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Communications for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: July 2014

Portugal is a country filled with hills, mountains and valleys, so there are quite a few areas that have no coverage, but this will generally only affect you if you are out exploring. Coverage in the populated areas is generally good. It has a relatively low mobile subscription penetration percentage compared to the rest of Europe, and a very low mobile broadband penetration percentage.

Portugal’s networks work on the GSM 900 and 1800 standards (3G is on 2100), so any phone you bring with you must conform to it. However keeping your home service provider is probably not a good idea, as roaming charges are high in Portugal. When you first arrive, your best choice may be to buy a prepaid SIM card. These are available at the network providers’ stores, but can also be bought at specialist shops such as The Phone House (store locator). Once you are settled in Portugal you can investigate long term contracts.

There are three main network providers in Portugal:

There are also some MVNO resellers for the three main providers, for example Lycomobile and UZO. Competition between providers means that there are a large number of different offers and prices available; so as always it pays to do some research. Also you will have to decide whether you want to use the internet on your phone. At present the mobile internet phone service is quite expensive and can occasionally be slow during periods of high usage. Mobile phone coverage in Portugal can be a problem due to the uneven terrain. There is a useful website here which maps the phone coverage for the different providers and levels of service (4G, 3G etc). Once you have settled into your accommodation, you can always ask your neighbours if there are any problems in the area, and which provider has the best coverage. If you are living in a village in the countryside, you may find that there is only one mast available, so you will have to go with that company. Many of the companies will also sell combined mobile, internet and TV packages.

Broadband internet based on a landline or cable is pretty much standard in Portugal, though penetration rates are relatively low by European standards. The main landline provider in Portugal is Portugal Telecom, which also owns a number of companies offering bundled deals. There are several other service providers in Portugal, so the choice is reasonable. If your accommodation is fitted with a cable TV connection, this can be used as a phone and internet connection as well. There are several cable TV providers in Portugal, including MEO, ZON and Cabovisão. Satellite TV including broadband is also an option, which is fine if you have a pre-existing satellite dish installed, but otherwise might involve the additional expense of installation. There is a company called Europasat which offers satellite broadband from different providers, they have a comparison service here. If you shop around you should be able to find a broadband deal which suits you; there are plenty of deals which include mobile phone, TV, internet and telephone all in one package.



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