Staying connected is not a major issue in Germany, thanks to its developed telecommunications network. You can easily access the internet, whether you have to perform research work or get in touch with your friends and family. You can choose among different operators which offer a variety of services at very attractive rates.
Types of internet connection in Germany
The most common types of broadband connection in Germany are DSL (ADSL for private households) and cable connections. DSL is widely used but is not available everywhere. In rural areas, in particular, DSL is non-existent or of low quality. VDSL (High-speed digital subscriber line) with optic fibre is mostly only available in large cities and there are plans to continuously extend the network in 2017.
Cable, for its part, is faster, more stable and also offers TV and other services. Rates may be higher, however, can be more competitive when buying TV packages. Only 4 providers transmit countrywide, which may narrow your choice in rural areas.
Which broadband technology best suits your needs, depends above all on your place of residence. Whilst urban residents benefit from all the options, the selection is much more limited for the rural population. However, thanks to different technologies, there is access to a fast broadband connection throughout the whole country. You are advised to find out which connection is available at your home by using an availability checker.
Once you know what kind of connections are available, you can compare between respective internet providers. Basic offers start at around €20 per month (DSL) and may vary depending on your region.
Smart phone and tablet users can also connect to the Internet through mobile Internet packages (LTE). The wireless or broadband internet is also quite widespread in Germany in the form of a USB key which allows you to access the internet anywhere in the country from your laptop. However rural areas have limited coverage.
Good to know:
DSL offers a great variety of providers and therefore competitive prices. Telekom tends to be the more expensive option. The most reasonable priced providers offer VoIP, i.e. phoning via the internet. Note, connection speed mostly depends on the distance of the end user from the nearest distributor and therefore the full promised speed of 16 Mbit/s (DSL) may not always be reached. It’s best to consult various comparison sites and ask neighbours and colleagues which provider they use. Most likely they will have gone through the ordeal of finding the best and most reliable solution.
When receiving a router, it often remains the property of the internet provider and you may have to send it back when changing provider or moving house later.
If you already have a telephone line, connection procedures should not take long and can normally be managed via the internet. Otherwise, visit any branch of your favourite Internet service provider with your identification documents and proof of address. Fees may apply. However, you will have to be patient if you have decided to subscribe with Deutsche Telekom which is the main service provider. You could have to wait for more than two weeks.
If you subscribe to TV, you need to inform the GEZ. By law, every household is obliged to pay a fee for public radio (whether you use it or not) and an additional fee for using TV. Criteria are owning a TV and you will be fined if not complying. Note, they are known for doing random checks.
Free Wi-Fi (or WLAN in German) can still be difficult to find. Until recently the Wi-Fi operator risked being liable if a user committed an offence such as downloading music illegally, which stopped most cafes of offering free Wi-Fi. Laws have only recently been adapted in 2016.
Most bus and train stations, as well as restaurants, pubs, airports, etc., offer free or paid access to Wi-Fi. The places can easily be spotted thanks to a blue icon. The first 30 minutes of connection are free of charge. Thereafter, rates are similar to those applied by Deutsche Telekom.
Good to know:
To log onto Wi-Fi hotspots of Deutsche Bahn, activate the Wi-Fi option on your device (smartphone or tablet), choose the Telekom network, open your browser and enter your mobile phone number on the home page. An access code will be sent to you via SMS. You can then enter the code and enjoy the 30 minutes free Wi-Fi. For more information, visit the Bahn website.
Internet cafes in Germany
If you do not have an Internet connection at home, you can still get access in an internet cafe. You can find these in most major German cities. Some shops and call centres also offer Internet connection facilities. Connection rates usually vary according to the number of hours of use, ranging from € 1 to € 2.50 per hour. You can also subscribe if you intend to surf the Internet for more than 5 hours a day.