Portugal has a modern communications infrastructure that is, in some ways, more advanced than that of the UK. For example, 4G mobile internet has already been rolled out to many towns and cities. We have put together the basic information necessary on all services available:
Portugal has four terrestrial TV channels, but in most areas, a digital TV or digibox is required to receive them. These are “free to air,” but a small TV license payment is added to every electricity bill.
Unsurprisingly, most of the content of these channels is in Portuguese, although most movies are in English with Portuguese subtitles. These channels seem to air a LOT of news, quiz shows and Brazilian soaps.
Those wanting more channels usually subscribe to a satellite or cable TV package, with the main providers being Meo (part of Portugal Telecom) and Zon. Both of these offer combined TV, phone and internet packages, similar to Sky or Virgin in the UK.
Much of the Zon and Meo content is in English. Alongside plenty of American TV content, such as CSI, House and The Simpsons, there is the usual selection of news, sport and lifestyle channels, together with pay-per-view movies and premium channels. A combined package costs in the region of €40-70 (approx. £30-54) per month, depending on the channel package and/ or internet speed.
Many expats buy a large satellite dish, point it at the Astra satellites and use a Freesat or Sky box to receive English channels. Plenty of local installers specialise in setting up these packages. The legality of this is doubtful at best, but this seems to be little deterrent! Due to the distance of the satellites, a large dish is required; otherwise, the channels tend to disappear during bad weather.
Landline phones are much the same in Portugal as in the UK. They are available on their own from Portugal Telecom or as part of combined packages, as discussed above.
Many landline packages offer free local calls, however calls to Portuguese landlines are generally of little use to British expats. International calls can be expensive, leading most expats to use Skype or other voice-over-IP services to call home.
Mobile phones are very popular in Portugal and towns are as richly scattered with mobile phone shops as they are in the UK.
One key difference is that the benefits of getting a contract phone are less significant; handsets are not as heavily subsidised and contracts are not significantly cheaper than pay as you go deals.
Most people purchase a phone outright and choose pay as you go. A credit of €20 (approx. £16) per month is usually sufficient for calls within the country, text messages, mobile internet and a very occasional call to the UK. As in the UK, tariffs vary hugely, so it is worth shopping around. All the providers (the main choices being TMN, Vodafone and Optimus) have detailed websites that can be fully understood with the help of Google Translate.
Home internet can be obtained as part of a package or in isolation for €25+ (approx. £19) per month. ADSL broadband requires a phone line. In some cities, very fast fibre broadband is available.
Broadband in Portugal is fast and reliable in built up areas. Although Portugal Telecom gets bad press, most people find their service reliable. Rural services suffer from the same problems as those in the UK. If an entire village is on the end of a copper cable and somebody steals it (as does happen with alarming regularity) it is inevitable that it can take some time to fix.
Expats who are not permanently based in the country often use mobile broadband dongles instead of getting a fixed broadband connection. The mobile broadband infrastructure is reliable in Portugal, but obviously dependent on a strong signal. In rural areas, it makes sense to check each provider’s signal strength before you purchase. Typically mobile broadband costs about €20 (approx. £15) per GB of traffic. This can last a while for internet and email, but is not economical for video streaming and other high-bandwidth applications.
On the bright side, internet cafes and bars with free Wi-Fi are everywhere – Portugal is not a country where you ever need feel out of touch.
One final tip, when buying property in Portugal, relocating there or setting up your new home, using a currency exchange specialist rather than a bank to transfer your money could save you thousands. Smart Currency Exchange can help you do this – for more information download their free guide by clicking here.