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Broadband in The Netherlands: How to choose

9 maart 2018 (laatste wijziging 2 juli 2019) door Hans

Language: Polish | English | German

Are you an expat, planning to re-locate to The Netherlands? Or a student who plans to study in Holland at a Dutch university? This extensive guide helps you to get connected to the internet while you stay in this beautiful country.

Choosing an internet service provider (ISP) can be tricky: there are a lot of factors to take into account, several companies with multiple internet packages to compare, and endless reviews to read about every single one.

If you’ve recently relocated to the Netherlands and happen to be in this boat, then you’re probably starting to feel a tad overwhelmed – and tempted to sign up with any of the largest ISPs in the country to just get it over and done with. We get it.

Don’t despair: getting connected to the internet doesn’t have to be unnecessarily complicated. In this extensive guide we provide you with all the information needed to make an informed choice for the internet subscription that best fits your needs during your stay here. 

Contents

About internet in The Netherlands

High-speed internet access is widespread in The Netherlands. The country is densely populated. Therefore, laying landlines is relatively cheap compared to other countries (which are less densely populated). This makes it easy for internet service providers to provide high speed landline internet connections to nearly every home in the country.

Most Dutch people (in 2018: 98% of the population1) have a landline internet connection to their homes, next to a mobile data subscription for on the go. Disruptions in service are rare. There can be some downtime due to maintenance to the network, but this tends to be in the nightly hours. So no worries: you can count on a stable internet connection when you are in NL.

Average internet speed in The Netherlands

Average internet speed is 82 Mbps2. This makes The Netherlands part of the top ten of countries with the fastest internet connections.

Dutch politics recognize the importance of a fast internet connection for every citizen. Due to anti-competitive regulations, the government doesn’t have much power to actively improve the speed by laying landlines or offering services. The local ISPs have to do this. But investing in rural areas is less attractive to commercial parties.

This way, there are still quite a lot of homes with a slow internet connection in the rural areas of The Netherlands.

There are no data limits for downloading and uploading while using the landline. This is different from Belgium, for example, where IPSs do put data limits on landline internet connections. There can be a fair use policy in the contract, but don’t worry about this. 

Net neutrality (EU rules, effective since april 2016) bans throttling or favoring specific types of data. The Netherlands was one of the pioneers on the topic of net neutrality however: already in 2012 The Netherlands became the second country in the world to enforce net neutrality by law, before any European laws made this the standard in the EU area3.

Landline internet networks and providers

Networks

There are two large networks in the broadband market in The Netherlands. Formerly state owned KPN has the largest DSL network, based on telephone lines. The Ziggo/Vodafone corporation is a result of several mergers and acquisitions of other cable tv providers and has the largest (coax) cable network. Multiple smaller local networks and local fibre cooperations play a role only regionally. Thus, KPN and Ziggo/Vodafone rule the market.

Virtual providers

Part of the ISPs are virtual providers: they don’t own a network but provide services over the open KPN DSL network. The Ziggo/Vodafone cable network is a closed network and not open for competition to provide services. But a ruling from the ACM (Dutch national regulator for competition) could soon change this closed-state of the cable network.

Types of connections

Most households have both a DSL connection and a cable connection. About 30% of Dutch households has a fibre connection in their home. New fibre networks are in development, but progress is slow. There is little enthusiasm among investors to invest in a new fibre network, because of the high cost of digging the cables & the long payback period. KPN (owner of most of the DSL network) and Ziggo/Vodafone (owner of most of the cable network) prefer in making their current network faster, instead of creating competition for their current infrastructure by investing in fibre. 

Best internet provider in The Netherlands

Wondering what the best ISP is in Holland?

Depending on reviews on our website, these internet service providers come out on top:

ISP name Customer satisfaction score Our score Average rating  
XS4ALL 7,4 8,1 7,7 See the XS4all reviews (in Dutch)
Ziggo 5,7 8,4 7,1 See the Ziggo reviews (in Dutch)
Telfort 6,3 7,9 7,1 See the Telfort reviews (in Dutch)

Mobile internet

The Netherlands ranks second when it comes to mobile download speeds4. The fast 4G network makes sure you can download at high speed on your smartphone. 4G availability is 89,64% 5. Coverage is excellent compared to other countries, due to the dense population: it’s easier to find a spot without tulips and windmills than to visit a place where your phone loses connection.

An even faster 5G network is in development. The first large scale tests are planned for 2020 in Amsterdam6. The expectation is that this network will become operational in 2022 at the earliest.

Providers

Three providers own a physical mobile network: T-Mobile, KPN and Vodafone. There are numerous mobile operators that provide services over the networks of the providers mentioned before. As a user, you won’t notice if you’re a customer at a virtual provider or at a provider with its own network.

mobile providers netherlands

Just a few years ago, Tele2 introduced itself as a new provider with their own network. They entered the market by winning a frequency auction of the government, organized with the intent to introduce a new competitor to the market. In 2017 however, T-Mobile announced that they acquired Tele2. So the mobile market in The Netherlands can be seen as an oligopoly.

Roam like at home (EU)

With an EU sim, you can call, text and use mobile data like in your home (EU-member) country in every other country in the European Union7. This way, you can use your mobile phone in every other EU country as you would in your home country, without incurring extra charges (so no worries about your bill when you arrive home). This applies not only to calling and texting, but also to the data bundle provided by your domestic mobile operator. 

Roaming is a good option if you stay in The Netherlands for only a short period of time (and if you’re an EU resident with a SIM from an EU country of course). However, for longer stays it isn’t a good alternative to a landline connection, because there are a couple of ‘fair use’ caveats to these roaming rules to prevent abuse.

Your operator can monitor your roaming use over a four-month period. If you’ve a) spent more time abroad than at home, and b) used more data while roaming than at home, your operator may contact you and ask you to clarify your situation, to which you’ll be given 14 days to respond. If your roaming data consumption continues to exceed your domestic data usage, then your carrier may start applying a surcharge to your roaming consumption.

For 2018, the surcharge (excluding VAT) for data is capped at €6 per gigabyte of data, but will decrease each year to €4,50, €3,50, €3 and finally to €2,50 in 2022.

Please note that Roam like at home does only apply when roaming. For calling someone abroad (in another EU or not-EU country), higher tariffs may be in place. 

Other options

Are both connecting to a landline and to mobile internet not an option for you? These are alternative ways to access the internet:

  1. Wifi in public transportation:
    • In NS trains and at the (large) train stations. Small train stations don’t offer a KPN hotspot. Some other train operators also don’t offer a wifi hotspot.
    • Some newer busses offer a wifi hotspot.
  2. Most hotels, restaurants and cafes offer a wifi network for their guests. Sometimes you’ll have to ask for the wifi password to get access.
  3. Internet cafes (not very common)
  4. Public computers at libraries

Found an open wifi network? Please note that it’s illegal to use someone’s wifi network without permission. This is called ‘computervredebreuk’ and is punisable by law8. However, it is difficult to discover illegal use of unsecured wifi networks & to enforce this law. 

 

Things to consider when choosing a landline internet subscription in The Netherlands

Contractual obligations (Important!)

Are you sure you will stay in The Netherlands (& keep your subscription) for more than a year? Then you might skip reading these tips.

Do you intend to stay in the Netherlands for less than a year? Or just not sure if you will stay for a full year? Then please read carefully about some caveats you have to watch out for when choosing a subscription. 

If you end your subscription before the contract term ends you may have to pay a penalty fee. When it comes to subscriptions, Dutch law is generally in favor of the consumers. Companies are required by law (the Dutch “Wet van Dam”) to let you end your subscription with a notice period of one month. But this applies only after one year. 

By the way, the same goes for all kinds of subscriptions, like subscriptions to magazines & newspapers, TV subscriptions, fitness subscriptions, etc.

Various Dutch ISPs handle the early termination of your broadband subscription (that is, ending the contract within the first year) different. We asked the largest ISPs about their policies:

  • Ziggo/Vodafone
  • KPN
  • Telfort
  • NLE
  • Tele2

Different rules for for-business subscriptions

For companies, other terms apply. If you sign a subscription as a company, you might get a notice period of three months to a year. This makes it beneficial for subscription companies to allure customers to sign a for-business subscription by stating this subscription might save the customer money. It might be the case that this subscription is a bit cheaper, but it will also bind you to the for-business terms & conditions (including terms like that longer 3 months notice period you likely forgot about when you are about to cancel the contract 2 months in advance).

So please watch out to not register the subscription on your company name if there’s no need to. 

Speed, intensity of use

What do you want from your broadband connection? Don’t like to wait? Or just want something for your basic internet browsing needs?

Low standard/demands, limited use

Situation: does one or more apply to your situation?

  • 1-2 person household;
  • No need for frequent skype contact with family in the mother country;
  • No problem if it takes a while for windows updates, app updates to be downloaded;
  • Fast internet connection available at work;
  • No online gaming;
  • Streaming movies occasionally, but seldom/never with multiple persons at the same time;
  • No watching TV / sport via the internet connection;
  • Low price is important.

If your expectations/standard for your internet connection are low, a simple internet connection will do for you. Don’t bother paying too much for speed you won’t use: choose a simple DSL subscription. 25-30 euro a month, 20-40 Mbps.

Don’t bother choosing a cable or fibre connection. They’re too expensive to justify choosing them.

Higher demands/standard, more intensive use

Situation: does one or more statements apply to your situation?

  • household with 1-2 persons;
  • household with young kids;
  • Watch Netflix, listen to Spotify;
  • Share photos an videos online;
  • Skype with family.

Then look for a internet connection with at least 80 Mbps down, 8 Mbps up. Both cable, DSL or fibre will do.

High standards/demands, intensive use

Situation: does one or more apply to your situation?

  • Teenage kids in your household (who’d like to watch Netflix, watch their favorite youtubers & upload snapchats all day long);
  • Lots of connected devices at the same time (phones, tablets, laptops, smart devices like video cameras, doorbells, etc.);
  • You work at home, for example as a video editor, freelance photographer, vlogger;
  • Would like to share photos and videos fast;
  • Smooth online gaming experience, without lag troubling your chances to win the game;
  • Be able to backup files online instantly;
  • Be online with multiple users at the same time, streaming Netflix films, watching Youtube, play online games and have an uninterrupted Skype conversation at the same time.

Are sending large files, uploading videos to youtube, uploading large sets of photos to your family in your home country something you do on a regular basis? Don’t want to wait? Or don’t want to hear people (your teenage kids?) complaining about the internet connection? Choose a speedy cable or fibre connection from 150 mbps.

Don’t bother looking at DSL connections, only a small chance there’s a high speed DSL connection available at your address.

Internet speed & the hardware in your home

Please note that internet speed does not only depend on your broadband subscription. If you connect multiple devices, you might need a better router hooked up on the modem that the ISP provides. If you connect your devices over wifi, you might need a more powerful router and/or a range extender for better connectivity on the 2th (or 3rd) floor (and in spaces that are further away from the main wifi access-point).

The recommendations mentioned above depend on the availability of different connections at your address. Please read on to learn more about the different types of connections available in The Netherlands. 

Types of connections

To get access to the internet in your home, you need your home to connect to a physical network that is connected to the world wide web. In The Netherlands we basically have three types of connections for landline broadband internet: 

  • DSL
  • Cable
  • Fibre

Each connection type has it’s own advantages & disadvantages, but most of the times these are no deal breakers. Most important to keep in mind:

DSL or Digital Subscriber Line

A step up from the dial-up connections of yesterday, DSL allows for both phone and internet usage at the same time.  A DSL connection uses your local phone line to deliver internet access at speeds as high as 100 Mbps. If the successor of DSL (VDSL) is available at your home, you can get acceptable speeds with DSL. DSL broadband connections tend to be among the cheapest internet connections.

DSL has the highest coverage: Dutch homes without a DSL connection are scarce. DSL’s main draw is that it is widely available and easily accessible. Keep in mind, however, that unlike cable and fibre-optic connectivity, the actual download speeds for DSL can be slower than the speed advertised by the ISP. Generally, the further you are from your neighbourhood’s network access point, the slower the internet speed.

Cable internet

Cable is the most widespread type of connection (almost every Dutch home has a cable connection). Ziggo/Vodafone basically has a monopoly on the Dutch cable market, so a subscription to internet via the cable = a subscription to internet via Ziggo/Vodafone. Cable subscriptions in The Netherlands tend to offer higher speeds (speeds average between 40 Mbps and 300 Mbps) than DSL & can often get you enough speed for a large household with multiple people watching online movies at the same time. In general upload speed is about 10% of the download speed. So if you’d like to have a higher upload speed via a cable connection, get a subscription with a higher download speed.

While cable connectivity is faster and more reliable, its main drawback is that it is more expensive than DSL and may not always be available for you. Even if there is availability, chances are that your choices are restricted to a single provider. Keep in mind that cable internet connections are generally offered as a package, the most basic of which includes a television service. This is a disadvantage if you have no need for a television subscription.

Fibre internet

If the fastest speeds possible are a high priority for you, then a fibre-optic connection is the way to go. Tiny glass fibres send and receive data at speeds ranging from 40 Mbps to 500 Mbps, making fibre-optic connections the fastest internet solution out there. This is especially significant when it comes to upload speeds: fibre connections can upload data up to five times faster than both DSL and cable networks

But, why does upload speed matter? A good upload speed is essential for sending large files (like backups to a cloud backup service or large videos to Youtube) or while hosting videoconferences online. While fibre internet connections usually have the same download and upload speeds, cable internet connections generally feature upload speeds that are 10% of the download speeds.

fiber internet connections Netherlands


So why is fibre internet not the obvious choice for all users? For the simple reason that it requires the presence of fibre-optic cables in your area. Therefore, this option is ruled out if your area doesn’t support the installation of a fibre-optic connection. In 2018 only 36% of the Dutch homes has a fibre connection9. So chances are that it’s not possible for you to get a fibre internet subscription.

Also consider that a fibre subscription is often a bit more expensive than DSL.

Price

Do you want to make every penny count?

Telfort, NLE & Tele2 are amongst the cheapest internet providers in The Netherlands (you can get a subscription with them for as low as € 25 a month). Don’t choose Ziggo if you’re hard pressed for money every month, as they’ll charge you € 39 a month at least. Since with Ziggo you also have to get the basic TV subscription, they can’t get you a landline subscription for a competitive price like Telfort & Tele2 can.

But please don’t blame us if the speed of this cheap connection isn’t enough for your Netflix-binge-watching-needs…..

Dutch insiders tip: get started really fast

In a hurry to get your internet connection activated within days? Choose an internet subscription from Ziggo (or one of the other cable internet providers like Delta in the Zeeland province). Here’s why: in contrast to fibre and DSL connections, the signal on the cable is always on/active. So the moment you receive your modem from the cable ISP, you can start using the connection. Most of the times, Ziggo provides you with the modem within days after you signed your cable subscription at the Ziggo website.

Telfort is also one of the quicker ISPs to get you connected. Most of the time, it takes Telfort only 8 days to get their customers connected.

Can’t wait more than a day? For a € 65 fee, XS4ALL can guarantee you to have internet access within 24 hours. 

Combining subscriptions to get a discount

Want to close your utility contracts like a Dutchman? Then you have to go the extra mile to get extra discount: combine several utility subscriptions to get extra benefits and discounts. If you speak Dutch: not a big problem. But if Dutch isn’t your native language, then this might be an extra hassle.

The options are as follows: combine two, three or even four of these subscriptions to get extra benefits:

  • Cable TV subscription
  • Landline phone connection
  • Landline internet subscription
  • Mobile phone subscription
  • Extra mobile phone subscriptions for family members

The benefits are subject to change, but expect to see benefits like:

  • Up to 5 euro discount per month (on more expensive plans)
  • Double data & minutes on your mobile phone plan
  • Free calls between family members
  • Extra tv channels

Also: some people see it as a benefit to have just one supplier for all their utility subscriptions needs.

Other factors to consider

Does the customer service speak English?

Most of of them do. 

Focussing too much on this can make your subscription more expensive. It’s always handy to ask for help from someone who speaks Dutch. The people of Prijsvergelijken are also willing to help you find the right contract. 

Service you can count on

As a foreigner, it’s difficult enough deciding on which ISP to sign up with. It goes without saying that if you’re ever in need of technical assistance, it’ll make a huge difference if your ISPs customer service is easy to deal with.

Your experience may vary, of course; there’s no company on Earth that can reliably guarantee customer satisfaction for every interaction.

However, according to Consumentenbond, a consumer protection non-profit organisation, a survey of 11,000 consumers found XS4ALL Glasvezel and KPN Glasvezel to have the best customer service in the second quarter of 2017. Both these providers also had the least incidences of service disruptions and downtime.

Ziggo also gets a honourable mention for having been ranked the best ISP for the last seven consecutive years by Tweakers.net, the most popular tech news and reviews site in the country.

If you’re technologically challenged or simply want the reassurance of helpful assistance when it’s needed, these are good options to consider.

Wifi hotspots

Ziggo offers wifi hotspots 

KPN and XS4ALL also offer wifi hotspots. 

Stuff you are safe to ignore

Stability of the internet connection

Internet connections are stable among all ISPs. Outages in service are rare.

Small print in your contract

The law against malicious companies protects Dutch consumers very well.

How to cancel your internet contract before it finishes

It happens to the best of us: you thought you’d be in The Netherlands for at least a year, only to regretfully realise at some point that your stay is going to be shorter than intended after all. Or perhaps you signed up for a subscription during a promotional period, which came with certain conditions, such as longer contract duration than you realised.

Unfortunately, it’s too late: you’re already saddled with a contract with your ISP, and breaking that contract earlier than you signed up for comes at a penalty. Usually, if you want to end your contract before it expires, you’ll have to make an upfront payment for its remainder. For example, if your contract is for a year and you want to terminate it after seven months, you’ll need to pay for the remaining five months immediately.  

The exception to this rule, however, is if you’re permanently relocating to a country where your ISP can’t co-host your package.

We reached out to the major providers in The Netherlands--KPN, Telfort, XS4All, Ziggo, and T-Mobile--and found that in case of this specific situation, all providers except T-Mobile will cancel your contract for free. T-Mobile charges 50% of your remaining subscription fees instead.

Here’s how to go about it.

  1. What documents will you need to provide to your ISP?

Depending on your ISP, you may need to provide the following:

  • An email stating your intent to officially terminate the contract earlier than agreed upon, and a brief explanation as to why
  • Proof that you are leaving the country permanently, such as a notice from your local city council that you have deregistered your address in Holland
  • Proof that you are moving to a country where your ISP is unable to deliver service, such as a job contract in the country you’re moving to
  • Your contact details, including your full name and the address and postcode at which your contract is registered to
  • Your customer service number
  1. What’s the procedure for ending your contract before the term is over?

The following process that we confirmed with KPN’s customer care department is an example of the steps you need to follow.

Step 1: Go to your local gemeente or stadhuis (town or city hall) to officially deregister your address in Holland and declare that you’re leaving the country permanently. Get the confirmation in hard copy.

Step 2: Obtain an official document -- such as a job contract or an admission letter from a university -- showing that you’re moving to a country where KPN is unable to provide service.

Step 3: Write an email to opzeggen@kpn.com, stating your intent to end your contract early, and why. Attach digital copies of #1 and #2, and include your KPN customer number, your address, and contact details.

Step 4: After receiving your email, KPN customer service will call you to verify that the details are accurate, and thereafter, cancel your contract for free.

Apart from a few minor differences, this process is similar for all the ISPs that we contacted. We recommend checking with your provider to clarify whether you’re eligible to cancel your contract for free, and what the process will be for yourself.

Sources

1 https://www.cbs.nl/nl-nl/nieuws/2018/05/nederland-koploper-in-europa-met-internettoegang

2 http://www.speedtest.net/global-index

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_neutrality_in_the_European_Union

4 https://www.recode.net/2017/12/13/16773062/global-internet-speeds-faster-2017-ookla 

5 4G-availability https://opensignal.com/reports/2018/02/state-of-lte

6 https://nos.nl/artikel/2160545-amsterdam-wil-5g-inzetten-bij-ek-2020.html

7 https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/internet-telecoms/mobile-roaming-costs/index_en.htm

8 Wet Computercriminaliteit II http://wetten.overheid.nl/BWBR0019934/2007-09-01

9 Stratix Glaskaart https://www.stratix.nl/academy/ftth-monitor

10. ExpatINFO Holland https://expatinfoholland.nl

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