A reader (!) complained about not being able to get GPRS to work with China Mobile. Although I'm in no way an expert on the subject, I think I know enough to make a useful remark, or two..
The problem with China Mobile is that they have two kinds of SIM cards: 神州行 ShenZhouXing, also known as EasyOwn, versus 动感地带 DongGanDiDai also known as M-Zone.
ShenZhouXing/EasyOwn are most popular and you can buy them in every kiosk. However, they don't support GPRS, only WAP. There's an android app called CMWRAP that tries to mimic GPRS by tunneling all traffic over WAP. I've used this for a while and it works, but it's not very stable, so be careful.
M-Zone supports GPRS and EDGE. Even 3G, but China Mobile's 3G standard is not UMTS or HSDPA, but some other TD-SCDMA standard, which is not supported by most phones that originate from abroad. For what it's worth, I thought EDGE worked quite well, to be honest. When using 3G, China's internet connection is probably the limiting factor.
There are two ways to tell which card you have. First of all, the actual SIM cards are of a different color. ShenZhouXing SIMs are green, whereas M-Zone are orange. Also, when you turn on your phone (at least with Android) it should popup a message saying what SIM you have. For example, my phone shows something like 没错！我是动感地带！"Not Bad! I'm M-Zone!"
Apart from being able to use GPRS, receiving calls with M-Zone is FREE, contrary to ShenZhouXing where you pay when you pick up the phone. Note that M-Zone does require you to subscribe to some kind of package deal, which means some money will be subtracted at the beginning of each month. The cheapest package is about 11 RMB, if I remember correctly, and includes local (Beijing only) minutes, short messages and 20MB of traffic.
If you currently have a ShenZhouXing SIM, you can change it into an M-Zone SIM by going to your local China Mobile office (real CM office, not just any reseller.) Bring your passport and the PUK code of the ShenZhouXing SIM. The PUK code is written on the bank-card-shaped piece of plastic that used to contain the SIM card. The change will active from the beginning of the next month.
NICE! this helped a lot indeed. actually one of the things i last heard in one of the china mobile shops was about the mzone, but since i heard lots of misleading informations i didnt research about it..
awesom post! i will link it in blug since i asked there too.
Anyway, how is it with unicom and 3G? feel any different? better speed rates? pricing similar? now that i know i have to do some chaging into my SIM card, im considering changing into Unicom, perhaps 3G is better than the EDGE..
3G is certainly a lot faster, but like I wrote: I think with 3G, the country's internet connection is the limiting factor, not the mobile operator. For some regular browsing on your phone without tethering I don't think it's worth going from EDGE to 3G.
(I went to 3G since I needed a new Shanghai SIM anyway.)
I thought WAP was a markup spec for mobile websites, and GPRS is a protocol for data transmission over radio? Therefore they're not mutually exclusive, right? For example, my Samsung SGH-G618 "dumb" phone with a ShenZhouXing card can connect to the China Mobile data network by GPRS/EDGE, and has both a pre-installed WAP browser and an Opera Mini that I installed myself.
Like I said, I'm no expert, but for whatever reason, only the WAP protocol works when using ShenZhouXing. It has something to do with the APNs, which is exactly what the CMWRAP app messes around with.
I never got my 'smart' phone's WAP browser to work, so after I bought my phone (HTC Hero) I quickly moved over to M-Zone.