How To Get Access To The Internet In France
As an expat, exchange student or just a traveller setting foot in France, you will probably make getting access to Internet one of your priorities. Find out about the French broadband market and how to get online in France in the following guide.
- To sum things up
- The best way for you to get online in France largely depends on how long you plan to stay in France.
- You also have to take into account where you live in France, as some suppliers and types of broadband won't be accessible nationwide.
- Signing up to a plan in France is very easy and can be done over the phone, free of charge.
- Make sure you ask the important questions before you sign up to an internet plan.
The different options to get online in France
Getting access to the Internet in France is relatively easy, but the best way around it depends on whether you are just visiting France temporarily, or settling there long-term. Below are some suggestions for getting online in France depending on your situation.
Getting online during a short visit to France
Only in France for a short time? Here are your best bets to get online.
Using your foreign data allowance in France
If you are only visiting France for a few days or weeks, you clearly won't need to set up a French internet plan.
If you have a phone contract from somewhere else within the EU, the Roam like at Home rule set by the European Commission will automatically protect you from many extra fees for using your data in France (within the allowances set by your provider in your contract). This is thus a good option, but do check with your provider how much data is included in your plan, in order not to run out halfway through the month.
If, however, you have a contract from outside the EU, you will be better off going for another option, as using your home data will probably be extremely expensive.
Investing in an international SIM card
If you are planning on using a lot of data while in France, or if you are planning on visiting other countries after France (say, if you are on a multi-country road trip or visit various countries in a row for leisure or business), then you may want to invest in an international SIM card.
Indeed, this SIM will be very handy if you’re planning to travel across several countries over a month or more, as you will be able to change country without having to change your SIM card.
A good example of this is Flexiroam, which offers a microchip that functions by being stuck to your own SIM card. The Flexiroam chip then connects you to the most efficient of 580 networks in every location you visit. You can purchase data bundles for specific locations and periods of time, with allowances between 100 GB and 11 MB which can be used respectively over 10 days or 360 days.
Staying in France for over 3 months?If so, it's worth signing up for a postpaid mobile phone plan. In the long run, these are cheaper than pay-as-you-go and offer better allowances. Call our English-speaking advisors at 09 74 59 56 84 (Monday - Friday, 9:30 am-7:30 pm), or ask for a free callback to get help finding a plan that meets your needs
Using WiFi during your short stay in France
If all else fails, you can always fall back on using WiFi in France, which you will find is relatively widespread in France and especially big cities.
Here are a few examples of which places are worth checking out:
- Most airports and SNCF train stations
- Your hotel / hostel / Airbnb
- Shopping centres / cafes / restaurants / fast food chains
- Public places: libraries, tourist offices, some public parks
Getting online during a long-term stay in France
In the case where you are moving to France and planning on being there long-term, it will be much better value for you to get a French Internet plan set up.
You will find that you have a large range of offers and providers to choose from. The main four operators are Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free Mobile, but you also have smaller and low-cost providers too.
Providers typically offer their own Internet box, which gives you access to unlimited WiFi (except when opting for satellite), to which you can add a fixed line and TV (known as "Offres Triple Play"). But before you sign up for a plan, you will want to know which offers are accessible to you.
Optical fibre, ADSL or satellite?
In France, you have 3 ways to get online at home:
- Optical Fibre: the fastest type of broadband on the market, with connection speeds ranging from 100 Mbit/s to 1 Gbit/s. It is suitable for big households, for households with HD or 4K television, or those simply wanting to enjoy the best connection speed on the market. Just note that it is not available nationwide yet, so make sure you are eligible to optical fibre before you start the signing up process.
- ADSL: the standard broadband in France, with speeds of up to 20 Mbit/s. ADSL will definitely be enough for the average internet consumer, and will give you standard television quality.
- Satellite: this will be your last resort solution if you aren't eligible to fibre or ADSL. It may be your only option if you live in a remote area.
Zones dégroupées vs zones non-dégroupées
Another thing to note is that your access to the internet will also be determined by what zone you are in - either a "zone dégroupée" (unbundled zones) or a "zone non-dégroupée" (bundled zones).
Most of the French territory is in an unbundled zone today. In such zones,& the Internet infrastructure has been separated from the fixed telephone infrastructure, allowing multiple companies, along with the historical provider Orange (who still owns and operates a considerable amount of the phone and Internet infrastructures in the country) to operate in the same area. In these zones, Internet is of much higher speed and generally cheaper in these areas, and customers are free to choose any Internet service provider via fibre or high speed ADSL.
In some areas (mostly rural), known as zones non-dégroupées, Internet service providers must rent the use of the phone and Internet infrastructure from Orange. These zones represent just under 10% of the French territory and are quickly disappearing, but still, in these areas, Internet is generally slower and more expensive, and some services such as TV via ADSL might not be available.
Signing up to an Internet plan
Depending on what type of zone your home is located in, you may or may not have a choice of Internet provider. However, regardless of this, the information required for signing up for an Internet plan in France is as follows:
- Your contact details: full name, email address, telephone number (a French one if possible)
- Your full address: don't forget the apartment number and floor (e.g. third floor, door on the left). The name of the previous occupant may also help the supplier identify your home (for ADSL)
- Your banking information (known in France as RIB): you need to have a French bank account already set up before you sign up to an Internet plan. Some suppliers may also ask for your bank card (carte bancaire) information, which is used for activation fees/deposit
Asking yourself the important questions
- Is the offer available for me? Before signing up to an Internet plan, you will need to determine whether optical fibre or ADSL is available where you live. This can usually be done over the phone while signing up for an Internet plan
- How much does the plan cost per month?
- For how long am I committed to this plan? Some contracts tie you to a certain plan for 12 or even 24 months sometimes, so make sure you will be in France for that long and that the plan will be fitted to your needs for that whole period. Don't forget to also check whether there are any early cancellation fees if you change your mind or would like to switch suppliers.
- 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 are there?
- 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?