Get your­self con­nected

How to in­stall a phone line and broad­band at your French prop­erty

French Property News - - Contents - Bob El­liott is the Com­mer­cial Di­rec­tor at UK Tele­com Ltd Tel: 01483 477 100 uk­t­ele­com.net

Tele­coms is a fast-mov­ing ser­vice and chang­ing from one com­pany to an­other brings with it costs, so do­ing some re­search be­fore you buy is wise. There are some im­por­tant dif­fer­ences be­tween what you can buy in the UK and what is avail­able in France – so sec­ond home own­ers will be very in­ter­ested in line rental and broad­band that can be sus­pended, whereas those buy­ing a per­ma­nent home will want the best balance be­tween price and re­li­able ser­vice.

Lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion

In to­day’s in­ter­net-con­nected world, a line with­out broad­band is un­likely to do! High streets in the UK are dy­ing due to on­line shop­ping and bank­ing, and once you are used to that, you want it wher­ever you are.

We have seen a big dif­fer­ence be­tween suc­cess­ful con­nected gîtes and hol­i­day homes that don’t have a con­nec­tion. Sim­i­larly, prop­er­ties for sale in ‘in­ter­net black holes’ fetch less so it is wise to check avail­abil­ity and broad­band speed be­fore you buy.

The avail­abil­ity and speed of broad­band varies con­sid­er­ably, but there is no gen­eral rule, save to say the more re­mote the prop­erty, the more un­likely that fast broad­band will be avail­able. The broad­band speed it­self will de­pend on the dis­tance the prop­erty is from the lo­cal ex­change; chang­ing to a dif­fer­ent sup­plier rarely makes a dif­fer­ence.

Use this web­site to check cov­er­age: de­grouptest.com

Buy what you need

Like most things in life, you get what you pay for, and com­pe­ti­tion among tele­com com­pa­nies is fierce. This means that if one com­pany’s services are cheaper than oth­ers, there is prob­a­bly a good rea­son for it.

The mar­ket breaks down into three main groups. The low-price providers in­clude SOSH and Free who are of­ten crit­i­cised on the fo­rums for poor cus­tomer ser­vice.

Then there are the main com­pa­nies such as Or­ange, SFR and UK Tele­com which each have dif­fer­ent of­fers, with the first two fo­cus­ing on the French do­mes­tic mar­ket while UK Tele­com of­fers ex­clu­sive services de­signed for English speak­ers such as be­ing able to pay in pounds or eu­ros.

Most peo­ple will buy on price first, tak­ing other fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion sec­ond. This will also in­clude those who run a small busi­ness from their home. How­ever, bear in mind that the low­est prices are for ‘do­mes­tic’ services and while the plea­sure of a low price is ap­pre­ci­ated, faults will not be pri­ori­tised in the same way busi­ness lines are. So if stay­ing con­nected is es­sen­tial to busi­ness users, a busi­ness line should be in­stalled.

Ac­cess to the broad­band ser­vice is shared with oth­ers nearby – the more neigh­bours us­ing their broad­band at the same time as you, the slower the speed will be

Hol­i­day homes

Un­til May of 2018, Or­ange of­fered a ser­vice where the line rental and broad­band services could be sus­pended. To qual­ify, you had to prove that the services were in­stalled in a sec­ond home. The sav­ings were at­trac­tive, par­tic­u­larly as your main house did not have to be in France.

UK Tele­com is the only com­pany now of­fer­ing services that can be sus­pended. This ser­vice is avail­able to all cus­tomers and broad­band services can be sus­pended for up to four months a year.

A fur­ther ser­vice is of­fered by SFR, SOSH Or­ange, Bouygues and Free, where you sim­ply buy a con­tract that you can­cel when not re­quired. You pay an ac­ti­va­tion fee and a monthly charge of be­tween €12.99 and €20, and when you wish to cease it, pay a can­cel­la­tion fee. The fees are sim­i­lar, with both con­nec­tion and can­cel­la­tion charges of €50.

Th­ese in­clude call pack­ages but there is a big in­crease in charges if you have the ac­count for more than 12 months. Also, each time you cease and restart the ser­vice, you will have a new tele­phone num­ber.

On the line

There are three ways of set­ting up your tele­phone line. If there is an ex­ist­ing line into the prop­erty, or one has been ac­tive within the last two years, a re­mote ac­ti­va­tion can be or­dered. If there has been a line but it’s not been in use for more than two years, an en­gi­neer will have to visit the prop­erty to re­ac­ti­vate the ser­vice.

If there has never been a line to the prop­erty, a new in­stal­la­tion will re­quire a trench to be dug from the perime­ter of the prop­erty to the build­ing and a hole drilled in the wall for the en­gi­neer to run the ca­ble through. The owner has to do this, and we can pro­vide de­tails about the depth of the trench and so on.

It can take be­tween one and two weeks to ac­ti­vate a line. Which­ever your sit­u­a­tion, the tele­phone ser­vice only goes to the first tele­phone point in the prop­erty. Ad­di­tional tele­phone sock­ets are usu­ally in­stalled by a qual­i­fied elec­tri­cian, and the owner has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to main­tain the in­ter­nal ca­bling.

When you place your or­der, make sure you get it right first time. For ex­am­ple, if you want to be ex-direc­tory ( liste rouge) make sure this is in­cluded as part of your or­der. If not, you will ap­pear in both the printed and dig­i­tal di­rec­to­ries and stay on there for six months.

There are other services; some free and oth­ers cost­ing €1/month. In ad­di­tion, you can en­rol on the Bloc­tel ser­vice which is de­signed to stop cold sales calls. So dis­cuss th­ese de­tails with your tele­com com­pany when plac­ing your or­der.

The truth about broad­band speeds

The re­sult of the ‘speed test’ for any line will al­ways give the fastest speed it can carry. How­ever, all do­mes­tic services are ‘con­tended’, mean­ing that ac­cess to the ser­vice is shared with oth­ers nearby. The more neigh­bours us­ing their broad­band at the same time as you, the slower the speed will be.

The usual broad­band ser­vice sep­a­rates the voice and data traf­fic us­ing an ADSL fil­ter. This is called a dé­groupage par­tiel ser­vice; the cus­tomer pays a line rental and a broad­band charge. How­ever, if the broad­band speed is 2Mbps or faster, they can choose to have all their calls car­ried over their broad­band ser­vice. This is called a dé­groupage to­tal ser­vice. There is a sig­nif­i­cant cost ad­van­tage as while the broad­band charge is slightly higher, there is no monthly line rental to pay. So the bet­ter ser­vice ac­tu­ally costs less!

To get the best per­for­mance out of your broad­band, you will need to think about where you lo­cate your mo­dem. It is al­ways best to find a cen­tral lo­ca­tion and most def­i­nitely avoid kitchens (mi­crowaves and white goods dis­rupt sig­nals), TVS and mir­rors, all of which will af­fect the per­for­mance of modems close to them. If you have a large prop­erty or thick stone walls, you may need to use a wifi ex­ten­der to reach some parts.

A fur­ther gen­eral point about speed con­cerns the in­creas­ing use of wifi. Do make sure you use your se­cu­rity code to stop oth­ers nearby us­ing your ser­vice and slow­ing it down. Also, re­mem­ber to dis­con­nect each ipad, lap­top, smart­phone etc from the wifi when not in use. If you don’t, the speed will be slower.

If things go wrong

There is a lot of equip­ment be­tween your tele­phone and mo­dem and the end des­ti­na­tion you wish to con­tact. In most cases, when a prob­lem oc­curs, the fault is ei­ther with a cus­tomer’s equip­ment, the line be­tween them and the lo­cal ex­change, or with equip­ment at the ex­change.

The most im­por­tant thing is to pro­tect your tele­phone and mo­dem from power surges; th­ese can de­stroy modems and they will have to be re­placed at the user’s cost. A sim­ple power surge pro­tec­tor is all that is needed and it will cost a lot less than a new mo­dem. Also, if you are go­ing to be away for any length of time, it is good prac­tice to un­plug phones and modems.

If there is a dam­aged tele­phone line or failed equip­ment at the lo­cal ex­change, it will typ­i­cally take three days for the fault to be re­solved. The en­gi­neers who un­der­take this work are con­tracted to deal with faults in the or­der that they are re­ported, as part of the re­quire­ment to en­sure no one com­pany can profit at the ex­pense of oth­ers. So it doesn’t mat­ter which com­pany you use, the speed of the en­gi­neer re­sponse will be the same. How­ever, good cus­tomer ser­vice will iden­tify more quickly the na­ture of the fault and speed up the re­pair process.

While any loss of ser­vice is un­wanted, do re­mem­ber that no tele­com com­pany can make any profit on services that are not work­ing, so they are as in­ter­ested as you to get things work­ing quickly. If you re­ally feel that you have had poor ser­vice, do not change sup­pli­ers in the mid­dle of a fault. If you do, the ex­ist­ing fault will be re­moved from the list and your new sup­plier will have to start all over again!

Fu­ture im­prove­ments

We are about half­way through a ma­jor in­vest­ment in the French tele­com net­work, and while you may have non-ex­is­tent or slow broad­band, speed im­prove­ments to the equip­ment in the lo­cal ex­changes are tak­ing place ev­ery day. Your lo­cal mairie or your tele­com com­pany will be able to tell you about any im­prove­ments that will be made in the near fu­ture. This might lead to faster speed or an up­grade to your cur­rent ser­vice.

Even­tu­ally, all tele­phone calls will be car­ried by the broad­band ser­vice, or an al­ter­na­tive if you are in a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult area. The same is hap­pen­ing in the UK, with BT hav­ing a tar­get date of 2025 to com­plete the up­grades. France plans to com­plete them be­fore this date, so you can look for­ward to bet­ter services and cov­er­age.

With a ‘dé­groupage to­tal’ ser­vice, the broad­band charge is higher but there is no monthly line rental to pay – so the bet­ter ser­vice ac­tu­ally costs less!

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