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Maximize your French gîte bookings with fast broadband

Maximize your French gîte bookings with fast broadband
Nov

gite

One of the silent killers of gîte bookings today is the aggregate of all those potential guests that simply click away and skip a listing because the gîte doesnt offer fast broadband. With most homes having six or more internet connected devices, and many of them being brought along on holiday with their owners, holiday makers have quickly raised this service towards the top of their list of requirements.

The difficulty lies in the location of these gîtes. The vast majority are set in beautiful and picturesque -but rather remote- rural areas, away from the large metropolis. Consequently, the local telecom services may not be up to the same standards as those in urban areas.

Click here to read the full article >

How to test your broadband speed before you buy your French property

How to test your broadband speed before you buy your French property
Jul

It is not always simple to check what internet service available in the exact property you are planning to buy. Its essential to make sure that the broadband haut-débit speeds promised on paper will actually be there once you move in and have your line connected. You dont want ugly surprises after you move in!

In theory you should be able to test your expected internet connection just with the address, but in practice sometimes houses located right next to each other have different broadband speeds depending on the age of the line, where they are routed and the original materials used when the line was first connected.

If you havent bought yet and are still looking at properties let us do a broadband speed test while you wait, interpret the results for you and give you honest and knowledgeable advice about what services would be best for that location as some rural properties cannot get standard broadband, which is something you would want to know before buying. All without any obligation!

Click here to read the rest of the article >>

Living France June 2015 issue

Living France June 2015 issue
Jun

Ever wondered how to get English-language films
in your French home? Its easier than you think,
says Bob Elliott

 

Living France is the essential guide for anyone who dreams of a new life in France. Published 13 times a year, it is packed with detailed guides to the best locations to start your new life, inspirational stories from expats already living across the Channel and invaluable expert advice on everything from legal and financial issues to property and renovation. Available in selected WHSmith, Sainsburys, Tesco and independent newsagents, the magazine is also sold online on www.buyamag.co.uk or you can take advantage of our subscription offers on www.subscriptionsave.co.uk

Living France

Visit our website www.completefrance.com for more great articles about France.

Click the links below to read the articles created by Uk Telecoms Commercial Director Bob Elliott. Bob regulary contributes to a number of publications, you can read more of his articles in our news section.

Living France June 2015 UK Telecoms expert – June 2015 (download PDF)

UK TELECOM IN THE CONNEXION MAGAZINE

UK TELECOM IN THE CONNEXION MAGAZINE
May

The Connexion is the foremost English language newspaper circulated throughout France each month.

In addition to its paper it has a substantial web site and free email broadcasts.  They also publish a very wide range of guides that assist expats understand the French systems.

Bob Elliott, UKTs Commercial Director, has a column in the newspaper where readers and subscribers questions are answered.

You can find on the following pages many of the questions that have been asked and the answers given.  This popular series has been running for several years and contain a wealth of expert knowledge that will help you both choose the most appropriate service to meet your needs and understand many of the peculiarities of French telecoms.

 

[atab title=”Simply click on the question you are interested in below to see the answer.”][/atab]

[atab title=”Q: I am thinking of having a spring clean of my telephone services. Do you have any advice on what I should consider?”]A: 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 lines 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! [/atab]

[atab title=”Q: I live in a rural area and struggle with slow broadband. Can the latest developments help me?”]A: 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 its 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. [/atab]

[atab title=”Q: I am experiencing problems with my telephone services. How can I get the repair completed quickly?”]A: 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. [/atab]

[atab title=”Q. The location of my broadband modem means that I cannot use the service in other rooms. What is the best way to resolve this?”]A. If you do not want to install additional telephone sockets you have two options. The first is to use an extension cable. This will give you mobility but there is always a trip hazard and distance will be limited. Make sure you choose the correct type of extension cable. There are two, one is flat where the wires inside run parallel to each other. These are susceptible to interference from electrical equipment in the house. When a light switch, washing machine or other device is switched on or off a small spark can be seen and this also sends a signal that can interfere with your broadband. Choose a cable where the wires are twisted around each other, giving the cable a round cross section as they are less likely to allow interference.

 

Alternatively use a wireless extender. Whilst more expensive they will allow you to use your broadband anywhere in your property as long as the other areas are supplied by the same electrical service. The device consists of a base unit that plugs into a power socket near to your modem and you plug a receiver unit into a power socket in the location where you want to use the service. You can have multiple receiver units and they are a good way to get over the problem of a poor wireless signal from your modem if you have an old stone house. Most lap tops will have a wireless card. If you are using a PC it will need to have a wireless card , something that is not always present so check and have one installed if necessary. Make sure you apply the wifi security protection when setting the service up.

 

To find out more visit the Amazon UK site. You will find a number of products with a good explanation of how they work. Order from the French Amazon site though as it will come with the correct plugs. [/atab]

[atab title=”Q. I am moving into a newly constructed house in a lotissement and have been told that I cannot get broadband because the lines to all the properties are Multiplexé. Why is this?”]A. This type of line is offered when there is insufficient capacity at your local telephone exchange to provide dedicated lines to new customers. The service typically groups together up to seven customers by installing a Demultiplexer at the local exchange and from this it sends a single line to the general location of the customers in the group.  Here a Multiplexé unit shares the access.  The device extends the capacity of the low frequency capability of the line to allow several customers to make calls, with those calls being digitised between the two devices.  The big drawback of this type of line is that there is not enough high frequency bandwidth left on the line for any of the group using it to have a broadband service.

 

If this is an issue it may be best to seek the help of your local Mairie who may agree to make representations to France Telecom to invest in additional capacity at the exchange concerned.  It is likely that your Mairie will be sympathetic, particularly if you can get others to join you, as modern day life means that access to broadband in a home is regarded by many as essential and properties without access can have their value adversely affected.  In addition it is a problem for local businesses that may decide to move away whilst new ones will not start up without access to this service.

 

Alternatively you may wish to consider taking a satellite broadband service.  The latest generation using KA technology launched in June 2011 is capable of carrying your telephone service as well.  There is a higher initial cost because of the hardware needed but thereafter most domestic users find the costs and reliability good.  Again you should enquire of your Mairie if there is any local assistance to meet the installation costs.  Increasingly rural areas are covered by such schemes.[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.My broadband has stopped working , what should I do?”]A.Your internet service uses the same telephone line as your phone but a different bandwidth.  Filters are used on all sockets except for the modem to keep the voice and data traffic separate.  You can experience broadband problems whilst your phone works satisfactorily.

Where a service stops working for no apparent reason first reboot the modem by switching the power to it off for a minute and then powering it up again.  This usually solves the problem (often the result of recent work at your local exchange).  Check that all the lights come back on , if they dont press the reset button on the modem and allow 5 minutes for it to reset.  If this does not work it may be that your modem has been damaged by a storm or has failed.  If the modem appears to be working check that the telephone is working.  If not there is a line problem.

 

If the line is working but some lights are not showing on the modem contact your supplier, who will make some basic tests.  Let them know if your PC connection is via the wifi facility , you may need you to connect it directly to the modem using the Ethernet cable for tests.  Remember if you have recently installed new software or made changes to your PCs settings these can cause problems.

 

Another occasional broadband related problem is noise on the line when you are speaking, usually a line fault or because a filter has failed.

Unplug all the filters and plug your phone directly into the socket.  If it is still noisy it is a line problem, if not it will be a filter problem. Try a process of elimination by disconnecting all telephones except one and make a call using a filter.  If the call is still noisy swap one of the filters used in another socket and try again.  If this is OK the original filter will need replacing.  If not test the remaining filters by substitution in the same way.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q. How can I avoid high cost UK calls to Government Offices, banks etc “]A.Have you found that more of your contacts with HMRC, DWP, NHS, your bank, building society etc are being done over the phone due to the general trend of centralisation of services, branch closures and internet purchasing?  Businesses make it easy for you to give your custom to them by providing a free to call telephone number.  However most insist that you use a costly paid for nongeographic number for all subsequent needs.  These make them a lot of money, particularly those starting 0844 and 0871.

 

Dont be surprised if you are kept on as hold it boosts profits, and every moment you are being taken through the security process minute increases their profits further.  There is no justification to treat customers this way.  Calling these numbers from France on a mobile phone should be avoided.  At the very least do consider using a French sim card.  All UK 0800 and other freephone numbers are not free if dialled from abroad.  The cost of dealing with a relatively simple problem on the charged numbers will most likely run into several pounds even if called from within the UK let alone from France.

 

However you may be able to reduce these if you can find the standard number that the 08 number terminates on, as often this type of call will be included in your package.

 

Try to avoid paying these charges by bypassing the 08 series numbers altogether.  If you can find out what that number is the call may be free if it falls within your call package or much less expensive wherever you are making your call outside of it.  The first place to look is for information they give about how to make contact when abroad.  This is almost always a nongeographic number and you can simply use this with the appropriate prefix depending on where you are.  Otherwise go online and search www.saynoto0870.com inserting the marketing number.  If you are lucky the search will come back with a normal telephone number.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.What can I do to help minimise or prevent a loss of service during the coming winter?”]A.You will have noticed two things that can result in more frequent losses of service compared with a lot of the UK for example.  Firstly there a lot more of the telephone network (and by implication the broadband service) is carried on poles rather than in ducting under pavements, and secondly some areas have a lot of storms.  This means that damage to the lines can be caused by corrosion, high winds and trees.  So do make sure no trees on your property have grown over the summer that could damage the line to your house.

 

In the event of a problem you need to make the following checks:

 

Take a few moments to find out if the problem affects only you or if you have neighbours similarly affected.  Storm damage to the local network or a problem at your exchange could affect many households and if that is the case the fault is likely to have been reported already.

 

If you are the only one affected the problem could be with your telephone itself.  Do remember that electrical surges can come down the telephone line damaging your handset as well as a straightforward power surge that can damage dect and answer phones.

 

So protection is better than cure and the best way to do this is to use appropriate power surge protectors between your electrical sockets and handsets and modems.  Remember that you will have to fund the replacement of a broadband modem damaged by a power surge so check if this is covered on your house insurance.

 

If you insist that an engineer comes to investigate a problem and they find it is with your equipment you will be charged for their time , so do first speak with your telecoms provider and ask them to run tests on your line as they can usually tell you straight away if there is a line problem and if not they will help you check your own wiring and equipment.

[/atab]

 

[atab title=”Q.Can you explain how French telephone directories work?”]A.

When you have your new line installed, or if you are taking over an existing one, you will be asked if you want to be in the directory or exdirectory.

 

France produces two telephone directories annually: pages jaunes (yellow pages) – for businesses, pages blanches (white pages) for private numbers.  Issued by la poste in most regions they will be delivered to your door.  These are organised by town or village names, so you first need to look for this and then look up the service or person you require.

 

There is also an online directory, again arranged using the same colours but within the same site.  This is very helpful if you are a second home owner and want to arrange services whilst out of the country, ready for your return.

 

The link is: http://www.pagesjaunes.fr/pagesblanches?portail=PJ

 

If you have a number and wish to find out the address associated with it the same website has a reverse directory. The link is:

 

http://www.pagesjaunes.fr/pagesblanches/aquiestcenumero.do?portail=PJ

 

Using the tab at the top of the home page à qui est ce numéro is another way to access the reverse directory.

 

The telephone preference service

 

You can opt out of receiving unsolicited sales and marketing calls.  The service is known as liste orange.  This free service and can be accessed using the following link (in French):

 

http://www.agence.francetelecom.com/racine_boutique/residentiel/fp/230/fiche_produit.html

 

You simply need to complete the formulaire de souscription.  Use the link to enter your telephone number, email address and a contact number.

 

Please note this service is only available to Orange subscribers.

 

Choosing to be unlisted or exdirectory

 

The service is free and you can register online if you did not do this when first applying for your line.  As usual you will have to provide an email address and a contact number.

 

Known as liste rouge this option removes all details of your number from both printed and online directories.  In addition your number will not be released to telephone number services.  For more information on this service use the following link:

 

http://boutique.orange.fr/ESHOP_mx_orange/?tp=F&ref=1281&IDCible=1&type=3&donnee_appel=ORESH&id=119161264497150

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q. Living in the countryside I really need my telephone and broadband , how can I prepare for winter when problems most often occur?”]A.

Storms cause more losses of service than any other reason.  The first thing is to protect your telephone and broadband service by using a surge protector to minimise the risk of damage from a power surge as these happen more in the winter.  Also do unplug your phone if there is a big storm to avoid damage through the telephone line.

 

The next step is to understand the symptoms if there is a problem.  If you cant make or receive calls this will either be because of a line fault or your phone has failed, so try a different handset.  Next check that there is no obvious problem with your internal wiring.  If you are certain that the phone line is dead you will also have lost your broadband service.  You will need to report the fault to your provider, Orange if you pay your line rental to them or to any alternative provider you may use.

 

Do remember that when there are big storms the repair time will be longer because many services will have been damaged.  Unless there is a significant problem the repair engineers do not work on weekends.

 

If you can make and receive calls but they are of poor quality this can be due to corrosion or bad connections on your line.  Call your provider and they will run tests and identify the fault and arrange for an engineer to repair it.  Do let them know if calls are affected by the weather and do let them have examples of when calls have failed or are bad.  Let them have three examples giving the time when the call was made and the number being called. This will help them diagnose the problem more quickly.

 

There are problems from time to time due to upgrading of services so always check with your provider for updates.  For example SFR are currently modifying the firmware on their modems remotely and this is causing temporary loss of the wifi facility.  The normal service resumes automatically after a short period.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q. I have a standard telephone from France Telecom and broadband from another provider.  Can I avoid going through a saga where the two providers do not do much else but to blame one another instead of repairing my service promptly if a fault occurs? “]A.Generally, the telephone network is owned by France Telecom and maintained by subcontractors appointed by them.

 

Broadband customers are more likely to shop around for the best deal available, overlooking the fact that the line rental is also available from a variety of providers these days.

 

Despite the huge increase in broadband and VoIP deals with no land line back up, an active land line remains crucial for reliable broadband and telephone services in more than 80% of rural France. More important still, is to ensure that both these services are provisioned via the same supplier.

 

Although using distinct providers could be fine on a seamless service, repairs are bound to be a lot lengthier and complex than if both services were routed via the same provider, most of the time, one of the two players involved would rather do without the responsibility of fixing a difficult technical problem.

 

Besides being unaware of the possibility of a line rental transfer onto the broadband providers network, another major deterrent from doing so is the myth that having your telephone line managed elsewhere means that in the event of a fault, the request of having the line repaired will go to the end bottom of the pile with faults reported by France Telecom prioritised. The main reason why this is incorrect is the fact that service faults are dealt with on a first come first served basis as engineers work on the entirety of the telecoms network and not for any provider in particular. Although France Telecom still owns the network they certainly do not manage the teams of engineers working towards the resolution of service faults.

 

It is therefore time for you to prevent rather than cure; so, why not contact your broadband provider today to talk to them about a potential line rental transfer to them?

[/atab]

 

[atab title=”Q.Every Christmas I get frustrated by the slow broadband speed I have as it affects the ease at which I keep in touch with friends and family at this time of year.  Do you have any advice on how I can overcome this?”]A.Many French residents live at the extremities of the broadband service where speeds are low and this dramatically affects sending and receiving pictures and messages with attachments.  This really becomes noticeable at holiday times when social media is used to keep in touch with those you are away from.

 

Orange has promised a major investment to upgrade the broadband network to bring faster speeds to rural communities.  The likelihood of this happening soon is remote for many so it is worth looking at the alternative of satellite broadband.  January saw a number of new offers that have brought down the cost of changing.  Some include the option of leasing the equipment rather than purchasing it outright whilst others are offering up to 140‚¬ off the hardware costs.

 

These offers combined with the higher level of interest in satellite services following any holiday period means that there will be a big increase in those transferring to satellite services using the new satellites now available.  Anyone can have a 20Mb speed, no matter where they live guaranteeing a faster service than the majority of standard broadband customers get.

 

The big difference between satellite and standard broadband is the former has limits on the amount of data that can be transferred whilst the latter is virtually unlimited for domestic customers.  The good news though is the satellite companies have significantly increased data allowances so it is even cheaper.

 

You can also make big savings with the latest telephone service that started in January.  Using your satellite broadband for all your telephone calls will save 190‚¬ a year on line rental costs.  You keep your telephone number and you can use your unlimited call package on any broadband service, meaning that calls are free anywhere in the world if made within your call package and you never miss a call even when you are away from home.

[/atab]

 

[atab title=”Q.A fault on my line due to bad weather this winter resulted in problems with both calls and my broadband.  Repairs seem to take a long time, would I get a quicker response if I changed my supplier?”]A.Most expats choose to live in rural France where telephone services are more vulnerable to disruption because the lines are carried on poles rather than underground.  The network belongs to Orange and they have appointed engineers to maintain services.  The sub contractors are appointed locally with differences of performance existing across the country.

 

The sub contractors receive faults on all lines in their area, and they assign them to engineers in the order they are received.  So, it makes no difference if your line rental is managed by Orange, SFR or UKtelecom, it will have the same priority.  The speed of the repair can be affected by many things.  For example a big storm in the general area will increase the time taken to clear them all.

 

Before reporting a fault make sure the problem is not with your handset or modem (electrical storms can damage them), or wiring – your supplier can help with advice.  Check with your neighbours as a general problem will indicate a fault at the local exchange.

 

Help make the repair easier by stating if you have an intermittent fault or a total loss of service and give other relevant information.  Remember your broadband can fail because of a fault on the line, even though you can still make calls.

 

The engineer may need to come to your property to complete the repair and they will make an appointment.  If they cannot call on your line they will want another number.  They will not call a UK mobile though!  If you agree an appointment with them and do not keep it they can charge you for this.

 

The usual response time for domestic customers is two days, the same as in the UK but dont expect a quicker service because you use your broadband for business unless you have subscribed to a business service and pay the extra for it!

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.Returning to my holiday home in France my telephone and broadband services have stopped working.  How can I get these fixed quickly?”]A.These days most people need good communications wherever they are, and relying on mobiles and doing without broadband even for a short time is a problem, so getting things working again will be a priority.  Satellite broadband and call customers hardly ever have a problem.  If you use the traditional services you are more likely to have faults as most of the lines, especially in rural areas, are on poles and more exposed to damage.

 

 

Like BT in the UK, Orange owns the national network, but it is maintained by independent contractors who work in the same was as Openreach in the UK.  Many other providers use the network to supply services and you may be one of their customers.  Repairs are carried out in the order they are received so whoever you take their service from the speed of the repair will be the same.

 

 

It is important to check your own equipment first as a fee for an engineer call out when the fault is with customer equipment is expensive.  Here are some quick checks you can make to avoid this:

 

  1. Is all your equipment is properly connected, and is power being supplied to it?
  2. Has your equipment has been damaged by a power surge?
  3. Is it a phone problem?   Try a different handset and different socket if possible.

 

If all these suggest that your equipment is OK call your provider.  They will ask you to do some further tests that should pinpoint the problem, and then arrange for the repairs.  The response time for an engineer to look at your fault is two working days.

You will be asked for some dates when you are available so the engineer can check the service up to the first telephone point in your property.  Any wiring problems beyond that will be your responsibility.

If you do not keep an appointment to which you have agreed a charge will be made.  Following these simple steps will get your service back whilst avoiding unnecessary costs.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.There are two numbers on my French edf bill , both start 09 and named appel surtaxe or numero sur taxe.  Are they VoIP numbers? Can I get use my French mobile to call them?”]A.They are VoIP numbers, the same as Orange’s number.  To dial from the UK use 00339 and when in France 09.  You should be able to call from your French mobile.

 

VoIP numbers are mostly used by broadband subscribers with a total degroupage package, meaning they pay no line rental and all their calls go over their internet service.  However when taking this service you can retain your normal French telephone number, so not all VoIP numbers start with 09.

Do remember that most call packages do not include calls to other marketing numbers, often known as non-geographic numbers.  If you are calling a lot of UK numbers like this be careful who you choose as your provider, the main French companies have higher charges than expat specialists.  UK 0800 numbers are not free from France.  The business owning it only agrees to pay for calls originating from within the UK.  You will be charged to get your call from France onto the UK network.

 

Contacting HMRC, DWP, NHS, your bank, building society or others from France can become expensive.

 

If you do not know the cost to call a UK non-geographic number go to this website and check:  http://www.magsys.co.uk/  Select CodeLook and type the number to get the cost to call if you were calling from the UK.  You must add the cost your French supplier will charge to get your call onto the UK network.

 

You may be able to bypass these marketing numbers.  Go online and search www.saynoto0870.com putting the number into it.  With luck the search will show the normal telephone number.  This very useful site does not restrict itself to just 0870 numbers so do look for 0844, 0845 and other similar prefixes.  Also check the back of credit and bank cards as they often provide a normal UK number for callers from overseas.

 

Much more information is contained in our free ebook, which can be downloaded from our web site.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.  I have read in The Connexion that we can access British TV programs on our computer. Would this be possible through an ordinary broadband service? Or do we need a special line? Also do we need a UK TV licence to be able to do this , even though we live in France? F.H.”]A.Anyone with enough IT skills can set up a link over their broadband service to obtain access to ‘catch-up TV’ such as BBC’s iPlayer, 4OD (channel 4 on demand) and Demand5.  This requires a relationship to be established with a Virtual Private Network.  We started offering this as a free service several years ago as there was a demand from our customers with second homes in France.  We give a user name and password and the access is free up to 10Gb per month, with modest charges for higher usage.  You can check the size of the download file for the program, which will vary depending on what is being watched, so keeping within your limit is fairly easy.  I am not aware of others offering this service.

 

Whilst access is available over any standard broadband service poor picture quality (buffering) will be experienced if your broadband speed is below 2Mb.  You can also send the service to your TV using an appropriate cable.  It is important to remember not to leave the service running after you have finished watching a program as this will use up your allowance.

 

It is correct that there are conditions to be able to access the service. Theoretically you are required to have a UK TV Licence to make access legitimate.  However to the best of my knowledge this has not been policed.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q  I have two questions about my broadband service.  1.  How can I test the speed and 2.  Do I have any recourse against my provider if the speed is slower than this?”]A..  The demand for faster speeds continues to grow, especially with the increasing use of social media.  Go to www.degroupetest.com/test-debit.php to establish the speed of your line.  This is a different value to an eligibility test and shows performance at the time of the test.  Access to your service is shared (contended) with others nearby.  Your speed will slow down if more of your group are on line at the same time.  Often this is most apparent just after children come home from school.  There is no contractual speed guarantee and no compensation for slow speeds.

 

The line speed depends on how far you are away from the exchange and cannot be increased – changing your provider will not make any difference.

 

In spring 2012 Orange announced a plan to double their investment in fibre for broadband.  This is unlikely to reach most rural areas where many expats live in the near future and where this problem is most severe.

 

There are a number of options though, which include bonding more than one broadband service together, but this is expensive compared to satellite broadband where prices have recently fallen and you can also use it to make calls, saving on the normal line rental.  If you live in a rural location satellite broadband is the right choice for you.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.I read in the French press that SFR et Bouygues may link up to help cut costs & improve coverage for 4G. What is 4G & what is the difference between 3G & 4G for an average consumer like me?”]A.:  If you are buying a new smartphone you need to choose the right data network and understanding the difference between 3G & 4G is not easy!  The G stands for the generation of the technology but choosing the newest version is not always best.  4G phones are supposed to be faster than 3G, although 3G will give internet speeds from 400Kbps upwards.

 

The new 4G service is not always faster.  The term 4G has been applied to so many different technologies it has become almost meaningless & the industry body tried to improve things but was ignored by carriers.  Each new generation will offer faster internet speeds, so this will only be important to you if you use your mobile for regular internet access, especially if you stream video.  Using a dongle to connect your lap top will make a massive difference but be aware of data limits on your contract.

 

3G phones can be frustrating & switching may help.  It will not address poor voice services though as 4G calls will still be made over the 3G networks until more development is done later this year or in 2014.

 

Dont be confused by names given to phones , Apples iPhone 4 & 5 refer to the model number not the network & they do not have a 4G product at the moment.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.My wife and myself are both in our 70s and are internet novices prior to coming to our French holiday home where we spend 6 months each year. Broadband providers whom advertise in The Connexion are too expensive (34 to 40 Euros per month) for our modest pension.

 

It would be so useful to continue learning, there must be others in similar situations. Any ideas?”]A.The UK Office of National Statistics has published 2 reports this year showing a huge growth in internet usage, particularly the over 65s.  Being able to share photos and news with friends and the free access to UK papers add to the benefits.  You may even find it essential to access some Government departments.  Visitors would really appreciate its availability also.

 

You have two choices.  You can buy a line and broadband service from Orange that can be suspended.  However the broadband speed will be limited to just 0.5meg and once you become proficient users this is unlikely to be attractive.  Alternatively you could choose a satellite system that can be suspended.  The latest offers include putting your calls over the satellite cheaply, saving more than 200‚¬ a year on line rental.  Take your phone back to the UK and plug it into your broadband and it will work just the same and give you free calls within your package, giving more savings.

 

There will be a low use package that will suit you.  Suspension is free it but there is a 30‚¬ charge for reactivating it, so deactivation should be for at least 3 months to be attractive.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q..   I am still paying separately for my home internet, telephone and (digital TV). Is there a significant saving in grouping these? Do you know of any current good deals for France residents? And how much hassle is it to change providers?”]A.Use a comparative web site such as http://www.ariase.com/fr/comparatifs/adsl.html or http://www.queladsl.com/?gclid=CKSBz8qOyLkCFaKWtAod4XUAUA to check availability.

 

The cheapest bundles will not give foreign TV, eg Skynews or BBC World News.  Some providers give free access to UKTV catch-up services.  Consider the equivalent to the Freeview box called TNT , simply buy the box, there are no monthly subscriptions.

 

Always check what is included compared to your needs, especially in terms of TV and mobile packages, to avoid paying for unused services.

 

You can avoid paying line rental if you use your broadband to carry your calls, but need a 2Mb speed for acceptable call quality.  Do your own check with www.degroupetest.com rather than rely on sales people.  If you cannot get a good broadband speed, which is increasingly important as more of us use social media and download larger files, consider satellite broadband and calls as this has the advantage of high speed and can be suspended.  Prices have tumbled recently and it is more reliable.

 

Look beyond headline prices, check for calls to UK premium rate and mobile numbers these can be very expensive.  Neither will they translate your French number into a low cost UK number you can give to friends and family.  These could wipe out any savings.

 

To avoid hassle when changing to a new service remember most companies require you to cancel in writing using by recorded delivery (en recommande).  Changing providers always involves a loss of service from a few days to two weeks.  Make sure your current contract has expired.   You are likely to incur cancellation charges as well so factor these in.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.We live in the rural Lot where the internet connection still seems to be based on good will, cloud cover and fairy dust. Were always hearing about new schemes to get high speed net to the countryside, but they always seem to be different. Whats the best thing? Buy a satellite? WiMax? New cables? Or will it just get better one day?”]A.Broadband is becoming more important with families using social media and more research and purchases made online.

 

There are 13 million homes in Europe that cannot get any broadband and 17 million that can only get a very slow service.

 

The French Government promised to bring fast broadband to rural areas, with an emphasis on high speed fibre, but there is little evidence of delivery and many rural properties will never get it.

 

Last month UK estate agents said that homes without superfast broadband were becoming unsalable.  French properties without broadband are more difficult to sell, so what can you do?

 

The more remote your location the longer you can expect to wait for broadband.   Also superfast fibre broadband is more expensive to provide in France than the UK because the fibre will go directly into your home.  In the UK it terminates at the local roadside cabinet, with existing copper wires being used for the last leg.

 

There is a general upgrading of smaller exchanges to enable the service.  However there still are examples of so little exchange capacity that some cannot even get a phone line!

 

WiMax is like an enormous wireless transmitter, sometimes covering several villages and behaving like wireless broadband.  It is not available everywhere and you need a clear line of site between the transmitter and your home.  There has been very little recent investment and it is unlikely to be the service of choice.

 

Satellite broadband has a higher initial cost for the equipment and installation but monthly costs have come down and with no line rental and cheap calls it is a good option. [/atab]

[atab title=”Q.  Why can France Telecom can only send broadband along their phone lines for 10km , can the signal be boosted?

Our phone line comes from a different commune, over 10km away –  their Maire says he cant help (we can understand, why, were  not in his commune).  France Telecom says to ask our Maire, as everything must go through him. Our Maire said €œ Trés difficile€

The most of our commune has broadband, they can receive broadband and free  phone calls for ‚¬40, we only get a line and free calls for ‚¬40.

We think the answer could be: Boost the signal or disconnect us from the other commune, then reconnect us our own commune.”]A. You have two problems.  The first is that there is no capacity at your local exchange and the expedient of supplying a phone from the nearest exchange with capacity has been used.  The second is that because any broadband service slows with the length of the line, the line is unsuitable.  In fact you cannot take advantage of the cheaper total degroupage service that puts your calls over your broadband service which you mention if your speed is less than 2Mbps, so it may not be available to everyone in your commune.

 

In some areas with limited exchange capacity customers are offered a multiplexé line, which typically serves up to 7 users.  This service does not support broadband either due to the lack of high frequency bandwidth.

 

There is no offer available that will boost the broadband speed of your line.

 

Given the state of the French economy it is unlikely that there will be significant investment in the infrastructure, but you should still approach your Maire.  He will be interested in keeping local industry and commerce but may lose it if they cannot trade using the internet.  The current situation will stifle growth.  Also home owners without access to fast broadband will see the value of their homes decrease in comparison to neighbours that have access.

 

The Marie of some communes recognise this and have agreed to provide financial assistance to those who wish to install satellite broadband, so again it would be worth raising this.[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.I am contemplating changing my mobile operator as they are offering 4G for the same price as my current 3G contract. However I understand that not all areas may be covered. Is there a way that I can check whether my area is well served by a certain operator before signing up for a new contract? Are there large areas where I wouldnt get the service, if so will the operator advise me about this? “]A.Early adopters of new services always need to do the research to find out if the hype is borne out by the experience.  With mobiles there is fierce competition and marketing will always concentrate on the positive.

 

Unsurprisingly Paris is the first city to benefit from investment in this new technology.  The big players Orange and SFR claim that there will be full coverage by the beginning of January.  Orange also says that 40% of the country will be able to use the service by January 2014.  UFC-Que Choisir, a French consumers Rights group published a report last November saying that they found an abnormal gap between the claims made by the two companies regarding the coverage in Paris, with Bouygues providing the best coverage. For practical purposes there may be little difference in coverage between Bouyges and SFR as they have an agreement to share part of their networks and this will speed up availability.

 

Go to http://www.totaltele.com/view.aspx?ID=484188  for a good article on this.

 

The main providers have web sites where you can check their claimed coverage.  The main ones are: http://www.sensorly.com/map/4G/FR/France/SFR/lte_20810 for customer based information on coverage.  You have to insert your post code for local results.  http://www.orange.com/en/about/Group/our-features/2013/4G-LTE-in-Orange-countries/4G/4G-in-France Orange is speeding up the roll-out of its 4G network in order to meet the expectations of its customers and will cover 40 % of the population by end 2013.  Also visit http://opensignal.com/coverage-maps/France/Toulouse  This site gives you a comparison between all the major providers.  You simply put in your town or post code and get an easily understood map with supporting information.  It does not give 4G coverage.

 

Finally, do remember that 4G only provides faster data transfer, it will not improve calls as they will still be made over the 3G network.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.   Can you please tell me how I can stop cold calls which irritate us daily? Our phone/internet/wifi is provided by SFR/Neuf. N.C”]A.Many will be aware of the Telephone Preference Service that UK residents can subscribe to and that is free.  It allows you to register your wish not to receive unsolicited marketing calls and telemarketing companies who do not respect the wishes of those listed can be subjected to very heavy fines.  In France there is a similar service that is only available to Orange subscribers and is known as liste Orange.

 

As you use one of the many other service providers you can also choose not to be included in either the phone book or its on line version.  Known as the liste rouge, the service is free.  You will have to provide an email address and a contact number.

 

If you did not register when setting up your service you can complete the on line form using the following link:

 

http://boutique.orange.fr/ESHOP_mx_orange/?tp=F&ref=1281&IDCible=1&type=3&donnee_appel=ORESH&id=119161264497150

 

Once completed your details will be removed from both print and online directories.  In addition your number will not be released to telephone number services.

 

Do remember that it may take some time for all unwanted calls to cease, especially those that are from callers using the printed directories as this will only change when the new directories are published.

[/atab]

 

[atab title=”Q. It is two months since we lost our internet and telephone services and all we hear from our previous ISP (Free) is €œWe are not coming out just for Mr James€ and €œit is a central problem€.  We changed to €œOrange€ on March 27 and we were informed by SMS the next day that we had been connected. Not true. On March 31 an external engineer visited and said he couldnt fix the problem. On April 2, I struck up an instant messaging session with Orange technical support only to be told that they have a €œbig central problem€. They could not give any more detailed information as to the problem or any idea of the date it would be resolved and just said they would send an SMS when it has been fixed. How can it take two months to resolve this €œcentral€ problem? Surely this isnt acceptable? “]A.It is always very frustrating when we lose any service, especially broadband which we increasingly find important.  However your actions have probably made resolution take longer.

 

Whilst you have a choice of companies the network itself is owned by Orange and your chosen provider will use this.  The network itself is maintained by independent sub-contractors who are appointed by Orange on a departmental or regional basis.  These maintainers are required to treat all requests for repairs equally and not favour Orange for example.

 

By changing providers whilst a fault is open simply meant that the repair process started from the beginning again.  The lesson here is to stick with your provider and if they do not perform within the regulations you will have a valid complaint at an earlier date.  Once they have repaired the fault is the time to think about changing companies.

 

The text message advising that your service is now connected simply means that the account has successfully transferred to your new provider.  They still have to manage the fault on your line and you are now at the back of the queue.

 

The next issue is whether the repair to your service is being handled within the guidelines.  If there is a big central problem then Orange and their sub-contractor in your area will be given reasonable time to repair the fault.  The only way to have a quicker service for some faults is to pay for an enhanced care level, but hardly any domestic user will sign up for this.

You can always make a formal complaint to ARCEP, (www.arecp.fr) the French telecoms regulator, but from what you have said it is unlikely that any fault will be found of Orange.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q. Can you help me with this question? In the UK you can buy a phone card (from, eg Tesco) and by dialing a London number, entering the unique card code, you can then dial anywhere in the world, fixed line and mobiles, for very little money. Do such cards exist in France?  Sorry to bother you, but I don’t have anyone else to ask.”]A.Phone cards have been around for a long time and have had some problems in the past associated with fraud.  They are still available from Tabacs in France and there are many different offers.  You will need to research them to find the best deal, which will reflect the prices for destinations you call most often.

 

A simple Google search will provide you will a page full of options.  (Try: carte telephonique appeler a l etranger moins cher.)  One of many popular sites can be found using this link:

http://www.rebtel.com/fr/accueil2/Bienvenue/Version-7/?gclid=CNu33NDkt74CFanpwgodEU0AaQ&

 

More often people will chose a site that does not require you to purchase a card.  You simply call their number (usually a premium rate number) and then follow the detailed instructions on ending in entering your destination number.  The call charge then reverts to the lower published call rate.  A popular site for this type of service is:

http://www.rebtel.com/fr/accueil2/Bienvenue/Version-7/?gclid=CNu33NDkt74CFanpwgodEU0AaQ&

 

If you know what the detailed instructions are, you can start dialling your destination as soon as your call connects and so reduce the high cost part of the call.

 

As your aim is to reduce costs do take note of the different charges for calls to landlines and mobiles by different companies.

 

You may find that there are considerably fewer savings to be made than in the past as the competition between the main companies has been intense for the last two years or so, and if you have an unlimited call package you may just end up by paying more!

 

Dont forget that you can get your own French telephone number translated to a UK low cost number that can be given to friends and family so they can call you very much more cheaply than going through their normal provider.  This service is free and does not affect your French number and there is no contract to sign and set up is instantaneous.  This service is not available from the major French telephone companies.

 

Finally, in the near future you may benefit from the EU decision to severely curtail mobile roaming charges during 2015.[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.  I live in a remote part of France where my internet access is limited to non-existent.  Is satellite internet available to all of France and would I be able to use an internet phone with it?  Am I correct in thinking that calls made this way are cheaper?”]A.If you live more than 5Km from your local exchange speeds will be between 0.5Mb and 1Mb, a very slow service.  This compares to a satellite where you can get 20Mb anywhere.  There are two main satellite services available in France, Tooway and Avanti.  Both use specialist companies to sell their services.  Tooway is able to offer connection anywhere in France, whilst Avanti has less coverage which does not include Limousin.

 

Both services can carry telephone calls (VoIP calls), and the price of the number rental and an unlimited call package is about the same as a standard line rental.  This attractive offer has one proviso, if you are using a lot of data on the broadband service at the same time the call quality may be affected.

 

Satellite services are different to landline broadband because data usage is not unlimited.  You estimate your likely use and buy a suitable package.  There are guides to help you calculate this and when making your decision do remember that it is best to underestimate your use and upgrade if necessary.  Upgrades are free but downgrades are typically charged at 30‚¬.  If you get close to your limit your service will be slowed down.  If this is due to a temporary need for more capacity you can buy a booster token for around 10‚¬ that will restore your speed.

 

Reliability is much higher than line based services, which have wires on poles that can corrode or be damaged by storms.  Satellite services can suffer temporary disruption in periods of heavy rain or snowfall but as soon as they are over the service resumes.

 

Your dish sends and receives and will need a direct line of sight to the satellite, so if you are in a conservation area do check on possible planning restrictions.  You can install the system yourself, and there are several YouTube videos to help.  Alternatively English speaking installers are available.

 

Now is a very good time to consider this option as there are discounts of up to 150‚¬ available until the end of the year.

 

Specialist expat providers such as UKtelecom can provide free access to UK catch-up TV.  They also offer another free service, to translate your French telephone number to a low cost UK number that you can pass to friends and colleagues so that they can save money when calling you.[/atab]

[atab title=”Q. Having lived in this wonderful country in Normandy for over 2 years full time now (we can’t understand why we did not move from UK a lot sooner), we do seem to have a problem though. Most mornings, including weekends, between 8-30 and 9-15am the phone rings, and when answered it is only to hear a beep, beep, beep. We can’t seem to find a way of getting this stopped even from Orange on their help Line. Can anyone help please?”]A.Nuisance calls can be very frustrating and they come in many types.  The first thing to do is to establish the number of the line originating the unwanted calls.  Dial 3131 straight after receiving one of these calls and you will get an automated message giving the number of the last caller.  (This service will work on all standard Orange telephone lines even if your service is provided by a competitor.)  Call the number back and see if you get a person who you can speak to.  Most likely though the call will be generated automatically by an alarm company or similar, so this may not help.

Armed with the number you should approach your service provider and ask them to investigate.  We all have access to a special directory which will give the user of the number and their address.  Once you have this you can phone or write to them asking that the nuisance calls are stopped.  If they do not act on your request you have a case that can be put to the regulator ARCEP requesting assistance.

Here are some other services you may wish to know about:

  • Choose to withhold your number , dial 3651 in front of the number you wish to call, it is free
  • Choose to permanently withhold your number, you will have to ask your provider to set this up for you, it is free
  • Choose ex-directory , you can register online and you will have to provide and email address and contact number. Known as liste rouge it will remove your records from both printed and online versions, it is free
  • Call waiting, Number display, Name display, Call forwarding and Message service , these are all available but each have a monthly charge of 1‚¬

Finally, we always recommend that you have your own answerphone as it is easier to use and you can see and hear things immediately.[/atab]

[atab title=”Q.We are on the Pacitel (no sales calls) list but still receive lots of sales calls. We find it stressful. We notice we are still listed in the pages blanches , I thought being with Pacitel would stop this. Maybe companies use the directory to call everyone without checking Pacitel , is this possible? Do you have any suggestions?”]A.Unwanted sales calls are annoying and there are certain things you need to be aware of to limit them.  If you take your line rental from Orange you can apply to be put on the liste orange which is similar to the Telephone Preference Service in the UK, meaning that telemarketing businesses have to comply with your demand that they do not make unsolicited calls to you.

 

The alternative to being ex-directory is not always satisfactory as it does mean that friends and legitimate business callers may not be able to get in touch.  However if you do want to use this service it is free and available to all.  If you take your line rental from Orange use the following link:

 

http://boutique.orange.fr/ESHOP_mx_orange/?tp=F&ref=1281&IDCible=1&type=3&donnee_appel=ORESH&id=119161264497150

 

The Pacitel service does not have the same significance but it is expected that businesses will respect the wishes of those that have been placed on the list.  In practice many companies simply do not check this service before calling you.  When receiving a call you could respond asking them to remove you from their list saying Enlevez mon numéro do votre liste de prospection sil-vous-plait.  However you can make a formal complaint to the service.  Their web site has a section where you can fill in a report giving details of the company that has called you together with the time of the call etc.  They should them make appropriate representations to the organisation concerned.  Use this link to make your complaint:

 

http://www.pacitel.fr/signaler

 

You can also buy a telephone handset that both displays the number calling you and then allows you to block all further calls from that number.  Alternatively, and although it might not be what you really want, it is easy to get your number removed from pages blanches.  Whilst the digital version will be amended quickly the printed version will still be in use until a new directory is published, and even then the old directory may remain in use by some for a while longer![/atab]

[atab title=”Q. I have been told that Netflix is coming to France but I am not sure if it will have films in English. I was considering trying to sign up to the British version. A friend of mine told me that I could use the British version through a VPN. Please can you explain what a VPN is, whether I could use it to access British Netflix, and whether it would be legal to use it in France?”]A.Netflix is a US based company available to people living in US. Recently Netflix released modified versions of their service to customers in the UK but the title selections are drastically reduced due to licensing arrangements. Netflix released a French version on 15th September, but all programmes are in French.  It can expect competition from Canal+ which now has a partnership with competitor HBO in the near future.

 

French operators Orange (owned by France Telecom), SFR, Bouygues and Free are refusing to host Netflix, although they host similar companies, because they have not agreed terms.  All of these offer no possibility of receiving films in English that you wish to access.

Netflix is well known for using something called €œgeo-targeting€ which means they can tell where you are logging onto their website from by your IP address. If youre logging onto Netflix.com from an IP address in France, youll see a message that reads something like €œNetflix has not come to your part of the world yet.”

 

To access the Netflix library you want you have to change your French IP address to an American IP so when you log onto Netflix, it will look like youre accessing the site from a computer in the USA. So the question now is, €œHow do I change my French IP address to a US IP address?€

 

The easiest way to change your IP address is by using what is called a Virtual Private Network or VPN. Bascially a VPN is a private network that you connect to from your computer. (We provide a similar free access for our customers to see UK TV.)  The private network sends your internet traffic through a remote server which effectively changes your IP address. You can surf the web normally, the only difference is youll have a new American IP address! Using a VPN is 100% legal.

 

The best VPN for Netflix is Hidemyass VPN. This VPN is fast enough to stream Netflix movies in HD quality. [/atab]

[atab title=”Q. Last year I read that France is to implement a very high speed internet network, the Réseaux Très Haut Debit. Please can you tell me what it is and how it will work? What stage are the plans at and when I will be able to benefit from it”]A.Launched in the spring of 2013, the aim of this initiative is to bring high speed broadband to most areas by 2022.  The costs of the program are huge with the intention of spending 20‚¬ billion over ten years.

 

There is a prioritisation of the direction of the investment.  The top one is to strengthen the competitiveness of the French economy and quality of public services, which will be prioritised for fibre broadband and will be much faster than the traditional copper cables.  The next objective is to give high speed access to 80% of homes by 2022.  So if you live in a rural area you may have to wait a long time!

 

There are many areas where it will simply not be economically sensible to bring fibre to every home.  There is a hybrid arrangement that will be used in some areas where fibre is used to bring high speeds to villages with copper or coaxial cables being used for the final leg of the connection.

 

The same initiative recognises that many rural areas will not be appropriate for a cabled solution so investment is also being made in wireless technologies.  There are three types of networks that will benefit from investment.  This includes the new generation of satellite broadband.  However we are already seeing some areas which are nearing full capacity.  WiMAX and WIFI are eligible but they are old technologies and are unlikely to see much new investment.  The last being considered is LTE (Long Term Evaluation) that utilises 4G.

 

How long you have to wait to benefit will depend on if you are in an area under agreement and covered by a public initiative network known as RIP.  These areas cover 57% of the population.  Up to 7‚¬ billion of funds have been allocated to this solution.  However a 2020 time scale is referred to.  The program is funded by private business, local authorities and government.

 

A further 14‚¬ billion has been allocated to public initiative networks that will cover 43% of the population and uses the full mix of solutions.

 

These plans were drawn up before Frances economic performance started causing concerns, so it is possible that the level of planned investment may not be maintained.  However the demand for high speed broadband just keeps climbing and it is bad for business if it is not available and very disappointing for domestic customers whose use is becoming more speed hungry with each year.

 

Approach your local Marie to find out your situation. [/atab]

[atab title=”Q.We live in rural France and have very poor mobile phone reception, often we get no reception at all  , I think we are even in a zone blanche. Is there anything I can do to improve my phone reception? Do different networks offer varying coverage in an area with very poor reception?”]A.Rural areas and poor telecommunications services such as mobile coverage and broadband speed go hand in hand.  From a suppliers position they will take a pragmatic view about where to invest in their networks, and in many cases it is a simple fact that improving coverage will be linked to the prospect of winning new business or keeping what they have.

 

It is therefore unlikely that individual or collective representations to you current provider will make a difference.  The next best alternative is to find out how your current provider compares to others.  There is a web site that you can use to search for this information.  Go to: http://www.quechoisir.org/app/forfait-mobile/signal-infos.php.

 

You will be asked to fill in your post code or village name, choose your current provider from a drop down menu, and then the type of service you are using such as 3G.  Press the Rechercher button and you will see a map of your general area with colour coded sections indicating the local signal strength.  Simply change the mobile company name in the drop down menu to make comparisons.  If you are considering upgrading your service to 4G again change that in the drop down and repeat the process with different providers.

 

Signal strength is grouped into three bands, Strong: 15-18, Medium: 8-14 and Weak: 1-7.  As you click on your and neighbouring sections on the map you will be given an average figure for the strength of the signal so a more precise measurement can supplement the general colour code.

 

If the local area does not include other places that you frequently visit make sure you use this tool for those places to help you decide what is best for you.

 

Mobile phones differ in their ability to pick up a signal so you may want to ask advice if you are changing your phone.  You can also consider buying an external antenna for use with your mobile phone.  However these are often fixed to a building so may only be of use when you are at home.

 

If you frequently return to the UK and experience similar problems there is an equivalent site you can use.  Go to: http://consumers.ofcom.org.uk/internet/mobile-internet/mobile-coverage-checkers/

 

If you do need to use a different sim when in the UK you may wish to buy a new mobile phone that is capable of using two sims.  This has the advantages of not having to carry a second phone or requiring you to change sims when travelling.  The phone will automatically use the appropriate sim, saving expensive international roaming charges whilst we wait for them to be banned.[/atab]

[atab title=”Q. My fixed telephone number in France is registered as 04 93 32 XX XX (I live in the south of France so this is the same as the rest of the village where I live). I give this number to friends but when I call them they say there is another number showing 09 XX XX XX XX. Can you explain why this is and what must I do to get my officially number showing so they know it is me? “]A.If you have a simple land line all your calls will be made using your 04 93 32 XX XX number.  However it appears that you have at least one handset connected to a modem that you use for your broadband service.  Such an arrangement will send calls made on this handset over the broadband line, known as a VoIP call.  Your supplier will have automatically allocated a number for this service.  All VoIP numbers start 09, and this is the number your called party sees.

 

If your house is sufficiently near to the local exchange and you have a minimum broadband speed of 2Mb you can choose to have all your calls sent over your VoIP service, i.e. over your broadband service.  The big attraction for doing this is that you will no longer have to pay a line rental, saving 16.90‚¬ per month.  Be very careful though that you are satisfied with the quality of the calls as in the event that the quality is unacceptable (clipping of words or calls dropping) to go back to a standard service will involve cancelling your new contract, which will typically have a minimum of one year to run, and you will also have to pay 55‚¬ to have your normal telephone line reactivated.

 

The service is known as Total Degroupage and you can ask for your existing 04 93 32 XX XX number to be transferred to your VoIP service.

 

One other important consideration is that all broadband services are more prone to faults that normal voice services.  It follows that if you use a Total Degroupage service any loss of your broadband will also result in you being unable to make telephone calls as well, so you should have a reasonable mobile signal in case of emergencies.

 

It is always best to run your own speed test on your line before making any change.  Use this link to see if your service will be satisfactory:

 

http://www.degrouptest.com/  [/atab]

 

[atab title=”Q:  I am considering installing satellite to improve the internet speed at my home in France. I understand this can be done on a rental or a purchase basis. With technology changing constantly would you recommend rental to keep up with changes , or is that not a cost effective choice?   F.T.”]

A:  Gone are the days when we could make do with a dial-up service.  As our use of social media and video streaming increases so does the need for fast broadband, and 1Mb is no longer acceptable for many.  Virgin Media announced a £3Bn investment in fibre cabling in the UK in February but rural and remote areas wont be included.  Similar investments are planned for France and again rural areas are likely to be left out.

This has resulted in a big switch to satellite broadband by those in rural areas as a speed of 22Mb is available anywhere.  2015 is likely to be a very good year to switch as there are many discounts available until the end of December.  The technology is very unlikely to change as this would be linked to a new generation of satellites and as the latest ones are only 2 years old I do not anticipate any major development soon.

There are some big advantages when buying, as in addition to being more cost effective there is no long term contract, allowing you to switch providers if better offers can be found and you can use your existing equipment to take advantage of these.  You can also suspend the service if you are going to be away.

Renting avoids the higher up-front payments but you will be locked into a long term contract.  Neither can you suspend the service.  The same data packages are available to either type of subscription, but they typically cost ‚¬3/month more for renters.

Some of the higher costs of these systems can be offset by cancelling your ordinary telephone line and putting your calls over the satellite broadband.  The cost of renting your number and an unlimited call package is only ‚¬16 per month compared to a normal line rental only, which will cost ‚¬17.96 per month from March.

Before you take your decision do request your telecom company to investigate if there are any planned upgrades on your existing service.  They can usually do this whilst you wait but they can only discover improvements due to be made in the near future.

[/atab]

[atab title=”Q:  We have been disputing a bill from Orange which included a fee for a technician’s call out, 69 euros.  The fault was discovered to be outside of our house and despite assurances from both the clerk handling our initial contact and the technician attending, that charges would only be incurred if the fault was found to be inside the house, they had added this charge to our regular bill.

Upon contacting their Client Services we were told that Orange have decided to levy this charge on ALL call outs, irrespective of where the fault lies.  I stated that this was ridiculous, the Client Services personnel agreed but said there was nothing that they could do.  They urged me to write and complain and add my voice to theirs.  They say they are completely overwhelmed with calls from angry clients.

Are you aware of this?”]

A:  All providers, including Orange and ourselves, use sophisticated remote diagnostic tools to investigate customer fault reports.  These can tell if the fault is located before or after the DTI (the point of entry of the service into the property).  If the fault had been found to be after the DTI you would have been advised to contact an electrician as it would have been your responsibility.  However this was not the case and the fault was clearly on the network, and it is Oranges responsibility to deliver and maintain a working service to the DTI at no cost in return for the line rental charges they make.

It appears that you have been charged for work that should have been undertaken within the terms of your contract with Orange and you are now forced to make a complaint that will consume some time.  I am surprised that you have been told of an overwhelming level of complaints as I have seen very few similar examples and this suggesting this may be a local initiative.  Your complaint is of a breach of contract – Orange has failed to maintain the service in accordance with its agreement with you.  It has further unilaterally made the charge, and without any notice of a change in the contract this is improper.  If you cannot get the payment refunded you have a valid complaint that can be made to the national regulator ARCEP by email using the following address: Consommateurs[a]arcep.fr

The technician that repaired the service is not an employee of Orange, but an independent sub-contractor who deals with any faults on the network in the order that they are reported irrespective of who manages a customers account, and will have no direct benefit from such a charge being made.

Direct customers of Orange may be more likely to be exposed to this problem as other providers have systems in place that sit between Orange, which owns the network, and the customer and they would challenge such a charge before it appeared on a bill.

 

[/atab]

 

[atab title=”Q:  Like many of your readers, I have an Orange Internet connection and make telephone calls via this provider.  The problem is – calls to Australia are not included in the Livebox Jet contact I have and as we have family there, it’s expensive to keep in touch.  Any solutions from one of your street-wise readers?  I’m always impressed by the ingenuity of Connexion and its readers.”]

A:  There are many companies that offer call packages that include Australia, and Orange has three so you could consider moving to one of those.  Which one will depend on the speed of your broadband, and if it is slower than 2Mb you will need to use a package working with your landline.  Alternatively SFR, Free and Bouygues as well as others specialising in the expat market have offers that include Australia.

There are other cheaper or free possibilities to keep in contact with family living outside France.  For example there is Skype (www.skype.com/en/downloadskype/skype-for-computer/), an application that you can install on your computer or mobile phone, so you can Skype with your family it is totally free if you connect your mobile phone or your computer on the wifi and the added benefit is that you are not only hearing your family you can see them too!  But remember it is important that both of you have a good speed broadband of 2Mb or faster otherwise the call will not work very well.  Typically words will be clipped and possibly the call will fail mid-way through a conversation.

If you have an Apple product (iPhone, iPod, iPad) you can use Facetime which is almost the same principle as Skype, but you and the person you are calling have to have Apple products to use it and also, like Skype, you have to have a good internet speed.

A quick and easy way to learn about the way to use this app is to go to one of the leading discussion web sites, try this one first:  http://forums.everythingicafe.com/threads/facetime-work-internationally.62901/

There are a lot of applications working with broadband that you can download on your phone which can help you to keep contact with people outside France, like Viber, Whatsapp or Tango, which allows you to call and text people anywhere in the world if they have your phone number, internet and the applications.

All these applications will enable you and your family to connect to each other using mobile phones through broadband wifi.  So, wherever there is a wifi service and a good connection speed, you can call an unlimited number of people who are in foreign countries if they have wifi too for nothing.  They may even call you more often as well!

[/atab]

UK TELECOM IN LIVING FRANCE MAGAZINE

UK TELECOM IN LIVING FRANCE MAGAZINE
Jan

Living France is the essential guide for anyone who dreams of a new life in France. Published 13 times a year, it is packed with detailed guides to the best locations to start your new life, inspirational stories from expats already living across the Channel and invaluable expert advice on everything from legal and financial issues to property and renovation. Available in selected WHSmith, Sainsburys, Tesco and independent newsagents, the magazine is also sold online on www.buyamag.co.uk or you can take advantage of our subscription offers on www.subscriptionsave.co.uk

Living France

Visit our website www.completefrance.com for more great articles about France.

Click the links below to read the articles created by Uk Telecoms Commercial Director Bob Elliott. Bob regulary contributes to a number of publications, you can read more of his articles in our news section.

Satellite Broadband – reach for the Stars – February 2015 (PDF) 

 

UK TELECOM IN FRENCH PROPERTY NEWS

UK TELECOM IN FRENCH PROPERTY NEWS
Jan

French Property News is the leading UK magazine covering the French property market. Whether youre planning to make a purchase across the Channel or have already invested in a French home, French Property Newsit is an invaluable source of information and insight. A surprisingly wide spectrum of topics are featured each month, including the buying process in France, financial and legal advice, inspiring real life stories, in-depth regional reports and a whole host of entertaining and informative regulars, such as language-learning puzzles and reviews of the latest releases.

Published monthly, French Property News is available in selected newsagents and supermarkets, it is also available to purchase online from www.buyamag.co.uk, or on subscription via www.subscriptionsave.co.uk

Click the links below to read the articles created by Uk Telecom’s Commercial Director Bob Elliott. Bob regulary contributes to a number of publications, you can read more of his articles in our news section.

FPN Expert Advice – April 2014 (PDF)

FAQs – January 2015 (PDF)