Crucial point! To feel truly at home in France, you need Internet at home and a mobile plan for your phone. Here’s a little overview of the offer, so you can get a clearer picture of the options you have.
How does it work in France?
Internet comes in the form of a little magic box that’s installed at your place and gives you access to Internet. To set this up, you have to subscribe to a plan with an internet provider so they open your line.
Your mobile plan will allow you to call, send texts and have access to data through 3g or 4g.
French mobile networks are GSM, meaning some phones from North America and several Asian countries won’t work at all here! If you’re travelling from a country that uses a CDMA network (typically, China, Korea, Japan, Canada and the US), check whether your phone is GSM-enabled. Some smartphones operate on both networks (dual band). Otherwise, you will have to get a new mobile phone.
Accessing Internet for free around you
A lot of public places, like restaurants, cafes, bars and libraries, offer WiFi access. The access codes are given to you by the staff. In restaurants and cafes, you’ll probably have to get something to eat or drink to ask for WiFi. Double check at the counter that they do have WiFi before taking a seat, just in case.
If there’s a Starbucks or a McDonalds in your town, you can always find WiFi there.
You can use apps like Wi-Fi Finder or Wi-Fi Map to see available hotspots around you.
Wifi Map on Android : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=io.wifimap.wifimap&hl=fr
Wifi Finder on Android : https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.speedspot.wififinder
How do I choose my plan and provider?
There are four main providers in the mobile and Internet market in France, being Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile. All 4 offer both internet and mobile phone plans, along with TV and fixed phones lines. Coverage is fairly similar, although Free’s mobile 4g coverage is slightly behind.
These providers also have low-costs brands : B&You for Bouygues Telecom, Sosh for Orange, RED by SFR for SFR and Alice Internet for Free (it’s not free though).
Internet offers in France are quite competitive. It might be worth your while comparing them : https://en.selectra.info/broadband-phone-france/providers
Good news ! If you’re planning on taking advantage of your stay in France to wander around Europe, know that your calls and texts issued from the European Union will be charged the same as they are in France!
Fiber optic: with connection speeds between 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s, fiber optic is useful for households with HD or 4K television. However, it is not available in every building, and you will need to verify with your chosen internet provider whether this is an option for you depending on where you live.
ADSL: with a connection speed of up to 20 Mbit/s, ADSL is sufficient for one person with a standard quality television.
The price of internet plans are fairly similar for both technologies, but fiber optic is faster than ADSL.
Different data coverage exist: 2g, 3g and 4g. The more recent your data coverage, the fastest your connexion will be. If your phone doesn’t date from the paleolithic - in other words before 2014, you should have automatic access to 4G on your phone.
3G : the third generation mobile network, with minimum speed of 144 kb/s.
4G: as you will understand, it’s the 4th generation mobile network. Its speed is 112,5Mbits per second.
4G+ : 4G, but better: it can reach 330 Mbits per second.
Questions to ask
Is the offer available for me?
Before signing up for an Internet plan, you will need to determine whether fiber optic or ADSL is available in your home. This can usually be done over the phone while signing up for an internet plan.
How much is the plan per month?
For how long am I committed to the plan?
If you’re only staying in France for a year or less, don’t subscribe to a plan that requires long term commitment. It’s better to subscribe to a non-binding plan that is renewed each month and can be terminated at any moment.
What kind of additional services are included? Does the internet plan include access to free Wifi hotspots? If TV is included in the package, which TV channels? If a mobile phone plan is included, does it include free calls in France and abroad?
Are there any additional fees to be aware of? For example, is there a deposit to pay, or an early cancellation fee?
Which data coverage does the plan include?
Mobile plans offer a certain number of Giga, corresponding with the volume of Internet data you can use monthly.
1 Mo = 100 emails without attachments received or sent
2 Mo = 1 received or sent photo
10Mo = 1h of browsing or using apps
150Mo = 1h of streaming music or videos
Will I be able to call abroad? If you need to make calls abroad, you might want to choose a plan that allows that. A number of French mobile operators offer free calls abroad within their plans. Some plans offer free calls to as many as 120 countries. But depending on the plan and provider, these calls may be limited to fixed lines only, and it might happen that your country isn’t in the list.
If you don’t find a plan that fits your needs and includes international calls, you can also choose a plan with unlimited 4G, allowing you to call at home using WhatsApp or FaceTime and without using mobile network.
Which documents do I need to subscribe?
To open a line with a internet and mobile service provider, you’ll be asked your contact details (full name and address, phone number), ID, proof of residence (electricity bills, rent receipt...) and your bank details.
Can I set up the Box myself?
You can if it’s an ADSL box, it’s done simply by linking the box to a phone plug. If you subscribe to an optical fiber plan, an operator will come install it for you.
When will the line be functional?
An operator’s intervention is often necessary. The delay for his visit can be from a few days to several weeks.
How much does it cost?
You will have to pay the monthly subscription fee following what plan you went with, but also application fees (which generally cost €50), and sometimes service connection charges when necessary.
How do I pay?
Following the method of payment that you will have defined at the moment of subscription. Payment is most commonly made by direct debit.
How to unsubscribe?
Following your provider, you'll be able to unsubscribe over the phone, with a registered letter or online from your client space. Give your operator a 10 day notice so he can arrange things at best.
Termination fees are charged in most companies (around €50), sometimes even though you've subscribed to a plan without commitment.
How do I give back my equipment?
The way to go for returning the equipment is specified by your provider.