A tech tourist's guide to Beijing

Welcome to Beijing!

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or 2.5G service is commercially available in China through China Mobile, but is only available on post-paid accounts, for which only Chinese citizens can register. It is possible for your company's Beijing office, or even a Chinese friend, to arrange such an account for you, provided they are willing to be on the hook for your charges if you leave the country without paying.

3G is not yet commercially available in China, and 3G phones from other countries will only receive 2G support, as China's TD-SCDMA (Time Division Synchronous Code Division Multiple Access) is not compatible with other 3G standards.

GSM users with unlocked phones may save on roaming charges by buying a prepaid SIM card. (If your phone is locked, your service provider may be willing to unlock it for you prior to coming to China.) Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased locally and are easy to find and inexpensive to buy. Any China Mobile office or China Unicom office can sell you a prepaid SIM for as little as 30 yuan (US$4.40), as can most permanent newsstands, found on sidewalks throughout Beijing. Recharge cards come in 50 yuan and 100 yuan denominations, and the recharge menus are available in both English and Chinese.

No mobile? You can buy one for as little as 280 yuan, look for ubiquitous mobile phone shops around Beijing.

For visitors who prefer using landlines, Skype and other PC to PC or PC to outside line services may be used without difficulty. IP (Internet Protocol telephony) cards are available in denominations of 10, 20, 30, 50 or 100 yuan.

Beating censorship: Despite promises of Internet openness throughout the games, it is likely that many sites will still be blocked this summer. For example, while the English version of Wikipedia is current accessible, its simplified Chinese version is not. Many blogging sites, including Typepad, are also blocked.

Accessing blocked sites requires going through either a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or a foreign proxy site. This list offers numerous choices for proxy sites that anonymise browsing and allow users to reach blocked sites. At the time of writing, Proxy4Web, Aniscartujo and Proxyforall were all functioning. Spysurfing and Avoidr were themselves already blocked.

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Steven Schwankert

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