Switching your mobile phone handset, network or tariff

Are you fed up with the monthly charges from your mobile phone network? Perhaps you are interested in services that aren't available with your supplier? Whatever your reason for switching mobile phone suppliers it's sadly not as simple as just terminating one contract and starting another.

That is why moneysupermarket.com has compiled a guide to help you make the switch as easily, as quickly and as cost effectively as possible.

Mobile phone basics: why make the switch?

Mobile phone deals are changing all the time and with increased competition between networks new deals are appearing that could drive your costs down. Consequently, as with any aspect of money saving, it makes sense to keep your eyes on the market to see if there is a deal that better suits your needs, possibly at a lower price.

In addition, there are a lot of mobile phone networks that will offer you a free handset when you join them on a monthly contract. If you have a handset you could use, it is often a good idea to get a new one for free or at least at a reduced rate, and if you need a new mobile phone handset then this can produce another saving.

Mobile phone basics: how to find a better deal

The first thing to do when searching for a new mobile phone deal is to consider what your needs are. Here are some questions you could ask yourself:

  • How often do you make calls? At what times?
  • Do you send text messages more than you make calls?
  • Which network do your friends/associates use?
  • How often do you pick up messages from your voicemail?
  • Do you want/need a new handset?
  • What additional features do you want – Bluetooth capability, i-mode, WAP access, etc?
  • If you're on a contract do you use your inclusive texts/minutes each month?
  • If you're using pay-as-you-go how much do you top-up a month and would it be cheaper to move to a contract?

Once you have worked out your caller profile you can find out how to keep your mobile phone number and whether you can get out of a current contract.

If you're looking to switch mobile phone networks to secure a better deal, moneysupermarket.com is here to help. Our guide will tell you how to go about making the switch and how to get the best tariff for your needs.

Mobile phone basics: keeping your number

There are two different ways to retain your number:

  • Number portability is taking your mobile phone number from one mobile phone network to another. If you inform your new network while the number is active this is usually possible. It can take as little as seven days to do this and some networks will even give you a temporary number while you wait. Check to see if your current provider charges for the release of a number.
  • Number migration is taking your number from one tariff to another within the same network. Many networks will not allow this and Orange is the only network that will allow you to switch from a PAYG to a contract.

Mobile phone basics: switching network before contract end

If you're signing up to a new contract you could be required to pay the minimum term contract rate with your current provider. You can cancel a contract without charge at the end of this minimum term, or, if the minimum term period is 12months then you can write and provide written notice in the eleventh month. Remember to apply for your new contract before your current contract expires if you wish to retain your mobile phone number - networks cannot transfer deactivated numbers.

If you are switching within the same network some companies will allow you to do so without charge during your contract.

If you are happy with the service of your mobile phone network, but believe you can get a better deal elsewhere, it is always worth contacting your current mobile phone supplier. If they believe they will lose your business they could offer a compromise or inform you of another deal that could save you money, time and effort.

So you've decided you want a better deal on your mobile phone tariff and are ready to make the switch. How do you go about it? In part three of the moneysupermarket.com guide we aim to show you the way.

Mobile phone basics: using your current SIM card

The reasons for retaining your current SIM card are obvious - it contains your mobile phone number, your subscription information, your address book, etc. Removing your SIM card from one phone to another will, in effect, transfer your number and bills from one handset to another.

However, it's not that simple. Some networks have different frequencies that are not compatible - O2 and Vodafone mostly operate on 900MHz while Orange and T-Mobile use 1800MHz. Additionally, some networks put software into their phones to stop you using another network's SIM. This SIM lock can be removed with a release code - but there is usually a £20-£35 fee for this service and some phones simply won't accept any other SIM card.

Mobile phone basics: making the switch

The first part of the switching process is to go to the price comparison tool at moneysupermarket.com. This will compare handsets, tariffs and services across networks in direct relation to your requirements. Moneysupermarket.com will help you find the best mobile phone deal at the right price.

Once you have decided on the network you wish to move to, go to your existing provider and tell it you want to switch. Remember to keep your number active if you wish to retain it with your new network.

Ask your current provider for a nine digit Porting Authorising Code (PAC), which has to be given to your new provider. This is valid for 30 days. After a credit check, and the settling of any outstanding bills, you will be given a date of transfer of your number and a new SIM card and phone if this is part of the deal. This process should take about five days. You might have to pay a fee for the transfer paperwork.

A PAC is valid for 30 days and if you haven't used it by the end of the period you would have to contact your original provider for a new one. Transfers take three-ten days and during this period your account must remain active. Do not cancel the old account before attempting to move your number.

Remember to use moneysupermarket.com to get the best mobile phone deal available. Our price comparison tool will not only find you the cheapest mobile phone available for your needs, but will also include features and services to make sure you get exactly what you need.

So if you're thinking of making the switch, use moneysupermarket.com to be sure you're making the right move.