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French Internet Service: how to get online in France
So you've just arrived (or are moving to) France. How can you get Internet access? This guide explains your options for connecting to the Internet in France, and outlines how to get Internet service in France.
Internet in France: your options
Like most countries throughout Europe, Internet usage in France is high. Many shops/cafes/fast-food chains offer free wifi, though you'll find fewer options in smaller towns. Tourist offices throughout many cities in France sometimes offer free wifi access, as do most hotels/B&Bs/hostels. Internet cafes are quite common as well.
Your best option for getting connected to Internet depends on whether you are visiting France or staying in the country for an extended period of time. If you are coming to France to study or work, you may find you have Internet access at your office or school library, but it's likely that you'll also need Internet access at home. Here are our suggestions for getting Internet access in France depending on your situation:
Visiting France: Internet Access for a Short Stay
If you are staying in France for a short time period (i.e. less than three months), you can probably get by without buying an Internet plan for your stay. Depending on where you are in France, some of the following options for Internet may be available to you:
- Internet access at your hotel/B&B/hostel
- Where to find free wifi in France: try larger shops/cafes/fast-food chains, shopping malls, tourist offices, or public libraries. Some public parks in bigger French cities (Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux) offer free wifi. Free wifi is also available at the Charles de Gaulle and Orly Airports in Paris
- Internet cafes
- Data through your current phone provider (keeping in mind that this may be expensive, depending on your current plan)
Moving to a Home in France and Starting Internet Service
If you have a home in France and are responsible for utilities, you will likely want to set up Internet (along with other utilities such as electricity or natural gas). You have a varied choice of Internet providers throughout most of France, with four main actors dominating the market (Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom, and Free). Some of these providers also operate low-cost brands as well.
There are two options for the type of Internet access for your home:
- Optical Fibre: with connection speeds between 100 Mbit/s and 1 Gbit/s, the optical fibre is useful for big households and households with HD or 4K television. However, it is not available everywhere in France, so you will need to verify with your chosen Internet provider whether this is an option.
- ADSL: with a connection speed of up to 20 Mbit/s, ADSL is sufficient for one person with a standard quality television.
Pricing of Internet plans are fairly similar for both technologies, but optical fibre is considerably faster than ADSL. Internet access at home will be unlimited unlimited with both these options. In addition to offering Internet service, all providers also offer bundle packages that can include additional services such as fixed-line telephone, television, or mobile phone plans.
Internet Options in Rural Areas
Broadband is still not an option in some rural parts of France. If your home is in a zone blanche (an area not covered by a telecommunications provider), you will want to look into satellite technology for your telephone and Internet access.
How the Internet Market Works in France
Zones Dégroupées and Zones Non-Dégroupées Explained
One thing to note about Internet access in France is that your options depend on what type of "zone" you are in. The historic telecommunications provider in France is Orange (formerly France Télécom), which still owns and operates a considerable amount of the phone and Internet infrastructure throughout France. In some areas though, access to Internet is slower and generally more expensive (see below).
Throughout most of France, the Internet infrastructure has been separated from the fixed telephone infrastructure, allowing multiple companies to operate in the same area (zones dégroupées). Internet is of much higher speed and generally cheaper in these areas.
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 phone lines in France and are quickly disappearing. High speed broadband is generally not available in zones non-dégroupées, nor are certain other services commonly offered by Internet service providers (TV via ADSL). Customers still have a choice of provider in the zones non-dégroupées, though offers are not as competitive.
However, most areas in France are zones dégroupées, meaning that the phone and Internet infrastructure has been "unbundled" and customers are free to choose any Internet service provider. High speed ADSL and optical fibre technologies are available in zones dégroupées.
There is also a third possibility, dégroupage partiel (partial unbundling), in which consumers must sign up for a phone line with Orange but are then free to choose a different Internet service provider. Internet access is generally more expensive than in zones dégroupées, but speed is faster than in the zones non-dégroupées.
How to Sign Up for an Internet Plan in France: a step-by-step guide
Need Internet for Your Home in France? Call our English-speaking customer support at 09 77 55 72 27 (Monday to Friday, 9.30am-7.30pm), to find an Internet plan that suits your needs You can also ask for a free callback.
Depending on what type of zone your home is located in, you may or may not have a choice of Internet provider. However, the information required for signing up for an Internet plan in France is the same, regardless of the provider:
- Your contact information: name, email address, (French) telephone number
- 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 (RIB): you need to have a French bank account already set up before you sign up for an Internet plan. Some suppliers may also ask for your bank card (carte bancaire) information, which is used for activation fees/deposit.
Choosing an Internet Plan: questions to ask
Internet offers in France are quite competitive, so it's well worth taking a bit of time to compare suppliers and plans. Asking yourself some of the following questions will help you find the internet plan that best meets your needs.
Need a Phone Plan as Well? Most Internet service providers offer package deals, combining internet + phone, internet + television, or all three ("triple play")
- Is the offer available for me? Before signing up for 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? Don't forget to 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? 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, or an early cancellation fee?
If you need to terminate your broadband plan with a French operator, you can use our termination service. Select your operator and fill in your contact information. The website will generate a letter in French that will be sent by registered mail.