I have just published a new book on the French telecoms to assist English speakers wanting to get connected. With more than 120 pages packed full of honest and knowledgeable advice it brings together only found by hours of searching on the web. It is also packed with lots of advice on buying the right products, avoiding miss-selling and how to get things working again when something goes wrong.
In short it is essential reading for everyone with a French home, second home or running a small business in France.
Best of all it is free. Simply go the the web site and download. It is in PDF format and fully compatible with iPads etc. Use the link below:
With so many UK owned holiday properties in France there is a big but unsatisfied demand for broadband that can be suspended when the holiday home is unoccupied. Even major specialist companies like UKtelecom that has thousands of customers in France cannot offer this service. However France Telecom/Orange use their monopoly position to offer a low speed spendable service.
The service is not what it may seem as a letter in the June 2012 issue of French Property News - the specialist magazine for owners of French property shows. With many holiday homes located in rural areas, and hence with limited access to broadband, there are often more customers than the local exchange can support. So subscribers for the suspendable service are finding that there is a risk that suspending their service can result in it being cancelled and the capacity released given to a more profitable customer seeking a full time service.
I have reproduced the letter below as it will be of interest to many:
“Not So Worldwide Web?- Beware cancelling your broadband. We only spend three to four months of the year in France and so have never felt able to justify the cost of a full year’s payment for broadband (ADSL) into our French home, which is located in a village in the Pyrénées-Orientals.
So we were very pleased when we discovered a service from France Telecom (now Orange) that allowed you to cancel and then reconnect the ADSL service to match your time of residence in France. For a year this worked well, and we were able to keep in touch with the family at home in the UK via Skype and email, and to enjoy everything else the internet has to offer. It really made a difference to the whole ‘France experience’ and helped it to feel like a home from home.
In 2012 we tried to reinstate the service, but sadly it was not to be. After some confusion and contradiction we were finally told that we, and indeed anyone else in our village, could no longer be connected to the worldwide web, either because of a lack of capacity at the exchange, or a lack of demand - I’m still not sure which. There is no way to join a waiting list, so whether this situation will change in a week, a month or a year is anyone’s guess. This is not a hamlet half way up a mountain, but a village of more than 4,000 inhabitants with its ownmairie, a médiatheque(both fully online by the way), and a thriving community.
Bienvenueto the 21st century.
This is a problem that can only get bigger as demand for the service exceeds capacity in ever more areas. There is considerable pressure on France Telecom to increase capacity, both from home owners who see the value of their property adversely affected and from businesses who either do not come to areas where the service is not available or who move away.
I have several published articles giving tips for home owners using broadband in France. The two most popular of these were published on French Entrée’s web site. They consist of a two part feature and the links are shown below:
Broadband You Can Rely On
Getting the Most from Your Broadband
Telephone lines in France are owned by France Telecom and repairs are usually managed by subcontractors they appoint by region or department. As in the UK, you can choose to buy your line rental and other services from competitors. They manage your line in the same way and have equal access to all engineers should a fault arise. If you live in a rural area you may experience a higher incidence of faults because the lines will be carried by poles compared to underground ducts in urban areas so there is a higher possibility of problems.
However there are many other causes of faults. If you have experienced a storm your telephone might have been damaged by a power surge, there might be a fault with your internal cabling that will not be the responsibility of your supplier to repair, or there may simply be a handset failure. If you call an engineer out and they find the problem is with your handset or cabling you are likely to be charged at least 55€. So the first thing to do is eliminate the possibility of a handset fault. After disconnecting all handsets and your broadband modem if you have one, try plugging your handset (without using a filter) into the first socket in your property, which is maintained by your line rental provider. Then move to the next socket and so on. If the service is still not working try a different handset.
If you have a broadband service make sure you change the filter as these can occasionally fail. Your broadband service cannot work without a good line, but it can fail whilst the phone still works.
If the service is still not working give your provider a good description of the problem as it ensures an engineer is assigned to the problem for the right reason. Is it an intermittent fault, constant poor quality, interference or a difficulty calling certain types of destination? They can test your line remotely identifying a number of types of faults and quickly put repairs in hand.
If you live in a rural area and struggle with slow broadband things may improve for you soon.
France Telecom has announced that it is going to double its investment in fibre optic broadband services, bringing higher speeds to many. If you live in a city or town you will be amongst the first to benefit. However it’s unlikely that this will ever be rolled out to rural areas in the near future because of the cost. So if you suffer from slow broadband or no broadband at all you need to examine the alternatives. Until last summer your choices were most often limited to a Wimax, or a slow satellite service using a single beam with the speed getting slower the further you live from the centre of it, neither of which meet many peoples’ expectations.
The latest satellite broadband service known as KA-SAT has revolutionised broadband for remote areas as it guarantees 10Mb anywhere in France. This is done with 82 spot beams one of which will be focused on your area. It is very reliable because there are no telephone lines involved and as you have your own link with the satellite your speed does not decrease if others near you are also online at the same time. You can also use the service for good value phone calls and you will not have to pay a line rental.
There are two important considerations. Firstly, this is not a product for gamers or file sharing. Unlike fixed line services the amount of data is usually limited and users buy a package suitable to their needs. Secondly, the installation costs are higher but there are offers that allow this to be spread over a year. The up side is that your property will increase in value if it is sold with this service in place, so offsetting the cost later.
One other possibility is that some Mairies offer assistance with the installation costs because of the benefits to businesses and people in the community. Most suppliers can tell you if there is a scheme in your area.
It is always good to review your services as telecommunication is a fast moving market. Most companies bring two new products to market each year so look at the possibility of saving by either moving supplier or purchasing different services! Look out for new products that enable you to take your French number with you wherever you are in the world; as long as you have access to a broadband service you can receive calls as though you are still at home and also make calls using your call package. Some will also provide you with both French and UK numbers; very helpful if you work or commute between the UK and France. Also look out for applications for your mobile phone that will enable you to make calls using your home line’s call package rather than the more expensive mobile network if you are within a wifi zone.
Check to see if your calls can go over your broadband service, if your speed is below 2Mb the call quality may be unacceptable. Savings of about 16€ a month are only worth having if you replace a good service with another good service!
If you buy call packages to make savings do consider suspending them if you are going to be away – most companies allow this without charge. More companies are offering call packages that include calls to French and UK mobiles. Make sure you check the details as there can be big differences in prices for calls outside of the package. Also, if you have to make a large number of calls to UK numbers starting with 0845 or similar there are big differences in charges depending on the company.
Finally, remember that price is not always everything. There are big differences in the level of customer service with some of the big companies having a bad reputation and some of the smaller ones serving the English speaking sector having as little as two staff!
Orange, which carries ambitious Free mobile traffic may block their service during peak times because of congestion. For more on this story click on the link below:
There have been several pieces of press coverage on the ground breaking offer in January this year, with the larger competitors most affected by the new low prices making harsh comments about the quality of the service.
Difficulties when attempting to make calls at peak times and other issues were recently the subject of comment on TeleGeograpgy’s web site. I have shown a link to the page below:
France Telecom has promised to increase its investment in Fibre services to bring high speed broadband to more people.
The link below is to a short piece I contributed to in the April edition of French Property News:
This type of telephone line is provided specifically for second home owners and you must be able to prove that your main residence is at another property to be able to subscribe to this service. It enables you to suspend the line rental when you are not in residence and so save money. You can only have this type of line directly from France Telecom.
This option is not suitable for use with a broadband service. This is because every time the line is suspended it will remove the broadband facility, meaning that cancellation fees will be charged by your broadband supplier. In addition on your return new activation charges will be payable also, the total costs being far more than the line rental charges that would have been saved. There is a slow speed broadband offer from Orange that you can consider though that is capable of being suspended. However with the growth of social network use and sharing information this may not be attractive.
The good news is that you can still use another provider for your calls. As with most national carriers, France Telecom is expensive and there are many alternative providers with attractive pay as you go tariffs and call packages that will save you money. Shopping around can save you up to 60% if you have a typical call pattern.
Also, it is important to be aware that France Telecom is quicker than many other national companies abroad to cut the telephone line if bills are not paid promptly. Again, if there is a broadband service on the line this will be ceased automatically also, again incurring considerable cancellation and new activation charges.