The line of least resistance
Tips for saving money on your phone and broadband connection
With most homes now having at least six internet-connected devices, most people want a good broadband service as well as a reliable telephone line. The market really has changed from when we started out 15 years ago, when all we could offer was low-cost calls and ‘dial-up’!
Internet access has become essential to modern-day living, and most people would probably struggle to imagine what life would be like without it now. For those living in France, a good internet connection at their French home is often at the top of the priority list, whether it’s for keeping in touch with family and friends, accessing English TV programmes or being able to work from home.
If you’re just starting out on your house-hunting journey, you can check the general broadband speed in your property search area by visiting the website observatoire.francethd.fr.
If you’ve already found the home you want to buy, you can check the actual speed available online at degrouptest.com. If you know which telephone company you will use you can call and ask them to do these tests for you, and to help you interpret the results.
Once you’ve established how fast your internet connection is likely to be, how can you make sure you’re getting the best deal on your broadband and telephone service and aren’t spending more than you have to? Here are some essential money-saving tips to keep in mind.
INSTALLING A NEW LINE
Costs have recently changed for new line installations. It will now cost €59 for all connections, instead of the €55 previously charged for remote connections, and €134 for lines that were unused for two years or more and required technician attendance. Allow between five and 10 working days for a line to be activated and a further 10 days for broadband. Setting up your new line in the right way to begin with is also important, especially if you want to be ex-directory ( liste rouge). You can also choose from several other free line services that include withholding your number, number permanently withheld and the ability to find out who called you last. There are a number of options that can be applied to your line at your local exchange at a cost of €1 per month, such as number or name display, answerphone and call waiting. You may also want to sign up for the new French service ‘Bloctel’, which is rather like the Telephone Preference Service in the UK, designed to stop unwanted sales calls. You can find out more about the Bloctel service online by visiting bloctel.gouv.fr.
For those who might initially be buying a property as a second home before making a permanent move later on, you may want to have a line and broadband connection that can be suspended when you are not there. Orange has a service called ligne résidence secondaire, which is only available for second home-owners.
If your broadband speed is fast enough, have your calls put over your broadband service. All companies should offer this money-saving service known as dégroupage total, which is less expensive as you don’t have to pay for line rental. Now is the time to find out if you are eligible and set it up. You will need a minimum broadband speed of 2MB, otherwise your words will be clipped and some calls will drop out. A 2MB speed is also needed to watch video without buffering. One point to note – make sure you have a mobile phone so that your broadband supplier can speak with you and run tests to get the service working quickly again should you experience any problems.
MAKING AND RECEIVING CALLS
Most people will find they make more calls in France than they did when they were in the UK, so make sure you choose the right call package. You will almost certainly make more international calls so think about this too, and check whether a payas-you-go option will be cheaper.
Many companies will change or suspend call packages for you as well – check before you sign up! Remember that calling mobiles and UK marketing numbers will not usually be included. You can avoid a lot of expensive UK marketing numbers
by finding the standard telephone number on the website saynoto0870.com.
Friends and family can save money when calling you in France too. Recent big increases in the cost of calling a French number using a standard BT line can be easily avoided, and there are no contracts involved. BT now charges a 12p connection charge and 40p per minute, but you can check if your preferred French telecom company will ‘translate’ your number into a low-cost UK number.
This will not affect your service but you can give this new number to friends and family in the UK and they will only pay the 12p connection charge and 3p per minute, reducing the cost of a 10-minute BT call from £4.12 to 42p.
You could save more money by connecting your mobile to your broadband wifi. This will allow you to make free Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, WhatsApp and Skype calls from your mobile when it is in range, saving your data allowance for times when you have no other choice but to use it.
Most utility engineers who are coming to connect services to your French home will not call an international mobile. You will probably want them to switch on the water, gas and electricity supply and activate the telephone line for your arrival, which means you will need a French mobile.
A prepaid SIM could be the solution – all you will need is an unblocked phone and it will be much cheaper than signing up to a normal monthly contract that includes a new mobile phone with a minimum fixed term and handset, especially if you don’t anticipate using it very much.
Be careful which provider you use. You can check whether the company you’re considering has good local coverage online at quechoisir.org/carte-interactive-reseaumobile-n21247/, and you should also check whether you will lose any credit you’ve paid for but not used within a specified amount of time.