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 looking 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.
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.