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More than 800,000 UK homes switch broadband for first time in 2021

Survey finds that even though almost one in five UK broadband users have never switched provider, unprecedented numbers are set to migrate for the first time

The past 12 months have seen unprecedented deployment of gigabit broadband services across the UK, reaching places never before reached with service speeds never before available, but research from Zen Internet has shown that during the year, UK adults have increasingly decided to move on from their existing broadband providers.

In 2019, UK communications regular Ofcom announced plans to make it easier for customers to switch between broadband networks, in particular to upgrade to new fibre nets, and as a result the UK has seen a surge in the number of households switching for the first time.

The Zen survey found households stating they have never switched broadband provider falling to just 18% from 21% year on year, meaning that more than 834,000 households (3%) have switched for the first time in the past 12 months. Yet despite a significant proportion of households having never switched, many said they recognised the benefits of doing so.

Nearly a quarter (22%) said that by doing so they understood they would save money, and nearly a fifth (19%) stated they would get more value for money. Interestingly, one in 10 (11%) believe they could get a better and more reliable service by switching.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) revealed that switching was easier than they thought it would be, and a third (33%) of UK adults intend to switch in the next 18 months. However, Zen also found that fears of switching continue to hold people back. The top concerns when switching broadband provider included worries of the service being worse than with the current supplier (19%), hidden costs (12%) and not having internet access during the switch (11%).

On the upside, Zen noted a number of potential benefits. More than a third (35%) said they could see an upswing in the number of devices they are connecting and requiring more bandwidth in general, and the same amount (33%) have experienced more issues, such as outages, in recent months than they have done previously. As a result, almost two-fifths (38%) used time over lockdown to explore other options, and for two-fifths (40%) sustainability is considered a clear factor when selecting a broadband provider.

A third (33%) would stay with their current provider if they were guaranteed no price hikes, with a similar number (30%) stating that being offered the same deals as new customers would help. Having great customer service was a priority for just over a quarter (28%), as was no mid-contract price hikes (27%).

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Assessing the trends revealed, Zen CEO Paul Stobart noted that the appetite for increased bandwidth and what he called “bullet-proof” connectivity was real with households connecting more devices to their home internet connection than ever before, and this has had a significant impact on people’s relationship with both their internet connection and how it works, and in turn, their broadband provider.

“All of us have customers that leave, but customers have free choice,” he said. “If our industry wishes to retain the customers that currently use our service, it is up to us to be even better at providing a great-value service while also taking our responsibilities seriously for the communities in which we serve and the planet on which we live.”

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