INFOYER I Utilities - Telephone & Internet in Germany

In this day and age of information and communication when we are heavily dependent on telecommunication and the internet to keep in touch with friends and family, the selection of a telephone/internet service provider has become an increasingly important decision that needs to be made soon after you have taken care of all other matters fundamental to setting up a household. 
Although there is a wide choice of landline, mobile, internet service providers in the market, your options are limited if you are looking for one to provide you with service in English. There are Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, O2, E plus and other stores across the country. It is important to read the service agreement carefully and pay special attention to the tenure and notice period for termination. Many plans have a minimum 2 year contract and require you to give months’ notice, failing which the contract may automatically be extended. 
Public telephone booths are accessible with calling cards available at post offices, supermarkets, petrol stations, kiosks & newsstands. 

Telephone & Internet: Landline Connections

Both the standard analog phone service and ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) connections are available in Germany, each offering several tariff plans suited to fit your requirements and consumption patterns. Flat rate international and local calls, caller ID, call forwarding and voice mail are regular features offered by most these days. DSL is also possible with both types of connection and allows the subscriber to surf the net and make calls simultaneously. It is recommended that you check the wiring in a house/apartment before deciding to avoid additional costs resulting from inadequate infrastructure. For instance, many houses may have provisions for only one phone line. 

Analog phone connections come with one number and a standard 56K dial up modem. It is advised that you buy the cordless handsets in Germany because devices purchased elsewhere may often be incompatible and require additional adapters etc. Other issues related to radio frequency regulations and electrical safety guidelines may be concerns as in the case of North American cordless telephones.

An ISDN phone service is advantageous for larger households or those with a home office because it allows the user to operate two separate phone lines. The monthly rental charges, the telephone sets and modems are generally more than those required for an analog connection. 
The complete address along with the previous tenant’s name and contact information may prove to be useful at the time of registration. Activation may need between 5 and 14 working days. There may be additional installation charges when a technician’s visit is needed to set things up. You may need to put in a special request if you would like an itemized bill. Most service providers encourage you to sign up for bills to be sent via email and may even levy extra charges if you should require the hard copy to be posted. Payments are generally due within a week of issuance of a bill and can be made by cash, bank transfer (Überweisung) or a direct debit (Lastschriftverfahren).

Telephone & Internet: Mobile Phone Connections

If you are visiting Germany only for a short time you may want to consider taking your phone along with active roaming facilities, only if you are sure that you’re barely going to use it. If you foresee high usage during your trip it may be more economical to use your existing handset with a local German SIM. Please ensure before your travel that your mobile phone will work in Germany and that you have the necessary unlock code
If you are aware that for some reason your phone will not work in Germany, you have the option to either rent or buy a handset. Rental services are available at the airport itself but these tend to be more expensive than offers available online or at other stores in the city. 
The other alternative of buying a handset may make sense for those traveling frequently or moving to Germany. 

SIM cards are available with both pay-as-you-go (prepaid) plans and annual plans. The rising numbers of smart phone and SIM card enabled tablets in use have resulted in stiff competition within the network providers. Many offer flat rates for calls, data and texting. 
When buying a mobile phone, you may want to consider buying a hands-free device if you will be driving in Germany. Use of mobile phones while driving is strictly prohibited and punishable by law.

Telephone & Internet: Internet

If you need to use the internet only very sparingly or unfortunately live in an area that is not wired with high speed broadband lines yet, a dial up or ‘narrowband’ internet connection will suffice. All you need for this extremely slow connection is an active phone number, a 56K modem and an account with a username and password. Rates on a dial up connection are calculated on a time basis. Monthly rentals are determined based on a fixed number of minutes or hours per month. Pay per use plans are generally accompanied by higher per-minute prices. Dial ups over an ISDN phone connection are usually faster than with standard phone lines. 
If you are an avid user of the internet, you will need a high speed DSL plan to suit your requirements. Speeds between 1000 & 6000 Kbps are standard in Germany. There is constant improvement in DSL infrastructure that even allows speeds between 16.000 and 50.000 Kbps. DSL/Broadband connections are normally available at flat rates. So you can leave the service on without engaging the phone line as this is a separate connection. A compatible DSL modem is required. There may be an additional activation charge levied by the service provider. The modem, activation charges are often reduced if you choose to opt for a yearly/2 year package. 
If you are required to be connected even when you’re outside there are several options today that make it possible. You could either use the data connection on your mobile phone or connect to available WiFi connections at airports, bars, cafes or restaurants. Another alternative could be to get yourself one of these USB sticks sold by various providers. 
It is important to be wary of marketing gimmicks and understand the terms and conditions of any plan/offer throroughly before signing up for it.