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MOBILE phone users will be able to switch providers simply by sending a free text message, regulator Ofcom has confirmed today.

In 18 months time, customers will no longer have to call their provider to explain why they want to leave and be subjected to drawn out "unwanted" efforts to try and make them stay.

The simple text messaging system looks to alleviate this pain and bypass the need to bounce between various departments of a telecoms provider when swapping networks.

"Our changes will make it quicker and easier for mobile phone users to get a better deal", said Ofcom consumer group director Lindsey Fussell. The idea is to make it easier and quicker to switchover, and make sure the customers know all the facts - including any money they pay owe the outgoing mobile network.

Mobile customers also waste around £10 million each year on paying for the end of an old service whose billing period continues after they already have a new provider, Ofcom said.

The change follows research by Ofcom showing around two in five mobile switchers (38%) - or 2.5 million people - say they experienced at least one major problem when switching, while seven in ten encountered at least some difficulty.

Under the plans - which were initially announced in May - providers will also be banned from charging for notice periods after the switch date.

Operators will have 18 months to implement the changes, by 01 July 2019.

So if you want to haggle after the new rules come in, it may be worth ringing your current provider instead of texting it.

Here's how it works: You request a code online, by text, or by calling your provider.

It says that one of the biggest hurdles in the process is phoning your network to request a porting authorisation code (PAC), the code you need to give to your new phone provider so you can keep your number.

"Customers will control how much contact they have with their current mobile provider, preventing companies from delaying and frustrating the switching process". The network is required to immediately reply with either a PAC or cancellation code, along with any details of outstanding or early termination charges.

The sweeping changes will no doubt delight buyers, but Ofcom is fully aware that the new rules will put a lot of pressure on the current systems operators have in place. These changes will benefit the customer considerably; Ofcom estimates that this will save about £10m per year. The provider "must then arrange for the switch to complete within one working day".