I declare an interest in this subject in that prior to coming to Spain I spent 20 years in telecom of which the last 10 were in LCR (=least cost routing) – or in the vernacular cheap phone calls.

The former Spanish telephone monopoly Telefónica was forced to deregulate back in 1998 and although the change from monopoly to a free market economy has not been as smooth or as noticeable as in other European countries, the customer does now have the opportunity to select with which company he makes his calls with. (Apart from a few relatively small cable operators, Telefónica STILL supplies the underlying service).

There are now many different companies offering similar services as well as huge range of offers from Telefónica. As I mentioned above the new licensed operators have had only minimal effect on the marketplace unlike France, Sweden, the UK and of course the mother of all free marketers, the USA.

Since 1998 licensed operators have been allowed by European law to offer their services in direct competition to Telefónica. That is usually by means of a 4 digit prefix which is dialled before the destination number. In other words to dial my family in the UK I dial 105200442082001940 instead of 00442082001940.

There are other options offered by some companies which include supplying a router/single line dialler which is a little unit about the size of a packet of cigarettes that is plugged into the back of the phone and automatically dials the prefix. A final option for businesses is carrier pre-selection. This is a system whereby the customer still stays with Telefónica as far as the cost of the line is concerned but where calls are automatically routed by the chosen carrier.

By the way, as standard, Telefónica supplies a DOMO handset. Sadly, for most people newly arrived in Spain, the installation manual is in Spanish only so here is a translation.

Who offers the best deal?

Almost impossible to say because of the horrendous complexity of pricing plans and some pretty dubious connection charges or full minute billing – as opposed to the much fairer per second billing. My company has recently commissioned a survey based on a basket of calls, call durations and destinations. Interestingly there was almost nothing to choose between the total costs of the most competitive operators – Midas, Vicom and Spantel. Retevision was almost twice as expensive and Telefónica was 79% more expensive than the most competitive operator!! The good news is that you now have the choice who to spend your hard earned cash with!!

However, to confirm my point about there being no one single “winner”, Spantel was cheapest to Spanish mobiles but 33% more expensive to German landlines. Uni2 was three times as expensive as others to German landlines but second cheapest to German mobiles!

Telefónica have also re-introduced their ‘Euro 15’ subscription services which appears to give a phenomenal rate to the UK and the rest of Europe if (and only if) you are able to limit yourself to 15 minutes per day and can make your calls between 8pm and 8am each and every day of the month. However, if you go over 15 minutes or you do not use up your full allowance the real cost per minute is excessive. In other words, if one invoice month you happened only to make one call for 30 seconds the actual cost of that call would be 6 euros!!

As you see, all that glistens is not gold.

The good news is that generally there is no cost to join an alternative provider and that there is no monthly or other fee. You simply pay for the calls used and receive a monthly itemised bill. This means that you can join as many as you want and pick the best of the offers from every operator. In the USA it there is no real reason why that should be so.

I hope this has been of some help and if anybody would like further information on telephony in Spain they are welcome to contact me. If you wish to register to save money from Spain, Germany or the UK please visit Midas, from Scandinavia and the Netherlands uvtc.com and, of course, from North America ld.net If you want to save a huge percentage on calls from mobiles email Talkbacktele or visit Talkbacktele web-site

This link may also be of interest…


The directory enquiry service has recently been deregulated and is now accessed by dialling 11888 from a landline. (From Vodafone dial 123 )You can even send a SMS from any of the mobile networks to 11888 (11886 for international enquiries)! It is also available in English at Yellow Pages in English Yellow Pages is Paginas Amarillas and another useful site is QDQ which has good information, maps etc about the directory listings.