Saturday, February 15, 2014

Getting the Internet in Brussels: Home & Mobile

I've now lived in Brussels long enough, and had enough experience with different Internet providers (both home and mobile) that I thought I should share my recommendations.

Cell Phone Plans/Mobile Internet
Recommendation: Buy Proximus "Generation Connect"
You can buy generation connect here.
Summary: A 20€ a month pre-paid SIM card. With it, you get 2GB of data a month, unlimited texting and "20€ of call credit," which is basically 80 minutes of call time.

As a kind of young person, mobile data is my highest priority. Most of the mobile plans from the big three cell phone services in Belgium (Proximus, Base and Mobistar) focus on texting and call time. They'll usually come with some piddling amount of data, like 100MB. Upon moving to Belgium, I was really interested in getting a lot of data, and also interested in getting a pre-paid plan. (Pre-paid plans are relatively rare and crappy in the US, so I was excited about this opportunity.)

When I first got here, I went with Mobile Vikings. For 10-50€ a month you get a ton of data, texting and some call time. Even better, they are a great company. They truly get mobile. They know we want tons of data for mobile. They have nice, helpful employees, and they respond really quickly and helpfully on Twitter/Email etc. The problem? They have terrible coverage in Brussels. Like, really bad. To the point where it was basically useless. So as much as I would have loved to stay with them, I couldn't do it.

Proximus, on the other hand, has great mobile service (reception/data speed/etc.). They are the mobile arm of the national telephony monopoly here in Belgium. Their pre-paid plans are mostly bad! However, so serious was the perceived threat from Mobile Vikings (and similar, data-first mobile providers) that they had to come us with a competitive offer. In their case, that was the "Generation Connect" plan. It's a good plan. You get plenty of data. You get good service, life it good.

Home Internet
Recommendation: Numericable "Duo TV + Internet", if it's available in your area.
You can sign up for this plan here.
Summary: For 40€ a month, you get very fast Internet, without all the peak problems of Belgacom.

When I first moved here, I had Belgacom Internet and TV. Belgacom is the, again, the national telephony monopoly. Our internet service (DSL) was fast enough when it was working, but we had tons of problems with our router. If you had more than a certain number of devices (in our case, 4) they would constantly be dropping off of the WiFi, and losing service, forcing you to disconnect & reconnect. I talked to a bunch of people at work, they all had Belgacom internet, and they all had the same problems. Even worse, at peak Internet times (Sunday evening!) Internet service was really bad. Streaming video basically didn't work, and this was even with our "premium" service (50mbps, or something like that).

When we moved to a new apartment, we went with Numericable. They are a cable provider (as opposed to a telephone/ADSL provider). So far we've had none of the same problems that we did with Belgacom. Unfortunately, every Commune in Belgium has the right to choose their own cable providers (beyond Belgacom, which is everywhere) so you may not have Numericable in your area. Still, I have heard good reports of the other cable providers, e.g., Voo. Can't be any worse than Belgacom, I say!

Good luck! If you've had any good/bad experiences, please post them below so that others can learn. 


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