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Communication

Deregulation has resulted in more competition and more choices and sometimes more confusion in the telecommunications market. New communications devices have brought a blurring of boundaries between services and providers. The options are constantly changing with new technologies.

Landlines offer telephone and Internet access — faxes are also still common among some Germans — but not as much as before. Cable television companies offer not only television, but also Internet access and phone service. Everything is connected to the Internet.

The following is meant as a general overview without promoting any one service provider.

There are a number of Internet sites available to compare services and pricing, but most are in German.

Landline Telephones/Internet Access

Most homes have an existing phone line.

To reconnect an existing phone line in your own name, you need to register with a phone company. Be forewarned — many have minimum contract periods of up to two years, so be sure to read the fine print, especially if you won't be here very long. Some contracts also require you to cancel your policy months in advance or it will automatically be renewed. A mobile connection may be the better choice for short term visitors.

Telephones can be bought or rented from the phone company, or you can buy your own from an electronics store.

You can select your own provider and decide between a digital connection (ISDN or DSL) or an analog line. ISDN / DSL gives you a number of phone lines allowing you to make a phone call and go on the Internet at the same time. It is more expensive, but the data transfer is faster and is a great advantage if you use the Internet on a regular base.

It may take up to four weeks to get your connection set up!!!

You can get a combination cable television, phone and Internet service package, available through both telephone and cable television providers.

Pricing will depend on the service provided. Packages are available with flat monthly rates or per usage, with any number of possible service combinations (cable television &/or internet &/or telephone). Choose what is best for you.

You will pay a one-time set-up fee and it may require a workman coming into your apartment/home.

Mobile Telephones (Handy or Smartphone)

The standard in Germany is GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), which operates in the 900 MHz and 1800 MHz range.

To use your existing phone in Germany, it should be a GSM tri-band phone — most tri-band and quad-band phones will work in Germany - as well as in most of Europe.

The European Union "roam like at home" service means that while travelling within the EU you pay the same for services as you would at home. However, if you use your moblile phone abroad permanently, your mobile operator may charge you for roaming costs. Information in English is available here.

If you already have a phone and would like a German mobile telephone number, your SIM chip/card (Subscriber Information Module) should be unocked, i.e., not bound to one provider.

If you do not own a mobile phone, many providers will give you the phone for free or at a low cost, in exchange for a contract, usually with a minimum of two years.

Shop around to find the service that best suits your needs — the options can be overwhelming. Stores in and around Karlsruhe serve just about every provider. Many Internet sites offer services as well. Ask around and maybe you'll find English-speaking help.

Flat rates and pay-as-you-call are both available. If you have a family with many mobile phones, cheaper package deals are available.

Flat rates and fixed contracts can include surfing, texting and calling. Read the fine print in order to avoid surprises at the end of the month!

Some flat rates, especially for surfing, have quick access up to a certain download amount, after which the connection gets very slow.

In most cases, you only pay for calls going out and not for incoming calls.

Pre-paid SIM cards

Pre-paid cards will cost more per call/text message than a fixed contract, but if you aren't going to be here long, it is cheaper than being stuck in a two-year contract.

Pre-paid SIM Cards are available on-line, at discount supermarkets, at regular supermarkets, at gas stations, at mobile phone stores etc. You will pay a one-time fee for your SIM card (usually between €10 and €30) which usually includes a starting balance of €5 or €10.

You can then "top-up" as needed — this can be done on-line, at the place where you purchased the SIM card or even via your ATM, depending on the provider.

These cards are available for normal mobile phones as well as for Smartphones. For Smartphones with Internet access, the pricing may be per day, per megabyte or per month — many stores will help you decide which is best for you based on your usage.

Starting July 1, 2017, anyone purchasing a pre-paid SIM card must register and provide proof of name, address and birth date (ID card, passport or eAT). It is no longer possible to register with a pseudonym.

Mobile Surfing (Wi-Fi is WLAN)

While there are some hotspots in and around Karlsruhe, they are not quite as popular as in other countries. Germans value their data privacy, and many of the hotspots are "open". Here is a list of hotspots available in Karlsruhe.

Karlsruhe has free KA-WLAN and KA-sWLAN for safer transactions. Information in English is no longer available. Information in German is available here.