From setting up your utilities to taking out home insurance, there are many tasks to carry out before moving into your new French property. Next on the list? Making sure you’re connected. Here’s what you need to know about setting up your phone, TV, and internet in France.
Phone, TV, and Internet Suppliers in France
There are a number of telecoms companies in France, and which you choose will depend on a number of factors, most notably:
- Your location: some suppliers provide better phone or internet service in different regions.
- Services required: some suppliers provide internet only, while many also provide mobile phone and internet contracts.
- Cost: each supplier has different deals and packages available with varying rates.
While it’s highly recommended to shop around and find the best deal for you, the most popular (and cheapest) options tend to be package deals that combine TV and internet. Some also include an option for a landline, while others may include your mobile phone subscription too.
Which Telecoms Company?
The largest telecoms suppliers in France are:
- Orange: Formerly France Telecom, Orange is France’s historic telecoms provider and remains the largest (they also still control the phone lines in some zones – more about this below). Offers TV, Internet, mobile phone, and landline phone subscriptions. They also have an English-speaking customer service line.
- SFR (Société française du radiotelephone) : Offers TV, Internet, mobile phone, and landline phone subscriptions.
- Free: Offers TV, internet, and mobile phone subscriptions
- Bouygues Telecom: Offers TV, internet, and mobile phone subscriptions
However, there are also several other competitors, particularly mobile phone and internet providers. Comparator websites are a good way to find out about the latest deals on the market, with some of the most popular including Mes Fournisseurs, Que Choisir, and Je Change.
Here are some of the other providers you may want to consider:
- Sosh: Orange’s low-cost, online-only provider. Provides mobile phone plans, internet, and television.
- RED by SFR: SFR’s low-cost, online-only provider. Provides mobile phone plans, internet, and television.
- B&You: Bouygues Telecom’s low-cost, online-only provider. Provides mobile phone plans, internet, and television.
- Coriolis Telecom: Offers internet and mobile phone plans.
- Lebara: Offers internet and mobile phone plans.
- Prixtel: Offers mobile phone plans.
- La Poste Mobile : Run by La Poste (France’s postal service) in partnership with SFR and offers internet, landlines, TV, and mobile phone plans.
- NRJ mobile: Offers mobile phone plans.
Telecoms Service Zones (Zones de Dégroupages)
French telecoms services have historically been provided by French Telecom, now Orange, and they remain the owner of France’s fixed-line infrastructure. In recent years, the network has been largely ‘unbundled’ or ‘dégroupée’ to allow other competitors to provide telecoms services, but this depends upon the region of France you live in.
There are three different ‘zones’ – those who live in zones dégroupées will be able to choose from a wide range of telecoms providers, while those in zones non-dégroupées or zones de dégroupage partiel will find their services limited to Orange or select providers (who rent the lines from Orange). In these areas, choosing a contract directly with Orange is still often the best way to ensure reliable service. In practice, the vast majority of urban areas are zones dégroupées, and this is an issue that mostly affects more remote rural areas.
Setting Up a Landline Phone in France
While most people will rely on a mobile phone these days, having a landline connection can still be useful, especially if you live in a rural area where your cell phone service is less than reliable. However, while many telecoms companies include landline access as part of their package deals, there are only two providers that provide a landline-only service (SFR & Orange).
One useful option for second-home owners is Orange’s ‘résidence secondaire’ phone plan. This plan allows you to suspend the contract for up to a year at any time for a minimal fee and reactivate it without any connection fees.
Setting Up French TV
France’s ‘freeview’ TV network is known as TNT (Télévision Numérique Terrestre), which has around 20 channels showing a mix of news and entertainment. The most common way to set up your French television is by signing up for a ‘box’ deal which includes TV and internet. Most providers will then allow you to select various paid TV packages (such as sport, movies, children’s entertainment, or international channels) in addition to the standard channels. Satellite TV services such as CANAL+ are also available for households that have a satellite dish. Another popular choice is FreeSat, a free British satellite TV service provided by the BBC and ITV, and featuring more than 170 channels.
Do you need a TV licence in France?
As in other countries, all households with a TV or satellite receiver must pay an annual TV licence, known as the contribution à l’audiovisuel public (CAP). This is paid along with your annual household income tax bill. The TV licence isn’t required for streaming services watched via your computer – if you don’t have a TV, you can check the according box on your annual tax return, and you will be exempt from paying the licence fees.
Setting Up Internet at Your French Home
There are two main options for your broadband internet connection in France: ADSL and fibre-optic, and which you have access to will depend on your location. Historically, access to broadband and high-speed internet has been limited in more remote rural areas of France, but recent years have seen fibre rolled out across the country, and the government has pledged that all areas will be covered by the end of 2022. You can follow their progress and find out whether your property is already able to access fibre-optic internet using this map.
To set up internet at your French home, there are typically two fees to take into consideration. The first is the network box or router, which, as a new customer, you will be required to purchase or ‘rent’ from your internet provider. The second will be your monthly subscription fee or ‘abonnement‘. Most modern devices are easy to setup and you will be able to do this yourself, although you will probably find the instructions will be available in French only.
Using a VPN in France
One issue facing many expats moving to France is that you may not be able to access your favourite websites or online streaming services (many are restricted to UK, Australian, or American viewers, for example, and will not be accessible from your French IP address). A popular workaround is to pay for a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which will allow you to access international content and unblock restricted platforms. There are several options available, but a few of the most popular include Nord VPN, Express VPN, and Atlas VPN.
Your Phone, TV, and Internet Subscription
It’s a good idea to choose the telecoms deal or package that suits your needs at least a week before you move into your new property to allow time for delivery. Most TV, phone, and internet contracts can be taken out online and you will either sign a digital contract or have the contracts mailed to your address.
Expect to pay a monthly subscription fee (abonnement), typically payable by direct debit (prelevement), and there may also be a one-off connection or setup fee. Take notice of the engagement period of your contract – many contracts require a minimum engagement period of 12 months or sometimes 24 months (after which you can terminate the contract at any time); others are ‘sans engagement‘, which means there is no minimum engagement period. Many offers include a special price for the first 12 months, after which the subscription will return to the standard fees, so be sure to check both rates.
Own a Property or Second Home in France?
Our Essential Reading articles cover everything you need to know as a French homeowner from property taxes and home insurance to paying your bills. Perhaps you also need recommendations on removals to France, advice on building and renovations, or tips for managing a second home? FrenchEntrée is here to help! We can even advise on selling your French property.