Phone and internet in France ©Günter-Menzl

High up on everyone’s list when setting up a new home in France is getting a telephone line and almost always a broadband service ready for the day they move in. Here are the key pieces of information you need to keep costs to a minimum and have a working service on the date you need it.

If the previous owner had a line

The usual requirement is to have a previously installed telephone line reactivated. As the French network is owned by Orange this is the only company that can do this. If the line has been active within the preceding two years and you can provide either the subscriber’s name or the telephone number Orange will be able to connect you remotely and this will cost €55. The process usually takes 5 working days. If you cannot provide this information or the line has been out of use for longer an engineer will have to attend and it will cost €124 and you will need to allow up to 10 working days for the activation. You will be given a timed appointment and if you do not keep it you are likely to be charged for the engineer’s wasted time.

If a completely new line

If there has never been a line at the property and there is not a nearby telephone pole you will be charged for the installation of however many are required. You will be given a quote before work will start and you should be prepared for a cost of approximately €500 per pole.

It is at this time that you should also decide what if any directory entries you want or if you wish to be ex-directory. There are also several line services that you can have put in place, some free such as number permanently withheld, find out who last called you, withhold your own number and others that cost €1 per month including voicemail, call waiting, call barring, and number display, for example.



You can rent your telephone line and any call packages and broadband services from both French and specialist telecom companies with special services for English speaking expats. UKtelecom is the only company offering the choice of paying bills in £s or €s.

Approximately 80% of subscribers also want broadband and unlike some countries where we can order simultaneous installation of both a new line and broadband, in France a broadband order can only be placed once the line is working. The activation of broadband will take up to 10 working days after the new line is active. This will be a remotely applied service so there will be no engineer attendance.

Broadband speed is becoming increasingly important. However investment in the national network is slow and many rural areas have properties where the speed is very slow or even where broadband is not available. If broadband is essential run a remote test before you buy. Go to and put in your number and find out what speed is available. If you prefer your chosen supplier will do this for you while you wait on the phone and also interpret the results if that helps. If the speed is slow they will also be able to let you know if there are any planned upgrades at the exchange serving your property, so it is worth speaking with them.

Save money

One difference between the UK and France is that, provided your line is sufficiently fast, you can have all your calls carried over your broadband service. This is known as dégroupage totale and it has the important advantage that this service does not require you to pay for the line rental which is €17.96per month. Do not be tempted to ask for this service to be applied to a broadband speed of less than 2Mb as call quality will be disappointing.

When looking at the various offers available do remember that the specialist companies offering services for expats will usually be cheaper that the main French ones for calls to non-geographic overseas numbers and they will often have a number of free services that will be attractive to you. This will include a free ‘translation’ of your French number into a low cost UK number that you can pass to friends and family in the UK. When they use this number instead of your French one they will be charged just 3 pence per minute to call you compared to the standard BT charge of 40 pence per minute. You can also receive UK catch-up TV free from a broadband service and high-quality customer care and technical support in English is available via a free phone number.

Bob Elliott UK TelecomBob Elliott is the Commercial Director of UK Telecom, provider of telephone lines, broadband and satellite broadband services. With ten years of experience in the French telecoms market for English-speaking expats., Bob provides useful tips and advice on anything from a simple line rental to satellite broadband and VoIP calls, and everything in between.