Setting Up Home Internet in Stuttgart
It’s normal to be in a rush to get Internet set up when you move to town—so much of our lives involve online access. However, you would do well to take a little bit of time to shop around and check the fine print on your “Festnetz” offers before you get locked into one you won’t be satisfied with long term.
Pricing and offers on various products and speeds are constantly changing, but this guide will help you think through the most important questions to consider before getting connected.
1. What’s the minimum contract term?
All right, that’s probably not the first question you think of, but it helps to put in perspective why it’s so important to go carefully when choosing an Internet package in Germany.
Most home Internet contracts (regardless of the provider) run for a minimum of two years, with no possibility of early exit. Don’t be fooled by the “three-month cancellation period”—that’s just how much notice you need to give before your contract will renew for another year.
Let’s put that in practical terms. If you sign a normal home Internet contract in June 2021, you will be locked into paying the monthly fee until June 2023 and you will need to cancel by the end of March 2023. Otherwise you will be contractually obliged to continue paying that monthly fee for another year: until June 2024.
Unlike what’s common in many other countries, there’s no switching providers or paying an early cancellation fee. The only way to get out of the contract before the minimum term is complete is to move far enough away (usually at least 200km, although this varies by provider).
There are providers who offer shorter terms or even flexible month-to-month service, but you’ll pay a premium for flexibility. It may even be cheaper to pay for a year’s contract than a month-to-month if you think you’ll need the service for at least three months.
2. What products and speeds are offered at my address?
Just because you live in Stuttgart doesn’t mean that you will have access to the full range of products any given Internet service provider is offering. Infrastructure updates are relatively slow in Germany, due to a legacy of formerly state-owned telecommunications lines. That means there’s no point getting your heart set on cable or fiber optics until you check what’s possible where you live.
It doesn’t really matter which provider you check with first—if your neighborhood is only wired for DSL at 16 Mbit/s, then that is the fastest you’ll be able to get from any provider. It can be especially frustrating to notice that these slower DSL contracts often cost more than cable or fiber optic connections that are at least three times faster! It’s better to resign yourself to it from the start, because the Internet service providers aren’t very worried about competing for this market and prices are fairly standard. The upside is that it won’t matter too much which provider you choose, since the connection will be equally stable from any of them.
If you’re lucky enough to be living in an area with high-speed DSL, cable or fiber optic connections, though, then it’s well worth shopping around.
3. What providers are there in Stuttgart?
There are four main Internet service providers in Stuttgart: Telekom, Vodafone, 1&1, and O2.
Telekom is the company that used to be the state-run telecommunications company, which means they can be found everywhere. They are also still the gatekeeper through which the other companies need to pass in order to access DSL and phone lines. That means if you want to get connected quickly, they are a very good bet. Their customer service is fairly solid and they are responsive when there are service interruptions. They have fiber optic connections in limited areas. Unfortunately they tend to be the most expensive option, even when taking into consideration the discount they offer for bundling a mobile phone contract.
Vodafone is extremely popular in Stuttgart and you can find service shops all over, including in the surrounding towns. They often have attractive offers, most especially when it comes to bundling services—you can get significant discounts when you have both cell phone and Internet or cable TV and Internet, or all three. They are inconsistent in terms of customer service, which can be very frustrating; however, it can be turned to your advantage. First, by going to different local branches of Vodafone, you can get different offers when bundling services, which can add up to significant savings. Secondly, if you are dealing with a problem on the phone with a customer service representative and they are telling you something isn’t possible or are unwilling to give you a refund on an extra charge, simply hang up and call again, because the next person may mysteriously be able to do much more for you.
They recently acquired UnityMedia, which used to be the only provider of cable Internet in Stuttgart. The companies are not yet fully integrated, which means they share some information but have separate billing and customer service departments (which may be relevant if you have a Vodafone cell phone but want cable Internet—Vodafone will sell a cable Internet plan to you but you’ll have to call the UnityMedia number for everything afterward).
If you are a member of the US government or army, you might also want to check out TKS, another Vodafone company.
1&1 is a solid company that offers both DSL and (in a few areas) fiber optic connections. They often have good offers price-wise, although it may take a while to get a service appointment for setting things up. They are also very well rated on customer service.
O2 is among the cheapest providers in Stuttgart. However, they drastically cut Internet speed after the monthly contractual data limit. If you are a heavy Internet user (lots of streaming or video games), they won’t be the right choice for you.
4. How can I compare plans from providers?
There are comparison websites for just that purpose. Check24.de is one of the best rated and includes a “nowhere cheaper” guarantee. There you can find many smaller Internet service providers who spend less on advertising and rely on such websites to bring them customers. You may even be able to get contracts to the main providers above using Check24 to get a better price. You can conveniently set up your search to compare specific products—for example, if you have already checked the availability of fiber optics in your area, you might limit your search to DSL at a certain speed. You can also set price constraints.
However, such comparison sites don’t take into consideration all the discounts you may be able to receive by bundling together other products. Once you have narrowed down the types of services you’re interested in, it may well be worth checking with the individual providers to see what special offers you may be able to receive.
Of course, it’s important to check all the fine print, regardless of how you do your comparison. It’s common for there to be one price for the first 6 or 12 months and a higher price afterward—and again, since you can’t cancel a 24-month contract early, you really have to average the monthly cost across the two years. There may also be one-time installation and setup fees (although these may often be waived, especially when you shop around).
5. What else should I watch out for?
There are some special situations that can blindside you if you have never encountered them before. If you’re willing to go the extra mile in asking questions, you may save yourself some grief later on.
Customer service representatives are quick to offer assurances that getting connected will be easy and is guaranteed to happen by a certain date—but if you don’t have that guarantee in your contract, it doesn’t mean anything. Ask your provider what assurances you have if your initial connection is delayed or if there are service interruptions. They may offer a mobile hotspot option or give you addition mobile phone data if you also have a cell phone plan with them.
Do you live in an apartment building or a multiple-family house? When you are talking about initial setup, insist that the service provider check whether there are any blocks on new connections. If building management previously gave notice about a construction project or electrical issue, the provider won’t send a technician to connect you until the management company has given them an all clear. And your signing an Internet contract doesn’t mean the provider will check back with the management company—they’ll just leave you to try to sort things out. After you’ve signed the contract (meaning you’ll have to pay for two years starting from whenever they connect you), you’ll no longer have any leverage.
It’s also sometimes the case that the management company has set up a building-wide contract with a particular Internet service provider. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t use another provider, but it will mean that initial setup is more complicated. Or if you do use that provider, you’ll need the contract or customer number for the building so that your contract can be added to it. Sound confusing? Well, surely it’s better to figure it all out before you’ve already locked yourself in and are stuck without Internet in the meantime!
Hopefully your journey to getting your home connected to the Internet will be quick and easy—perhaps thanks to having considered the possible pitfalls in advance! If you’re also looking for a cell phone plan, be sure to check out this article.