INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Mobile Phone Services

Students, faculty and staff at DKU have several choices for cell phones.

Three carriers – China Telecom, China Mobile, and China Unicom – cover the Kunshan region. All three carriers have stores in downtown Kunshan where you can purchase a cellular phone.  If you already have an unlocked phone that supports global use (typically through a wide range of UMTS/HSDPA/GSM bands), you can purchase a SIM card and service there for your existing phone.

China Telecom and China Mobile have implemented on-campus cellular repeaters for improved coverage inside DKU campus buildings.

Duke faculty/staff traveling to DKU should contact DKU IT for further help including information on loaner cell phone options.

Mobile Phone Options for Duke Faculty, Staff and Students

Duke University faculty, staff and students traveling to DKU or China for the first time will find that there are several cellular service options, some of which work differently than in the United States. 

Some travelers wish to bring their US phone to be reachable at their usual American numbers, although US plans’ voice and data costs are relatively expensive even with a global plan activated. Others choose to get Chinese cell phone service to access low in-country rates and more easily reach colleagues and businesses in China; data service is much cheaper than with US global or domestic plans, but U.S./international numbers can often not be reached (although Skype can be used over cellular or Wi-Fi for cheap calls back to the US.)

The three most common options for travelers are:

Option

Tips and Advice

Use a Duke-paid or personally-paid phone with your US carrier service

  • Contact your carrier to verify your phone will work in China and find out global plan options and rates.  (Verizon and AT&T both have Duke-negotiated global plans for Duke-paid phones.)
  • Activate a global plan before your trip – you can incur thousands of dollars in charges if you don’t.
  • Monitor your data usage carefully while abroad; turn off cellular data and use Wi-Fi when possible.
  • Install a VPN client before your trip. 

Use your existing phone with Chinese service

  • Visit your carrier’s store (before leaving the US) and verify your phone has a SIM card slot, that your phone will work in China, and that your phone is unlocked.  You cannot change your SIM card on a locked phone and your carrier will only unlock your phone in person. 
  • Install a VPN client before your trip.
  • SIM cards can be bought at Shanghai Pudong Airport; they can also be bought at mobile phone stores in Kunshan, but staff may not speak English.  At all locations, your passport is required to make a purchase.

Buy a phone just for use in China

  • Purchase an unlocked, global GSM phone that supports a wide range of UMTS/HSDPA/GSM bands. Amazon has a good selection.
  • Install a VPN client before your trip. 
  • SIM cards can be bought at Shanghai Pudong Airport; they can also be bought at mobile phone stores in Kunshan, but staff may not speak English.  You may be able to buy a phone once at these locations once you are in China, but these phones may have certain restrictions, such as limited access to app stores or VPN clients. At all locations, your passport is required to make a purchase.