Germany uses its own TAE telephone sockets. Newer buildings are now fitted with familiar RJ-45 sockets, but they are not widespread. With a suitable converter, you can use your Singapore telephone/modem here, however it is recommended that you buy your telephone here since the usage of certain features (like call waiting) in Germany requires a special “Rückfrage” (R) button.
It should be noted that the plugs and sockets come in two polarisations designated ‘F’ and ‘N’. ‘F’ indicates ‘Fernsprecher’ i.e. a telephone (think of it as ‘Fone’), ‘N’ indicates ‘Nicht-Fernsprecher’ i.e. anything which is not a telephone, and that includes answering machines.
With the development of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol), calling back to Singapore has been made considerably cheaper provided you have internet access, or sometimes also a fixed line. Calls to Singapore cost close to nothing. Some websites require that you maintain credit in the account, but this can be used to send SMSes or make calls to other countries. Two popular websites among Singaporean students are Skype and Oovoo.
Handphone Service Providers
For mobile phone services, do check out O2 (most popular amongst Singaporean students), Vodafone, T-Mobile and Fonic. The mobile charges here work on CPP (calling party pays) basis, which translates to free incoming but expensive outgoing calls. Calling from fixed line phones to mobile phones is also more expensive.
Depending on how much you use your phone, there is also a choice between prepaid cards and getting a full contract (usually for two years). Prepaid cards will also allow you to buy unlimited data plans or flat-rate SMS plans for anything between €5 to €15. For more information on the best prepaid plans around, do check www.prepaid-deutschland.de.
Please take note that owning a handphone, computer, radio or information receiving device makes you liable for television tax, ie. the Rundfunkgebühren. For more information on the fees and which items are taxable, please see the following website.
Fixed Phone Lines
Telecommunications in Germany has been somewhat revolutionised in the recent years with the introduction of Homezone and a mobile fixed line (imagine that you can receive calls made to your home within a certain area – the Homezone – which is sometimes as large as the whole city). In general, calling within the city is relatively cheap, followed by intercity calls and finally mobile phone calls. Every service provider has a whole range of plans catering to different needs (more SMSes, more minutes, or unlimited calls within the city are some possibilities) so it would be wise to explore all the options before making a decision.
You can either choose to use dial-up, pay-by-use services from providers like freenet.de, access the university accounts from home (paying normal telephone rates) or use one of the many DSL providers (T-Online, Arcor, Tiscali, Freenet, O2, M-Net, Kabel Deutschland etc.). As you would have noticed, many fixed line providers are also mobile phone and DSL providers, so it is not surprising that they have come up with attractive all-inclusive packages, which you should definitely find out more about. Universities also provide free computer facilities on campus grounds and at some universities, free WLAN.