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4 May 2013

How to leave your mobile network: PACs and unlocking your phone

Wondering how to leave your mobile network? We've compiled a guide for how to leave the most popular mobile providers from EE to Vodafone.

Wondering how to leave your mobile network?If you've come to the end of your contractand are moving on to a new network you will need to request a free Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) to keep the same number. You may also need to get your handset unlocked by requesting an unlocking code from your old provider.

Since information on obtaining your PAC,unlocking codes and the charges involved is not always available on the networks' website, we've compiled a guide on how to leave the most popular mobile providers from EE to Vodafone.

Best mobile networks - we surveyed 4,000 members of the public on subjects like coverage and price

How to request your free PAC

When you switch to a new network you can take your mobile number with you. To do this call up your current network provider to request a PAC and then supply this to your new network within 30 days.

It's worth noting that every provider must adhere to the regulations set out by Ofcom which state that PACs are valid for 30 days and must be issued immediately over the phone or within a maximum of two hours by text message.

  • EE, T-Mobile andOrange: Call customer services and it will be sent via text.
  • O2: Contact the customer service team and you be given your PAC code over the phone.
  • Tesco Mobile:Your PAC code will be sent via SMS when the request is received by customer services.
  • Three: Your PACwill be supplied within two hours.
  • Vodafone:Contact customer services by phone.
  • Virgin: Contact them over the phone and it can be generated instantly.PayM customers who are out of contract need to give one months notice before it will be issued.

How to unlock your mobile phone

Handsets are often set up so that they are locked to the network that sells it. This means that you cannot use a SIM card from another network provider without getting the phone unlocked. You need to contact your network for an unlocking code and instructions on how to use it.

If you are considering moving network mid-contract it is likely that you will have to pay early termination charges on top of the unlocking charges outlined above. For tips on how to avoid termination charges in certain circumstances, read our consumer rights guide to cancelling your mobile contract early.

EE, T-Mobile andOrange:

  • PAYG (Pay As You Go):£20.42 -As long as you have held the account for at least six months, call customer services to request the code and it will be supplied in up to 20 days.
  • PayM (Pay Monthly):£20.42 -See above. You must alsohave a balance of zero.


  • PAYG:£15- Youmust have sufficient credit so that the charge can be taken from their balance. AlthoughPAYG iPhones can be unlocked at any time,you have to wait 12 months for most phones.
  • PayM:Free - You can request an unlocking code after 30 days from the start of your contract.

Tesco Mobile

  • PAYG & PayM:£20/Free - Tesco Mobile's unlocking chargedoesn'tapply after 12 months.Call its technical support team and to obtain the code within 14 to 28 days.

After 28 days Tesco Mobile will automatically replaceyourmobile with a free of charge unlocked phone if they cannot obtain the unlocking code.Tesco Mobile don't unlock PAYG iPhones within their first year of ownership.


  • PAYG & PayM:£15.32 - Three will supply the code via text, generally within two hours. The process may be delayed if it requires information from the manufacturer.


  • PAYG:£19.99 -Call customer services to request your unlock code. It will be provided immediately unless Vodafone has to contact the manufacturer when it can take 7-10 days.
  • PayM:£19.99/Free - Charge doesn't apply tocustomers with a handset older than 12 months.


  • PAYG & PayM:£15.32- The process should take between five and 28 days.