If you are moving to Germany, you will definitely want to stay in touch with your friends and family in the country or abroad. Telecommunications are now an essential part of everyday life, especially for expats, and Germany is certainly no exception. Although Deutsche Telekom, which is the State telephone company, monopolised the telephony market for years and still owns most of the lines, the country has a developed telecommunications network which consists of many lost cost providers offering a wide range of services.
You can choose between a landline and mobile phone, or both. However, make sure to choose the best plan according to your needs and budget.
Setting up a landline telephone in Germany
Most land line users take advantage of internet packages and buy internet connections that include a fixed landline. Pure land line providers hardly exist nowadays. However, if this is what you’re looking for, check with Deutsche Telekom.
If your home is already equipped with a land line, a new installation will not be required. However, since Deutsche Telekom owns most of the lines, you will have to check with the provider of your choice if your line is covered by their services and what steps are necessary to get connected.
Once all technical requirements are met, you can register. You will have to fill in a subscription form, provide identification documents and proof of address. The installation may take 2-3 days (remotely) and fees apply. In some cases a technician may be sent to set up your connection.
If you bring a phone from your home country, check compatibility in advance or consider purchasing a new one. In many cases it’s sufficient to just exchange the connection cable. Once your land line has been installed, your phone bill will be sent monthly. You are required to settle it within the next 14 days. Otherwise, your land line could be disconnected. An Einzugsermächtigung, an authorization for payment by direct debit is the most common payment method in Germany.
Good to know:
In general, local and international calls are charged per minute. Call rates vary according to the distance and call duration. Calls made between 6pm and 9am the next day, as well as those made during holidays and week-ends may bey cheaper.
With regards to international calls, you can enquire about rates with your operator. Many internet provders offer upgrade packages for international calls at a flat rate.
Answering the phone in Germany
When calling someone in Germany, your contact will generally respond by saying his name immediately.
In some cases, you may hear a pre-recorded message, such as "Kein Anschluss unter dieser Nummer" meaning "The number you have called does not exist" or " Dieser Anschluss ist vorübergehend nicht erreichbar" meaning "The number you requested is temporarily unavailable".
German phone number prefixes
Make sure you have a phone directory nearby before making calls. Note that the German prefixes are quite complex, especially for newcomers. Thus, to make calls in the region where you have settled, you simply have to dial your contact's phone number. To call another region, dial the area code followed by the phone number.
Good to know:
Area codes lengths vary: these are shorter for large cities and longer for smaller cities, for example 030 for Berlin or 0341 for Leipzig. If you call from abroad, you’ll have to skip the first “0”, for instance 0049 30 followed by the local telephone number in Berlin.
Mobile phones are called Handys in German and are widely used with generally good coverage. German operators use GSM technology (900 or 1800MHz), which is used across Europe. If you come from outside of Europe, make sure your phone is compatible. Phones from Australia and New Zealand should not be a problem as they usually operate on the GSM spectrum and phones from the US or Canada that are at least tri-band or quad-band should also work. Otherwise you may have to buy a new mobile phone and SIM card.
Germany currently has four network operators (O2, Telekom, Vodafone and Eplus), however, numerous mobile phone service providers exist and therefore the market has become more competitive and confusing. Thankfully, there are plenty of comparison websites that will help you choose, for example Check24 (https://www.check24.de/handyvertrag/) or billiger-telefonieren.de (http://www.billiger-telefonieren.de/handy-provider/)
When purchasing a new sim card, you can choose between subscription and prepaid. If you prefer a prepaid sim card, you will be able to recharge your balance through prepaid cards, which are available in all supermarkets, shops, filling stations, etc.
Make sure to check the local coverage in your area, especially outside big cities. Telekom and Vodafone are known for better coverage, however O2 may be a cheaper option. Note, O2 is part of Telefonica and acquired Eplus. Currently O2 and Eplus users benefit from both networks, however in the long run Eplus users will be transferred to the O2 network.
Good to know:
Basic packages generally include free 50-200 minutes talk-time / SMS units and 500MB to 1GB data volume and start from €6 per month. Note, many providers offer subscriptions with 1-month minimum commitments and can be cancelled at fairly short notice.