Hooking up your analogue Modem in Germany

I'll deal with ISDN on another page later.

Connecting a modem to the German phone system is not so simple as in the UK or the US but, as long as you buy the correct cables and adapters you can use a normal modem here.

All of these difficulties arise from the German privacy laws and they are very strict and they were written as a reaction to the country's experiences under the Nazi regime. I am not an expert in this area but my understanding is this:

The phone system is required to make evesdropping impossible. Suppose that you have a phone in the kitchen an extension in the bedroom. It must not be possible for a person in the bedroom to listen in on a call being made from the kitchen. This is all achieved by a strange wiring system together with lots of little switches inside the wall outlets for the phones. Also, there are different wall outlets for clever devices such as fax machines that are allowed to pass calls over to other devices and normal voice only telephones.

If you look at a standard German phone outlet you will see that it consists of three sockets next to each other. Look closely and you will see that they are not the same. Normally you will see two marked N and one marked F or perhaps even the other way around. Phones go in the ones marked F and not the ones marked N. When I first tried to hook up a modem in Germany, I went to a computer shop and asked for a cable. I was sold an 'F' cable that would connect to the standard connector on my modem. (The Germans call this a "Western Stecker")

If you want to use a modem with such a cable together with a phone and you have an outlet that has only one F then you must buy a splitter. This is either a little brick that plugs into the wall and replaces what you already have with two Fs and one N or a cable with one F plug on it and two F sockets. I recomend the latter as the bricks cover up your two N outlets and in my experience they are not so reliable.

So, you will need an adapter to give you two Fs and a cable to go between a modem and an F socket. When shopping for these, make sure that you buy a an adapter that gives you two Fs from one F and not one that gives you two Ns from one N or an N and an F from an Netc etc. All of these and more do exist. It's basically a plot to increase profits by ensuring that you will end up buying twice as many cables as you need because you bought the wrong one the first time!

Also, make sure that you have a cable that goes from an F to a modem and not one that goes from an N to a fax machine. The machine end in both of those cases is the normal RJ45 that you get on all modems so it is easy to be confused.

I have also seen cables that will go from an F to a modem style connector but which would not work on a modem. They are designed for some Geramn handsets which have their own, non standard connector.

Finally in a more recent development, some shops are selling N to Western-Stecker cables which they claim will work with a modem. Perhaps they will but if you buy one of these make sure that you can get your money back if it does not work. If you buy one and it does work, please email me because I want to add as much useful information here as I can.

Germany Back to my Germany Information Page
Home Back to my home page