Setting up an Internet connection in China

Okay, so the internet in China may be slow and won’t let you access the likes of Facebook and YouTube – but hey, the majority of the sites out there are still ripe for the picking, and you’re still going to need to contact your friends back home, right? So here’s how to hook your home up with the best in 



Major Internet providers include China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, as well as some local TV networks. 

China Telecom and China Unicom – two of the biggest companies - are generally regarded as providing better service, although the situation is different in each city and community. Smaller companies may be cheaper, but may not be available to fix problems at any time, whereas the larger companies offer stronger support.

You should also be aware that your choice of provider may be limited by where you live: not all options are available in every community. 

Additionally, where you live can affect the speed of your connection – large apartment blocks often have hundreds of people connecting to the same central connection simultaneously (especially on evenings) and consequently speeds may drop dramatically at such times. Talk to people in the area about their connections, and find out what they think of their provider’s service. 


Setting up your connection

To get broadband set up in your home, call one of the service providers – all have some form of English service, though this doesn’t always cover all types of inquiry – to ask about the options they offer. For larger providers like China Unicom you can also go into their stores and ask staff for leaflets.

You will probably then need to take your passport to the store to register your account. Some packages require a phone installation; others do not. A technician will visit your house to install your broadband and set your computer up to begin using the service. 


Types of plans

There are two different types of Internet plan. One is a pay-as-you-go system in which you pay for a specific number of hours of access, then top up when you begin to run low. The other option is to pay up front for a fixed period – typically six months or a year – for unlimited access.

Obviously if you pay up-front, you don’t need to worry about paying again until your contract comes to an end. If you pay as you go, or on a monthly basis, you can pay by:

  • Going to your provider’s “service hall” (not just the regular store, but a larger office offering a wider range of account services). You’ll need your passport, though.
  • Buying a top-up card (the same kind as you use for adding credit to a mobile phone).
  • Making payment through your Internet service provider’s website.

If you use the pay-as-you-go method, you can check your balance by calling the service provider from your landline (if you have one) and following the prompts to hear how much money you have left. You can use a top-up card (the same as for mobile phones) to add credit to your account. Alternatively, you can log on to your provider’s website with your Internet service user name and password to check your balance. 


Useful Chinese words and phrases

中国联通 zhōngguó liántōng China Unicom
中国移动 zhōngguó yídòng China Mobile
中国电信 zhōngguó diànxìn China Telecom
宽带 kuāndài broadband
营业厅 yíngyètīng service hall


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