There is a wide variety of telephone and internet providers in Germany but read the fine print before signing up to a German internet or telephone service.
Once your housing situation in Germany is finalised, the first thing to do is to get the phone ringing there. You’ll discover that there is a wide selection of telephone, Internet and mobile options available, but you may also find that most German carriers are best equipped to serve their native, German-speaking population, leaving somewhat of a gap in the area of English-language support. To break through the language barrier, consider contacting a provider that offers service in English.
Your bills, correspondence and customer care will of course be in German. It’s important to be aware of the terms and conditions of your service agreement. For example, the minimum contract period for many German phone and Internet plans is two years with a cancellation period of several months, in order to avoid an automatic (and binding) contract extension.
The Germany telecommunications market has opened up significantly in recent years and there are now over 200 providers in the country. A full list of providers is available here. The largest telephone providers are T-Home (previously known as Deutsche Telekom) and TKS (Telepost Kabel-Service). Other providers include Arcor, Tiscali and Freenet.
Installing your telephone line in Germany
The easiest way to have a telephone line installed or connected is to visit a T-Home shop, called a T-Punkt. They are located in most city centres. You may also be able to arrange a telephone connection by calling T-Home’s customer service number (0800 330 1000). You can also contact TKS by telephone (01804 857 7627), email or via their website.
You will need the following documents to open up an account:
- Proof of identification
- Proof of address
- Bank details
When registering for your telephone service, make sure that you know the complete address. It is very useful to the activation process if you provide the name and telephone number of your home’s previous tenant when possible. Do request a fully itemised bill at the time of signing up as this is not always the default for many German service providers. Activation times can vary, taking between 5 to 14 business days. Your telephone number and date of activation will be confirmed in writing. In some cases a technician may require access to your home to activate your telephone and additional installation charges may apply. If you have several German TAE telephone outlets in your house, do not be surprised if only the single primary-outlet is activated. The internal wiring of your home is not part of the standard German service agreement and you may incur extra charges if requesting ‘additional installation’. It is best to work with the property owner or have a private installer customize your home’s wiring. Take the time to fully assess your requirements, and the costs, beforehand.
Phone bills are sent monthly and are typically due within seven business days of the date of issuance. You can pay by cash at any German post office or bank, although a nominal fee for the bank transfer (Überwiesung) may apply. Similar to most European countries, the default and preferred payment method is to have your monthly bills automatically debited directly from your bank account through a direct debit (Lastschriftverfahren).
In addition, customers of T-Home can benefit from a EUR 10 credit by opting to receive bills by e-mail.
Connecting internet in Germany
There are several high-speed DSL plans widely available, with download speeds of between 1Mbs and 6Mbs being the most common and readily available. Germany’s DSL network is under constant improvement and expansion, although there are still some places where DSL may not be technically feasible. If broadband connectivity is an essential part of your work or private life, check the availability before buying or renting a home.
DSL is available at a flat rate and the required hardware includes a Germany compatible ‘Annex-B’ DSL modem. Please note, Annex-A modems from the USA and UK are not compatible. A separate DSL activation charge normally also applies. However many telecommunications companies nowadays do offer package deals with activation and hardware discounts but normally only in combination with a service contract of 1–2 years.
Dial-up or ‘narrowband’ Internet connectivity is still sometimes available, although extremely slow and inefficient. However, it may be a viable solution for very light or infrequent users. There is very little if any investment or start-up cost. All you need to get online is an active telephone line, a 56K modem and an Internet access account. Your Internet account consists of a username, password, and a telephone number as issued by your Internet service provider (ISP). Dial-up in Germany is always metered on a time basis – a dial-up flat rate is not available. Plans are available with a monthly fee that includes a defined amount of minutes or hours every month while unused time is usually not carried over. There are also plans without monthly fees but the per-minute price is typically a little higher. Dial-up over an ISDN phone line is somewhat faster than with a standard phone line, but does require the use of a compatible ISDN modem.
Internet on the go – wireless internet
Internet access does not have to be restricted to your home. Germany has Internet cafes and thousands of wireless Internet ‘hotspots’ many of them free-of-charge. Aside from airport terminals, hotspots are also available at hotels, gas stations, bars and restaurants. Locations are always subject to change, so do a web search to find a current list of locations near you. WLAN enabled laptops and mobile phones can be used.
Choosing the right service provider and Internet plan is important. Many of the Internet ‘bargains’ that you see advertised may have some major drawbacks if you read the German ‘fine print’ For example, some providers bundle flat rate DSL along with phone service, but may then charge more for phone calls. Package deals with free hardware and activation can save you money but most require a two-year minimum contract – early cancellation fees also apply. Before signing on the dotted line, check the terms and conditions and find out the costs for early cancellation. Look for plans that are flexible and find out if there is any English documentation or technical support.
Given the constantly changing nature of the telecommunications marketplace, pinning down and recommending the exact Internet plan for every type of user at any given time is impossible. To establish your connection to the worldwide web here in Germany, first try to define your household’s Internet and budgetary requirements, and then look for an Internet service that is easy to use and compatible with your particular needs.
The country code for Germany when dialling from another country is 49. The emergency telephone numbers in Germany are 110 for police and 112 for ambulance and fire. Directory service in English is available by calling 11837 for domestic calls and 11834 for foreign calls. These calls cost a minimum of 50 cents and are charged according to the amount of time you are on the line.
Cell phone coverage and service in Germany is high. Germans do not pay for incoming calls and pay low outgoing rates. For these reasons many Germans chose to only have a cell phone and have steered away from traditional land-line telephone service.
TV in Germany
A licence is required to access telephone, radio or internet in Germany, referred to as a ‘broadcast contribution’. There are only a handful of German television stations, however, and most houses are connected to cable or digital television. Read more in our guide to television in Germany.