They can be found in all cities (look at the beginning of a telephone directory and/or entries under Deutsche Telekom). You can also call Deutsche Telekom at 0800-330 1000 to request or discontinue a phone line.
Most homes already have a phone line installed. When you order a telephone connection, you can take over the number of the previous tenant. This used to be cheaper and faster than getting a new phone line. But Deutsche Telekom has now changed this policy and you have to pay a one-time installation fee of €59 (as of 2004), whether you get a new line or take over an old one. Ignore tips in guide books about having to take over an old phone line! Waiting times are around 2-3 days for both cases.
Another option is to choose an alternative provider. Deregulation of the telecom market means some larger towns offer their own local networks. Depending on your calling patterns, an alternative providers may be cheaper, so it is worth making a comparison. If you're in a rush to get connected, you can get a basic Deutsche Telekom line until you work out who to use in the long-term and then discontinue it with a short notice period.
Analogue versus digital (ISDN) connections
When ordering a telephone line in Germany, you have the choice between two types of connection:
Analogue (also called T-Net): This is a normal telephone line with a single number and can connect to the internet with a standard analogue modem providing a maximum 56Kb speed (in practice actual rates are about 15-20% less due to line quality issues). Using the telephone or internet from a standard modem blocks the phone line from making or receiving other calls. A basic analogue connection costs from €15,66/month (as of 2004) plus call-charges.
Digital ("ISDN"- Integrated Subscriber Digital Network): ISDN is popular and is not much more expensive than an analogue line. Available everywhere, the service offers:
- 2 usable channels, either or both of which can be used simultaneously for voice, fax or data (e.g. Internet) connections. Data connections have a speed of 64Kb for both uploads and downloads. The two data channels can be combined (if your equipment and your connected partner/ISP allow it) to achieve 128Kb rates, but this blocks voice calls.
- 3 Telephone numbers as standard - up to 10 available.
- Special services such as call forwarding, call waiting, conference call, charge advice and number recognition.
No external changes to cabling are required for ISDN, but you may have to change some of your in-house cabling. There is a wide range of calling plans available with monthly fees starting at €23.60 per month (plus call-charges). The one-off connection charge is the same as for analogue lines, but you will also have to pay for a Deutsche Telekom technician to visit and switch you over. The cost for this "small service" are calculated depending on the time the technician needs and can easily add up to more than €100, even if the previous tenant already had an ISDN connection!
Getting a telephone
Telephones can be bought outright or rented from the phone company. If you intend to stay for a while, it will usually be cheaper to buy your own phone. After getting your phone line, have a close look on your first bill. We have heard of many cases in which Deutsche Telekom tried to charge the rent for a phone that was not ordered or even delivered!
Your telephone bill ( Rechnung) will be sent monthly. It will detail charges for the previous month based on units. You can also request detailed lists of your calls to be sent free of charge with your monthly bill; this needs to be asked for explicitly due to German privacy laws. Detailed bills also include charges from other telephone companies (if you are using alternate providers), though these are not necessarily compiled on a monthly basis.
You must pay your phone bill within 14 days of the posting date. If late, you will receive a reminder and have to pay a penalty. At this point, pay immediately as Deutsche Telekom can be very quick when it comes to disconnecting people! Reconnection can take a bit longer and you will be charged for it. To avoid this problem, you can pay by direct debit ( Dauerauftrag) and have amount due automatically debited from your bank account. See our section on money transfers for further details.