Bob Elliott reveals the best deals and how to get the fastest possible broadband speed – even in rural France
Q We want to live in a fairly rural area. Which regions are best avoided in terms of internet speed?
A The trick is to make sure you don’t buy a property in an internet or mobile black hole. Go to observatoire.francethd.fr to find out the available speed in any town. If the speed is slow do remember that upgrades are constantly taking place on the network. Once you’ve found your ideal property, but before you commit, go to degrouptest.com, enter the telephone number at the property and you’ll get the standard speed report. Do remember that the service will be contended, meaning access is shared with others; so when many people nearby are online, your speed will be slower. Choosing the right mobile company can be just as important as having a good signal and getting a good price! To compare companies, go to couverture-mobile.fr.
Q As a freelance writer, I need to make sure I can get help straightaway if my internet goes down. Which provider would you recommend for this?
A Many people working from home use a domestic service and get frustrated with the time it takes to fix problems. To ensure a problem is resolved faster, they should get a business line, but this does cost more. As in the UK, customers can use the national carrier or one of the many alternatives. However as all carriers use the national telephone line network, which is owned and managed by Orange, the same engineers will be repairing your line and repairs are undertaken in the order they are reported. It normally takes up to three days to repair a fault. A business line will be given priority, but the main restriction is engineer availability.
Q What common mistakes do people make when setting up broadband in France?
A The biggest problem is not understanding how the service works. The broadband speed provided by any telecoms company will always be the fastest that the line can support. However the actual speed is determined by the distance between the local exchange and a customer’s property. So, theoretically, if you live next door to the exchange you might get 20Mbps download, whereas if you live 5km away you may get just 1Mbps. Whatever the speed, the cost will be the same – save for one difference. If your speed is 2Mbps or faster, you can choose to have your calls put over your broadband service and this will avoid having to pay for a line rental. So, perversely, the faster service is also cheaper!
Q Prices vary from one provider to the next, what is a reasonable price for a phone-broadband package in France?
A This very much depends on the use you make of your property. If you are living in France full time, there is not too big a difference between the various offers. However, many include bundled services that will appeal to different customers. For example, UKTelecom is the only company that allows payment in both pounds and euros, with services that can be suspended and special support for gîte owners and their guests. Others, including Sosh and Free, offer no long-term contracts, but charge for activation and suspension of lines and broadband. Yet others concentrate on low prices, but the forums contain lots more complaints of poor customer service. Many also include calls to mobiles in their call packages, whereas we do not. So the old adage is generally true: you get what you pay for.
Bob Elliott is the Commercial Director at UKTelecom. He’s an expert in telephone networks and broadband and knows how to get the best from any service.
Tel: France (free): 0805 631632 – UK: +44 (0) 1483 477100