China Unicom 4G FDD LTE

14 Sep

A few months ago  I bought a new “phone” in Hong Kong that was 4g capable, but had been using it on the 3g network for China Unicom. I had noticed that China Unicom did start to advertise their 3G/4G plans and looking4glte online seems they had got approved to used FDD LTE which is what my phone uses so I went to the store to see if it would work. China Unicom did already have 4G, but it was the same type as China Mobile (TDD-LTE) so it wouldn’t work with my phone which was from Hong Kong; both China Mobile 3G and 4G are “home grown” so generally phones bought outside of China don’t work, though the 4G (as pointed out in comments) is actually being used outside of China and so hopefully will make it easier as more phones support both TDD-LTE and FDD-LTE. I also prefer to get Android phones in Hong Kong, since the China ones don’t have Google Play on them and you need to rely on only the local app stores.

Setting up the 4G Plan and confirming FDD LTE

I went to the China Unicom store here in Shenzhen to ask them if they had FDD LTE or really asked them if I can use a Hong Kong 4G LTE phone. Their response was yes it will work so just pick a plan and starting the following month it will be turned on. I was a little sceptical that it would work and even more sceptical after I signed up and the service guy said no need to get a new Sim card.  As this started the next month it meant I couldn’t try it right away and had to wait a few days for the start of the next month. To my surprise, on the first day of the month I looked at my phone and all of a sudden it says 4G instead of the H+ (3G) that I had the day before. I also went to the settings to verify it really was LTE and it turns out it really is!

Speed and Coverage

I’ve had the 4G FDD LTE plan for about a month and a half and have spent most the time in Shenzhen but did have an 1.5 hour trip in Guangdong and also a trip to Beijing. Generally the coverage for 4G is quite spotty, especially if indoors, but as China Unicom 3G has good coverage it always falls back to 3G. In Shenzhen anywhere outside I do get 4g though sometimes weak while indoors many times it falls to 3g. Speed wise, for thing in China its much faster but as usual the out of China stuff is quite slow though I feel better then 3g. Really when I am on 4G I don’t spend time to get on Wifi whereas when I am on 3G I would get on wifi as the speed was faster.

Plans and Upgrade

As mentioned above its possible to upgrade a 3G plan by just changing your plan. And from what I see the cost is much less for much more data, before I had 800 MB on 3G and paid 200 while now I pay the same but get 4GB! The phone calling and text messaging is also almost the same, so if you can I would recommend upgrading. The only thing to watch out for is that some addons don’t work, while I have some extra text messaging on my plan that had to be removed which wasn’t a big deal. The big one is if you have 2 numbers, one for China and one for Hong Kong, then you have to cancel the Hong Kong number which I ended up doing. So thats about the only thing that would stop someone if you really use the HK number and service.

Conclusion

Overall I’ve so far been satisfied with the 4G service although the coverage is not yet too good, and unless you are using your Hong Kong number if you have a 4G FDD LTE capable phone I would recomend you upgrade.

 

 

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  • Thanks for sharing this info! I didn’t realize Unicom had FDD-LTE already – stopped following mainland developments now that I’m not there as often. What kind of speeds are you getting?

    TDD-LTE is getting deployed in a bunch of places besides China – it’s no longer China only tech. Sprint is the biggest US-based carrier deploying TDD in a dual mode TDD/FDD network: http://newsroom.sprint.com/blogs/sprint-perspectives/the-tdd-lte-advantage-1.htm Both 3HK & China Mobile HK also have dual mode TDD/FDD networks. iPhone 6s support both TDD & FDD on all models except a few sold by carriers in North America. http://www.apple.com/iphone/LTE/ Interesting to see if android makers will start making more dual mode phones.

    • Thanks Larry for the comments and didn’t look into too much details about TDD-LTE but good to hear its used other places including Hong Kong, should make getting phones easier! Will update the post a little with that info.

      For speed, doing a speedtest for a server in Shenzhen was able to get 32 up and 23 download on 4G at my place which had weak coverage. Much better then the 5 up and 2 down I got on only 3g. Though overall using anything that doesn’t have a server in China is still slow but I can tell it does load a little faster.

  • josh

    I just signed up for a 4G plan with China Unicom in Shanghai, I have a HTC one m7 but when I put my sim in I get H+ not 4g… The guy even showed me the 4g plan and let me choose one so I am sure I signed up for 4g..

    Will it not work until next month or?

    • New plan or did you change from an old plan? If you changed it may take till your next billing cycle to work, as thats what happened for mine.

      If its a new plan then it should work right away, unless the phone is not compatible.

      • josh

        Hi thanks for the reply.

        It is a new plan.. Even when I got the sim and put it in my phone I saw h and h+, the guy said that’s 4G.

        When I got home I saw this page and then called them to ask and the person i spoke to on the phone said that h+ is 4g for android devices, and that 4g is displayed on iphones.. :/

        HTC One M7 is definitely compatible with 4G (http://www.gsmarena.com/htc_one-5313.php)

        • No, android phones also show 4G (I have android and it shows a 4g when I am on 4g). The H+ is a fast version for 3G, but still 3G only 3G. Perhaps your phone is not compatible with the LTE that China Unicom uses.

        • josh

          i just called China Unicom again and the guy said that they support FDD-LTE band 1800..

          HTC One M7 supported FDD-LITE 1800 and 2600 in Asia (http://www.gsmarena.com/htc_one-5313.php)

          He said to go to the shop and test if the sim works in another phone they have there..

          He also asked for the model, i didnt know it at the time but i just checked and its a HTC ONE M7, PN07110

          imeidata.net/ displays the following:

          Model: HTC ONE M7, PN07110
          Prefix: M7#UL_B128L3720-T11

          • In all cases when you are on 4G you’ll see 4G and not H+, but the coverage may not be there where you are and also the bands either with the phone or carrier may not be there, so better go to the shop and see if they can help. Hope it works out!