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Four tips for saving money on internet and mobile contracts in France

Try these tips to save cash on smartphone and internet plans, especially if your usage is low or you have a second home

A view of a smartphone lying on top of euro notes

You could save hundreds on internet and mobile phone bills depending on your usage Pic: Bartolomiej Pietrzyk / Shutterstock

As inflation bites and purchasing power continues to dwindle, your phone and internet may be an easy place to save cash - especially as France’s four major operators battle it out for your business. 

Orange, SFR, Bouygues Telecom and Free are constantly fighting to keep customers signed up, and - although prices have risen with inflation - this competition means there are some deals to be had.

The industry comparison tool, Ariase, estimates that in September 2023, the average price that people in France paid for their landline, internet access, and television was €30 per month, with a further €16.50 per month for their mobile packages.

However, these averages may not show the true picture, since the most inclusive packages - with the most data and minutes, fastest speed, and offering multiple TV channels - can cost €50-70 per month or more.

Here are four ways to help pay the best price for your plans.

1. Buy your smartphone and check your usage

It is usually better to buy your phone upfront and then pay for your plan (internet allowance, calls and texts etc) separately.

The upfront cost is greater - especially as some smartphones cost many hundreds of euros - but you are likely to save money over the longer term.

You can also save money if you buy a reconditioned phone, or pay for a phone in installments as long as interest is not added to the purchase price. 

Free Flex, for example, offers free payment for your device over 24 months, if you subscribe to the Free package (€19.99 per month).

Once you have your device, be sure to check your average usage. This means the number of minutes, texts, and GB of internet data you use per month. An ‘Unlimited data’ plan may sound ideal, but there is no point paying more if you only use, for example, 4GB of data per month.

The average mobile internet consumption in France is 15.4 GB per month per user, according to the Autorité de Régulation des Télécoms (Arcep) in its report for the second quarter of 2023. 

However, if you connect to WiFi at home and rarely use your 4G for data intensive activities such as watching videos or streaming music, your usage may be significantly lower.

Your current operator will be able to tell you how much data you use each month.

If you have a low monthly usage, bear in mind that there are many packages available for less than €10.

It is worth checking the low-cost brands from the major operators to see if they have any plans more suited to your needs, for example Red by SFR. Mobile virtual network operators such as La Poste Mobile or Réglo Mobile also have offers for lower usage.

However, be aware that low cost offers can become expensive if you use more than your allocated data plan.

2. Sign up for internet separately

If you can, sign up for internet packages that do not include TV coverage. Internet-and-TV offers are notorious for attracting consumers with low prices. However these prices sometimes creep up later.

If you are able to do without a TV bundle - or you already have subscriptions to third-party services such as Netflix and do not need any extra services through your internet provider - look for an internet-only package.

Brands such as Sosh, Red by SFR and Bbox offer Internet packages that don't include a TV box. Depending on your location, you can choose fibre or ADSL. If you have a smart TV (most modern TVs are ‘smart’), you will still be able to connect to the internet and watch your favourite providers.

Some internet packages still come with landline phone coverage. For example, the Red Box Fibre offer includes landline calls in France and 100 other countries. Sometimes it even offers calls to mobile phones within France for free, or for just €5 per month. 

Some of these offers are available on a month-by-month basis and do not have a minimum subscription period. However, choosing these ‘zero commitment’ plans can sometimes cost more. For example, with the Red Box Fibre subscription, there is a €39 activation fee and €49 cancellation fee.

An even more economical option could be to do without WiFi completely. If you are in an area where the 4G or 5G connection is good inside your home, you could simply connect your home devices - such as your laptop - to the internet via your smartphone. 

This is known as ‘tethering’, via a smartphone hotspot, and most mobile connection plans allow it. You can turn on your ‘hotspot’ in your phone’s settings menu, and connect to its network from your laptop or computer. This effectively shares your phone’s data use with your home devices.

This can be worthwhile if you only use your computer for low-data tasks, such as sending emails. You can also set up a daily cap on usage via your provider, to ensure you do not accidentally use all of your data.

3. Consider a 4G router for your second home

If you have a second home where you only spend a few weeks or months a year, you can save money on internet usage via a 4G router instead of paying for year round fibre or ADSL. Note this only works if your home has sufficient 4G or 5G signal.

Small 4G routers start from €20, and you can take out a mobile subscription with no commitment, via a SIM card-only plan. Then, you put the SIM card into the 4G router, and connect your devices to the network. There may be a fee for the SIM card activation.

Plans include SFR's Internet Partout or Orange's Prêt-à-Surfer 4G. For example, SFR’s plan costs €3 per day, and offers unlimited Internet in France, 2 GB in Europe/DOM and 130 channels on the TV app. 

If you were to use this €3 per day offer, plus €11 upfront cost for the SIM, you would spend €101 for a month’s usage, plus the charge for the 4G router (from €20). This would still save you money compared to the cheapest full-year subscription (at least €276).

Of course, this saving only works if you spend just a month or so at the property. For longer periods, it may make more financial sense to get a low-cost annual plan.

Read also: Is there a start-stop internet service for second homes in France? 

4. Be wary of ‘on trend’ offers

The newest devices and technology will always cost more, so it can be wise to choose a device or plan several tiers down from the latest phone or internet speed available.

New offers may appear tempting, but check the small print: they often pull you in with good deals for a few months but may then lock you into higher prices in the months that follow.

You will also want to check that your devices are compatible with the fastest speeds and latest technology.

Not all phones work with 5G, so check yours does before signing up to a 5G plan. Similarly, not all internet boxes work with WiFi 6 or WiFi 5, the new types of WiFi that operators are promising will be 25 to 50 times faster than ADSL.

Again, check your typical monthly usage to ensure you are not paying for the fastest (and most expensive) internet option designed for super-high users (such as online gamers), when you only use your connection for emails and videos.

Be sure to compare offers between providers as they can vary significantly. 

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