A step by step guide to switching mobile phone network

upgrade phone

Not happy with your service? Seen a better deal elsewhere? Then it’s time to switch. We’ll walk you through the process for changing provider, to make your switch as easy as 1-2-3.

How to switch network and keep the same number

Step 1) Get your PAC Code

person using phone

A PAC (porting authorisation code) is a nine-digit alphanumeric number that you’ll need to switch phone network.

To get one, you can ring your network and ask for it. Generally, they’ll either be able to give it to you straight away or within two hours of your request. You’ll find contact numbers for all the major networks further down the page.

Or if you prefer not to speak to anyone, text PAC to 65075 and your PAC will be sent to you as a text message instantly.

Bear in mind that if you opt to call, your network will probably ask you a few security questions to ascertain your identity. So have any relevant documentation to hand and be prepared to answer.

NB: PAC codes expire after 30 days. So make sure you use it within this timeframe, or you’ll need to request a new one from your network.

Need some help choosing a new network? Take a look at our pick of the best

Step 2) Get in touch with the network you want to join

network logos

The next step is to phone the network you want to join to give them your PAC.

Once the network has your PAC, it’ll get in touch with the network you’re leaving to tell them you’re leaving and start the process of bringing over your phone number.

In most cases, if you call the network between Monday-Thursday, they’ll be able to port your number to your new network the next working day.

However, if you phone on a Friday or over the weekend, the switch will most likely be complete by Tuesday the following week.

While you’re waiting for the switch to be finalised, just make sure you keep your existing SIM in your phone, so you’re still able to use it.

Step 3) Test the SIM and check your number has been transferred

sim card phone

Using the SIM ejector tool (or paperclip if you haven’t got one to hand), open your phone’s SIM tray and insert your new SIM.

Then try and make a call. That’ll tell you that the service is up and running.

To check your number has been ported, ask a friend or family member to ring you. If they get through, the number transfer is complete.

Switching network and getting a new number

If you’d prefer not to bring your old number across, you won’t need a PAC code. You just need to ring existing network and tell them you want to cancel.

Alternatively, you can text ‘STAC’ to 75075 from your phone, which will automatically end your agreement with your network (assuming you’re already out of contract).

Thereafter, when your new SIM arrives simply insert it in your phone and you’re good to go with your new number.

What number do I call to get my PAC?

The advent of text-to-switch means you no longer have to call anyone to get a PAC code. You can simply text ‘PAC’ your network on 65075 and they’ll send your PAC by text message.

However, if you prefer to speak to a customer support operative (perhaps because you’ve got some other queries for your network), you’ll find contact details for all the major phone networks below.

How to get a PAC code from BT Mobile

  • Call 150 from a BT Mobile phone
  • Ring 0800 800 150 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from EE

  • Call 150 from an EE mobile phone
  • Ring 079 5396 6250 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from giffgaff

As you’ll probably know if you’re a customer, giffgaff does not have telephone-based support. To get your PAC, get in touch via giffgaff’s site.

How to get a PAC code from iD Mobile

  • Call 7777 from an iD Mobile phone
  • Ring 033 3003 7777 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from Lebara

  • Call 5588 from a Lebara mobile.
  • Ring 020 3059 0304 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from O2

  • Call 202 from an O2 phone
  • Ring 034 4809 0222 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from Plusnet Mobile

  • Call 500 from a Plusnet Mobile phone
  • Ring 080 0013 2632 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from Sky Mobile

  • Call 03300 412 524 using your Sky Mobile handset
  • Ring 03300 412 524 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from SMARTY

To keep costs down, SMARTY does not operate call centres. To get your PAC you’ll need to log into your account on its site. Thereafter, click Account Settings, then Leave SMARTY and select ‘leave now’.

How to get a PAC code from Tesco Mobile

  • Call 4455 from a Tesco Mobile phone
  • Ring 034 5301 4455 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from Three

  • Call 333 from a Three phone
  • Ring 033 3338 1001 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from Virgin Mobile

  • Call 789 from a Virgin Mobile phone
  • Ring 034 5600 0789 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from Vodafone

  • Call 191 from a Vodafone phone
  • Ring 033 3304 0191 from any other phone

How to get a PAC code from VOXI

  • Ring VOXI’s dedicated PAC code number on 0808 004 5205
  • Log into your VOXI account, then click ‘Leave VOXI’.

Timeframes for porting your number to a new network

Most of the time phone number transfers are complete the next working day. But if you contact the network you’re joining fairly late in the day (between 3pm-5.30pm), it could take a day longer.

Your transfer could also be a delayed if a weekend or bank holiday gets in the way. If so, expect the process to take a few days.

Making you’re sure out of contract and free to switch

If you know you’re out of contract, skip this part. But if you’re not sure, there are lots of ways to find out.

You can either ring your network and ask them (be wary, a member of its customer retention scheme may offer you some sweeteners to make you stay).

Alternatively, you can find it within your network’s smartphone app, or by logging into your account online.

Switching mobile phone networks mid-contract

Under most circumstances if you switch provider mid-contract you’ll be charged early termination fees. And if you’ve got a long time left on your contract, that could get expensive.

The exception is if your provider hikes prices mid-contract and you can prove that this caused you ‘material detriment’.

However, with most small percentage increases adding between 50p-£1 per month to your bill, in practice this is very hard to prove.

Tips for switching phone network

Sure you want to leave your network, but not sure which one to join? Here’s some handy tips to help you get the most out of switching….

  • Shop around to save. The likes of iD Mobile and VOXI offer SIMs that start at around £5 per month
  • Use coverage checkers to test the signal quality in your area before committing to a new network
  • Make a note of freebies. Free Netflix, Spotify subscriptions and customer reward schemes offered by some networks can make your money go a long way.
  • Make sure you back up all your personal data, music and photos if you’re getting a phone
Frequently asked questions

Will I lose service when I bring my number across?

You shouldn’t be without service for any for longer than a few minutes. But to be sure, it’s good idea to keep your old SIM in your phone until the number transfer is complete.

What happens if I forgot to ask for a PAC?

If you cancelled your contract with your old provider and forgot to ask for a PAC code, you may still be able get one and bring your number across.

So it’s worth giving them a ring. Much will depend on how long ago you cancelled the contract. Generally when a PAC Code is issued, it is ‘quarantined for six months’.

What is a PAC code?

PAC stands for Porting Authorisation Code and refers to a time-limited nine-digit number that’s generated for the purpose of allowing you to transfer your mobile phone number from one network to another.

What’s the advantage of keeping my current phone number?

Keeping your number is a lot less hassle in the long run. It means you won’t have to tell all your friends and contacts your new number. And you won’t have to waste time doing the same for the companies, banks and your employer too.

Do I need a PAC code if I’m staying with the same network?

No, you only require a PAC code when you bring your phone number across from one network to another. When you stay on the same network but upgrade or downgrade to a different plan, you won’t have to get a PAC.

Looking to upgrade? Take a look at our pick of the best smartphone deals.