STAY IN TOUCH WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS AT HOME!
Telephone and Internet are vital means to stay in contact with your loved ones you've left behind. Easy access to reasonably priced options is no problem in Germany, however, it is indeed a challenge to identify the best option! And what would you do without your favorite TV series when homesickness hits you with full force?
The Internet can be used via DSL or mobile devices.
The DSL connection offered by German providers is usually pretty fast and does allow watching movies or do video chatting with your family at home. It may be different if you live somewhat remote, and before entering into any contract, you should establish if your location is internet ready, and if not, what the landlord's schedule is to connect the house. The predominant technology is copper cable which is slower than glass fiber. The last mile from the road to the house often causes a reduction in speed, as the landlords are responsible and they don't like the cost. An average speed of around 30 Mbits for downloads should not be a real problem, though.
Most of Germany is covered by UMTS, and there are only rare spots which the waves don't reach. The big cities are definitely not one of them. In cities and conurbations in Germany, you can surf the Internet while out and about – via your laptop or mobile phone. You will need a so-called "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. For mobile phones or tablets, it is the usual SD card. Unless you decide to contract with Telekom the waiting time for internet can be significant, up to several weeks. Therefore the stick is a valuable alternative.
There are a lot of providers for DSL as well as mobile Internet with all different price and service models. Mostly internet is combined with a landline telephone, and even mobile phone tariffs are often included. Most of the contracts offered have a minimum contractual runtime of 24 months (and are prolonged for another 12 months unless you cancel in time); however, whether or not stipulated, if you move out of the provider's reach, you are usually entitled to cancel earlier. When you decided to cancel, be sure you send the cancellation by registered mail - there have been numerous cases where letters sent by normal post were claimed never received. In fact, it is highly unlikely to happen in Germany, that letters get lost, and thus one may presume that the letters were received, but somehow misplaced. However, you won't have proof. You need to further make sure that you adhere to the contractual cancellation conditions as laid down in your contract or in the general terms and conditions of the provider. Again, it is wise to ask the sales person for these terms and conditions and file them away. Some Germans use the tactic to cancel relatively shortly after contracting in order to be sure not to miss the cancellation period. It is actually helpful to negotiate more beneficial terms which you would otherwise not get when only prolonging the contract.
The market is still very much controlled by the Deutsche Telekom who owns most of the cablework.
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Unless you decide to build your own house, a landline will be existing in your new home. The actual device can be bought in electrical stores like Saturn, Media Markt or via online shops; even big supermarkets offer them. Before buying, you need to know if you need an ISDN or analog phone. Your landlord will be able to tell and so will any provider whom you decide to contract with.
Loads of providers offer telephone services, and you can freely choose which one you prefer. They are again the same above mentioned companies. The usual offer will focus on phone calls within Germany to German landlines and German mobile phones. These are usually included in a flat rate, although some mobile phone providers may be excluded.
Calling your friends and families abroad can be expensive, but must not be. A cheap option is to phone over the Internet with Skype or similar applications. There are also several phone operators offering cheap calls - they usually work with a German phone number which then redirects your call to the target number (so-called "call-through" or "call-by-call" numbers). So you will have to dial their pre-code in front of the number you wish to call. The rates are widely varying.
The providers also offer flat rates to specific countries for an extra charge.
Mobile phone contracts usually offer the option to buy a smartphone with a significant discount. Vodafone charges 10 EUR per month for this option and an additional fee that varies with the model of the phone, however, the minimum price you will be paying is 240 EUR since the contracts usually run for two years, but then you will get one of the latest models. Alternatively, you just buy the hardware at Saturn and only sign for the communication. Vodafone, Telekom, and O2 are said to have the best coverage, but other providers are also good. Understanding the contractual differences between the various providers, especially when combining with landline and internet option, is extremely difficult. Some providers even include an entertainment tariff. Checking all this takes a lot of time and a good option for the initial period is a prepaid card for a cheap mobile phone. In most cases, you will receive your hardware plus SIM card right away.
The big providers also provide landline services including internet. When combining with a mobile tariff and/or a data tariff, they offer discounts. You will always need to buy the hardware yourself. To enable you to communicate from your new home it just takes a technical switch which is done in a blink of the eye. However, since the bureaucracy of the Telekom (owner of the cables) is involved it still takes 1-2 days and can take a little longer if you contract with another provider.
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First of all, whether or not you have a TV or radio device, you will be obliged to pay the mandatory license fees. When registering in your new town your officer will automatically log you with the public TV authority and you will be receiving regular invoices by the collecting company (the so-called GEZ "Gebühreneinzugszentrale" - read more...).
Public TV can be received via antenna or cable wherever you are. It consists of ARD, ZDF, ARTE, Phoenix, 3sat, and KiKA as well as a couple of historically called the 3. program, which is the local public TV channel. These programs are all in German language.
The most common TV reception comes via cable. Most houses are connected, and you will have to pay a monthly subscription fee (around 15-20 EUR for the most common programs received in Germany). Sky or KabelDeutschland are example providers for cable TV. It makes sense studying their offered programs because their standard packages already include a couple of channels from UK, US, Russia, Turkey, Italy, France and other countries). If the standard package is not sufficient, some providers offer add-ons.
An alternative seldom used is to receive TV via aerial. It is a bit old-fashioned but it may be the only alternative if you do not want to pay for a cable connection or satellite dish or your landlord denies the installation. Again, this will rarely be the case.
A good alternative is 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 permission. There is no monthly charge for satellite reception but the installation is quite costly. While in most locations you will be able to reach out to the ASTRA satellite, some just don't allow a clear reception of the signal. A good reception is only possible with clear sky above. The technician should be able to tell you if you will be happy with the quality of reception.
At last, you can view well over 100 TV channels over the Internet. However, to really enjoy it you need a fast Internet connection. IPTV is available from most large telecommunications operators. Unless you want to plug your laptop or PC into your TV device everytime you watch a program via the internet, you will need a receiver that connects your TV to the internet. Some internet TV providers charge a subscription fee; some programs are available for free by the TV stations themselves.