How to switch mobile network: PACs, number transfer and ending your contract made easy

Time for a change? Here’s all you need to know about switching mobile network, from PACs to cancelling your contract.

Honest Mobile
Thu May 30 2024

Switching mobile network might seem like a daunting task — waiting on hold, cracking confusing contract terms, and fighting networks that just won’t let you go…

The good news? It’s easier than ever to switch mobile network and keep your number. Here's all you need to know.

Why would I switch mobile network?

Why wouldn’t you? 😉

There are plenty of reasons why you might want to call it quits with your network. Here are a few of them.

🧑‍💻 You’re fed up with poor service: Not all mobile networks are created equal. A quick glance at Trustpilot shows that some of the big names aren't exactly winning hearts. If your current service isn’t cutting it, it might be time to switch to a top-rated network 🙋

💰 You’re paying too much: Finished paying off your phone? Switching to a SIM-only contract can save you some serious cash.

🌍 You want to do more for the planet: You’ve heard of green energy, but what about green data? 

Doing your bit for the planet doesn’t have to mean cancelling your holidays or selling your car. It can be as easy as switching to a network which removes the carbon from your calls, texts and selfies. You know, like Honest. 

What’s the deal with all the smaller mobile networks?

Basically, there are four main networks (MNOs) in the UK. They pay the government billions of pounds to license radio waves and build masts up and down the country. These are EE, O2, Three and Vodafone.

Everyone else – Tesco, giffgaff, Honest – "piggyback" on these larger networks using their masts to power their own networks. They’re known as “Mobile Virtual Network Operators” (MVNOs).

Just like Airbnb doesn’t own any properties and Uber doesn’t own any cars, an MVNO doesn’t own their masts. 

MVNOs make up 31% of the UK telecoms market, so you wouldn’t be alone in switching to one. 

What are the benefits of MVNOs?

MVNOs are often cheaper because they aren’t spending all that money on masts – they’re just using the signal.

For Honest, that means instead of building masts, we’re building the best possible mobile experience for our customers. Think bills that drop every month, the UK’s fastest 5G, top-class customer service, and the warm fuzzy feeling of using a sustainable, B Corp certified business. All while keeping it affordable.

That’s not the case for every MVNO, though. Some might have slower speeds or more basic offerings. Think of it as a no-frills version of the fancy (read: expensive) big network.

Track your impact with the Honest app – see how many trees you’ve planted and how many kilos of carbon you’ve removed.
Track your impact with the Honest app – see how many trees you’ve planted and how many kilos of carbon you’ve removed.

Can I keep my mobile number when switching mobile network?

Indeed you can. In fact, it couldn’t be SIMpler (I’ll see myself out). 

1. Get a “PAC” from your current network

To get a PAC, text “PAC” to 65075 (it’s free). You should get the code within 60 seconds. It’ll be three letters followed by six numbers, e.g. ABC123456.

🚧 What’s a PAC, you ask? Good question. It stands for ‘Porting Authorisation Code’ and lets you transfer your existing number. It also automatically cancels your old contract when you switch – so no need to send that breakup text to your old network.

2. Give your PAC to your new network and choose the day you’d like your number to transfer

It has to be a working weekday, and can normally take place the next day if you provide your transfer details before 5:30pm.

💡 The switch might take a couple of hours. Choose a day when you aren’t waiting for that all-important call.

3. Wait for your old SIM to stop working and then insert your new SIM

On the day of your transfer, you should get a reminder.

At some point during the day your old SIM will stop working and your new SIM will kick in.

Can I get a new number instead?

Sure thing, oh mysterious one.

Text STAC to 75075 (it’s free) to get a STAC code. Follow the same steps and your old number will terminate when your new contract starts.

If you’re starting fresh or want a new number, most networks can provide one as soon as you sign up. No better way to keep those spam callers at bay 😎

How do I cancel my existing contract?

Your new provider can do this for you, without you having to speak to your current network provider (so no awkward breakup chat).

That being said, you might get a grovelling call when you request a PAC. Most networks won’t step up their offering until you threaten to leave 👀

(Too little, too late, we say.)

Using a PAC automatically cancels your current contract on the day your number switches.

Your old network should issue you with a final bill for any last usage.

Will I have to pay to switch mobile network?

If your contract has ended, you won’t have to pay to switch. Often contracts are 30 days, sometimes they’re 12 months, other people go for 24. Not sure how long your contract is? Scroll down to find out how to check.

The EU (remember them?) tried to ban 36 month contracts as they weren’t very consumer friendly, but there are still a few lurking around.

Almost all Honest customers choose a 30 day plan for the flexibility it provides. 

What if my phone is locked to my old network?

You can still switch mobile network. All you’ll need is a PUK code, which you’ll need to contact your old network for.  

But networks haven’t been allowed to lock phones since December 2021. So if you got your phone through your old network after that, you should be good to go.  

How can I find out if I'm still tied into a contract?

Text INFO to 85075 and you’ll get a text about any outstanding charges. It’s free, so no harm in checking.

Switching networks doesn’t have to be a headache – but it’s good to check whether you’re out of contract.
Switching networks doesn’t have to be a headache – but it’s good to check whether you’re out of contract.

Do I need to make sure my number switches on the final day of my current contract?

In short, no. Your current provider should issue you a refund for any excess money they’ve taken from you.

Not all networks will do this automatically though (classic), so you might have to wait a couple of weeks or even chase them to get your money back.

Will I get charged twice when I switch mobile network?

No. One of the best things about using a PAC is that the same day one contract starts, the other ends.

How do I switch to Honest?

We thought you’d never ask 💁‍♀️

Switching couldn’t be simpler:

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