Internet and Telephone in France: Procedures and Tips for Expats

Once you've moved to France, chances are one of your first missions will probably be to get a French phone plan and a connection to the Internet. This guide is here to take you through the main steps and procedures, from signing up to a plan to cancelling a contract, should you ever need to do so.

Setting up a phone and Internet plan in France

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With so much to deal with when you move to France, like any other country, getting all your new life in shape may feel a little overwhelming. But don't worry, It will just be a matter of planning ahead and taking one task at a time. 

Once you have set up energy in your French home, set up a French bank, the next step is to sort out your WiFi and phone in France. You have plenty of options to get online and make calls in France. 

Check out our Selectra Checklist to moving to France, which will help you organise your move and not forgetting anything both before and after you settle in France.

Getting an Internet Plan in France

Below is the process to follow to get online in France. As explained, your options will largely depend on whereabouts you live in France.

Internet in France: what are your options?

There are 3 options to get Internet access for your home:

  1. 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 check your eligibility to fibre beforehand.
  2. ADSL: with a connection speed of up to 20 Mbit/s, ADSL is sufficient for one person with standard quality television.
  3. Satellite: if you are unable to get connected to either of the first two options - if you live in a rural French area - satellite is a good alternative.

To check the availability of optical fibre, ADSL and satellite for your French home address, call us at 09 77 55 72 27 (Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 9 pm and 9:30 am to 6:30 pm on Saturdays and on Sundays 9 am to 5 pm), or ask for a free callback.

Note that pricing of Internet plans are fairly similar for all 3 technologies, but optical fibre is considerably faster than ADSL and satellite. Internet access at home will be unlimited with both optical and ADSL options, but not always with satellite.  

Many French broadband providers also offer bundle packages that include a fixed-line telephone, television, or mobile phone plans (more info further on).

Zones Dégroupées vs Zones Non-Dégroupées

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One thing to be aware of is that in France, Internet access can depend on what type of "zone" you are in: a "zone dégroupée" (unbundled zones) or "zone non-dégroupée" (bundled zones).  

Today, most of France is in a "zone dégroupée", meaning 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 infrastructure in the country).to operate in the same area. In these zones, the 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. In these zones, the Internet is generally slower and more expensive, and some services such as TV via ADSL might not be available.

Find out how fast your connection is by taking our free and instant Internet speed test.

Getting a Phone Plan in France

There are four main mobile phone providers in France, but smaller providers and low-cost brands also exist. Most providers offer prepaid SIM cards and regular phone contract options. These include various texts, calling and data allowances, some of which can be used abroad in many cases.

You will in many cases be able to purchase a new phone to go along with your plan, but you can also keep your previous phone (in this case, make sure it can be unlocked to use in France).

All you need to know about mobile phone plans in France is in this detailed guide.

Choosing a French telecom provider

You have plenty of French phone and broadband providers to choose from.

The four largest telecoms providers in France are Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free. For mobile phones, you also have a range of MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators), which are low-cost providers.

The important questions to ask before choosing a telecom plan

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Before settling for a provider and plan, here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • 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?

Finding a telecom plan to fit your budget

If price is one of your main criteria for choosing a phone or internet deal, check out these regularly updated French Internet and Phone promotions as detailed in this other article.

Many providers also offer very basic yet efficient plans, such as phone contracts for down to €2 per month or Internet boxes for €15 per month.

Check out the articles dedicated to each provider, as well as for more info on their current offers and tariffs.

Need Internet or a Phone in France? Call our English-speaking customer support at 09 77 55 72 27 (Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 9 pm and 9:30 am to 6:30 pm on Saturdays and on Sundays 9 am to 5 pm), to find an Internet plan that suits your needs You can also ask for a free callback.

Documents needed to sign up to a phone or internet plan

Once your choice is made, you can simply ring Selectra as stated just above. regardless of your provider of choice, you will be required to give the following information:

  • Your contact information: name, email address, (French) telephone number
  • Your full address: include the apartment number and floor, and if possible the name of the previous occupant to 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.

Setting up a French fixed line

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You may also want to get set up with a fixed telephone line while in France.

The good news is that many mobile providers also offer a fixed-line as part of their packages (known as "offre triple play"), and it will often work out cheaper if you sign on to a fixed-line through one of these packages.

This said, if you really just want a fixed-line on its own, your two providers of choice will be Orange and SFR, the only ones to offer it as a stand-alone offer. In this case, tariffs will range between €20 and €30, and the line activation will take between 28 and 60 days.

Find out all about signing up to a fixed line in France in this dedicated guide.

Cancelling a phone and Internet plan in France

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There may come a point where you will need or want to cancel your telecom contracts, whether you are moving away from France or simply switching to another provider. 

Cancelling a telecom contract in France generally isn't too complicated, but it may incur some fees and conditions which you will want to be aware of.

When it comes to cancelling a French phone plan, whether you will be charged depends on the contract period you were tied to.

If you are on a contract-free postpaid phone plan (a forfait sans engagement), you can leave your plan at any time without penalty. However, if you are on a plan with a contract (for 12 or 24 months) you may be subject to cancellation fees (frais de résiliation) if you leave your plan before it reaches its term.

The same applies to cancelling a French internet contract, which is often subject to 12-month periods. You will be asked to return  

Note that you will need to send off a Cancellation letter to your Internet and / or broadband supplier.

Filing a complaint about a French mobile or Internet contract

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In the unlikely case of a disagreement or dispute with your provider, the way to go is to file a complaint.

The first thing you should do in the event of a problem for which you would like to make a complaint is to contact your provider's customer service. Each provider has a dedicated address for responding to complaints.

Upon getting in touch with your supplier, make sure to have the following information at hand:

  • Your account number
  • Your contact information (email, address, phone number) so that customer service can reach you
  • The service in question (mobile, Internet, fixed telephone line, television)
  • A detailed description of the problem

If this does not suffice, you will have to escalate your complaint to the supplier's mediator, and if this still doesn't resolve the dispute it shall have to be handled by the National Mediator for Electronic Communications.

Find out more about how to file a telecom complaint in France in this dedicated guide.

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