Available Telephone Services
As soon as your German housing status is completed, you need to organise a phone and access to the internet. You will find a broad range of mobile, landline and internet options at your disposal. However, due to the fact that the providers are geared up to deal with German speaking customers, you may experience a lack of assistance due to the limited number of English speaking staff. In order to get over this language hurdle, you may prefer to get in touch with an agent or provider that provides their services in English. Mobile and landline phone services along with the internet are available throughout Germany, and can be arranged by going to a dedicated phone shop run by Deutsche Telekom or another provider such as E-plus, O2 or Vodaphone. These can be found in all cities and the majority of towns.
Avoiding the Pitfalls
Generally speaking, customer care, correspondence and bills will all be in German. Because of this, it is crucial that prior to signing any agreement, you fully understand the terms and conditions. A large percentage of German internet and phone plans have a compulsory minimum term of 2 years. Furthermore, if you chose to end it after this period, you need to cancel the contract a number of months before the expiry date, otherwise, you will be subject to an extended contract which is applied automatically.
There are many public telephones at your disposal. The majority of them work with phone cards. These cards are easy to buy as they are sold at news stands, supermarkets, petrol stations and post offices. They come in various amounts.
Analog and Digital Phones
Germany has both analog and digital networks. They both offer similar plans, and this allows you to pick the one that is the most suitable for your needs. Generally speaking, international calling, flat rate and discounted domestic plans are standard. The majority of carriers offer regular features including voice-mail, call forwarding, and caller-ID. Using your phone and being on line can be done simultaneously with either an ISDN or analog line. In the case of a connection using an analog phone, you are given one phone number and one line: a 56K regular modem which dials up, is utilised to get online.
Using Fax, Answering Machines and Analog Phones from Other Countries
Generally speaking, these devices can all be used in Germany if you buy a telephone jack adapter that is compatible with the German system. Please be advised that in Germany, there are strict regulations regarding the use of the majority of cordless telephones which are manufactured in North America. This is due to the radio frequency signals that they generate. Purchasing a cordless telephone in Germany is the best option as it guarantees that it is compliant with safety guidelines and regulations.
The digital network technology used by ISDN gives you more options, and allows you have more flexibility and enjoy more features by having 3 different telephone numbers and 2 digital phone lines. This feature is very convenient as it allows two simultaneous phone conversations. This is excellent for use in an office run from home or in a big household. The downside to this service is that normally, the standard monthly charge costs more, and in addition to this, compared to their analog opposite numbers, the ISDN modems and phones are relatively more expensive.
The Importance of Checking First
Prior to choosing either ISDN or analog, it is essential to speak to the owner of the property to establish the type of wiring in the apartment or house, and to see whether you might incur any additional costs due to new modifications which you may require. A substantial number of homes in Germany just have one outlet for the telephone. To that end, routers or cordless phones may be the best choice as they are so flexible.
Important Things to be Aware of
Firstly, be sure to have your full address and postcode with you at the time you register for a phone service. Also, try to obtain the previous tenant’s phone number and name, as it will help to speed up the activation process. In addition to this, when you sign up, be sure to ask for monthly billing that has full itemisation. This is because it is not standard practice. Once you have registered, the activation process can take anywhere from 5 – 14 business days. You will receive a letter confirming when the service will be activated, as well as your new telephone number. A technician from the phone company may need to pay a trip to your home in order to activate your phone. If this is necessary, you may have to pay an extra charge. You should also be aware that just a single primary-outlet may be the only device which is activated in your home, even if there are a few TAE telephone outlets. Please also bare in mind that you may have to pay an additional charge if you need extra installation. This is because in Germany, the standard service agreement does not include internal home wiring. If you should require this service, then you will need to contact a private installer by looking on the internet or in a local phone directory. Be sure to find out the charges before agreeing to have the work done.
Keeping Your Costs Down
If you chose to receive your monthly bill in a pdf file via email, then you will pay a lower charge than having it sent through the post. The payment is due 7 business days after the date on the bill. Generally speaking, you can pay cash at all banks and post offices. If you want to pay by bank transfer (known as Überwiesung), then you can do so, however, there will be a small fee to pay. The most popular and default method of payment is to pay by direct debit from your account at the bank via what is known as a lastschriftverfahren.
Mobile Phone Options
Unless you are just visiting Germany on holiday, arranging a German mobile telephone should be a priority. This is because it is extremely expensive if you are making calls and using SMS, or are on a data plan. In Germany, there is an excellent choice of mobile phone operators which offer both yearly plans and pay-as-you-go pre-paid options. Due to the surge in SIM-friendly tablets and smart phones, it is possible to find good deals such as: flat rates for text messaging, calls and data. Furthermore, there are many types of plans. Because of this it is crucial to look at different options, and ensure that there are not any hidden charges. In Germany, there is no charge to receive a mobile phone call, but because of this, making a call to a mobile may be more costly than calling a landline, simply because the one calling has to pay for the connection charge. Please be aware that in Germany it is prohibited to drive while using a mobile telephone, so a hands-free device is essential.
Internet connections that use dial-up are very inefficient and slow. This method is only really practical for users who do not utilise the internet very often, or for people who reside in regions which have not been wired up for high-speed connections.
The start-up cost is minimal as all that is required is a 56K modem, a working phone line, and an account to access the internet. The latter includes: a phone number which is provided by the internet service provider, a password and a username. In Germany, dial-up is metered according to the time used. Unfortunately, flat rates are not available. There are a choice of plans with and without monthly fees. The price per minute is higher on the ones without fees. It is faster to use a dial-up with an ISDN phone line, however, an ISDN modem which is compatible is needed.
If you require high speed internet, then most areas support DSL plans. Some connections can be up to 50,000Kb per second. If it is something that you need, it is important to check this availability prior to renting. This service is generally offered with a flat rate. Another advantage with this system is that the service is continually on because the phone line has a separate connection. The only hardware needed is a DSL modem which is compatible with the German system. In most cases other than long term package deals, there is a charge for activation of a separate DSL.
Internet on the Move
There are countless internet wireless hot spots and internet cafes all over Germany, and many of them are free. Laptops which are WLAN-enabled work in the hot spots. Another way to get mobile internet is using a USB stick. These can be obtained from all the mobile service operators. The speeds and charges are set by each provider.
Making the Right Decision
Deciding on the right internet plan and phone service provider is crucial, and so assessing your requirements and setting an affordable budget are essential. Try and find good a flexible plan, and remember that even if some providers advertise “bargains,” there may also be some disadvantages as well. So always read the terms and conditions very carefully. You should also find out what the charges would be for canceling a contract early.