- Get a standardized Internet connection service – I recommend ADSL from China Telecom.
There are many dodgy, non-standard China-only Internet connection services here. It is impossible to list all of the ones that you should avoid. Some work only on Windows XP computers; some only work on specific kinds of mobile phones, etc. They are all sold by big telecom companies, property developers, etc. – and they all swear up and down that their products are reliable and standardized. They are not.
Let me solve your problem – get yourself an ADSL connection from China Telecom. Why? It uses utterly standardized hardware and software technology and works on almost everything around the world.
2M, 4M, 8M, or 16M? It doesn’t really matter for most expats, because you’ll almost never approach 2M in download speed when you’re connecting to websites in the West. You will, however, notice the difference if you are using Chinese websites to stream video.
- Get a VPN account that you pay for.
Everyone knows that the government blocks or throttles many useful websites. VPN services will get you around them. There are free VPN services, like FreeGate, but they are not reliable. Paid VPN services are very reliable. Buy one, and it will make your life much easier. VPNs can work on your mobile phones, your computers, your iPads, and other devices.
Any of these VPN service providers will work very well:
Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $100 per year. Also expect to get your normal Internet life back.
Many of these VPN service websites are now blocked in China. To get around this, you can have a friend outside China buy a service for you and forward you the information. You can also find someone who already has a VPN service in China to buy one for you as well.
Now this step isn’t always necessary, and is probably the most difficult for non-technical people to achieve.
Wireless routers, like the kind you’d use in your home, are not high-margin products. Factories cut corners on them, and they cut the biggest corners in the router’s software. VPN services, like the ones mentioned in step 2, tend to stress out and crash many low-end wireless routers. This is one of many sources of mysterious dropped connections and service outages.
If you already have a router, check their database to see if it will run dd-wrt. If not, you can buy a router from Taobao with dd-wrt pre-installed. dd-wrt is utterly stable, and loaded with features. You will probably never use those features, but after you start using it, your Internet connection will just work for years on end.
dd-wrt’s website is sometimes blocked in China as well. You may need a VPN service to reach it.
Go forth, Wuxi expats, and claim your normal Internet life back!