Wherever in the world your family and friends live, they’re just a phone call or an e-mail away. To make sure that all goes smoothly, we'd like to provide you here with a few tips on the best ways to get access to Internet and phone services in Germany.
Most Germans surf the Web using DSL. This kind of broadband connection lets you download music and films fast, and you can even video chat with your family or friends all over the world without any problem. Video chatting over the Internet is becoming increasingly popular in Germany and is usually free of charge. Fast DSL connections are now available in all large towns and cities in Germany. The rates of the numerous private service providers depend, among other things, on the duration of the contract. With long-term contracts, the DSL modem that you need to access the Internet is usually included in the price. When you sign a contract, you usually get an Internet package deal with a WLAN option. This means that you can surf 24 hours a day without any extra cost. Many Internet service providers also offer contracts that include a DSL Internet and phone package.
In cities and conurbations in Germany, you can surf the Internet while out and about – via your laptop or mobile phone. This is possible thanks to UMTS technology, although reception and speeds differ according to your provider and where you are. The best thing is to check which companies in your region offer good reception before signing. If you want to surf the Internet on your laptop on the fly, you will need an Internet dongle, called a "Surfstick" in Germany, which you plug into the USB socket on your computer. This "Surfstick" often comes free of charge when you sign a contract. Otherwise, you can buy them in electrical goods stores.
In Germany, you have a large number of landline phone operators to choose from. Nowadays, many Germans go for package deals which encompass a landline phone service and Internet access. Most of these package deals charge a flat rate for phone calls. That means that for a monthly rate, you can call other landline phones in Germany for as long as you like.
For phone calls abroad, you have a choice of solutions. One cheap option is to phone over the Internet. If you want to use the normal landline phone instead, you can take advantage of the services of specialised phone operators. These companies offer widely varying rates for numerous countries around the world. This is why it can be worthwhile first of all hunting round on the Internet to see which of them offers the best rates for the country you want to call. You can find these providers by typing in search terms such as "callthrough", "call-by-call" und "abroad". You then dial their special dialling code followed by the number you wish to ring. However, only certain phone operators will allow you to use this option. A third option is to pay a flat rate as offered by some large phone companies. This allows you to make unlimited phone calls to a particular country of your choice for a fixed monthly rate.
If you should ever experience problems with your contract, you can always get help from the consumer centres. The people there will be glad to help you.
You can buy a landline phone in electrical goods stores or from private individuals over the Internet, for example. However, simple phones are also available in large supermarkets. Before purchasing a phone, check what kind of a phone line you have. This is because if you have an ISDN line, you will need an ISDN phone.
There are two types of mobile phone subscription: prepaid or contract, the latter type often having a fixed term. For prepaid services, you just buy a mobile phone and a prepaid card. You can buy cards in electrical goods stores, drugstores or at fuel stations, for example. With the card, you put credit on your mobile phone which you subsequently use up. If you prefer a contract, you can take one out in a mobile phone shop or on the Web pages of mobile network operators. Pay attention to the following details: how long does the contract run for? How much is charged for a mobile phone? What is the monthly charge and what do you get for it? Providers who only offer contracts online often have cheaper offers. However, you also have to remember that you will get less service. Note: if you do not have a German identity card, you will usually need your registration certificate to be able to sign a mobile phone contract.
If you don’t want to pay a basic subscription fee for your contract, choose a postpaid contract. This works like prepaid; the only difference is that you get a bill at the end of the month for the phone calls you made during the previous month.
There are different ways of receiving TV programmes in Germany. However, whichever way you opt for, you must pay the TV and radio licensing fees to the Broadcasting fee service center (German). From January 1, 2013, each household, regardless of how many people live there, will pay a monthly charge of around 17.98 euros.
You can receive TV in Germany in the following ways:
Aerial: This way lets you view many German and some foreign programmes free of charge. To do this, you will need a special indoor aerial or a roof aerial. Your landlord or landlady will be able to tell you whether your house has a roof aerial. Besides the aerial, you will also need a DVB-T decoder which you can buy in an electrical goods store. Admittedly, the variety of programmes available and the quality of reception via an aerial differ from town to town. This is why you are best advised first of all to ask your work colleagues about their experience.
Cable: There is a very extensive cable network in Germany. However, first of all ask your landlord or landlady if your house has cable access. For cable TV, you usually pay a standing or connection charge as well as a monthly subscription fee. Cable TV gives you access to more German and international programmes than aerial services. Moreover, for an additional charge you can sometimes receive other foreign channels. You can find out more about receiving international TV channels here.
Satellite: To receive satellite TV, you will need a satellite antenna and a satellite receiver. The satellite antenna has to be mounted on the roof or façade of the house – to do this, you will need your landlord's or landlady’s permission. There is no monthly charge for satellite reception.
Internet: In Germany, you can view well over 100 TV channels over the Internet. However, to really enjoy it you need a fast Internet connection.