Foreigners in China: Get the VIP Internet Service from China Telecom to Improve Access to Foreign Websites

We recently upgraded our Internet service to the fastest available: 100 Mbps service for 248 RMB a month. Even with that high speed, we noticed that accessing foreign websites was still painfully slow and unreliable. When we turned on ExpressVPN, our generally good VPN service, the speed was even worse and was essentially blocked, or so it seemed on many days.

Then I learned about China Telecom’s VIP service for foreign websites. This service costs an extra 50 RMB per month and gives you “more stable” access to websites in the US, Japan, Europe, and Hong Kong. Desperate. we tried it, and it has made a huge difference. Foreign websites now upload much faster. We still need VPN for sites like Facebook, but that also seems much faster than before.

To change your service, you need to be on their monthly billing plan. We were on a prepaid plan, having prepaid for a year, so we needed to make a change. How we got on their strange prepaid system is a long story of itself: someone in our real-estate agent’s company handled this and possibly tried to rip-us off, paying for the lowest-speed service instead of the highest and pocketing the money. Only we caught the “mistake” and insisted on correcting did the upgrade happen, and then they only prepared for one month and possibly tried to pocket the difference again. We finally got all or nearly all of the money we had given to show up in our Telecom account. Don’t let intermediaries do this for you! Our mistake.

To switch to monthly billing, you would think it should just take a phone call and the flip of a digital switch. Nope. I had to go a special office in person–not the closest one, but one that is authorized to handle the VIP account. That office is at 500 Jiangsu Road, close Yan An Road. It’s inside an electronic store on the second floor. Right next to the escalator is a round desk with an English speaking young man working there, and he was great.

To get the VIP account, I had to cancel my entire previous account and have a new line installed. That meant a big service fee or getting a year-long plan. Since I heard that 50 Mbps with the VIP service was better than 100 Mbps without, I accepted a special deal they had on 50 Mbps (no similar deal for the 100 Mbps unless I would take a two-year plan). So now I’m paying about 150 a month plus 50 for the VIP service, less than the 289 a month I was paying for the 100 Mbps service. They had to come and install a new line and put in a new cable modem. But the new service with VIP magic is definitely better. Finally, we can use the Internet, even in the evening, and access foreign websites with acceptable speed. We even were able to watch a movie on Netflix. Wow, it’s a new world for us here in China.

We had 1100 in our account that was closed. To get a refund, we had to take our old modem back in with my passport and apply for a refund. The same guy was very helpful. They will call us in a few days when I can come in and get my cash. They cannot just put the money into my account. That, I’m afraid, would be far too easy. But overall, the process wasn’t bad and I’m delighted with the mysterious yet effective VIP service.

Some folks at ShanghaiExpat.com discuss this as “GFW-free” service. No, it is not free of the Great Firewall. VPN is still needed if you want to access things like Netflix or Facebook. But you might have much better results, I think, than you are getting now. If you are about to abandon hope because of slow Internet in China, try the VIP service from China Telecom.

By |August 16th, 2014|Categories: China, Internet, Products, Shanghai, Surviving|Tags: , , |Comments Off

Slow Internet Connection in China? Tips for Service and How to Measure Local Speed

The most challenging aspect of life in China for many foreigners may be the Internet. In addition to many of our favorite sites being blocked by the Great Firewall of China, the Internet here can often be painfully slow. Here are some tips for dealing with both problems.

The Firewall can be overcome with VPN, allowing a direct port to a foreign server to be established with encrypted communication. I use ExpressVPN (https://www.expressvpn.mobi/). It costs money, but it’s worth it and I believe it to be the best service with the best technical support to help you deal with the challenges of connecting. It also adds some extra security since data to and from your computer is encrypted, so it’s good to use for online banking and other sensitive issues. It slows everything down, though.

The general problem of a slow Internet connection in China may be due in part to the heavy work of monitoring Internet usage and to rapidly expanding demand on existing infrastructure. There’s a lot of data requiring a lot of surveillance. But many times foreigners living in China don’t realize that the service they are getting in their apartment can be upgraded to faster service. The base local speed (China to China connections) may range from 10 Mps (10 megabytes/sec) to 100 Mps. If you need higher speed, contact your provider (often China Telecom, reachable by dialing 10000–and yes, they do have English speaking support) and check into an upgrade.

Understand your connection speed by doing speed tests. A good test that might not load for you in China (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t) is SpeedTest.net. This service can use servers in China to test your latency (ping delay), download speed, and upload speed. If your download speed is limited to around 10 Mps, using the Internet is going to be painful. Upgrade. In Shanghai, you can use a China Telecom service at http://sh.189.cn/support/netreport/ to test you download speed with local servers to see what your maximum speed is likely to be. It’s in Chinese, but you don’t need to understand Chinese to use it. Click on the green button that says “开始测速” (begin testing speed). The numerical result is in Mps. You can also use other speed tests that measure data transfer involving US servers. Numbers will be lower than using Asian servers, of course. ATT has a speed test and so does Comcast (Xfinity).

For best speed, make sure you have background processes off (things like software updates, online backup, etc. can slow you down) and don’t have too many browser windows open. For best speed, bypass the slight delay of a wireless router and plug directly into the Ethernet output jack on the back of your cable modem or router — but the gains will often be minor. Also beware of prime times when everybody else is trying to download movies or play games: the Internet can really bog down in China from about 7 PM to 11 PM. And weekends, lunchtime, and so on.

By |July 7th, 2014|Categories: Shanghai, Surviving, Webmasters|Tags: , , |Comments Off