Mobile Data and Wifi in Germany
Wifi and Mobile Data in Germany
Traveling can be scary especially to a new country. We rely on our phones.
What is the easiest and cheapest way to stay connected in Germany.
After exploring numerous data options it comes down to 2 of the easiest options:
- Pay for an international plan. Not all plans are the same. ATT charges 10 dollars per day for LTE in most countries. Expensive but convenient. T-MOBILE has this included in their plans but its horrendously slow, limited to 2G speeds (think dial up)
- Get a local SIM. This works if your phone is unlocked. This is so much better for local service, speeds and value. Almost always I choose this route when traveling internationally..
How did I come to this conclusion?
After travelling all over Germany I had a harsh reality check. At almost every hotel or AirBNB the wireless was terrible. They would claim to have wifi but either it was terribly slow or the wireless would not reach my room. So I had to rely on mobile data more often than wifi.
So this required decent mobile data. My first path was T-Mobile since their plans include international data. As soon as I landed with my T-Mobile SIM i was greeted with a welcome to Germany text with a reminder that I had unlimited 2G internet. Well, I don’t even think i ever got 2G speeds. Frequently I could not even load Google Maps.
Desperate for internet I PUT my ATT SIM back and finally I could breathe…but at 10 dollars a day. Ouch. But it worked every time. Over the course of a month I racked up 300 dollars in extra charges. This was not gonna work.
So I ran over to Orange and got a SIM card with 45GB of LTE data and local calling for like 35 dollars (at the time). Wow that made so much more sense.
I just let my family and friends know to reach me on WhatsApp or other messaging or VOIP app and I was golden. And with new legislation I can now roam all over Europe, even Switzerland, without extra charge. So why so much difficulty getting good wifi? Well besides a culture issue there is also a political one.
Does Free Wi-Fi In Germany Exist?
It seems today travel has become more accessible and the technology we rely on is not keeping up. One of our biggest concerns, when we travel, is will my phone work where I am going? There are many apps that help us not have to rely on the data or the phone carrier as long as we have Wi-Fi access. But then this raises more questions. Is there Wi-Fi where I am going? Is it free or do I have to pay?
On my trips to Germany, I found this as a challenge. Finding free Wi-Fi was almost impossible. The Wi-Fi laws in Germany prevent many business owners from granting free Wi-Fi access to the public because of the liability laws that are set in place.
Businesses fear of being fined if there is any illegal activity on their internet connection. A business can be fined for as simple as someone downloading a song or movie that is not permitted by the German government. Internet content is censored. YouTube videos that are considered “Far Right” ,such as certain music videos, are protected by The Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfältigungsrechte, or, in English, The Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights, also known as GEMA.
As technology grows in our lives, the laws for it must change too. Germany has been fighting for changes to the liability law since the early 2000’s.
- Early 2000’s – German government introduces ideas of change to the liability laws to reduce risk for business owners.
- 2009 – Berlin’s city-state government announced that it would provide free internet in the central city but was never launched.
- 2016 – Government working to implement key objectives to the “Digital Agenda”
- 2017 – A law was passed for access to free Wi-Fi on ICE trains and their stations., but with limited data usage in second class coach.
- 2018 – Drafts for the amendment of the Telemedia Act for “Barrier-free access” and of limiting the liability of businesses that want to offer free Wi-Fi.