How to switch broadband

If you are looking to change broadband providers please follow these simple steps – the process of changing broadband provider is relatively straight-forward but please read our notes further below if you need clarification.

4 Steps to change your broadband provider

  1. Research the broadband options for the cheapest deals, fastest broadband, or biggest monthly downloads (see our top10 table for the most popular broadband deals on Mac Broadband)
  2. Contact your existing broadband provider and ask them for a MAC code (remember they may offer you a better deal if you agree to stay with them – bare this in mind, they might offer you a cracking deal if you stay)
  3. Use our broadband adsl provider details to go to your chosen provider’s website & enter the MAC code you have been issued at sign-up (ots always easiest to do the application online)
  4. Wait a week. Your broadband should be transfered in 7-10 days (if you have any problems then you can always contact Ofcom to complain.

Things of note.

The government agency – Ofcom – has put in a migration process which is intended to make changing broadband provider simple. That is the plan anyway.

The major thing to remember is – if you are intending to switch broadband provider – DO NOT cancel your connection with your current provider, use a MAC code to change provider.

Also, check the length of the contract with your existing broadband provider – they may try and get you to pay the monies you would owe right up to the end of your contract.

What is a MAC code?

A Migrations Authority Code (or MAC code) is a code that allows you to migrate from one broadband provider to another. The MAC code system was set up at the request of Ofcom to make it easier for UK consumer broadband providers (that is you and us then) to switch ISP when we want to save ourselves some money or have been receiving bad customer service – whatever your reason the MAC code process is designed to make things run more smoothly.

The main thing to know it DON’T just cancel your broadband connection with your existing provider (I can not stree this enough) - instead ‘migrate’ using the MAC system and you will save yourself a lot of agro. Instead, let your new ISP do everything for you – just ring up your existing ISP and ask them for a MAC code (they have to give you one by law). The MAC code lasts for 30 days after it has been allocated. You need to switch broadband provider in this 30 day window or apply for a new MAC code from your existing internet provider.

Note: the MAC process does not at this time apply to broadband companies providing internet connections via cable (eg. Virgin Media). You do not need a MAC code if you don’t currently have broadband – it is only needed for switching broadband

Contact numbers to get a broadband MAC code

Telephone numbers have been taken from the AOL website. If you can not find your broadband provider’s number here then you will need to contact them directly via their customer service telephone number.

  • BT Broadband – 0800 085 6161
  • Carphone Warehouse TalkTalk – 0800 049 0049
  • – 0845 355 2000
  • Demon – 0800 027 0582
  • Eclipse – 0845 1224 111
  • Madasafish – 0844 395 0830
  • Nildram – 0800 197 1474
  • One.Tel – 0845 818 8000
  • Orange Wanadoo – 0870 010 2462
  • Pipex – 0845 077 2537
  • PlusNet – 0845 140 0200
  • Sky Broadband – 08700 248 900
  • Tiscali – 0800 107 9000
  • Toucan – 0800 0613 615
  • – 0845 045 1303
  • Waitrose – 0800 013 2282

How long does it take to get a MAC code and change ISP?

It shouldn’t take longer than 7-10 days to change broadband provider. When you ring your existing ISP (internet service provider) they should be able to give you an indication of how long it takes to migrate away from them. When you quote your MAC code to your new broadband provider they too should be able to give you an estimate of how long it will take things to set up with them.

Your new internet provider should be able to stop your old broadband provider from taking more payments from your bank account – watch out though, they can be a little clumsy and accidentally take an over payment so watch your bank account.

Reader's Comments

So far we have 25 comments about the product “How to switch broadband”

  1. Nicola on October 25th, 2008 8:13 pm

    We have MACACE at the moment, and have had for a long time – I’m interested that they are not listed amongst your reviews/ opinions/ lists..?
    Please comment – I really need to decide whether to stay or go so am looking for all (informed) opinion to help. Ta

  2. phil handley on October 26th, 2008 4:52 pm

    i want to move from virgin media cable broadband to an adsl isp, I have spoken to the tech guys twice now about giving me a mac code both times they said they dont have them as i dont need one to change over. i also said i had been intouch with the onbusman , and that they have to issue me with one , but again i got the same answer. is this true

  3. Mac Broadband on October 26th, 2008 7:48 pm

    Hi Nicola,

    MacAce will be added to our lists very soon. I am waiting for the team at MacAce to send me their product information and then I will put the information up for all to see.

    In terms of informed decision – I am not in a position to make product recommendations or give concrete advice to you. Much as I would like to provide product recommendations to you, I think you need to make the ultimate decision whether to stay with your broadband provider or change. I don’t know enough about your ADSL circumstances to give you advice.

    However – BT have always been a big provider (some say too big) that provide broadband connections themselves and via their owned companies including Plusnet and Madasafish.

    I have noticed that lots of our visitors have been signing up to o2 broadband for apple macs, so you should take a look at them too.


  4. Mac Broadband on October 26th, 2008 7:57 pm

    Hi Phil.

    I have just done a little search for you – I found some information that should be relevant over at Mac Code.

    It looks like Virgin can’t issue you with a MAC code because you are not transfering from one cable company to another, but, from cable to telephone-wire-based ADSL broadband.

    The best advice – whatever you do, speak to the broadband provider that you are switching to first. If they don’t need a MAC code to switch you then sign-up to their broadband service. Once you have spoken to your new broadband supplier about this and set-up a new broadband contract, then cancel your Virgin contract.

    Make sure you speak to your new broadband supplier first, or, you could end up with no broadband while you are between contracts.


  5. Peter on February 20th, 2009 12:17 am

    How long am I likely to be without internet access when I change broadband supplier? What is the maximum time limit allowed by Ofcom?

  6. Mac Broadband on February 21st, 2009 11:00 am

    Hi Peter,

    That is a very difficult question to answer. As far as I am aware, Ofcom’s guidance for the switch over should be a 7 to 10 day period. However, this guideline does not suggest what the period of no connectivity would be. In theory – when you drop your current broadband connection and switch broadband to the new provider – you could just have a period of minutes. There is no re-wiring to be done. Just a configuration at the broadband company’s HQ.

    The minute your broadband line goes dead, ring up the company that you are switching broadband to and ask them to get things moving.

    Sorry that I can’t give an exact answer on this. Ofcom should have more information on the matter. e.g. What is an acceptable period to switch broadband.

  7. rod on April 3rd, 2009 9:39 am

    Im thinking of changing from talk talk to Orange, but when i asked talktalk for a MAC code they said i didnt need one as i am on free broadband and my connection is unbundled.
    Also when i spoke to orange they told me to phone the post office and ask to change my line back to a BT line, they quoted me £106
    It all seems very strange.
    Who is correct

  8. Darren on June 24th, 2009 9:24 am

    My girlfriend had all the details withheld from her by her ex as far as broadband account went. she wants to change provider but even though she had the money coming out of her account the provivder wont issue her with a mac code because the details are in her ex’s name. what can she do??

  9. Mac Broadband on June 30th, 2009 9:38 am

    Hi Rod,

    It does seem a little odd not to give you a MAC code for switching your broadband back from TalkTalk. As far as I am aware the standard proceedure is for one telephone-line based broadband provider to give you a MAC code to switch broadband to another provider.

    I would have thought that both Orange and TalkTalk would use BT lines in the background, but it looks like this is either not the case or someone is fobbing you off.

    My advice is: If you are not getting anywhere with your current broadband provider, ask to speak to the call handler’s boss. Keep on escalating until someone gives you a satisfactory and clear answer. Failing this, lodge a complaint with ofcom.


  10. Mac Broadband on June 30th, 2009 9:46 am

    Hi Darren,

    That sounds like a complicated relationship issue to me. The first thing that comes to mind is to cancel the direct debit with your girlfriends bank. A company can not enforce a direct debit payment, it has to have your consent to take the payment – this should be part of the direct debit guarantee.

    The broadband company is then going to contact you and try and encourage you to pay up for the default in the broadband direct debit. They may try and get heavy-handed but throw their own argument back in their faces. Ask them to show you evidence of a contract between your girlfriend and the broadband company.

    If the broadband company can not provide evidence of a contract (oh and BTW, I don’t believe verbal contracts do not exist or stand up in law – you almost certainly would never have been asked to sign a bit of paper) between your girlfriend and them, this should be the end of the line. Tell them your circumstances and that they need to pursue the ex-boyfriend. At the end of the day, the contract is between the ex and the broadband company, not the postal address (i.e. physical building) and the broadband company.

    Your other options that I would encourage you to undertake anyway, are:
    1) Speak to your local citizen’s advice bureau.
    2) Speak to Ofcom about the circumstances and what your obligations are.
    3) Lodge a complaint with Ofcom.

    Whatever you do, do something. For as long as this is not sorted out, your girlfriend will continue to pay for a service you do not want.


  11. Craig on September 11th, 2009 8:20 pm

    Hello, I notice this is for switching ISPs. However, I am about to move into a rented flat and do not know either the previous ISP or even the previous phone number or provider. Could you please point me in the right direction on what course of action to take?

  12. CASSIE on November 9th, 2009 8:35 pm

    We set up a password with my fathers ISP – Orange – so that i could phone them and deal with them as my father is away from home very often. However when I rang them to ask if we could get a faster connection they refused to talk to me even though i told them the password and they agreed the password was there but that my name was not on their list. When we set up the password we were not told we had to name a list of names who could talk to them and anyway we are sure I was the one who set up the password after they had spoken to my father so they must have had my name.

    So we tried to cancel – they would again not talk to me so I emailed them and asked for the MAC code which they gave us. We moved to BT but Orange charged us for 2 more months. When we complained by phone they would still not talk to me so I complained by email. They took ages to reply and in the meantime our bank had refunded us one of the months they had overcharged us. After that Orange refunded us the unused amount and a good will gesture.
    But now months later they have written to us and said that we still owe them a month because the date the contract ended was when we actually changed to BT and not the date we requested the MAC code or when we rang to cancel or when we emailed to cancel. So they say we owe them for the month after we transfered to BT because there is a 30 day notice period.
    I have been emailing them back and forth but all they do is tell me how to pay. I am at the end of my tether.
    Why should I pay twice for that month? – once to BT and again to Orange.
    What should I do?

  13. James on January 11th, 2010 3:38 pm

    I have just moved into a new rented property and have tried to set up a new broadband connection with 02 and they have requested a MAC code before they can process the order. How can i find this out as the estate agents cannot give out the previous tenants details but 02 say i need the previous tenants to cancel their current contract before i can continue. Help!!

  14. vicki on September 19th, 2010 1:38 pm

    i defalted on my bt landline and bb and so was cut off by bt and had my final bill from them………………………….

    im now joining sky tv,phone,bb do i need a mac code because bt wont give me one because im not in contract with them anymore…………….

    what can i do to get my sky broadband????

  15. Greg Claassen on January 23rd, 2011 9:57 pm

    Ive been with Virgin for years (broadband with wifi, TV and phone) and now wish to get only broadband.
    I have been looking at ‘just’ broadband deals from all providers- yet when i try compatibility for broadband (prompted to put my landline number in on the various providers websites) im told i will need to upgrade my phone service as my phone number is not recognised (ex-directory)…….i don’t want a phone!
    Ive also been contacted by sales staff telling me i have to upgrade my phone line and have their phones (why- i already have a phone connection separate from my cable)?

    I could stay with Virgin as i had broadband without a phone for years- but im now on a very tight budget due to being made redundant. and there are cheaper faster deals about……..advice would be gratefully received..

  16. Annette on June 3rd, 2011 11:08 am

    Dear Friend. I am writing on behalf of a friend who is wanting to cancel his pipex broadband (or is it Tiscali or Talk Talk – I am not sure anymore). When he phoned to ask for a Mac Code he was asked which provider he is moving to – yet he has not decided yet. He has had hardly any internet access since December (hence me writing on his behalf) and he can’t get online to investigate or send Pipex an email. Please help as all this is going nowhere. Thanks – Annette

  17. Kirsty on August 26th, 2011 2:19 pm

    I’ve been a customer of o2 with my mobile since 1999. This June, I contacted them to take advantage of an existing customer offer on their broadband service.

    My broadband was set up with o2 on 15th June. However, I discovered this week, that my old provider Talk Talk was still charging me (approx £80). When I contacted TT, they said they were unaware that I had changed providers, and that o2 should have imformed them.

    I remembered when the o2 chap came to my home to set up the new BB, that he gave me a new number. I had assumed I would keep my old number, and simply the provider would change behind the scenes. As I had assumed it this, I hadn’t thought to ask o2 to keep my old number, when setting up the switch. I didn’t mind my home number changing, so thought nothing more of it. But it transpires that TT have still been supplying me on the old number, while o2 were supplying on the new number.

    So I contacted o2, to find out why they didn’t contact TT to inform them I was switching provider. The woman on the phone was fixated on whether I had requested a number change or to keep my old number. I told her I didn’t remember, but I did remember asking: ‘do I, the customer, need to contact TT to tell them I’m switching, or do you, o2, do this for me’. I was informed that o2 would contact them. So regardless of whether I wanted to keep or change my phone number, o2 should have contacted TT to tell them I was moving.

    I now have to wait up to two weeks for them to retrieve my call, so they can listen to it and decide who is at fault. I asked if I would be able to listen to the call myself, and she replied that I could see the transcript of the call, that she would attach to my account – but at a cost of £10 to me.

    Would really appreciate any advice, as I can’t believe that this is acceptable. Reading the comments above, should someone have mentioned this MAC code to me?! I don’t recall have any discussion of a MAC code. Thanks

  18. Ritchie on November 15th, 2011 4:53 pm


    My aunt moved house recently and had her broadband was supposed to be transferred to her new address (she’s with Virgin Broadband) and to do this they cancelled her broadband at her old address and set it up to the new one.

    I set up her computer a few weeks later at the new address and there was no broadband. After spending 3 hours on the phone to Virgin, it was discovered that, they had misheard and set up the account to the wrong address but the right phone number.

    They were supposed to phone back the next day but didn’t so we phoned them back and they claimed that not only did she need to have her calls set up to Virgin (which she didn’t before) but that she also owed them £80 odd and they won’t reconnect her or give her a MAC code until she paid. So with that she got her credit card bills and proceeded to read it down the phone and thus providing evidence to show she owed nothing. They have told her to phone them back in 72 hours but will not provide a MAC.

    Is there any way to a) get them to provide a MAC or b) change broadband providers without?

  19. Suzanne on December 2nd, 2011 3:06 am

    I have been with bt for 9months, im in a 18month contract…the max speed i have ever got is 1.7mg, i have constantly complained and finally been told it is due to the copper wiring and there is nothin they can do about it and if i wanted a decent speed i wud have to upgrade on the 30th dec but i would have to agree to another 18month contract….and now to top it all off they are tryin to pin a debt from when i wasnt living here!!! they keep sayin that the paperwork i have sent them isnt enough….i have had all my services cut…well not much difference on the net, i am disabled and phone and internet is my only phone of talkin to friends n family. i do owe them money still and i am refusing to pay because of the lack of service and customer “support” i have recieved, i am planning on taking them to court for this past debt though…its not in my name and i was living in a different part of the country then. can i still get the MAC code off them or can they refuse? and if they do cancel my contract can i go with another provider? Thanks

  20. scott on January 21st, 2012 5:43 pm

    Hi just moved into new property sky is still connected as the other person just left to another address . There is no free channels on just the freeview ones. i am wanting to get broadband in through bt or o2 but will i still need a mac code even though the person who had the sky and broadband before me has moved on , the phone is still on but only incoming calls and i would like to keep the number as am used to it now.

  21. steve on January 27th, 2012 10:15 pm

    my mother has moved into a house that apparently had aol 3 years ago, but cancelled prior to leaving, now my mother would like to get onto broadband. but what do we do about the mac code … will aol still have that?

  22. Mike Grant on February 23rd, 2012 2:59 pm

    Good luck getting a MAC code from AOL – they point-blank refused to give me one on the grounds that I was leaving them. Plus it took a half hour on the phone at 7p a minute to even receive that refusal! Talk about adding insult to injury! We ended up having no broadband for three weeks, thanks to these idiots.

  23. ziemowit on November 28th, 2014 12:34 pm

    not sure you can help, but I got a big problem.
    my BT broadband just stopped working, after contacting BT they said we have switched providers, but we haven’t. I havent requested my MAC code, I haven’t called the and gave my data etc. BT can’t/won’t help as they say it’s out their hands, they won’t even tell me who is the new provider. how is that even possible, is that cyber crime? I am so lost right now.

  24. comment-156055 on June 5th, 2015 5:27 pm

    You’ll get a new modem; the satellite dish will be sitting on top of the house.
    Satellite internet can get you out of your funk and back to enjoying using the internet, or simply not noticing it was there at all.
    Building up an idea that provides a win-win situation for everyone is no easy task, but when it presents itself, it must be handled accordingly.

  25. Denise Hunter on January 5th, 2016 10:34 pm

    i changed broadband and phone from virgin to another company 2 years ago was told by new company they would sort everything all i had to do was switch on only to find out virgin have been charging me for 2 years saying the new company only said phone but can clearly see i have not been using virgins data since the change over will i get my money back

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