You’ve found your new home, and now it’s time to get connected (along with a few other tasks). To have a fixed-line telephone installed in Germany, there are two basic options.
1.You can go down to one of the local Telekom customer service centers, called “T-Punkt,” which Telekom has established in most larger cities, and fill out the necessary forms (in German). The installation charge is 69.95 euros for a new connection. If you are taking over a connection from a previous resident there is no fee. And in many cases, Telekom also offers free installation if you agree to sign up for two years and don’t buy the cheapest package. You can either buy your phone from Telekom or buy one yourself (from a local electronics store such as MediaMarkt, Saturn, etc.).
2. You can order your telephone service through one of the many private competitors - such as 1&1, Vodafone or Freenet. Because Telekom still enjoys a monopoly on the so-called "last mile" of telecommunications service, these private resellers basically offer the same products as Telekom, but sometimes at slightly better rates or with additional services. In addition, some of these providers offer bundled ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) and DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) connections. If price isn't an issue for you, you may want to go with Deutsche Telekom. If it is, it may be worth your time to shop around for a better deal with one of the other providers.
The basic monthly rates for a fixed line in Germany (provided by Deutsche Telekom) start at 17.95 euros for a basic telephone line (Call Start) plus 8 euros more per month if you also want the ISDN digital option. Many providers also offer a flat rate service for calls to fixed lines in Germany, but be aware that these flat rates usually don't cover calls to cellular phones, international calls or to special service numbers (starting with 0180) that are so popular with many German companies such as Lufthansa, Deutsche Bahn, etc.
Ordering your phone can be a quick process, if you know what you want. The most popular types of lines are standard analog lines, ISDN lines or DSL. ISDN is not a bad idea if several people will be calling from the same line and you'd like to separate your bills. With an ISDN line, you are assigned several different numbers and can set up a fax, a kid's line, a home phone and a dedicated business phone. DSL tends to be bundled with other services, using the pitch: "For just 5 euros more, you can get an Internet flat rate with your DSL line." For the techies out there, this is called the "double play" (telephone & Internet connection), "triple play" (phone, Internet and television) or "quadruple play" (phone, Internet, television and cell phone service).
By far, the most popular choice to connect to the Internet in Germany is through a DSL line. Telekom offers several packages for phone and Internet, each one consisting of slightly different services. For 29.95 euros per month, the "MagentaZuhause S" package offers an Internet and phone flat rate with a connection speed of 16Mbits.
The latest technology from the Telekom is the VDSL and fiber optics, which offer higher speed Internet (up to 100 Mbit/s download and 40 Mbit/s upload), as well as Voice over IP telephony and television service. Eventually, Telekom plans to convert all connections to this new technology. There is almost bewildering array of packages and prices, and most are grouped in the "Magenta" product line with prices ranging from 30-80 euros per month.
If you want to buy the fastest package, first check to see whether it is available in your street. Again, private resellers (such as 1&1 or Arcor) offer slightly better rates than the Telekom for Internet access. And remember to shop around before you sign up because many providers will waive initial set-up fees and throw in a free modem, router or wireless LAN. You might want to check two German-language consumer-oriented websites www.teltarif.de or www.billiger-telefonieren.de for more information.
If your home is wired for cable, you can connect to the Internet through a cable modem, and set up a land line using your region’s cable provider. For many parts of Germany, the cable provider is unitymedia (Tel: 01803 – 88 88 35 or www.unitymedia.de.) For all three services together, prices start at 25 euros per month. Before you sign up for this service, be sure to check with your landlord or Hausmeister to make sure that the building in which you live supports this service. Many older buildings from the 1950s and 1960s are wired for cable, but do not have the required infrastructure for unitymedia's products.
If you can do without Internet access at home (or if your home is wired for cable), you might want to think about getting a flat rate for your cell phone and not getting a fixed line at all. For a monthly flat rate, you can call as much as you like into the German fixed line network and the cell phone network of the provider. Prices start at about 30 euros per month, with this service being offered by several providers (including www.base.de, www.T-mobile.de and www.vodafone.de).
With all these options, make sure that you get all of your contracts in writing and read the fine print. And refrain from signing up for any services at a shopping mall or over the telephone. They will undoubtedly get your order wrong!