Cultural & Business Guide

Always connected


Chinese mobile phone and internet services have developed quickly in the past thirty years, and the quality of phone calls and data transmission services are catching up with such services offered in the western world. The only downside is that Internet speed is generally slow in China, and the actual connection is usually around 25% slower than what is being advertised.

The conditions of internet access in China (cost, coverage, quality)

To get a decent internet connection at your Chinese office, you need to have some general information about Chinese Internet access.

In general, the network speed is the key point when talking about the wireless internet access. If the connection is too slow when you are browsing the web, the webpage cannot be opened. Additionally, when you send or receive e-mail, you might even lose the mail while you are saving it as a draft. What is quite understandable, customers normally cannot stand the low Internet speed.

Another point you need to keep in mind is that normally new buildings in China have capacities of fiber connection of 100 Mbps, so renting your office in a new building generally helps the Internet speed in your office.

To contract an internet connection in China you need to pick a provider, go to the provider’s shop with your ID (normally your passport) and money to order the service.

In China the two main national providers of Internet service are China Unicom and China Mobile.

Since 2008, China Unicom’s CDMA network was upgrading into a full CDMA1X network. As for today, the coverage and the voice signal of CDMA1X is quite consistent nationwide. However, China Mobile’s GPRS network, due to cost constraints, always had slower expansion than the CDMA1X network.

Moreover, the transmission rate of China Unicom’s CDMA1X is not very reliable in wireless environment. On the other hand, since China Mobile GPRS’s data and voice services share the same channel, if the number of internet users rise to a certain level, it may result with a slowdown of internet transmission speed for all GPRS users. Therefore, the wireless internet service based on CMA1X network is generally faster and more stable than the GPRS network.

Last but not least, CDMA1X internet wireless network card is more affordable than GPRS network card, making CDMA1X wireless internet access more convenient and with a more extensive coverage. In other words, China Unicom has relatively fast, cost effective, and quite sophisticated wireless broadband services. Other internet services such as GPRS has slower internet access, poorer stability, non-competitive price or like China Telecom’s WLAN network may have higher speed but not be overly excessive. Of course, always pay attention to the local internet service provider. Sometimes their proposal might exceed the giant national provider, which is for example the case of Gehua in Beijing.

Chinese cyber cafes

In the past it was quite common to find a cyber café in China, now because most mobile devices can access internet, cyber cafes are becoming scarcer. Cyber cafes operate under the local security bureaus which fall under the jurisdiction of the Chinese Ministry of Culture. In China, whoever wants to access the internet in a cyber café is required to present a valid second-generation Chinese ID card to verify the identity. This is also done to ensure that internet censorship is enforced in China. Costs depend on the environment (chic), the computer (modern and fast) and the service (a cold drink and a snack).

You should note that, as a foreigner (which likely is not second-generation ID card holder), you need to present your passport, and ask staff’s special assistance to help you gain access to the Internet. Due to this exceptional procedure, it is possible that some cyber cafes are unwilling to do so to avoid problems.

In addition, cyber café staff rarely speak English and, because of the internet censorship in China, some popular foreign websites, such as Facebook, are inaccessible in China. Although indoor smoking has been banned nationwide, it is still common practice to smoke in cyber cafes. All things considered, if you have your laptop with you, the best option is actually finding a café and getting online with the free Wi-Fi there.

Get a Chinese SIM

China Mobile and China Unicom 3G technology for mobile devices is completely different than what you may be used to. China mobile uses TD-SCDMA standard, but China Unicom implements WCDMA standard (internationally accepted standards). China Mobile's 3G network is a self-developed TD-SCDMA technology, with the highest speed for Internet downloads set at 2.1Mb. Instead, China Unicom's 3G WCDMA network is also an international standard technology, and the highest rate of Internet downloads is around 7.2Mb.

Besides the clear difference in mobile download speed, pay attention that China Unicom’s 3G WCDMA is supportive up to 90% of global hand-devices, also 80% of global 3G WCDMA network operators are operating under such network that proves universal standardization of the network. So at least if you get a China Unicom 3G plan prepaid Sim card, then you probably do not need to change your mobile device, as long as you pay a little sum once you get to China to have your mobile unlocked.

So, if you decide to buy a Chinese SIM card, you need to go to the provider’s kiosk that are is only one where you do not need to worry about the authenticity of the SIM. Moreover, you can find information on different mobile service packages, so it will be easier for you to choose the most suitable package for your particular needs.

In conclusion, when you go to China you need to do some research to choose the most suitable Chinese internet provider for your business and personal use, and most of the times while you are in China, it is more convenient to get a Chinese SIM card.

External links

Project 2014-1-PL01-KA200-003591