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[How To]: Upgrade Your Internet

Three/four steps to getting that sweet, sweet gigabit per second connection.
By Mar 11, 2019 Tech & IT
Tired of that buffering symbol? Me too. If it had a face, I'd refresh constantly and maybe reboot the router.

China's internet speed has gradually been picking up, skyrocketing from "1 Episode Seinfeld/month" to roughly "1 Season Game of Thrones/day." Since the completion of the optical network last year, the Golden Gig has finally become attainable for the average consumer. Shanghai now has more households with speeds over 1000mbps than any other city in China.

Upgrade time! But how?


Stock photos hoooooo

Step 1: Off to China Telecom

Head down to your local internet dealership. China Telecom is the biggest provider of internet services in Shanghai, and they're the ones that built the infrastructure. China Unicom is also an option, but they seem to top out at 300mbps for private internet connections, and they seemed real suspicious on the phone about why we'd want anything faster than that.


What To Bring
1) Your passport/shenfenzheng (of course)
2) Your existing telecoms contract (if you have one)

The passport has to be of the person who registered the existing telecoms contract, and the passport owner has to be present. They'll take your picture!

Head to the info desk, tell them you want to upgrade your internet (我要升级成最快的网速), grab a number and wait to be seated at the WiFi buffet.


Step 2: Choose Your Plan

Boy are there a lot of plans out there. We were handed a printout with the "upload/download" speeds printed the wrong way around and the unit written simply as "M." Maybe not the best start but okay.

You're looking for the 2,990rmb per year package, which gets you that sweet, sweet gig of speed. If you've got months on your existing, inferior plan, they'll calculate the difference.

Reactions to that price from friends and colleagues was mixed: apparently people have all sorts of weird internet packages, with some pay upwards of 2,000rmb a year for like 150mbps speed and others paying 1,700rmb for 200mbps, despite both being on China Telecom.

Part of the reason for this is that although Shanghai's been upgrading its comms infrastructure, some buildings and neighborhoods don't have the set-up to support higher speeds. The person at the counter will be able to tell you what your address can support. Cross your fingers that you live in Gigaland.

Note: 1000 megabits is not the same as 1000 megabytes. Conversion is around 8 megabits to 1 megabyte. So that means that your 1000mbps speed is equivalent to about 125mb/s speeds (under ideal conditions, no VPN, blue skies, chakras balanced, etc).


The 2990rmb/month deal gets you a free family package: if someone you know is on at least a 199rmb/month deal, China Telecom will upgrade their speed to 500mbps. For free! It's tied to your contract: if you cancel, there goes their package.

You also get free one-year sim cards with the contract. 50 gigs of data and like 1,500 minutes on them! I got three. Not sure what to do with them. Maybe keep them for short-term visitors? Important note, if you don't cancel them, they'll automatically renew for next year and bill your card.


Step 3: Upgrade Your Hardware (?)

Much like how your max speed depends on your location, your internet box might be the same. So they'll call and arrange a time to upgrade your black magic internet box for free. My phone-call came before I got out the door of the Telecoms shop. The conversation was in Chinese, but it was a cinch. Just choose a three(ish)-hour window that works for you.


The installation guy showed up promptly, installed a big black box, borrowed my laptop to activate the service (I guess you can ask him to use his phone instead if you haven't had time to close your browser windows), and was out. The whole procedure took about 15 minutes and involved minimal Chinese. "Where's the phone cable?" "Here."



Before. After.

It works! Woooooo.

Is It Worth It

Considering how much time you spend with your VPN on, this is not going to feel like a miracle cure. But I have definitely seen a marked increase on download and streaming speeds. Until I readjust to this new speed and start complaining that it's taking an entire four minutes to [legally purchase] a 720p movie, my new 1gbps connection is magnificent.



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  • 1 year ago sunsetlover

    Good article and a helpful comparison posting the "before and after" speed test results. Of course the nominal speeds mentioned here are extremely "theoretical" in China. For one thing, even though you'll get an upgraded internet box, your actual connection depends more on the quality of the connectors and the splicing (much more so than in copper), and on the rusty box outside of your building.

    For another, if you're a foreigner in China, you've probably come to realize that you need a VPN on, almost 24/7. VPN servers max out at 10-12 Mbps (by design), for the best VPNs out there, and at 1-3 Mbps for the rest of them. So the question to the author is, what are you streaming? Youku?

  • 1 year ago Shanghaijo Unverified User

    Hi Everyone,

    I already have the max plan but I am more struggling with the connection... Good on some devices, crappy on some others. Very good sometimes, very poor the rest, Etc.

    Anyone has the contact of someone that could fix the whole install?

  • 10 months ago stroudj

    It's interesting but not even hitting 10% of the max of 1gbps in the screenshot there, though the difference in speeds before and after is interesting.

  • 5 months ago philipps

    Some people online complain about the wifi speed of the China Telecom router. They say that if you connect your laptop via cable to the box, the speeds seem faster than via WiFi.

    It seems to be very old router, and using some newer 200RMB box - that supports fiber - or adding a second router behind the China Telecom box (i.e. connecting a cheaper WiFi router via cable) would give you higher speeds on WiFi.

  • 5 months ago micko Unverified User

    Thanks for the great article. We’re currently on 200 Mbit/s fiber plan from China Telecom. Foreign websites and videos lag quite often with VPN.

    I’m wondering if we would upgrade, say, 500 Mbit/s connection, would it improve the speed of foreign websites and videos? Or is VPN doomed to be as slow regardless of the broadband speed

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