Choosing an Internet Service Provider
Looking to get online in Prague? Here's a quick introduction to the various options available
Rival companies offer a bewildering range of services, and Telefónica O2's recent takeover of Český Telecom, the country's incumbent phone operator, further complicates the situation, with many new deals now on offer.
And as an added complication, the ISP market is constantly changing, with new deals appearing all the time.
The most common form of permanent internet connection in Prague is broadband, either via cable modem (mainly from UPC) or via ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line), which is available from several different companies.
Mobile phone operators like O2 (formerly Eurotel) and T-Mobile also offer wireless connections, which allow you to access the internet across most of the Czech Republic, without using a phone line or cable connection.
You can also still choose an old-fashioned dial-up connection, which allows you to pay for the Internet as and when you use it.
You should consider whether you will be an occasional surfer or if the internet is an essential part of your life.
In the latter case, you'll almost certainly want some form of permanent connection.
Another factor is the type of material you want to download – some packages allow unlimited data download, while others set restrictions, and each is priced accordingly.
Then there's the issue of coverage: although there are a number of providers and various types of connection, in reality your options might be more limited, particularly if you don't live in central Prague.
Cable connections aren't available throughout the Czech Republic, and even some parts of Prague aren't covered.
And although wireless connections offer you a lot of flexibility, some users find them unreliable.
You usually have to sign a contract with an ISP, lasting up to two years, which can be inconvenient.
On the other hand, entering into a contract with an ISP usually means that that the set-up charge involved is either very small or waived altogether.
Foreign nationals are legally entitled to enter into a contract with a Czech ISP, but should first check what paperwork is required (what type of residency permit, for instance).
Another point to consider is the actual installation and aftercare. If you don't already have a telephone connection you'll have to rely on Telefónica O2 to install one, and that could take some time.
Once you've got a phone line, you have more options, and it pays to shop around.
Comparing the cost of similar UPC and Telefónica 02 packages, for instance, revealed, following set-up and one month's use, a price difference of 5,888 CZK.
OVERVIEW OF SERVICES
Finding your way round the maze of offers is difficult, but here's a very rough guide to some of the services provided by the main companies:
Having bought and merged Český Telecom and Eurotel, this Spanish company now offers the Czech market's widest range of fixed-line and mobile internet services.
• A range of fixed-line internet services for domestic users, from O2 Internet Expres 512, which offers a maximum download speed of 512 kilobits per second, to O2 Internet Expres 4096, with a maximum download speed of 4096 kilobits per second and allows unlimited data downloads
• A range of fixed-line internet services for business users, similar to those above but with a wider range of features
• Komplet, which combines fixed-line and mobile internet connections in one package
• Internet Extreme, which ranges in download speed from 512 to 4,096 kilobits per second, and offers unlimited data downloads
T-Mobile's Internet 4G service aims to offer a mobile internet connection with speeds comparable to fixed-line ADSL connections.
UPC offers data transfer via a cable TV connection, thus bypassing a telephone connection. They currently offer eight internet packages, ranging from UPC Flex, with a download speed of 512 kilobits per second, for people who use the Internet several times a week, to UPC Professional, with a download speed of 12,228 kilobits per second, which allows unlimited data transfer.
You can check whether the area you live in has cable coverage on the UPC website (in Czech).
If you're still not sure which package for you, it might be an idea to check out the ADSL.cz website, which allows you to compare offers from five different providers - Telefónica O2, České Radiokomunikace, GTS Novera, Tiscali, and Volný.
You might also consider Wi-Fi, the subject of a future Prague TV article.
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