To help survive the internet in China, we've written this tutorial to make signing up for a new internet account a breeze. The entire process takes just a quick 15-minute visit to your local telco office, and at just $22 USD for the top-speed package, it’s an unbeatable value.
Will upgrading my plan make a difference in speed?
Yes and No - It's true that most overseas websites will see only a slight improvement with an upgraded internet plan. However, the true reason to upgrade is that it almost impossible to build solid internet performance if you don't have the minimal foundation in place.
You don't have to spend a lot - A modern-day connection requires just a minimum of 2.5Mbps for full HD-Quality video at 720p; However, we recommend going up to maximum 200Mbps plan as the use of any VPN or alternative solutions all incur a heavy bandwidth penalty when visiting overseas websites.
What is the VIP option and how do I get it?
The VIP add-on (also known as 国际精品网) is worth it’s weight in gold for internet users. With official support by China Telecom, the VIP option is one of the only official solutions to increase your internet performance speed to foreign websites - all for the low, low cost of ¥50 a month!
Real-world performance is excellent - the VIP option is believed to work by enabling your account with a higher "Quality of Service", meaning your network traffic will take priority over other users in China. The result is significantly reduced latency, which translates to roughly 30-50% real world speed improvement!
Unfortunately, the VIP option was suspended in mid-2016, likely due to the overwhelming popularity of the service. At first, the price was increased from ¥50 per month to ¥250 per month, but when that didn't slow down sales, they stopped offering the service completely. Instead, a replacement service offering "burst" data packages was marketed for a limited time, but no further details was made available.
2017 Update: There is hope for those seeking VIP add-on - If you known someone who is leaving China, it is postulated that you can try to transfer his internet connection, as if he were simply moving to a new address. Unfortunately, we've heard not heard of this method used successfully, as changing the billing name raises both ethical and legal issues, especially when it comes time for annual plan renewal.
How much do Internet plans in China cost?
Fortunately, high-Speed Internet is dirt-cheap in China!
As a result of the 13th Five-Year Plan, China's investment in information infrastructure is expected to exceed 2 trillion yuan, resulting in network connectivity that surpasses many Western countries in both total performance and average cost for internet speed.
*Prices as of Spring 2017
How do I get started?
1. Pick your plan online - we recommend China Telecom’s 200Mbps plan for $22 USD a month
2. The Shop - Signup takes just 15minutes with fluent English speakers available.
3. The Shifu- What to expect in your home
First, find out which telco services your specific building/complex, and look online for the latest specials and deals via the English-language website
The local telecommunications industry is dominated by three state-run businesses: China Telecom, China Unicom and China Mobile, but your home or building may be restricted to a certain carrier that services the entire neighborhood. You’ll also see smaller providers such as “Great Wall Internet” - we recommend avoiding these players regardless of price
Second, head over to the main branch office.
In Shanghai, the main branch office for China Telecom is located at 500 Jiangsu Road. Our signup process lasted just 15minutes, with multiple English speakers available. Make sure to bring your passport, address, and cash/UnionPay (No foreign cards accepted).
Finally, Make nice with the internet shifu when he visits, and he’ll hook you up
The neighborhood internet Shifu will call to arrange a time for installation, typically within the next business day after your account creation. Once he arrives, he’ll install a combination internet modem with built-in router capabilities - typically manufactured by ZTE, with a white and neon green color scheme. We highly recommend you put this valuable item in long-term storage, never to be seen again until it’s time to claim your deposit back.
Instead, make the TP-Link EP110 modem your first taobao purchase:
This little guy helps to separate the functionality of modem and routing into two separate units (vs. depending on a hardware produced by the lowest bidder), resulting in greater stability and increased overall uptime for your internet.
If you have this onhand by the time the Shifu arrives, he'll understand and help you install the TP-Link unit vs. the crap ZTE hardware.
Wrap-up: What is the best wifi router for China?
With your upgraded internet plan, you are off to a great start in surviving China's internet. If you need help, don't hesitate to leave feedback or contact us directly.
Stay tuned for our next article on what wifi router is best for China!