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The Peoples Republic of China is a very special country to buy a local SIM card. Although almost every mobile device is produced here in these days, buying a
SIM card can be quite complicated, especially as very few people understand or speak English and you'll face some restrictions.

Contents [show]

Basics Edit

This article applies only to mainland China and doesnt refer to the 'special administration' areas of Hong Kong and Macau, where other laws are enforced and
providers operate (see Hong Kong and Macau chapters).

Networks Edit

China has three national networks:

China Mobile ()
China Unicom ()
China Telecom ()

All three are state- (or people's-) owned and controlled. China Mobile is the largest mobile provider of the world with more than 800 Mio.
customers and almost 2/3 share of the market, followed by China Unicom with 24% and China Telecom with 14% market share.

Frequencies, compatibility and coverage Edit

Network 2G/GPRS 3G/UMTS 4G/LTE

China TD-LTE: 1900, 2300, 2500 MHz

900, 1800 MHz TD-SCDMA
Mobile Bands: 38, 39, 40, 41

FD-LTE: 850, 1800, 2100 MHz

China 2100 MHz TD-LTE: 2300, 2500 MHz
900, 1800 MHz
Unicom Band: 1
Bands: 1, 3, 5, 40, 41

FD-LTE: 800, 1800, 2100 MHz

China TD-LTE: 2300, 2500 MHz
Bands: 1, 3, 20, 40, 41

All numbers and bands in italics are not compatible with most GSM-based devices sold outside of China

China Telecom uses a CDMA network which is incompatible with all GSM-phones purchased outside China. Only a few CDMA devices from the US or Asia can adapt to their frequencies (for more
details see China Telecom section below).

2G: China Mobiles and China Unicoms 2G (up to EDGE speed) are compatible with common GSM/2G phones (although US-models need quad-band).

3G: China Mobiles 3G service is based on a weird Chinese-made TD-SCDMA standard, which unfortunately is not compatible with any phones from outside China. Again, if you brought your own
phone from outside China, you will not be able to use 3G on China Mobiles Network.

Only China Unicoms 3G network is compatible with any unlocked phone that supports 2100 MHz 3G, which covers most modern smartphones in up to HSPA+ speed (max. 21.1 Mbit/s).

4G/LTE: LTE started in 2013 on China Mobile as TDD-LTE on 1900, 2300 and 2500 MHz, which is now starting to be used in other countries too. Certain phones like the iPhones 6/7 are usable on
China Mobile's 4G network. China Unicom and China Telecom were given licenses for 1800 MHz 4G FDD-LTE which are much more compatible with most 4G phone models worldwide and are now
already used in most cities.

The reasons for this frequency mess-up are described in detail by Michael Jennings: here (His story is still accurate, but needs an update: In early 2014 China Mobile has teamed up with Apple and
since then the biggest operator of the world sells the iPhone at last).

In 2014 China's regulator released MVNO licenses to dierent companies. Mi Mobile ( ) by manufacturer Xiaomi started in September 2015 both on China Unicom and China Telecom.
SIM cards are only available online to be sent to a Chinese address and registration can be made only with Chinese IDs. That's why they aren't listed (more info in Chinese here ).

Coverage Edit

China Mobile has the best coverage in the country, covering the whole nation in 2G. But you will get it only in up to EDGE speed (around a max. of 320 Kbps). This is sucient for phone calls and texts
and basic data like: maps, WAP sites, instant messaging. Not holding a phone built for the Chinese market China Mobile's 2G is pretty useless for mobile internet or VoIP calls. For this, your only
choice is China Unicom on 3G/4G, which still has a reasonable coverage.

Starting up Edit

While it has become more dicult to get a local SIM card in recent days, the process is still relatively painless (but be prepared to wait if you go the ocial way). There are no regulations that you have
to live in the country or province. Some vendors are trying to sell mostly China Mobile SIM cards on the street. If you do this, make sure the SIM works before leaving the vendor stand. While you can
skip the tedious task of registration by doing this, you will not be able to receive any support after activation.

Better go to small mobile shops or the ocial shops of the operators showing your passport and say SIM Kaa pointing at your device. Dont expect anybody to speak English (you may be luckier if
you are in a foreigner area of a big city). You may make a print copy in Chinese of the products which are featured on this site before going to the store.

The problem is recently, that most shops - even the small newsstands - only accept the machine-readable Chinese ID card. Foreign passports seem to be accepted only by the flagship stores of the
providers (or at airports). While you may ask a Chinese to 'borrow' his ID card, you should know that behind the strict identification requirement is to track someone down in case of 'politically incorrect'

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use of the cell phone. What shops may do instead is sell you an unactivated SIM; this way, you can still enjoy the lower prices that third-party vendors are often able to get.

Start-up prices for the SIM cards can be very variable depending on the number. While a 8 in your number means good luck and an extra surcharge, a 4 in contrast is seen as bad luck and the SIM will
be discounted. So prices are around 60 RMB for unlucky numbers up to 300 RMB for very lucky ones.

China's operators don't charge for new basic SIM cards (while a surcharge may be billed for a nano SIM). The minimum initial credit is 100 RMB and you have to choose a package for service, which
starts at 8 RMB per month with no inclusive minutes or SMS. You can pay more (between 18 to 588 RMB per month) for a variety of combinations of minutes, SMS and data.

Call costs vary depending on whether you are in or out of the province where you bought and registered the SIM card, and if you are out of province, then you also pay to receive calls unless you have
a plan that includes it. But this is changing; China Mobile has already removed domestic roaming and long distance surcharges as of September 1, 2017, and all other carriers are expected to fall in
compliance by October 1, 2017.

Data rates are generally low: all providers have lowered their default rate to 60 RMB per GB. This means that for data you can use their default rate. From 2015 all providers have also started to roll over
unused data allowances in bundles over to the next month.

The registration can lead to some paperwork, but should be done in a couple of minutes even if you dont speak the Mandarin. Their flagship stores are very recommended especially if someone
speaks English there, as he/she can help you with problems using the service. On the other side, its not recommended to buy a SIM card at airports, as the prices tend to be higher there, although it
will be easier to find an English speaker.

Another option is to buy a Hong Kong-based SIM or a SIM from abroad and use it roaming in mainland China. Both China Mobile and China Unicom sell SIMs in Hong Kong with very reasonably priced
data packages that allow access to websites ordinarily not allowed (see censorship) as well as cheap voice calls and texts. Many of the Chinese issues below can be avoided by doing so (online top-up
with home country credit/debit card means no one-province-only top-up voucher issues, all usage is priced at one national rate, no advertising texts) at the cost of somewhat higher prices on voice,
text, and data (still well below roaming from most other countries). That's why some oers of HK-roaming SIMs and SIMs from abroad are added at the bottom of this article. Most of those oers no
longer provide a mainland number (China Unicom Hong Kong has ocially started selling dual-number SIMs again according to their Facebook page, but requires registration at point of sale for those

Normally, all three sizes of SIM cards are available. If not, someone will cut it to size for you.

Real name registration Edit

A real name registration policy for mobile users in China was issued in 2010, requiring people to show their national identification card and complete a registration form when purchasing a new SIM
card to activate mobile services. Started in 2013, all new mobile phone users have to register their real names in order to use any services. You might easily get a SIM card from a retail store on street,
but you still have to go to the service point of the carrier for ocial registration and activation before using it.

Though some shops will still activate your SIM card on someone else's name for a surcharge, do not expect this; due to sting operations run by local police to catch vendors doing this, you may only
be able to do this if you look obviously not Chinese. Also note that carrying a SIM registered to someone else carries the risk of being shut down with no recourse to any lost balance, if they have found
out, since this behaviour is now quite illegal. On a lesser note, you won't be able to change your plan, add/remove services, or replace the SIM at the carrier store if the SIM is not registered to yourself.

Regional organization Edit

All three providers are organized regionally. You get a SIM card with mobile phone number associated with region of purchase (area, province) like in the USA or Russia. All calls are charged equally
within the province, around 0.2 RMB per minute. And you are charged the same being called and calling out. Calls outside the province will have a surcharge again inbound and outbound, international
(IDD) calls can be very expensive and often not enabled at all.

This national roaming exists not only for incoming calls but for data too. On many taris local and national data are distinguished. So try to buy your SIM at the place you intend to use it most or buy
another SIM in the next province.

UPDATE 2017: All three network providers announced to abolish all domestic or inter-provincial roaming fees for calls, texts and data from October 1st, 2017. China Mobile has already done so as of
September 1, one month earlier than required.

The regional organization of the mobile providers does mean that you have nationwide coverage, but topping up you SIM card outside of the province where you have bought it can be a formidable
task. Recharge vouchers / top-up cards () sold all over the country only work in the province where there are sold! This makes it very annoying for travelers to recharge their SIM cards.

So try to load enough credit in your home province, or you have to ask a local if he can help you. Of course you can recharge online on the operator website or use the Taobao platform but all this
way accept Chinese credit cards only. Some travelers succeeded in topping up not by scratch cards sold all over but to look for the few agencies which provide direct / electronic top-up giving their
phone number and paying in cash. Furthermore, there are reload agencies on the web, doing the top-up for a surcharge.

Running out of credit is not a good idea, as your phone may be blocked for incoming calls too. This depends on the provider. China Mobile will allow you to run an overdraft. The amount varies
depending on your payment history and how long you have been a customer with them. China Unicom may allow incoming calls even with a zero balance depending on your plan. If your plan allows it,
you will receive a text when your balance reaches zero, notifying you of that fact. Your text messages may also be deleted if you have not stored them before in your phone.

Further particularities Edit

You will get a lot of advertisements, which you cant block. Ad text messages are the least annoying and can be deleted right away. But you will get calls in the middle of the night as well with only one
ring. The idea is to make you call back an expensive premium number, so don't call it back. If you have a Hong Kong SIM, you may instead find banks and lenders cold-calling you advertising personal
loans. These are easy to avoid by rejecting calls from numbers starting in 852. You will also get the data balance popping on your phone every time it disconnects from the network and this can be
quite often.

Even if you choose to try to stick to WiFi instead of purchasing mobile data, you should know that a lot of public access points in places like Starbucks, McDonalds or at airports need a verification
code to be sent to a Chinese mobile number, which you need to provide.

Instant messaging has become an usual form of communication in China too. There WeChat is generally preferred to WhatsApp, but certain other apps like LINE and KakaoTalk are outright blocked.

Suspending your plan Edit

All 3 major carriers have an unclear cancellation policy. Ocially they require you to cancel your plan when you leave to avoid being blacklisted. Account termination must be done in person, and
cannot be done over the phone.

If you leave the country without properly terminate your plan and account, you will not be able to re-register a new SIM/phone number on subsequent visits to China. Plan termination of a prepaid
SIM/account require you showing up at one of the branded stores of the operator with the original ID used to registered the SIM. Otherwise the system will draw your balance through monthly plan
deductions, until the balance reaches zero and will release your number 90 days later. If you return to China at a later day and wish to register and activate another prepaid SIM/phone number, you will
be required to pay the 90 days worth of monthly fee of the oending prepaid account, for the period when your account is sitting at zero balance prior to your number being released.

If you let your SIM/account lapse in this fashion 2 or more times, you will be blacklisted and not able to registered future SIMs through the normal proper channels. Cancellation of prepaid plan is only
allowed if your account balance is 25 RMB or less, and it doesn't matter if you wish to forfeit the balance.

Other users reported no problems just to leave without cancelling. So check locally with your provider about termination. Specific to China Unicom, this issue can arise if you are activated as a

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postpaid () customer (with them, it is possible to enter a postpaid service agreement without a deposit or a credit card on file even if you are not resident, and have your account set up such that
you receive no bill at all, not even an electronic bill) so make sure your account status in their system is prepaid () after activation. If you have been aected by the blacklisting and don't wish to
pay, your only option to use the Unicom network going forward is to buy a SIM from Hong Kong or abroad, where registration rules don't apply. It is unknown yet whether the new dual-number Unicom
SIMs that require registration will allow registration of someone who has been previously blacklisted on the mainland.

IDD calls Edit

Cheap foreign (IDD) calls can be made from landlines using special long-distance value cards called "IP cards" or using VoIP from your mobile if you have a stable 3G/4G connection or a WiFi access.
Be aware that an IP card costs about 20 to 25 CNY and has a credit of 100 CNY!

Censorship Edit

The censorship in China is so widespread and notorious that it needs to be addressed in more detail as it will certainly hamper your internet access and operations. This is often referred to as Great
Firewall of China.

Access to lot of websites is simply blocked. Not only political, but usual sites like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. In particular Google including Gmail, Search, Maps, etc. are blocked since it
discontinued their cooperation with the Chinese authorities. Here is an updated survey of the most important websites that are inaccessible right now in China: Websites blocked in China

All social messaging (like WeChat or Whatsapp) and even text messages are screened and monitored for certain terms and can be censored. This surveillance normally applies to texts in Mandarin
(Chinese) language only and English will not be filtered.

The usual way to circumvent this blocking, is to use a VPN or proxy app or software. Before travelling to China, you should download and try out some of them and possibly sign up to and familiarize
yourself with one. Make sure, that they are not blocked as the Chinese government or operators (esp. China Unicom) try to sni and kill the connection if they detect a VPN. You should also change
your DNS server to a server ouside of China.

Here is a manual how to implement a VPN on an iPhone: how to break through the great firewall of China
Here are updated lists of best working VPN proxies for China: list #1 list #2
Here is a manual how to change DNS servers and how to avoid China's DNS servers

From February 2018 the Chinese government plans a total ban of VPN services in the country. All local providers are ordered to eectively block all VPNs and therby close access to many foreign sites.
It remains to be seen, if this ban can be enforced or VPN providers will still find a way to bypass it. Apple has already removed major VPN apps from its store. To be sure to have access to vital sites
use an international SIM card (even one from Hong Kong or Macau) on roaming in China as these restrictions don't apply to roaming SIM cards from abroad.

Access to VoIP (Skype and others)is not restricted and tethering is allowed on all Chinese SIM cards.

China Mobile () Edit

Normally, China Mobile should not be part of the list as it uses a very own and totally incompatible 3G version called TD-SCDMA. It has the most
developed 4G/LTE network too, but again it uses a very Chinese TDD-LTE which is only just starting to be used in a few other countries. For 4G
1900 MHz (band 39), 2300 MHz (band 40) and 2500 MHz (band 41, compatible with band 38) on TDD-LTE are employed.

On the other side, its by far the biggest operator of the world with more than 800 million customers (thats more as twice as much as all mobile
subscribers in the US on all networks together), and there are operators outside China starting to adopt TDD-LTE as well (meaning in the future
more devices sold outside the country will support it). In 2015 it had 250 million 4G customers alone, that's more than the next five 4G providers in the world combined. So we should make an

Without doubt, it has the best network in all provinces and is your first choice for voice and text as theses rates dont dier so much among the providers. For data you will probably get only EDGE
speed up to 384 kbit/s, but often slower. So desktop websites, VPN use (see above) or VoIP are not feasible on China Mobile on most GSM-devices. The iPhones 6/6+/7 (except those purchased from
the major carriers in America) and certain Sony phones sold in Japan (like Xperia ZL2 and Z3) support the 4G used by China Mobile, resulting in a much better data experience. Newer phones now
often include at least some support for China Mobile TDD-LTE frequencies. Google Pixel global version includes full support for China Mobile, including TD-SCDMA and TDD-LTE.

Easy Own and MZone Edit

In most cities, China Mobile used to sell their prepaid cards not under its own brand name, but under other names like Easy Own (= Shnzhuxn) or MZone ( = Dnggn Ddi). From
2015 China Mobile 4G branded SIM cards are sold in the centers where LTE was launched. Prices and composition of the plans vary slightly by province.

To add value, remember value cards only work within the province: Theyll either be a scratch-o card, or a tear-o voucher, a typical value is 100 RMB for China Mobile, dial 138-0013-8000 or
138-0013-8000, press 2 for English, then press 1#, and enter the number printed on your voucher or card.

For cheaper international calls, you need to activate IDD prefixes. This usually requires a deposit and a visit to a China Mobile shop. Prefix 12593 costs 1 RMB per month but does not require a deposit.
For IDD call prices using this prefix, see here .

You can check your balance at any time by sending an SMS with the text "ye" to the number 10086. If you have a data plan, you can send an SMS with the text "1091" to 10086, and you'll receive a
reply stating how much data you've used and how much is remaining.

Data feature packs Edit

In most provinces like Shanghai or Beijing, new subscribers are now required to pick a base plan first, which is either a MZone, EasyOwn or a new 4G global plan. MZone plans include data allowances
for mobile internet and in some provinces for WiFi hotspots with the SSID of "CMCC-WEB" around China, as well as generally nationwide free incoming calls and dier between regions.

Their 4G global plans (4G ) all include both local voice minutes and mobile data, with free incoming calls (e.g. valid in Beijing and Shanghai and similar to most other places):

Price Data Voice

18 RMB 100 MB ----

28 RMB 100 MB 50 mins

38 RMB 300 MB 50 mins

48 RMB 500 MB 50 mins

58 RMB 500 MB 100 mins

88 RMB 700 MB 220 mins

138 RMB 1 GB 500 mins

158 RMB 2 GB 500 mins

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238 RMB 2 GB 1000 mins

268 RMB 3 GB 1000 mins

338 RMB 3 GB 2000 mins

588 RMB 6 GB 4000 mins

These packages need to be activated in-store or online, if you know Mandarin. Other plans and packages may be available according to province. On all plans unused data rolls over to the next month.

Overuse fees are only 0.29 RMB per MB and having reached 60 RMB (at slightly above 200 MB) the rest of up to 1 GB is free. Note that this makes excess data very cheap at 60 RMB per GB, only
capped at 500 RMB or 15 GB. In fact, it's cheaper for using data-only to buy a small package and use excess data instead.

More info Edit

APN: cmnet
China Mobile Customer Service Hotline: 10086 (free, English available)
Website in Mandarin for China Mobile:

China Mobile Hong Kong (for roaming in China) Edit

Unlike China Unicom, China Mobile has its own network in Hong Kong. However, this doesn't prevent them from selling their own roaming SIMs for mainland China out of Hong Kong. They come with
some benefits, like bypassing the Great Firewall, skipping registration, and being able to top-up with a foreign credit card. Additionally, China Mobile HK oers a bonus scheme for users, who reload
online. However, their roaming SIMs are harder to find online, usually being limited to sales on eBay from third parties. If you are transiting Hong Kong on the way to China and have the time to step
outside, there is a China Mobile kiosk on the arrivals level at HKG airport.

Regulations Edit

From the end of 2016, to conform with mainland registration laws, existing dual-number SIM cards will need to be registered while in HK; registration details will be shared with mainland China
authorities. For details check China Unicom HK oers below. If you don't wish to register your SIM, you will continue to be able to use your Hong Kong number, but will no longer be able to use the
mainland number (and thus, any services that use SMS to verify). No new SIMs with mainland number are sold anymore.

All CMHK SIM cards state on the packaging, that they should be activated in Hong Kong. This is a suggestion, not mandatory; there is a bonus of unlimited data in HK for exactly 24 hours upon
activation (you will get SMS confirmation of expiry time), but if you don't plan on going to HK first, it can be activated from within mainland China with no issue by dialing *#130# on the phone, after
signal is received.

Restrictions Edit

Do note, that if your phone does not support China Mobile's TDD-LTE or TD-SCDMA technology (see China Mobile and Basics above), it won't be able to access 4G or 3G in mainland China. Only the
4G/3G SIM is available now, so even if your device doesn't support these network technologies, you no longer have the option of paying less for 2G access only.

Voice and data SIM cards Edit

4G/3G China-HK Prepaid SIM Card costs HK$ 120 and comes with HK$ 114 of credit valid for 180 days. Basic data rate is HK$ 1.5 per MB capped at HK$ 48 daily. A HK$ 6 adminstration fee per
month applies.

If you can't obtain this SIM, China roaming data packages can also be activated on these two SIM cards: 4G/3G Individual Traveler Prepaid SIM Card sold at HK$ 68 with HK$ 18 credit and 4G/3G
Super Talk Prepaid SIM Card sold at HK$ 48 with HK$ 46 credit. However, the daily rate is not available for these two SIMs (you will pay HK$1.5 per MB with no cap without a package), voice and
text are charged at higher rates. A HK$ 2 administration fee will be deducted monthly.

To all the three SIM cards above these roaming packages for 30 days can be added:

200 MB: HK$ 38 - activation: *103*200*04#

1 GB: HK$ 98 - activation: *103*200*05#

2 GB: HK$ 168 - activation: *103*200*06#

Additionally, all 4G/3G SIMs now have an FUP on the daily unlimited rate. If you use more than 1 GB per day, China Mobile reserves the right to throttle your connection to not less than 128 kbps.

If you go over your data pack, you will be notified by SMS and your internet access will be shut o. You must unsubscribe from the pack, and you can choose to resubscribe to a pack or pay the daily
rate going forward (an advantage over China Unicom's HK oering).

Data-only SIM card Edit

For data only they oer a 4G/3G China 10-day Data Prepaid SIM Card to be used in both HK and mainland China. This SIM is HK$ 148 for 1.5 GB of HK and mainland data. It can be used at a daily
rate of HK$ 48 in HK or China (with 1 GB FUP). Take care; the initial validity period is only for 10 days, so it must be topped up before expiration for additional use. This SIM is resold and delivered
globally by . There is one add-on package oered valid for another 10 days:

1 GB: HK$ 100 - activation: *103*200*07#

You can buy new package before the old one is used up. Data from old package rolls forward in this case. If you run out of package data, you're switched to daily rate.

Topping up Edit

These SIM cards participate in CMHK's top-up bonus scheme. The following bonuses apply for online top-ups, which can be done with a Visa or MasterCard issued from any country:

HK$ 30-49 for a 5% bonus

HK$ 50-199 for a 15% bonus
HK$ 200-299 for a 20% + HK$ 10 bonus
>HK$ 300 for a 30% + HK$ 10 bonus

Every top-up of HKD 50 or more extends validity for 180 days since day of top-up. Any smaller recharge only for 30 days unless previous validity was longer in which case previous validity is kept.

Online account management Edit

They have an online account management . There are two ways to log into account management: by SMS verification or by password. Former one works only if you're in mainland China or Hong
Kong. So if you want to keep your SIM alive outside of China it's recommended to create a password by clicking "prepaid SIM registration" on account management. You can consult your balance
there and refill but you can't buy packages. It's also available as an app for Android and for iOS

More info Edit

Query balance, both money and megabytes: dial *#130# .
APN: cmhk (for HK roaming SIM)
China Mobile Customer Service Hotline: 400-120-4000, no menus, direct line to a live person but domestic call rate will be charged
Website in English for China Mobile Hong Kong:

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China Unicom () Edit

China Unicom is the 2nd provider in the country and should be your preferred choice for data as its the only one that uses 3G UMTS up to HSPA+
speed on 2100 MHz like used in most other places in Asia, Europe or Australia (see Basics chapter).

Their coverage is not as good as China Mobiles but still reasonable and sucient. They started FDD-LTE on 1800 MHz in some city centers in 2014,
that is commonly used for LTE in other countries too. In 2015 the focused on their 4G expansion, rather than building up more 3G coverage. Still, they
oer the widest compatibility with devices from other parts of Asia, Europe and Australia.

It's recommended to buy their SIM cards in their shops or small mobile outlets with registration (see Basics). As Google Maps are currently blocked in
China, search on Yahoo or Bing to find the nearest store.

For cheap international calls you need to activate IDD prefixes. For IDD call prices using 17911, see here .

WO Edit

China Unicom shops are now mostly co-branded with Unicom's subsidiary "WO." If you enter a Unicom shop and ask for a SIM, they will most likely provide you with a WO card, and prices will not
match the prices quoted above in this article. As of September 2016, a WO SIM at an ocial Unicom/WO store costs 75 RMB, and a 1 GB data package (of unspecified duration) with 80 minutes of
local calling costs 100 RMB. Recharging credit is easy using the automated kiosks in Unicom stores, but it is dicult to understand how to activate another data package as opposed to pay-per-use
rates (which do not appear to be capped at 60 RMB/GB like the regular Unicom ones are). Balances can be checked by texting "tycl" to 10010 (and then translating from Chinese).

4G value pack (4G ) Edit

This is their universal monthly voice and data SIM plan valid nationwide in China. If your phone supports LTE 1800 MHz (band 3), try to get a 4G value pack as China Unicom's 4G network already
covers most areas in mainland China. These monthly plans are oered:

Voice Data Price

200 mins 400 MB 76 RMB

300 mins 800 MB 106 RMB

1 GB 136 RMB

500 mins 2 GB 166 RMB

3 GB 196 RMB

1000 mins 4 GB 296 RMB

2000 mins 6 GB 396 RMB

3000 mins 11 GB 596 RMB

While it has an included monthly allowance for national data and outgoing calls and free incoming calls, it has very low overuse/default rates: 0.15 RMB per min for a call and only 60 RMB for 1 GB of
data. A domestic SMS or MMS is at 0.1 RMB and an international SMS at 0.8 RMB.

Their extra data rate is worth checking more closely: For 0-100 MB extra, they charge 30 RMB, for 100-200 MB extra 60 RMB in total. Beyond, there is no further charge from 200 MB to 1 GB. This
scheme is repeated for every GB used additionally resulting in an overuse fee of no more than 60 RMB per GB. Extra data is capped at 15 GB and then shut o. So the larger combo packages only
make sense, if you use a lot of domestic calls too. For more data better use the cheap default rate and dont buy a larger pack. Especially, as for all higher monthly packages, they like to see a deposit,
which is inconvenient, as it pays back only slowly in the following months.

This plan is ocially a contract and you should obey the termination rules given in the Basics chapter. You are supposed to give a local address. So bring a hotel card with an address along.
Remember the value pack has a recurring billing cycle. You add credit to your China Unicom account and fees will be deducted, in advance, on the 1st day of each month. Keep in mind, though, that
China Unicoms billing cycle begins on the 1st day of each month regardless of the day on which you opened your account. This means that if you opened your account on May 29, you will be billed
immediately a full months worth of charges for services between May 29 and 31, and a new billing cycle still begins on June 1. Depending on the plan, you may have the option, in such a case, to pay
only half the monthly fee to get only half of your plan allowances for the first month. Ask when you activate.

For temporary visitors of China, 4G value packs also oer an option to switch the account to dormant mode when you leave the country. Once enabled, your account is required to stay dormant for a
minimum of 3 billing months. Dormant mode gives you the option to preserve your +186 number in China while you are away from the country and reactivate your SIM immediately upon return. You dial
10010 to change these options, and customer service handles requests in English. When your account is dormant, a service fee of 5 RMB is deducted on the 1st day of each month.

"Ice Cream" (Unlimited) Plan ( ) Edit

In certain cities, China Unicom oers unlimited talk and data (SMS is charged) plans under the name "Ice Cream Plan". Like "unlimited" plans in many countries, a certain amount of full-speed data is
included, and is throttled after.

For example, in Shanghai the following types of "Ice Cream Plan" are oered:

199RMB: 700 national minutes, 40GB local, 3GB national full-speed, throttled to 3Mbps after
399RMB: unlimited talk, 40GB national full-speed, throttled to 7.2Mbps after

Note that China Unicom shuts o data after 100GB usage in a month. The reason this plan is still called "unlimited" is because data is re-enabled for another 100GB at no extra cost by calling
customer service when this happens.

When observing in-store advertising, note that they will be advertised with lower prices. This is only after depositing a larger amount of credit into the account, and does not make sense for the average
short-term visitor.

4G Data-only / Web Surfing Pass (4G ) Edit

This is a data-only SIM directed to modems, tablets, routers and MiFi's for heavy data volumes in 3G and 4G/LTE. You can use it in phones too, but it has no voice nor text. It is a one-o prepaid card
without any obligations with 5 GB national data valid for one year sold at 480 (link ) often discounted to double data. These data SIM cards will now be registered too and you need to show your
passport. They work immediately with any phone, tablet or laptop.

There are other oers too depending on province. Note that some of these SIM cards distinguish national and provincial data. You get the local bonus only in the province associated with the SIM card
(see Basics chapter).

Topping up Edit

China Unicom claims to have released a nationwide refill card. A lot of users however were not able to top-up outside the province the SIM card is attached too. So try it with a small amount (e.g. 20
RMB) first if it really works. Also if you buy the refill code online on HK website, it will not work in China.

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If you fail, you can ask a Chinese friend to load it on their website with a Chinese credit card, try to find a location which is able to make a direct (electronic) top-up or use one of the internet agencies
which do top ups for a surcharge like ezetop or worldremit and others.

Various resellers market the SIM cards of China Unicom abroad. They will be delivered from China to your home country. This gives you the advantage of an English-speaking support and a working
option from the start, but comes with high surchages for their service. We mention three companies here below.


3G SOLUTIONS is a reputable company which markets the products of China Unicom abroad for years. They send China Unicom Prepaid 4G SIM cards (valid for 30 days) & Pay As You Go SIM
(valid for years) from mainland China (not HK) to any place in China and abroad and do top-ups too.

Prepaid 4G SIM:
1 GB: US$ 24.99
2 GB: US$ 34.99
3 GB: US$ 44.99
6 GB: US$ 69.99

Additional data is 0.20 CNY per MB.

Pay As You Go SIM

1 GB: US$ 29.99
3 GB: US$ 49.99
6 GB: US$ 86.99

Additional data is 0.30 CNY per MB.

Lyvcom Edit

Lyvcom is an authorized distributor of China Unicom for selling into international visitor market segments in China and overseas. They sell China Unicom SIM cards abroad through the websites of
Amazon US , Canada, UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy with worldwide delivery for a premium. Lyvcom re-sells China Unicom's network in up to 4G/LTE speed and are valid for 90 days:

1 GB: US$ 25
2 GB: US$ 40
6 GB: US$ 75

Additional data is 0.20 CNY per MB. It contains 50 local call mins or 100 texts. IDD calls are possible. All incoming calls and texts are free.

After you order your SIM card, your must email: passport information, Amazon order ID, phone number of the SIM card holder. Detail instruction will be sent to you via Amazon messaging center once
your make your order. The activation process won't shorten SIM card validation period, which only starts when you actually use the SIM card and it will be valid for 90 days from first use. Extensions
are sold too. Be aware that data added via other channels except may not be workable and may even suspend the card.

SIM Easy Edit

SIM Easy has partnered with China Unicom to sell similar SIM cards with preloaded 3G/4G data packages abroad. They are available with free international delivery. During the checkout process a
copy of passport page is required for ocial registration that they will do for you. These packages are oered on 4G/LTE up to 300 Mbps in all three sizes:

2 GB for 30 days: US$ 30

3 GB and 50 local mins for 90 days: US$ 42.50
6 GB and 50 local mins for 90 days: US$ 77.50

More info Edit

APN: 3gnet
Customer Service (in English available): 10010
Website in Mandarin only:

China Unicom Hong Kong (for roaming in China) Edit

China Unicom also operates a MVNO in Hong Kong. They sell roaming SIMs that work in both Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. One reason to get a SIM in Hong Kong instead of mainland China
is because a China Unicom HK SIM will pass all data through Hong Kong, allowing through the Great Firewall of China (see Basics). Another reason is to be able to add money using a foreign
Visa/MasterCard or PayPal at , which you can't do with a mainland SIM. This also conveniently avoids the issue of out-of-province top-ups since it's all done online. You
can skip registration for the Hong Kong number cards too, but the dual-number SIMs (ocially available once again as of August 29, 2017) must be registered at time of purchase. This does not aect
your ability to access any websites.

The China Unicom Hong Kong website is now in English, making the purchase and top-up process much easier than with mainland-based service. They also sell it through other platforms like or eBay.

Onlyuse mainland recharge vouchers as a last resort with a Hong Kong SIM. Vouchers from any province will work, but the HKD conversion happens at a 1:1 rate, meaning you lose over HK$ 20per
100 RMBtopped up.

However these cards need to be purchased before travelling to mainland China in Hong Kong or online out of Hong Kong as they are not available in mainland China.

Their new online shop now available in English with sites for the UK, US, Germany, Russia, etc. makes it much easier to order Chinese SIM cards. Delivery time will vary and a shipping fee is added
to some countries. The necessary real name registration (see below) can be made on their website too.

Regulations Edit

Unlike regular Hong Kong SIM cards, starting 2016, dual-number SIM cards need to be activated with a copy of passport and this has to be done in HK in person:see here The HK regulator has
issued a consumer alert about dual number SIMs.For compliance with regulations in the mainland, HK operators need to collect personal information and to obtain their consent to transfer the
information to mobile operators and authorities in the mainland in order to enable them to continue the use of the mainland mobile numbers. If subscribers do not provide the required information or
give their consent about transfer of such information, use of the mainland mobile numbers may be suspended. This also applies to the new dual-number SIMs that China Unicom has started selling in
Hong Kong again; they must be purchased at a China Unicom store and must be registered at point of sale.

Hong Kong oers Edit

For voice and data in Hong Kong and mainland China they oer the Cross Border King 4G HongKong SIM for HK$ 138, often discounted to HK$ 101 with HK$ 80 credit valid for 90 days from the
date of activation. It's valid in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Japan. Standard rate is a high HK$ 0.02 per kb (= HK$ 20 per MB) capped at HK$ 68 per day. These packages are
available for Hong Kong and mainland China:

300 MB for 7 days: HK$ 48 - activation: *118*610#

500 MB for 30 days: HK$ 68 - activation: *118*611#
1 GB for for 30 days: HK$118 - activation: *118*504#

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However, this card includes an increased monthly administration fee of HK$ 6. It's applied at activation and on each 1st day of the calendar month again. Overuse fee is HK$ 0.8 per MB as long as a
package is running. They will be cancelled on the 8th or 31st day at midnight and doesn't auto-renew.

When you have exhausted the data in the package, you will get a text message informing you. You can then start a new package if you have sucient credit in your account.

Finally, they have dierent data-only SIM cards for China:

China & HK 7 Days 1GB Data SIM : HK$ 95 with 1 GB for 7 days
4G China & HK 7 Days 2GB Data SIM : HK$ 108 with 2 GB for 7 days
Greater China 30 Days Data SIM : HK$ 140 with 1 GB for 30 days

You can recharge by credit card or HK$ 100 vouchers available in 7-Eleven stores in HK for another 1 or 2 GB within 7 days at HK$ 100.

They also oer SIM cards that are only valid for Guangdong province and Hong Kong (see website).

More info Edit

APN: 3gnet
Customer Service (in English available): 13068400177 for CU Hong Kong SIMs
Website in English for CU Hong Kong SIMs:

China Telecom () Edit

Network Edit

China Telecom uses CDMA (and thus EVDO for 3G) like (Sprint and Verizon) in the US and in a few other Asian countries, which is incompatible
with GSM-devices (see above). Their reliance on R-UIMs instead of the traditional North American method of storing programming data in the
phone means that from overseas, only devices with both LTE and CDMA support as well as some older CDMA-only devices with SIM/R-UIM
slots are capable of using their network for voice and text. Older Verizon and most Sprint phones without card slots can be made to function on
the network, however, this method is no longer available to visitors (purchasing mobile phone service online now requires real-time identity verification using a system that only functions with Chinese
ID). You also need to check that your device supports CDMA BC0. If you want LTE you need support for bands 1,3,20,40,41. To use LTE you don't need your device to be compatible with their CDMA
network but without it you would be limited to LTE coverage.

Furthermore, China Telecom has the smallest network with a market share of around 14%. As a consequence, it has lower-priced plans and a long-standing practice of oering significant amounts of
bonus credit with new subscriptions to attract more customers. For customers with compatible phones or tablets, China Telecom will most likely be a better deal. Do note, however, that only LTE-
capable CDMA devices will completely function upon insertion of a China Telecom R-UIM; older Android handsets will only function with voice and text without additional software modification. iPhone
5 and newer from Verizon and Nexus 5X/6P and iPhone 6 and newer from all carriers will also function with China Telecom without modification. iPad Air and newer will also function with China
Telecom for data only.

With these rates being much lower than on the two major players, you might also think of getting a CDMA USB-dongle or MiFi for data which is available for a few hundred RMBs, if you stay for longer
in China. If you do not plan on leaving a major city and only need data, China Telecom runs an LTE network that is compatible with most devices sold overseas, even if they were made for GSM

Start-up and availability Edit

Overseas visitors requiring Chinese prepaid SIM cards will need to show a passport only when buying at an ocial China Telecom location. Purchasing a SIM from a smaller shop ocially requires the
buyer to take the SIM to a store for activation if they do not posess a Chinese citizen ID card; the store may or may not be willing to activate it for you with a sta-provided ID card. Also note that not
every China Telecom store can activate SIM cards for foreigners- even in big cities like Shanghai, some China Telecom stores, even in busy parts of town may ask you to go to one of the largest main
locations in the city center for registration.

Deposit required varies from 50 to 900 RMB depending on desired plan but monthly charges can be taken from this. Be careful; the deposit with China Telecom is not refundable. However, the plan will
typically leave little credit after the monthly plan charge is deducted.

Data feature packs Edit

4G data plans that are sold by usage typically don't sell data on a rolling monthly basis, but instead a certain amount of data good for a set amount of time, allowing for more flexible usage. Single-
month SIMs are available, but not easy to find, and most third-party vendors will want to push multi-month packs on you instead. Unfortunately, there is no movement to make single-month cards more
widely available.

Price Data Validity

50 RMB 1 GB

100 RMB 3 GB 30 days

180 RMB 6 GB

100 RMB 2 GB
90 days
200 RMB 4 GB

300 RMB 6 GB 180 days

600 RMB 12 GB 365 days

Product link: . These SIM cards are nationwide data-only and on 2G (CDMA), 3G (EVDO) and 4G (LTE) too and on their (unlimited) Wi-Fi, where
available. Overuse fees are at a low 60 RMB per GB. The first 100 MB is charged at 0.3 RMB/MB, 100 MB - 500 MB another 30 RMB and no charge from 500 MB to 1 GB. This is repeated for every
additional GB, capped at 600 RMB or 15 GB. For other products, check their website .

Asking for 'data only SIM-cards' may confuse the Telecom sales people. Instead ask for "internet card" (liu liang ka) or print out the oer above. You need to provide your passport and a phone number
(ideally for your hotel) and the process can be more time consuming than expected.

More info Edit

APN: ctnet
Customer Hotline (in English available, if you are lucky): 10000
Website in Mandarin:

Roaming SIM cards from abroad Edit

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Recently more options have become available from providers out of China that oer you reasonable roaming. They are more expensive than local SIM cards and possibly HK SIM cards too, but skip
also Chinese censorship and are easily expandable in volume and time.

The best oer is given out from TravelSIM and their clones and copies based on an Estonian platform like AirBaltic card and others:

5 GB roaming data for 30 days: 25

Check theirs and other oers from international roaming providers in our all countries section.

Another good options are from the Ukraine: Kyivstar 100 MB per day at UAH 60 or Lifecell with 100 MB per day at UAH 55. For details check here.

Purchasing/Renting a Phone or Portable WiFi with data SIM Edit

UCOM Mobile Edit

They provide portable WiFi rental & prepaid data SIM sale in China mainland. They oer u and pay-as-you-go plans with with 3 or 6 GB for short-term visitor at very high prices. You might place order
online and arrange pickup/drop-o in your hotel. Furthermore, they oer unlimited VPN service is available for surfing to access blocked site (Google, Facebook etc.) from China.

Klook Portable WiFi Rentals for travellers coming from Hong Kong or Taiwan Edit

These portable WiFi rentals are available for travellers coming from either of these countries via Hong Kong International Airport or Taiwan Airports. The routers can be picked up and dropped o at the
same airport they were picked up. They oer unlimited 4G data at very good rates and access to websites restricted by the Great Firewall. You must book the router in advance and can pay using
international credit cards or PayPal.

Hong Kong pickup : HK$ 25 per day with 'unlimited' 4G speeds

Taiwan Pickup (at all airports) : TW$ 239 per day with 500 MB 4G speeds

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