The basics of internet service in Germany
With the many challenging topics of being stationed abroad comes the seemingly simple task of picking an internet provider in Germany. Internet service providers in Germany offer good service at competitive prices. DSL/broadband plans are quite standard, as glass fiber networks are not yet available in much of the country.
Primary internet service providers in Germany
Telekom: Still partly owned by the German state, Telekom was the sole operator until the market was privatized. This means that it's the one provider also in charge of the physical network up to this date, sending technicians to open lines on the field. It’s a good choice if you need an internet connection quickly.
O2: Well known across Europe, O2 has a widespread network of physical shops and aggressive price strategies.
1&1: This internet provider is largely unknown outside of Germany, but it has gained in popularity the past few years with fast request processing times, good hardware and reasonable customer service. A good pick overall.
Vodafone: Also present on the German market, Vodafone is preferred by premium-oriented customers, thanks to comprehensive packages that provides landline phone, TV and internet in one contract.
TKS: This solid alternative for military personnel is a Vodafone Kabel Deutschland company resulting from a cooperation between the US European Command and the German ministry of telecommunications. Its mission to provide U.S. & British servicemembers quality access to internet, cable and phone services. Although plans start at a higher price than standard players, TKS accepts VAT forms for tax-free billing and offers 24-hour customer care in English and no minimum contract duration. It's definitely a good choice that can be combined with cable television or mobile plans.
The typical process to sign-up for a contract
A good tip is to go on comparison websites such as Preisvergleich.de or Check24 and enter your postal code to get started. It will give you good overview of what's possible while letting you select the most competitive package.
After looking at different offers and making a decision, it will probably take at three weeks or longer to set everything up. The internet provider will send you all your documents and hardware, but you can't use it yet. A technician needs to open your line, which can take some time.
In terms of costs, expect around 25 euros a month for a DSL line (16Mbits/sec), as well as one-time fees for hardware and set-up (between 40 and 100 euros). You will need a German bank account for this.
How to remain flexible in case you are deployed somewhere else
Flexibility is a deep concern for most army personnel when considering a German internet provider. No one likes to be stuck in a long-term contract with incoming bills long after having moved to a new location abroad or back home. An equivalent of the Civil Relief Act that lets you out of contracts due to military orders doesn't exist in Germany.
This is why it is important to pick the right kind of contract when looking at the market. A standard contract is usually tied to a two-year term, renewed yearly after that. You will need to give your provider three-month’s written notice before the end of the contract to avoid auto-renewal.
If that's too long for you, search online for “Ohne Mindestlaufzeit” or “Ohne Mindestvertragslaufzeit,” which translates to “no minimum contract duration.” In that case, you still pay on a monthly basis, but there is no commitment to a yearly contract. However, the three-month’s notice rule still applies.
Some internet providers in Germany are more understanding of military personnel's situations and will terminate the contract with sufficient proof. An additional bill for closing the account might apply, though.
How can I get customer support in English?
If your German is not too good at this point, it might be best to get the help of a German-speaking friend when picking a contract to avoid any mishaps or details hiding in the fine print. You can also find assistance with translation services at your local Airman & Family Readiness Center or Army Community Service.
After signing the contract, and if problems arise, you might need customer support in English. Judging from feedback around forums and testimonies from expats, it can be a hit or miss situation. If that is really worrying you, select a provider with shops in your city. Before signing any contract, stop by a shop to make sure the personnel there can speak English, in case you need support in the future.
If you have followed all those steps carefully, you will enjoy a worry-free internet connection to stay in touch with people back home and save a few extra bucks to enjoy your time in Europe.
This post was adapted from a post on the blog Settle in Berlin about internet providers in Germany. Settle in Berlin is a simple blog helping individuals navigate the waters of Germany since 2011. It was quoted by the Berliner Zeitung and the governement-issued magazine Deutschland Aktuell as a go-to resource for foreigners.