How to Switch Mobile Network in the United Kingdom

Have you seen Sky Mobile’s “It’s not me, its you” ads on billboards lately?

Well, in recent weeks there has been quite a change to the benefit of consumers, especially mobile phone users.

Mobile phones are everyday life. In the UK, this sector is a huge business, especially since the island pays a little differently and you can afford slightly better phones on a monthly subscription.

Personally, I am not and never have been a supporter of subscriptions in the UK. Therefore, the introduction of the requirement of easy operator change and even easier number portability using only text messages (SMS) became something groundbreaking, so I decided to take a look at it.

Some operators, such as Three UK, despite Ofcom’s requirement, require you to log into your account via the website in order to receive the transfer code.

I don’t know about you, but I spent, or rather lost, a lot of time every time I wanted to port my number to another operator. In almost every case, the customer service, with their broken English, tried hard to convince you to stay, sometimes using nonsense arguments, promising pears on willow.

Times have changed…

If it’s easier to make a decision now, why not upgrade to a better mobile network?

As far as you may know, I am a GiffGaff (O2) user and in this post I will encourage you to consider moving to a network built and run by its users.

So let’s see what this is all about.


Due to the problems that consumers experience when switching operators, the British regulator Ofcom announced at the end of June 2019 that from now (July 1st 2019) just a text message is enough to change operator .

This does not mean that we can change it just like that, even if we are bound by a contract. Everything we have agreed to and signed the contract must be settled before we can move forward.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t start the process now.

We start by checking what we can do by sending a text message to the number
85075 with the content INFO

In response, we will receive information whether we are still bound by any contract with our current operator. If so, the operator will inform us in a reply message for what period the contract is concluded and how much it would cost us to terminate it early.

If we have more than one SIM card in our account (e.g. Sky, O2), then in order to transfer the number, you also need to log in to the account via the website, as we will not be able to do anything via SMS.

And here Ofcom has something to be proud of. With the introduction of the possibility of completing formalities with the operator via text message (in Poland it is called SMS), operators have been deprived of the possibility of additional punishment of consumers for the so-called notice period which you supposedly have to give to your operator, before you can move (usually 30 days).

Currently, if we want to terminate our contract, the operator will inform us how many subscription fees we have left, and their sum is the amount we must pay if we want to end our obligation earlier. Of course, depending on the contract, the operator may charge additional fees - penalties. There is nothing you can do about this, so check your contract.

In the case of the subscription on the island, the majority of the amount that users pay monthly are installments for the phone, and only a fraction is the value of added services. Simple math and the fact how much we can gain by switching to another operator (GiffGaff) will help us quickly compensate for the costs incurred.

In the case of prepaid (PAYG), we will receive information about our tariff plan and account balance, which we will lose (unless we use it before) when we switch to a new operator.

Text-to-switch Text-to-Switch - Source: Ofcom

If we are informed how much it will cost us and we are determined to change, to start the number porting process we need the so-called PAC Code (porting authorization code). We provide this code to our new operator if we decide to transfer our number.

To get this code, we send a message to the number
65075 with the text PAC

This message will start the number porting process.

In the return message we will receive our code (valid for 30 days) along with information on how much we need to pay to end our current obligation with the operator (as described in the step above).

Remember that some operators use catches in the contract. If you end the obligation earlier, although you don’t have to give them 30 days’ notice, they may have clauses with an additional fee, as I mentioned - a penalty - which unfortunately we will have to pay. So once again, read the contract!

After receiving the code, we can start the number porting process.

giffgaff logo

In the case of the GiffGaff network, I recommend that you start porting your number by ordering a free SIM card. Order a card from this link and get an extra £5 on your first top-up.

You must activate your card before transferring your number. You will initially be given a temporary number. By completing the form, the so-called transfer form you will start the whole process. After the number is transferred, the current number on the card will be replaced with the correct number.

Of course, if you are not too attached to your number, you can start the process of disconnecting from your operator by sending a message to the number
75075 with the text STAC

This code is responsible for terminating our service with the current operator (service termination authorization code).

The whole process is similar to that of transferring a number, but you can start using the new number - informing your friends about the new number - when you select the offer and activate the card.

Here you can also order a card from GiffGaff for free and receive an extra £5 on your first top-up using this link.

The whole process, in theory, should go smoothly. However, we should remember that the last bill from our current operator should not be a surprise for us, let’s start by finding out how much it will cost us (INFO at 85075).

As for the GiffGaff network itself, I encourage you to read some useful links related to changing your operator via text message.