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25 Jun 2020

Why you're wrong about mobile network providers and switching

Our survey reveals the reasons people give for not switching, but with text-to-switch making it easier than ever, are you missing a trick?

Our research has shown that customer loyalty to mobile networks is strong - in our latest mobile networks survey of more than 4,000 people, conducted between February and March this year, 42% said they had been with their provider for more than five years.

But is this loyalty well placed, or are there other barriers that prevent people from switching? In a separate survey conducted in June, we asked 1,340 people about their mobile network provider and why those who hadn't switched in the past 12 months remained loyal.

Here, Which? looks at whether these reasons stack up, and what opportunities you might have to save money and get a better service.

Find out how your provider fares in our survey of the best and worst mobile networks for 2020.

'I pay a good price for my mobile contract'

This was the most common reason given for not switching, and it sounds like a good one. However, it's always worth shopping around to see if the market has changed. Mobile contract prices have been steadily going down in recent years, whereas data and call allowances have been growing to the point where plans with unlimited call minutes can cost as little as £5 per month. Therefore, if you're on an old contract or rarely use your data, it might be worth checking to see if there's a more appropriate deal.

If you're unsure what would suit your needs, most one-month packages allow you to change your plan month-on-month to one with more or less data, depending on usage. This can allow you the flexibility of only paying as much as you have to and not more.

Read more: find out how to choose the best mobile phone deal

'I don't think I could get the same deal from another provider'

Perhaps you can't beat a deal 'like for like' with a cheaper monthly cost, but there may be other options that could tempt you.

While there are clear benefits to having a rolling monthly contract where you're not tied down, if you are happy with a provider, you'll usually get better value for 12 months or more. For example, £16 per month with O2 gets you 1GB of data and 1,000 minutes on a 30-day rolling contract. On a 12-month contract you get double the data and unlimited minutes for £4 less.

Another thing worth watching out for is perks - and these are far more common on longer contracts. For example, O2 currently offers six months of Disney+ for that 12-month contract and £2 off your monthly bill if you keep your subscription after the six months is up.

Ultimately, the advice is always to shop around to see what's on offer, even if you're pretty sure you have a great deal.

'I'm worried about signal issues with a different provider'

Many told us about their worries about getting a good signal as a reason not to switch. However, there are a lot of ways to ensure your new provider's signal works where you need it to.

Consider buying your phone contract online, which allows you to cancel within 14 days penalty-free for whatever reason, including if the coverage is not good enough. Most mobile networks also allow you to order free Sims online, which you can then top up with pay-as-you-go credit and try out in your local area before you decide to switch.

Our mobile networks coverage map also gives you details on what the coverage is like in your area with the four main signal carriers (EE, O2, Three and Vodafone). It's worth noting that all mobile networks use the signal of one of these four carriers. The graphic below shows you who is with who.

*/** Virgin Mobile is set to move to Vodafone in 2021.

'I just haven't got round to it' / 'I don't know how to switch'

Switching mobile networks has never been easier with the introduction of text-to-switch. Text-to-switch allows you to get your Porting Authorisation Code (PAC) by simply texting your provider. Switches must now be completed quickly within one working day and involves almost no effort on your part apart from telling your provider your PAC code, which you can do online to save even more time.

Our new guide on how to switch mobile network gives you all the information you need on exactly how to switch and choose the best mobile network for you.

'I don't want to risk losing my number'

If you want to keep your number while switching, text-to-switch can help with that, too. Be sure to text PAC to 65075. Alternatively, texting STAC to 75075 will allow you to switch while getting a new number if that's more convenient.

'I don't want to risk being without my mobile phone'

Some told us they did not switch because they did not want to risk being without service.

With switches having to be completed within one working day, downtime after switching is rare. To be on the safe side, look to switch at a time that's convenient for you, as it's up to you when to trigger the switching process.

Bear in mind that you will still be able to use wi-fi, which will allow you to still be contacted via internet-based calling apps (eg Facebook Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp).

You could also keep an extra active Sim lying around just in case, but the likelihood of you need it after switching is incredibly small.

Considering a new phone contract? Read our guide on how to buy the best mobile phone, where you'll also find a helpful tool to calculate costs of a handset and Sim-only deal, or bundled contract.