of saving money, assuming you are not on a fully unbundled service, then a process known as Sequential Orders is the best way of switching both products.
If your broadband provider does not use any form of unbundling (LLU), then switching provider is easy, just use a MAC to switch providers.
Providers that do not use unbundling are likely to be using a BT Wholesale product, all the broadband services from BT Wholesale can generate a MAC for use when migrating.
The first thing to decide is whether you want to use your existing broadband provider at your new home. If you do not then what you should do is tell your old provider to cease your broadband by the date you are due to move out, and then order broadband from new at the new property. If you do the alternative of moving your old provider to the new home and them migrating you may find yourself stuck in a lengthy contract, and the probability of it going wrong are much greater.
The process for ordering broadband and a telephone line at a new home (this process applies even if the new home does not have an active telephone line) is outlined below:
Until a telephone number is actively in your name at an address it will not appear in any of the speed estimator databases.
If there is an active telephone line in a property, you can use that number to obtain a speed estimate, or if the existing occupant has broadband, ask them what speed their broadband modem connects at.
If the previous resident had broadband then do not panic, upon taking over a telephone line it can take the online checkers a few days to update.
Broadband providers should still be able to place an order if you explain the situation.
The online checkers take time to update, sometimes a week or more when the person whose name the telephone line is in has changed. This can result in slow speeds being estimated on the online checkers.
If you can find out from the previous resident what their actual broadband speed was, you should be able to achieve the same.
The online speed estimators where you put in your telephone number or postcode do nothing to actually limit your broadband speeds. If the checker is wrong your broadband modem will still negotiate the best speed possible for the parameters that have been set.
A short answer NO. A provider must provide a MAC if it is available even if you owe them money, any money or contractual obligations should not stop you changing provider.
If leaving a provider while within their minimum contract term you are liable for any charges as set out in the products terms and conditions.
If you have left a provider and dispute the charges they say you owe them, take a read of our guide to resolving problems.
The phrase 'camped on the line' is used to describe a situation, where you have moved into a property and took over the telephone line, but the old broadband is still active.
Your broadband provider should wait three days for the tag to clear and place a broadband order after this. If the tag fails to clear then given proof that you have taken over the telephone line they will arrange for the old broadband to be removed.
Prior to 2008 you would have to chase the old broadband provider yourself, or contact the TAGS helpline directly. In 2008 the systems have altered to make things simpler, and now it is the job of your new broadband provider to chase this situation up, and remove the old broadband service.
Switching the company who you pay your telephone line rental to will not affect the broadband, provided that the broadband and telephone are not part of a fully unbundled service (e.g. TalkTalk, Sky and some AOL lines).
To move line rental provider, simply contact the new provider. The new provider should inform your old provider of your intention to move service, but you will get a letter as part of a system to avoid your services being slammed. One note of caution, if this new company also sells telephone and broadband bundles make it clear that you DO NOT want their broadband.
They should not be able to remove your broadband, unless it is a fully unbundled product, and even then they should have your permission.
This is likely to expensive on two counts, to get BT Retail to install a telephone line will cost around £125 and carry a 12 or 18 month contract, and to move to TalkTalk inside this contract period will cost an extra £70.
This situation should in 2012 be a lot less common, particularly as most firms that bill you for telephone line rental are now able to order a new telephone line.
It is worth shopping around, as invariably there are offers from a number of providers. The Post Office who have short contracts for their telephone service are a popular choice in this scenario.
Moving between two fully unbundled providers (where the telephone and broadband are connected to the suppliers own hardware in the local telephone exchange) is a fairly easy process.
You contact the new provider, who will take charge of the move, and inform your old provider of your intention to move. The only things you need to ensure are that you pay any outstanding amounts to the old provider before cancelling your direct debit.
Assuming you want to continue to use the fibre solution, you request a Migration Authorisation Code and migrate just as you would do with a standard ADSL service.
Some providers may try to insist you need a new fibre modem sent out and an engineer. These are not needed for a standard FTTC migration, but this often happens as migrations on FTTC are rare in early 2012 and the providers computer systems are not giving agents the best advice.
The procedures are pretty much the same as with ADSL and ADSL2+ services. The three scenarios are as follows: