Mobile Phones in the Czech Republic

Ryan Scott explores the bewildering range of plans and tariffs offered by O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone in Prague

There are three main mobile phone operators in the Czech Republic -- O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone.

A fourth operator, U:fon, entered the Czech market in June 2008. Unlike the big three, who use a GSM network, U:fon uses a CDMA mobile network. This means that phones which work on the U:fon network don't work on other networks, and vice versa.

The following is a simple comparison of the various plans offered by the big three companies.

PREPAID OR CONTRACT?
The first thing to do is to decide whether you are eligible for a plan or only a prepaid card.

Prepaids allow you almost instant access, require no paperwork and commit you to nothing. Contracts tend to offer cheaper rates in the long run but are not as easy to get.

The lines between these options are becoming increasingly blurred, however, with companies offering tariffs that combine elements of the two.

PREPAID
Getting started on a prepaid plan -- also known as "pay-as-you-go" -- is simply a matter of going into a store and selecting the package you want.

O2 offers eight prepaid plans. (O2 Felicia, listed on the English-language section of the O2 website, is no longer available.)

O2 Mix offers O2's cheapest rates -- 3.60 CZK per minute for calls and 1.20 CZK for SMS text messages -- providing you've added 400 CZK of credit to your account the month before. In other words, you're expected to add 400 CZK every month in order for the cheaper rates to apply. If this isn't the case, calls cost 6.20 CZK per minute and text messages cost 2.80 CZK -- still cheaper than most of O2's other prepaid rates.

Furthermore the period of this special offer depends on how much credit you have on your phone after activation. If you have less than 100 CZK, the offer lasts 45 days; from 100 CZK to 499 CZK the period is six months; and 500 CZK of credit gives you 12 months.

Unfortunately, the full terms and conditions are available in Czech only.

The terms and conditions also apply to O2 TXT and O2 Fajn. Of these, O2 TXT offers the next cheapest rates -- 5.50 CZK per minute for calls and 2.00 CZK per SMS text message.

Otherwise, the standard rates for O2 prepaid services are:

• 7.50 CZK per minute to all networks; after the first minute, 5.00 CZK per minute to O2 numbers

• 3.70 CZK for SMS text messages

It's possible to make free calls to O2 numbers on weekends, in return for an activation fee of 50 CZK, but these calls aren't possible on public holidays or when you're out of credit.

T-Mobile offers a range of prepaid plans, which it markets under the "Twist" name.

Using the basic Twist Start tariff, phone calls to all networks cost 5.90 CZK per minute and SMS text messages cost 2.90 CZK each.

Aimed at customers who prefer sending text messages, the Twist ProSMS tariff offers phone calls to all networks costing 6.90 CZK per minute and text messages costing only 1.90 CZK.

For a weekly fee of 19.00 CZK, the Twist Týden tariff allows you to call landlines and other T-Mobile numbers for 3.50 CZK per minute, to call other networks at 5.90 CZK per minute, and to send SMS text messages costing 1.90 CZK each.

Vodafone has done away with written contracts altogether, instead offering a choice between classic prepaid tariffs, and tariffs that require you to keep your phone credit topped up to a certain level.

Vodafone's range of prepaid tariffs is easy to understand:

If you have less than 349 CZK in credit on your phone, calls cost 6.00 CZK per minute.

If you add more than 349 CZK, costs decrease accordingly:

350-699 CZK -- 5.00 CZK/minute
700-1,149 CZK -- 4.00 CZK/minute
1,150-2,099 CZK -- 3.40 CZK/minute
2,100+ CZK -- 3.00 CZK/minute

Text messages cost 1.19 CZK each, regardless of the amount of credit on your phone.

To qualify for one of Vodafone's other tariffs, marketed under the Nabito (Loaded) name, you'll need to present a valid ID and pay a "call deposit".

This deposit is equal to the amount of credit below which you agree that your account won't drop in order for your phone to remain unblocked.

The cheapest is Nabito 119, with a monthly charge is of -- you guessed it -- 119 CZK. Calls cost 6 CZK per minute and you receive 19 minutes of free calls or 100 free text messages.

The most expensive tarif is Nabito 2100, which, for a monthly fee of 2,100 CZK grants you 700 minutes of free calls or 1764 free text messages.

When you've used up that allowance, calls cost 3 CZK/minute and SMS text messages cost 1.19 CZK each.

See the Vodafone website for a full list of tariffs.

CONTRACTS
Since a monthly plan requires a contract, the conditions for obtaining one are a little stricter than for a pay-as-you-go phone.

To enter into a contract with O2, you need a rodné číslo (personal identification number), which rules out anyone who doesn't have Czech permanent residency or citizenship.

To enter into a contract with T-Mobile, you need a valid passport and either a long-term visa, a long-term residency permit, a permanent residency permit, or a bank statement or utility bill that shows you've been living in the Czech Republic for at least three months.

O2 offers a large range of tariffs, six of them under the Neon label.

The two cheapest are Neon SMS which is 300 CZK/month and includes 250 free SMSes, and Neon S (meaning "small") which costs the same but instead includes 40 minutes of free calls.

The tariffs range up to Neon XXL, which costs 3,900 CZK/month.

Otherwise O2 offers a range of Simple tariffs -- the Simple 240, Simple 600, Simple 980, Simple 1350 and Simple 1980 -- the number of which refers to the monthly fee in crowns (minus VAT).

As you'd expect, the larger the monthly fee you pay, the cheaper it is to make calls, which range down from 5.83 CZK/minute (O2 Simple 240) to 3.45 CZK/minute (O2 Simple 1980).

See the O2 website for a full list of tariffs.

T-Mobile offers two types of contract: credit tariffs (Kreditní tarify) and minute tarrifs (Minutové tarify).

Although it involves a written contract and a monthly fee, the credit tariff offers some of the flexibility of pay-as-you-go, with unused credit and minutes carrying over into the next month.

There are five types of credit tariff -- Kredit 250, Kredit 450, Kredit 700, Kredit 1200 and Kredit 2000.

Depending on the tariff you choose, phone calls cost 5.00 CZK per minute (Kredit 250), 4.50 CZK per minute (Kredit 450), 3.50 CZK per minute (Kredit 700), 3.00 CZK per minute (Kredit 1200), or 2.50 CZK per minute (Kredit 2000).

SMS text messages cost 1.00 CZK each.

More traditionally, minute tariffs involve monthly fees and free minutes that can't be carried over into the next month, unlike credit tariffs.

T-Mobile has six types of minute tariff, ranging from the T30, which costs 226.10 CZK/month and includes 30 minutes of free calls, to the T1500, which, as the name implies, grants you 1,500 free minutes, at a cost of 4,462.50 CZK/month.

See the T-Mobile website for a full list of tariffs.

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