The biggest mobile operators in China are China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom. Signing up for a mobile phone service in China is pretty simple: You just buy a SIM card at any store that sells phones, buy some airtime and you are ready to go. Mobile contracts are not common in China, so you need to buy a phone card for additional airtime credit every time you run out.
Be aware that the city where you buy your SIM card is considered the “hometown” for your phone, and although your phone will work everywhere in China, you can only add airtime with a phone card from your hometown. If you plan to travel within China for a while, you should stack up on phone cards before you leave your home. Most mobile phone services offer national coverage without any roaming fees outside your hometown.
Mobile phones in China
China uses the GSM-standard for mobile communication, so most mobile phones will not work in China. If you have a GSM phone, it might be locked by the mobile provider from your home country, but you can normally unlock it for a small fee at most phone stores.
Of course, you can also buy a mobile phone in China. Given that mobile phones are a status symbol in China, you might want to invest some money in a rather upscale model if you want to impress Chinese colleagues or business partners. If you only stay for a short time in China, you can also rent out a phone in the shops of the major airports.