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The Netherlands (Holland) - Communications (Telephone, Internet)
All fixed telephone lines in the Netherlands are provided by KPN Telecom, and arrangements can be made for the connection or installation of a line by contacting their customer service department on 0800 0402, or by visiting one of their stores (Primafoon-store). You will be required to subscribe for at least a year and to provide proof of identity and address, and a valid resident permit, or pay a deposit of several hundred euros, refundable after making regular payment of bills for a specified period. Bills are usually sent out every two months, and cover the cost of calls and a fixed subscription charge.
Both ISDN and traditional fixed telephone lines are available. Traditional lines can be used for both telephone calls and dial-up internet access but not at the same time. ISDN, which is slightly more expensive to rent, allow simultaneous voice calls and internet access, but is now used by relatively few people since better quality internet access using broadband is now widely available.
A number of other phone companies such as One Tel, Tele2, Primus and BudgetPhon, as well as cable companies such as Essent Kabelcom and UPC, own rights to some of the KPN lines and offer competitive rates on calls. Customers using one of these companies for telephone calls still have to pay subscription fees to KPN Telecom. The use of cable networks to make telephone calls is not yet widely used in the Netherlands, but two cable companies, Twinner and UPC, do offer low-price packages for telephone calls made via their networks.
Public telephones in the Netherlands require the use of a pre-paid phone card which can be bought in newsagents and post offices, starting from €4. Phones within railway stations only take special pre-paid cards bought at the railway stations, as these phones are operated by a different telecom company, Telfort. It is also possible to buy pre-paid IDD cards for making international calls from fixed lines at rates usually discounted by up to 75%.
Mobile Phones and Call Plans
There is a very high rate of mobile phone usage in the Netherlands, with around 13 million phones in use within a population of 16 million.
There are five main mobile phone companies currently operating in the Netherlands: KPN, Vodafone, Telfort, Orange and T-Mobile. Since KPN and Vodafone use a GSM 900 network and the others use a GSM 1800 network, most phones are designed to work on both. Some phones will also work on other types of networks overseas, such as the American GSM 1900 network. Satellite mobile phones are available which can be used on any type of network in most countries and which also provide internet access, but call charges are expensive. Phones can be bought in stores run by these phone companies, or in department stores or specialist phone shops.
It is possible to use a GSM-compatible mobile phone and phone service from another country within the Netherlands, if the provider allows roaming, or alternatively to buy a Dutch SIM card for use in the phone, if the phone has not been “locked” by the provider for use with their service only. You can hire a phone for use overseas from the Rentcenter at Schiphol Airport, or from www.cellhire.net in which you can use your Dutch SIM card, but call charges will be very high. If using roaming within Holland, the charges are also likely to be very steep, and will include payment for incoming as well as outgoing calls.
There are two main types of call plans available: pre-paid and contract, with a wide variety of different call rates and special offers available. In choosing a package, there is a need to consider factors such as average numbers of calls made, what time of day calls are most often made, whether calls are usually made to fixed-line or mobile phones, and whether you wish to use the phone overseas. In general, contract plan call rates are cheaper, and usually include a specified number of free calls within a certain time period, but there is also a subscription fee to be paid. In the case of pre-paid plans, calls are relatively expensive, but there is no subscription fee. To set up a subscription-based contract, you are likely to be required to show proof of identity and of your address in the Netherlands.
Mobile Phone Services
Mobile phone users can now access a wide range of additional services via their phones. At the most basic level, all phone packages allow users to send and receive text messages (SMS), and most now also offer the options of email messaging system (EMS) in which the phone is used to access an email account and send or retrieve messages, Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS), whereby unlimited length text messages as well as sound, graphics and video can be sent and received between your phone and other mobile phones or email addresses.
Additionally, millions of people in the Netherlands use their mobile phones to access the internet, using either GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or UMTS (Universal Mobile Telephone Communication System), in the latter case using special networks set up by the phone companies. Wireless internet access is also available through mobile phones using the WiFI card now installed in most laptop computers. This allows by far the highest connection speeds and free access in some cities, but there is a need to be located near a base station and there are security risks to your computer.
Other facilities available to mobile phone users include WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) services such as access to travel information and stock market figures.
Most recently, the mobile phone companies have introduced new products onto the market which combine a mobile phone with internet and email access, a personal organizer, video and audio streaming capabilities and even a camera in some cases. These include Telfort’s XDA, KPN’s I-Mode and Vodafone’s Live!.
It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in the Netherlands unless a headset or car kit is used, even if in slow-moving traffic. Those who break this law face a hefty fine and possible confiscation of their phone.
There are many choices of ISP in the Netherlands, with more than 100 companies reportedly providing internet access in various forms, so there is a need to consider your specific internet access needs and to shop around to find the most cost effective package. Factors to consider include connection speeds, charging policies, and the types of email services included.
Dial-up access is often charged for on the basis of time actually connected to the internet, and connection speeds are relatively slow, so this can be costly for heavy internet users. Traditional phone lines generally only allow for connection speeds of up to 56 kbps, while ISDN (integrated services digital network) allow for higher connections speeds of 64kbps or 128kbps.
High-speed internet access is available in the Netherlands in two main forms: ADSL (Asynchronous Double Switched Line) and cable. To use ADSL to access the internet you will need to take out a subscription with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) and have an ADSL (digital) phone line installed, either by the provider or by KDN Telecom. Alternatively, several cable television providers, such as Casema and UPC, now offer internet access via the cable network, without the need for a separate phone line. These services are usually slightly cheaper than ADSL and are often available in a discounted package with cable television and sometimes telephone services.
ADSL and cable generally provide continuous access to the internet, and packages are often based on a standard monthly charge, for unlimited use. Connection speeds of up to 20Mb per second are available using ADSL or cable internet access services, but may be much slower depending on the internet access package, as well as other factors such as distance from the telephone company’s ADSL equipment. A single connection can be shared by several users if a router is used, available from IT suppliers, with a wireless router (WiFi) providing even more flexibility. Both ADSL and cable allow for the use of Internet Protocol telephony, whereby phone calls can be made over the internet at no extra cost, but the use of this facility is still quite limited in the Netherlands.
ISP accounts generally provide users with one or more email addresses, but these are often only valid for use with that particular provider, and you will therefore need to change your email address if you switch to another ISP. However, any internet user can set up a Webmail account, using Hotmail or Yahoo for example, which can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection.
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