Everything that you must know about television and international channels, landline, mobile phones and Internet Services in Turkey

Turkey-P-TV Telephone and Internet in Turkey

Television

Türkiye Radyo ve Televizyon Kurumu (TRT) is Turkey’s public broadcasting company and broadcasts on a number of channels along with several private networks. The result is a bewildering number of weird and wacky programmes. Unsurprisingly, the majority of broadcasts are in Turkish and most foreign nationals tend to opt for Digital TV. The most popular digital platforms are Digiturk (the most popular) and D-Smart, both offering a large number of packages and channels including  films, sport, children’s programmes, news, documentary, entertainment and programmes in HD and 3D. A limited number of English language programmes are available and some Turkish broadcasts offer subtitles in English. CNN and BBC news programmes are amongst the expat favourites as well as BBC Entertainment, BBC World and several channels showing films in English.

To subscribe to Digiturk, contact the customer service centre (Tel: 0212 473 73 73) apply online or visit a Digiturk Office. They will provide a set-top box, decoder card and satellite dish and an engineer will come to install the system, usually within a day or two.

Digiturk charges a monthly fee for its services (the amount depends on the package you select) payable by direct debit, online or through its customer service centres. D-Smart (0850 266 0 266) offers a similar service, with a slightly different range of programmes and an annual fee.

Telephone

Land lines and Public Payphones

Türk Telekom (TT) is the only supplier of landline telephone services in Turkey and there is no sign of the monopoly ending any time soon. Opening an account can be a bit of a hassle, especially if you can’t speak Turkish, though the TT helpline (444 1 444) does have an English Language option (by pressing 9). The standard route is to visit one of the main TT offices.

You will be expected to provide:

  • personal ID
  • details of your address
  • Residence permit (ikamet) for foreigners.

There is a wide range of tariffs and packages available and bills are payable monthly. You can opt to receive your bills by post (remember that the postal system can be hit and miss), by e-mail or you can register to view your bills and usage online. If you are taking over an existing line, make sure there are no outstanding charges.

Public payphones are scattered around most towns and work with telephone cards available in Post Offices (PTT) or local shops.

Useful telephone numbers

  • To dial Turkey from abroad:   00 + 90 + City Area Code + Number
  • Ambulance:                             112  
  • Police:                                      155  
  • Jandarme                                 156  
  • Fire:                                         110     
  • Coast Guard:                            158
  • Tourism :                                 170

Mobile Phones

Turkey has an on-going love affair with mobile telephony (Turkish: cep telefonu). Coverage is good and services are expanding and improving every year. It seems that most significant hills in Turkey are capped with a mobile phone mast or giant flagpole (or both). The main providers are:

Turkcell has the most extensive coverage, but most users will get good coverage from Vodafone and Avea. Each of the three providers has some English content on their websites but these are of limited use and you may get more sense by ringing the provider and selecting to speak to an English language operator. Each of the mobile phone providers offers a bewildering array of packages and pricing plans to suit all budgets, and you can choose between pay-as-you-go (topped up with cards purchased from shops, through banks or online) or pre-paid (contract) lines. 

Registering your Mobile Phone

If you are living in Turkey or staying for more than a month, you have two main options. You can continue to use your foreign phone and foreign SIM card (and pay expensive roaming charges) or buy a Turkish SIM card. If you opt for the later, you will need to register your mobile phone with the authorities. This is a legal requirement:

“It is necessary to register the mobile phone in order to use it with a SIM card bought from a Turkish network operator. Unregistered phones will be blocked and unable to receive or make calls. Take your mobile phone and your passport to a shop of a Turkish Network Operator (Avea, Turkcell or Vodafone). Buy a SIM card, and the clerk will register the SIM card's mobile phone number with your handset's IMEI number, and with your personal information.”

If you decide to use a foreign phone with a Turkish SIM, recent legislation now means that you first need to pay a visit to your local Tax office (vergi dairesi) and pay tax (100 lira as at November 2012). The tax receipt must be presented to the network provider along with your passport and IMEI number when you register your phone. The provider will charge a small fee for the registration. All non-Turkish phones need to be registered within 30 days of entering Turkey. In theory, an unregistered mobile phone (with a Turkish SIM) will work for a month or so (sometimes longer) before being classed as unregistered and excluded from Turkish networks. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the system is far from uniform but if in doubt, register your phone to be on the safe side. In many ways, it is simpler to buy a Turkish mobile phone and SIM and get it registered there and then.

If your mobile phone is lost or stolen in Turkey, your best bet is to contact your provider and quote your IMEI number. They will attempt to trace your phone and will suspend your service in the meantime.

Internet

Internet access is widely available in Turkey and WiFi access is becoming increasingly common, especially in towns and cities. Also, internet cafés are widespread. When it comes to a domestic ADSL, Türk Telekom's TTNET service is the most widely used internet service. Other providers have found it difficult to compete, though Turkcell Superonline is a noticeable exception and offers fibre-optic broadband in a growing number of locations. Obviously, you will need to have a landline set up for an ADSL service. In March 2012, TTNet and Superonline (between them providing the bulk of Turkish broadband Internet access) started to apply "fair use" policies, restricting usage for most tariffs.

The easiest way to get connected to the internet is to visit the internet service provider’s local office armed with ID and your landline telephone number. An engineer will usually visit your home within a few days. Standard contracts are for a minimum of 12 months and, as with telephones, you can pay your monthly bills online or through post offices and some banks.

A non-landline alternative is to us a 3G dongle from a mobile phone company. Prices, reliability and coverage vary.

Internet censorship and phone tapping

Censorship of the internet is a popular pastime for the Turkish Government and many sites are banned. The threat to introduce comprehensive China-style government regulation in 2011 was withdrawn at the last minute but the danger remains. Phone tapping is surprisingly common in Turkey, requiring only the authority of a local Jandarma or Police official.

By Jack Scott, author of Perking the Pansies, Jack and Liam move to Turkey, a bitter-sweet tragi-comedy recalling the first year of a gay couple in a Muslim land.