Mobile phone operators in Germany
Compare prepaid and postpaid mobile phone and data plans
Germany has 3 large mobile network operators: Telekom, Vodafone (promotional link) and Telefónica o2 (promotional link). You can get a contract directly with them or with one of the numerous other providers – e.g. 1&1, Lidl Connect, ALDI Talk, congstar (promotional link), sim.de (promotional link), blau (promotional link) – that use one of these three networks.
1. Requirements: Who can get a SIM card from Germany?
Everyone can easily get a local SIM card for a mobile phoning or data plan in Germany. You just need your ID or passport to verify yourself. This means that also new arrivals, tourists or people only planning to stay for a short time can get a local phone or data plan. A residence or address in Germany is usually not required if you choose a prepaid option. A postpaid contract can be an attractive choice if you are an expat or plan to stay longer – however, these plans usually require a residence in Germany. See further information below on the different kinds of plans.
2. Mobile phone and data: What the different types of plans are available?
Pay-as-you-go vs. subscription
- Pay-as-you-go: In this option, you only pay for what you really consumed. There is a charge for every minute you phone or megabyte of data you consume. This type of plan is mostly attractive if you have a very low usage – e.g. you have your phone mainly “to be reached” or perform occasional short calls.
- Subscription: You usually pay a monthly fee for a package with a certain bundle of services, these may for instance include:
- Unlimited or a certain number of included minutes for national calls to landlines and other mobile networks
- Options to perform a certain amount of calls to selected countries abroad for free or a limited fee
- Unlimited or a certain number of texts
- Included data – usually unlimited: There is a certain amount of megabites included of high-speed data use for surfing or social media. After consumption, the speed is reduced so that at least messaging is still possible.
Prepaid plans vs. postpaid plans
- Prepaid plans: Before use, you charge your card in advance. You may either chose a pay-as-you-go option or a monthly subscription. The latter is usually renewed every month in case you do not cancel or run out of sufficient balance. Prepaid plans are the most flexible option as you can cancel or change the package at anytime. They are especially great in case you have just arrived to Germany or only plan to stay for a limited time. You usually do not need to provide a local address.
- Postpaid plans: You sign a contract with a provider and charges are deducted from your bank account at the end of the month. There are different plans available with minimum notice period between 1 and 24 months. Special rights of cancelling or pausing the contract may be available if you move abroad. Some services are only provided as a part of postpaid plans (e.g. eSIM / multi-sim option, high-speed and volume data). Also providers offer attractive bundles if you want to get a new phone and pay in installments. Hence, this is a great option in case you want to stay permanently or forever.
3. Service quality: Who are the different network operators?
The service quality and speed of your connection will depend on the network you choose. There are in total 4 operators with a varying degree of coverage. You can get mobile plan with one of the network operators directly or another provider making use of their network. The provider you choose may depend on your requirements and the availability at your place of residence: The 4 operators are:
- Telekom: Telekom is famous for having the most advanced and fasted growing network. According to the data of the German surveillance authority “Bundesnetzagentur” from July 2023, Telekom has a 4G coverage of 91.3% and a 5G coverage of 75.3% of Germany’s territory. Telekom provides a map with its local service quality here.
- Vodafone (promotional link): Reaching 90.7% of territory, Vodafone’s 4G network coverage is comparable to Telekom’s. However, 5G coverage is considerably lower with 65.3% according to the statistics of “Bundesnetzagentur” from July 2023. Visit the Vodafone website to see the map of network coverage (promotional link).
- Telefónica o2 (promotional link): The network of Telefónica o2 provides 85.9% coverage of national territory for 4G and 55.6% for 5G. Looking at the Bundesnetzagentur July 2023 statstics, it has the least performing network among the Top 3 providers. However, plans within he o2 network are oftentimes the most economic solution. Check the network coverage for your place on the o2 website (promotional link).
- 1&1: 1&1 has just recently started to build a network of its own. Hence, network progression is still at a very early stage and only available at selected places. However, 1&1 customers have access to the Telefonica o2 network whenever no direct 1&1 service is available.
4. Comparison of plans: What plans are currently available?
This comparison service is provided in collaboration with our partner Verivox. You can compare all plans on the site of Verivox (commercial link) or directly below. We feature a comparison of prepaid and postpaid plans.
Do you need help? Just use the comment function on the bottom to get support on selecting the right plan.