Most big cities like Beijing and Shanghai possess an advanced telecom infrastructure. Public telephones can be found on most downtown streets. Mobile operators support GSM and CDMA cell phones. Most office buildings have Internet connections and Internet cafes exist almost everywhere. It is also easy and inexpensive to install broadband in rented apartments, given your landlord's permission.
China Telecom is the biggest fixed-line telecom operator, including public telephones, fixed phones in the office and broadband connection at home and work.
China Mobile and China Unicom are the two mobile operators. China Mobile has an extensive GSM network while China Unicom supports both GSM and CDMA cell phones.
The mobile network is very extensive in Beijing and Shanghai. Signals can even be found in the metro and in many elevators. Both GSM and CDMA cell phones have networks. The cities support high-speed wireless networks based on GPRS and WAP, but 3G networks are still being tested.
If you stay in Beijing and Shanghai for a while, you can subscribe to China Mobile or China Unicom. Both of them offer fixed period packages and flexible sim cards. A standard text message costs 0.1 yuan.
How to apply
Here, it's better for you to buy a flexible card, enabling you to top up your account at any time. All telecom outlets sell such prepaid sim cards. Yitong and Jiajia prepaid cards offer international calling services.
You can top up your mobile phone either through top-up vouchers available in all telecom outlets, or at the city's official utility payment website which is accessible from here. Please ensure that you have a local bank account to use the online payment system.
Foreigners who wish to settle down in the city and make many international calls can apply for a Quanqiu Tong card. Before applying, you should have a local guarantor and take your passport and other official documents to the China Mobile outlets.
If you bring your own cell phone from your home country, you need to check with your operator before coming to Beijing or Shanghai for the rates, because you may be charged with both international long distance calls as well as international roaming charges.
(Shanghai Daily December 19, 2006)