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Internet and broadband services in Spain

The main telephone and internet provider is Telefonica. Telefonica is a general purpose telecommunications company with a tight grip over the telecommunications industry in Spain.

Telefonica is a very big comunications company, one of the largest in the world - 3rd largest in terms of numbers of customers, only behind China Mobile and Vodafone.

Created in 1924, as the Compañía Telefónica Nacional de España (CTNE), they were until 1997 owned by the Government and the only telecommunications player in town. Although in 1997 the Government privatised its interest, its stranglehold on the industry has continued to endure ever since.

Although we are starting to see some new providers breaking into the market,  it is slow - and Telefonica have not exactly been cooperative with the new kids on the block. Pretty much all of the telecommunications infrastructure in Spain is still owned and maintained by Telefonica which means that any kind of new internet service or phone service you see advertised (, orange etc...) their solutions are simply bolted onto networks and hardware already owned by Telefonica.

New internet providers and Telephone companies that have sprung up, particularly across Southern Spain, have been running a loss leader for a number of years in the hope that one day, Telefonica will loosen its grip on this market. This has not gone un-noticed by the EU.

In 2007 the European Union gave Telefonica a huge slap on the wrist. The EU ordered Telefonica to pay a record fine for antitrust of around 152 million Euros, for squeezing out competitors in the Spanish broadband market.

Neelie Kroes, the EU competition commissioner, found that Telefonica, which also owns O2, had charged rivals too much for wholesale broadband services, compared to the cost of its own high-speed internet product.

She added:

"Telefónica's conduct (over more than five years) harmed Spanish consumers, Spanish businesses and the Spanish economy as a whole, and by extension Europe's economy. The fact is that small businesses and consumers in Spain are paying about 20% more than the EU-15 average for high-speed (ADSL) internet access."

Telefonica's customer service and attention to detail

Generally there is a lot of room for improvement, but one of the best things about the service is that for approx 99% of the time it works which means you dont need the customer service. And even when the internet stops working its usually on again pretty quick. The telephones have never been a problem, apart from the international call charges. There are lots of new cheap call services now that plug straight into the Telefonica technology and route any international calls through their own cheap call servers.

Another thing that you have to watch for with Telefonica is the charges that they forget to mention. Make sure you regularly check your telephone bills. Most people who have their broadband connection with Telefonica probably dont realise that they are also paying a charge for virus protection. Its usually around 3 - 4 Euros and you're probably not even aware of it. Small amounts like these add up to big bucks for Telefonica. When I found out that they we were being charged for this, we requested that this service and these charges be removed. The next month we checked our bill and there it was again. It took three times to finally get them to stop charging us for this service. And you haven't got much chance of getting your money back either.

A couple of years back they debited our bank account of 150 Euros without any kind of bill or reason for doing so. When we confronted them about this they denied all knowledge of it and insisted that no record could be found on the computers of this payment. We explained that it says 'Telefonica' on our bank statement. Their response was 'Your bank statement must be wrong'. We still havent got the money back.

Word of advice when calling Telefonica customer service (1004):

Learn Spanish because if you don't you'll have to wait for one of the very few operators who can speak English, who are trying to deal with all of the problem calls from the English speaking Extranjeros (Foreigners). Bearing in mind that a big chunk of Telefonicas customers in Southern Spain are 'silver surfers', ie. Expat Retirees, the wait is likely to be considerable.

When you finally get through to someone who can speak English, pray that they dont say 'this is a techical fault' because then you'll be patched through to the Telefonica technical team where no English is spoken and its time to get a Spanish speaking friend to do it for you.

Switching to another internet provider

Many who have transferred their internet to other providers such as (ya punto com) will know that its not all that its cracked up to be. Often, the internet connection is poor and inconsistent as is the customer service. Once you've made the switch its not so easy to switch back without incurring more charges and furthe problems.

A word of warning for those of you who are considering a switch from Telefonicas service to another telecomms provider. A few months ago, I considered switching after seeing an offer from which looked quite interesting. Cheaper, double the bandwidth etc... Coincidentally, I received a call just a few days later from one of their sales people and rather stupidly I expressed interest in the offer. This led to me receiving numerous phone calls on a daily basis. By this time I had asked around about what the service was like and generally the comments were not good so decided not to switch providers. The calls kept coming though. 2 or 3 times a day. In the end the only way to make her go away was to put it very, very bluntly - Spanish. VETE! (Go away!) - which she did.

Check the Telefonica web site in English for the latest offers