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General info on China SIM card and mobile number

China has 3 mobile carriers, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom.

China Telecom - the largest fixed line service and 3rd largest mobile carrier in China.

China Mobile - the largest mobile carrier in China.

China Unicom - the 3rd larget telecommunication carrier in China.

All three China carriers have a structure of 3 layers - headquarter, subsidiary (provincial) and district branch. The third district branch is releaser of mobile numbers.



For example, China Mobile Guangdong provincial subsidiary, opreates all business in Guangdong province, owns 21 district branches - Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan and others, each branch has the businesses of releasing mobile numbers. A number release by Guangzhou branch may have different rates and plans with numbers released by Shenzhen, although they are in same province. So in whole China, there are hundreds of plans. This is because the operation models of telecom carries.

The releaser is very important, it decides mobile number's home location. This home location decides mobile number's usage rates, if a mobile number is in roaming use or local use, if a outgoing call is local or long distance. E.g:

Number 1 (home location A), Number 2 (home location B), Number 3 (home location A) , Locatioin C (any other location)

#1 outgoing calls

#1 ( at location A ) to #2 ( at location A ) - local use, long distance calls
#1 ( at location A ) to #2 ( at location B ) - local use, long distance calls
#1 ( at location A ) to #2 ( at location C ) - local use, long distance calls
#1 ( at location B ) to #2 ( at location B ) - roaming use, local calls
#1 ( at location C ) to #2 ( at location B ) - roaming use, long distance calls
#1 ( at location C ) to #2 ( at location C ) - roaming use, long distance calls

#1 ( at location A ) to #3 ( at location A ) - local use, local calls
#1 ( at location A ) to #3 ( at location C ) - local use, local calls
#1 ( at location C ) to #3 ( at location A ) - roaming use, local calls
#1 ( at location C ) to #3 ( at location B ) - roaming use, local calls
#1 ( at location C ) to #3 ( at location C ) - roaming use, local calls

#1 incoming calls
#1 ( at location A ) - local use
#1 ( at location C ) - roaming use

So if a mobile number was released by China Mobile Beijing branch, the number has a home location of Beijing. Any service in other location is roaming use and an extra roaming fee may be charged.

When understanding the home location of a mobile number, then you may feel it is quite difficult to select a best mobile plan for a foreigner. It's no matter, see some basic info of China mobile carriers first:

1. Mobile Standard

China Mobile: GSM (900 MHz, 1800 MHz), GPRS, EDGE, TD-SCDMA (3G)
China Unicom: GSM (900 MHz, 1800 MHz), GPRS, EDGE, WCDMA (3G)
China Telecom: CDMA2000 1x, CDMA2000 1x EVDO (3G)

China Telecom's CDMA2000 / EVDO networks only support Removable
User Identity Module system ( mobile number records at R-UIM card), it's not compatible with most CDMA mobile devices from other countries.

China Mobile 3G works with TD-SCDMA model. If you have not hardware for TD-SCDMA, only 2G - GPRS/EDGE available in China Mobile networks.




2. Voice Calling

Local use:
Incoming calls: from free to 0.60 yuan/min (dometic and internatonal)
Outgoing calls: from free to 0.80 yuan/min (domestic only)

Roaming use:
Incoming calls: from free to 0.60 yuan/min (dometic and internatonal)
Outgoing calls: from free to 1.40 yuan/min (domestic only)

International outgoing calls:

IDD: 0.80 yuan/10 seconds

IDD may requires real name registition and deposits for most mobile numbers.

Other special service for interntainal outgoing calls:

China Mobile:

12593 service: 12593 + 00 + country code + area code + phone number

Rates: from 0.39 yuan / min to 7.99 yuan / min, depends on the destionation country and mobile number home location. In some locations, this service requires to be applied IDD service first or a credit with mobile number more then lowest limit. For some mobile number 12593 is only available at home location.

China Unicom:

10193 service: 10193 + 00 + country code + area code + phone number

Rates: from 0.39 yuan / min to 7.99 yuan / min, depends on the destionation country and mobile number home location. This service requires IDD service for international outgoing calls activated.

China Telecom:

17909 service: 17909 + 00 + country code + area code + phone number

Rates: from 1.50 yuan / min to 4.60 yuan / min, depends on the destionation country and mobile number home location. This service requires IDD service available for international outgoing calls.


3. Wireless Internet

China Mobile

GPRS/EDGE (2G) , TD-SCDMA (3G)

Data Plans:

2 yuan /10 M / Monthly
5 yuan /30 M / Monthly
10 yuan /70 M / Monthly
20 yuan /150 M / Monthly
50 yuan /500 M / Monthly
100 yuan /2 G / Monthly
200 yuan /5 G / Monthly

By default, data function is activated for all SIM card however no data plan activated. The rates of internet is very high without data plan, 1 yuan - 10 yuan / MB, depends on the SIM card default plan. So it's very important to apply a data plan before using internet to avoid high traffic rates.

China Unicom

GPRS/EDGE (2G) , WCDMA (3G)

Data Plans:
Data service combined with voice service, no separate data plan.

Below plans are for data use only without voice service numbers.
80 yuan /1G / Monthly
150 yuan /3G / Monthly
200 yuan /5 G / Monthly
300 yuan /10 G / Monthly

China Telecom
CDMA2000 1x, CDMA2000 1x EVDO (3G), WIFI

Data Plans:
Data service combined with voice service, no separate data plan.


4. SMS and MMS

China Mobile:

Sending:
Domestic SMS: 0.10 yuan / msg
International SMS: 1.00 yuan / msg
Domestic MMS: 0.30 - 0.60 yuan / msg
Internatinal MMS:1.50 yuan / msg

Receiving: free

China Unicom

Sending:
Domestic SMS: 0.10 yuan / msg
International SMS: 0.80 yuan / msg
Domestic MMS: 0.30 - 0.90 yuan / msg
Internatinal MMS:1.50 yuan / msg

Receiving: free

China Telecom

Sending:
Domestic SMS: 0.10 yuan / msg
International SMS: 0.80 yuan / msg
Domestic MMS: 0.50 yuan / msg
Internatinal MMS:N/A

Receiving: free

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