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German Telephone Charges

Since deregulation in January 1998, there is no longer one charging system (the one of Deutsche Telekom, the former monopoly) but literally hundreds of them. Which tricks you can use, depends on the type of telephone you have access to:


Charging System of Deutsche Telekom

Since deregulation this is no longer the only charging system you may run into, but it still does apply to public telephones, hotel phones and the like.

General Remarks

All charging is done by units ("Einheiten") of constant (though not equal) price. The first unit is charged when the other party answers and then the units tick in regular intervals - in recent years, Deutsche Telekom modified this to charge by the minute, so many units may tick away as soon as the other party answers; this is especially bad when calling mobile phones. The expensiveness of a call is officially defined by the number of seconds you can talk for each unit, e.g. "90 seconds per unit for a local call between 9 am and 6pm on a weekday". This is expensive for long calls but cheap for short calls, because there is effectively no startup charge. Taken to the extreme, you can ring up someone in the USA for just one unit - provided you are finished before the 15 seconds of the first unit are over.

The charging system has undergone several significant changes since the beginning of 1996. There are 3 distinguished "times of day" and 3 distinguished domestic "distance ranges", in addition to a lot of special (e.g. for mobile telephones) and international rates.

Since April 1999, public telephones have a somewhat simpler, but more expensive, system: local calls are one unit per minte, domestic long distance calls are two units per minute.

Phone charges in Germany were said to be one of the highest among the industrialized nations. This still holds for local calls, but it's no longer true for long distance and international calls. Much of this was attributed to the monoply of the Deutsche Telekom. But this has also led to a uniformity of handling and a high reliability that might be worth paying for.

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The Price of One Unit

The price of one unit depends on what type of telephone you are calling from. So if you are going to make expensive calls, the cheapest way would be to visit a friend, ask him whether you might use his phone, stopwatch the call, add some tip and give the money to him.

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Times of the Day

The German Telekom phone rate system distinguishes between three "times of day":
daytime "standard" rate
monday through friday 9am to 6 pm. This is the business time where Telekom earns the big money; up to three times as expensive as on other times.
leisure rate
weekdays before 9 am and after 6 pm, all day on saturdays, sundays and nationwide holidays. This is the standard evening and weekend rate, reasonably cheap. Beware of regional holidays: many holidays are valid only in some states and thus not "nationwide" - and Telekom charges the full weekday rate.
moonshine rate
daily after 9 pm and before 5 am. Long distances are reduced by another 50%, local calls by almost 40%. A real bargain, because you can ring up the average german at 9 pm perfectly polight. The significant reduction in local rates is the reason why all of Germany floods the Internet at precisely 9 pm Central European [Summer] Time. (night rate has disappeared, because moonshine is now as cheap as night used to be).
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Distance categories

To make comparison easy, all rates are given in DM/$ per minute or hour from a standard home phone (0.12 DM/unit). For a quick guess, say $ (US) instead of DM for public telephones.
same area code, all neighbouring area codes and all others that are less than 20 kilometres away (air distance between centre of areas). Became uncomfortably expensive (doubled) in 1996: daytime rate is 5 DM (3$) per hour (one unit every 90 seconds) for the home internet user. Leisure rate is 2.88 DM/hour, moonshine 1.80 DM/hour (4 minutes per unit)
Regio 50
up to 50 kilometres (30 miles). same rates as long distance, except during daytime ("only" two units per minute).
Long Distance
everything else beyond 50 kilometres, but inside Germany. Daytime rates are three units (0.36 DM = 0.20$) per minute, leisure one unit (0.12 DM = 0.07 $) per minute, moonshine one unit every two minutes.
Mobile Radio Phones
016x and 017x area codes. There are slight differences between networks, but basically it's 0.60 DM per minute. If you compare that with world 1 (USA), then you'll notice some difference. In fact, it can be economically feasible to place a domestic "fixed to mobile" call through a north american callback provider....
If you call a mobile phone which is currently abroad ("international roaming"), then you pay "only" the standard domestic mobile radio charge and the poor person you're calling will be billed for the distance from Germany to his current place of mobility - at cell phone rates...
Different rate for almost every country, but independent on the time of the day. Usually for international calls (with a few exceptions), Deutsche Telekom is so expensive, that you might find it worth investigating into a calling card or a callback service. The best thing is to use a call-by-call provider. To some countries (e.g. Australia), alternate carriers charge as little as 10% of Telekom's rate.

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Becoming a Subscriber (get your own line)

If you are planning to stay in one single place (e.g. a rented flat, not a hotel room) in Germany for more than one or two months, you might consider becoming a subscriber of the Telekom phone network, just as any family or small company does. You will have to fill a form in a Telekom branch, which can be found in major cities (more than about 50.000 people). I highly recommend the help of a friend who did something like that before, because every check box must be right if you want to get what you want.

Such a project will set back your budget by these amounts:

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Last updated: 05.05.2007 17:43:04 Martin Stut, email: email address as image, Marburg, Germany
URL: http://www.stut.de/phgc.htm