How to Subscribe to a Phone Plan in France
One of your first missions upon arriving in France, as a foreigner, will probably be to get set up with a phone contract. Find out how to subscribe to a French mobile plan in the following guide.
- To sum things up
- There are 4 main mobile phone providers in France, plus smaller providers and low-cost brands
- Most providers offer both regular phone contracts and prepaid SIM cards
- Prepaid plans give immediate access to a French number, but are more costly in the long run
- Regular phone plans in France have additional advantages like data, free calls to countries abroad, etc
The main phone providers in France
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to phone providers in France. Indeed, the market is competitive and occupied by various types of suppliers, making it certain that you'll find the one right for you.
The major French telecom suppliers
The French mobile market is dominated by the "big four":
Orange, the historical actor on the market. It is still today the most popular telecom operator in France, representing over a third of all the phone contracts in the country. It also has a low-cost mobile brand, Sosh.
Bouygues Telecom, which is known for its comprehensive quadruple play offers and its below-the-average prices.
Free Mobile, the most recent of the four operators, which shook up the market upon its creation and in 2007, as it was pricing its offers at extremely low costs. This made the market become a lot more competitive and forced the other companies to bring prices right down. Free Mobile today boasts over 13 millions customers for mobile contracts.
The other French operators: MVNOs
Aside from these top 4 operators, several other, smaller and low-cost brands also operate on the side. These are known as mobile virtual network operators, aka MVNOs. Unlike the main providers, these don't own a mobile network, but rather they purchase telecommunications from Orange, SFR or Bouygues Telecom.
While these operators won't have as comprehensive offers as major providers, you may find their plans are a lot cheaper, and some such as Lebara and Lycamobile are focused on international allowances, which is particularly interesting for expats and exchange students.
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 calling time/data allowances. Call our English-speaking customer service line at 09 74 59 56 84 (Monday - Friday, 9:30 am - 7:30 pm), or ask for a free callback to help you find a plan that meets your needs
Choosing a Mobile Phone Plan in France
We give you a few guidelines below to help you figure out what type of plan will work for you.
Regular phone plan vs prepaid SIM card
One of the first thing to determine is whether you want to opt for a regular phone plan, which you pay for on a monthly basis, or a prepaid plan which you pay for "as you go". The best option for you depends largely on how long you plan on staying in France.
Prepaid SIM cards in France
If you need a French phone number quickly, are don't plan on staying in France long-term, prepaid SIM cards will probably be the ideal solution for you. Both major and small operators provide this option, and all you need to get started is to purchase a SIM card (carte prépayée) and associated credit - provided you already own a phone. You will find recharges readily available, not only online and in the provider's boutiques but also at newsagents, tobacconists, and in many supermarkets.
Before committing to a SIM card, finding answers to the following questions will help you get a better idea of which prepaid phone offer is best for you:
- The cost of the SIM card: how much does the initial SIM card cost?
- The allowance: how many minutes / SMS / data does the plan?
- The connection fees: am I charged a fixed amount just to connect a call, or am I charged per second?
- Recharge fees: how much do recharges cost?
- Credit validity: how long do I have to use my credit before it expires?
- Voice messaging: can people leave a message on my phone when you are unable to take a call?
Regular phone plans in France
If, on the other hand, you plan on settling in France for over 3 months, and will need to use data frequently, then a regular phone plan will be better suited and will work out cheaper. Both the major providers and MNVOs offer such plans, for prices as low as €2 per month, and oftentimes featuring unlimited texts in France (SMS & MMS).
Some plans come with extra perks, such as "country passes" which allow you to makes calls from the country to France at no additional charges, reduced rates if you get it with an internet box at the same time, or access to WiFi hotspots.
Just note that, as explained below, some regular phone plans will tie you down to a commitment period which could go up to 2 years.
Phone plans: with or without a contract?
Another factor that should play into your decision is whether or not you take up a contract period with your plan. Indeed, some regular phone plans come with a contract (and are known as "forfaits avec engagement"), locking you in for 12 to 24 months, or without a minimum duration (which are the "forfait sans engagement").
Getting a French phone without a commitment period
You will find that all of the low-cost providers, be it Sosh, RED by SFR, La Poste Mobile, etc, as well as Free Mobile, offer contract-free plans. These can either be basic, with limited allowances for calls, texts and data, or more comprehensive plans with unlimited phone calls, unlimited text messages, international calls and Internet
While this option is very flexible, and avoids you paying any fees when you decide to cancel your contract, be aware that you need to own a phone beforehand to get this type of plan, and that in most cases customer service will be online-based.
Getting a French phone plan with a commitment
While the contractless postpaid plans offer low rates and flexibility, plans with a contract can sometimes be a better option. If you are quite certain to be staying in France for a couple of years, then this type of plan will definitely be cost-effective, especially if you wish to get a new phone to go with it.
Phone plans with a contract generally come with extra perks that aren't available for contract-less plans, such as subscriptions to video on demand (VOD) or to music channels like Spotify.
How to sign up to a French phone plan
You can sign up for a phone plan with a provider in one of their stores, online, or over the phone. You can also directly get in touch with the English-speaking Selectra advisors, who will be able to get you set up with a plan that'll suit your needs and your budget. Just call 09 74 59 56 84, or ask for a free callback.
You will need to have the following information with you when signing up for a mobile phone plan in France:
- Your contact information: full name, email address, a French phone number if possible
- Your full address: street address, apartment number, postcode
- Your banking information (known as RIB in France): you need to have a French bank account already set up before you sign up for a postpaid mobile phone plan. Some suppliers may also ask for your bank card (carte bancaire) information, which is used for activation fees/deposit.