Moving to Basel – Part IV: Setting up Internet, TV and telephone services
So, you’ve finally got your furniture, appliances and electronics all set up in your shiny, new flat . Now, you’re almost done, you just need to set up the cable, internet and a phone line!
I’ve summarized what I know about some of the different options out there, and included links to the sites for each, but don’t listen to me, make sure your check them and other options out for yourself.
Setting up internet, TV and land line telephone
Once you’ve moved into your new place, you can organize an internet connection, cable/digital television and a telephone land line. The costs for each of these depend on what your personal needs are. You can find separate providers for each service, but most of the time, it’s more convenient and less expensive to get a package deal for some or all of these services, if you’re planning to get more than one.
All in one providers
UPC Cablecom in Basel provides digital broadband Internet, digital telephone and digital TV services. I’ve been with UPC Cablecom for years now, for all three of these services, with very few problems. I use the internet extensively, and need reliable, fast broadband. My girlfriend likes to call home (the UK) a lot, and we both like to watch UK TV stations (Swiss TV is an acquired taste). All of these services have been very reliable with UPC Cablecom, and when there are issues with technical stuff, their customer service department is fast, efficient and best of all friendly, pleasant and polite. Most of the customer service reps speak English quite well, or will put you on with someone that does.
A really big plus is that UPC Cablecom’s website is in four languages, one of which includes English. This lets you make an informed decision about what you want to order. The prices are pretty reasonable. For high speed internet (but not the highest speed), a land line and digital cable with about 25 decent English-language channels and digital video recording, I pay around 100 CHF for all three (not including costs for phone calls). I think when you sign up it might even be a little cheaper for the first few months. UPC Cablecom also has mobile phone offerings.
Sunrise provides fixed lines, mobile phones, and more recently, internet and television. My mobile phone provider is Sunrise, and has been for at least 7 or 8 years now. I signed up first as a pay as you go customer, then moved over to a contract with a data package, when I got a smartphone. Like UPC Cablecom, most Sunrise customer service reps speak English and their website is also available in English. The service I’ve gotten from them has been quite good; nothing really exceptional, but strong enough not to lose me as a customer for almost a decade!
Swisscom also has package services. I only used Swisscom for my land line in 1998, and again a few years ago for my work mobile phone, so I can’t say I have that much experience regarding their more recent products. From a look at their website (which has English as one of the languages), they seem to be similar in price to UPC Cablecom, or Sunrise.
For UPC Cablecom, Sunrise and Swisscom, you can pick different combinations of any of these services, as well as single services, so have a look at both and see what’s best for you! Want to compare all the services without exploring each website individually, before you make a choice? Try going to Bonus.ch, a price comparison website that will allow you to see which provider will give you the best deal. Unfortunately, its only in German, French and Italian, but it translates pretty well using your brower translate function (try right clicking and then selecting translate to English from the menu, while on the site). You enter your email address and they send you the comparison info.
Prepaid and budget phones
Prepaid offers are available from all main mobile providers (Sunrise and Swisscom). Generally, for these you need your own mobile telephone. Be careful, as some phones you buy are SIM-locked, and you won’t be able to use them with all providers; make sure you ask the salesperson about this when you get your phone. You can get a prepay SIM-card from the provider of your choice (which is associated with a phone number). In most cases, you can link the account to a credit card, and/or purchase refills for the prepay card in different shops and kiosks. The nice thing is that you know when you’ve reached your set spending limit, as you won’t be able to use the phone for paid services after this point. Of course, the negative is that having your phone stop working when it runs out of credit is terribly inconvenient, when it happens in the middle of a call, in an emergency, or when system issues prevent a prepay reload.
On a budget? You should try the Migros discount mobile plan!
Contracts or subscriptions for your mobile are available from each provider with different service options, for different durations (usually 12 or 24 months), for various prices. It’s good to have a realistic idea of how much you talk on the phone, how much you text, and how much data usage you go through using the internet on your phone, in order to choose a plan that works for you. Often the a discount or even free phone will come with the subscription. Many plans allow subscribers to turn in their old phone after a certain time (usually 1-3 years), for a newer model.
TV and Radio reception fees
Before you invest in these services (especially a television and cable) there are a few things you should be aware of. If you are able in any way to receive TV (or radio) in Switzerland, you are obliged to pay a television reception fee (around 25 CHF/month) and a radio reception fee (about 15 CHF/month). There is a webpage answering FAQs on this subject, which should cover most questions you have. Keep in mind, it does NOT matter if you actually listen to the radio, or watch the TV. The fact that you have the ability to receive these, means you have to pay these fees. In fact, even if you don’t have a radio or TV at all, but have a computer or even a mobile phone that is capable of receiving radio stations, or playing video, you have to pay these fees.
The company Billag AG, is the collection agency for these fees (the site is in English) and their website also has infomation on fees. You definitely need to pay these fees, as they send inspectors around, unannounced, to all homes and apartments. The Billag AG representatives will knock on your door, and check if you have access to radio and TV. If you haven’t already registered these services, they will bill you retroactively, based on when you should have been paying, and possibly fine you. Registration can be made online or by telephone (+41 844 834 834). If you can’t navigate the online registration form because of the language issues, use the translate function available in most browsers, get someone to help you or call Billag AG see if you can find someone to answer your questions in English.
Good luck getting your services set up! If you know beforehand where you’re going to be living, you can contact these companies to get things rolling well before hand, so you have everything ready for the day you move in.