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I want to use an unlimited SIM card in China (Shanghai if the city is relevant). There are some SIM cards available in China (e.g. China Unicom and China Mobile) but I only know SIM cards that have a fixed amount of data to consume.

Since the unlimited data is the top priority, I don't mind if it has the phone number or can be used as a tethering, though both of them would be great if at all possible. I don't mind at all if it is 4G/LTE, though.

Of course I must purchase it as a traveler, who doesn't have an official proof of residence. Can I still purchase it in China?

  • The residence registration requirements seem somewhat flexible in practice, depending on the city. In some cases they will register it in the name of a shop employee. – Spehro Pefhany Nov 3 '16 at 15:48
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When I was in Shanghai, I got a SIM card from (I think) China Unicom, which came with a certain small amount of data to start with. Then, when I needed more data, I bought more data which came in the form of a plastic card (not another SIM card) with a code number on it. You would call the number on the card from your phone (they had English prompts), enter the code, and you would immediately get more data.

I think the cards I was buying were something like 100 MB for 100 yuan, but you could negotiate and get them down to like 20 yuan each if you bought several. That was a few years ago, so the amounts and costs may have changed.

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A couple of mobile providers offer SIM cards with unlimited data. However, many of them throttle your connection (e.g., to 128 kbps) after you reached some threshold. Search for "unlimited" on http://prepaid-data-sim-card.wikia.com/wiki/China

Note that you can also purchase some of these SIM cards outside China, e.g. on Amazon:

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China Unicom offer a prepaid SIM card in Shanghai with unlimited data in Shanghai, and an allowance (from memory, I think 3GB per month with throttling afterwards but no overage charges) elsewhere in China. There may be similar deals in other tier-1 cities.

I purchased one at a China Unicom shop with the help of an interpreter, and was asked for my passport (which contained a valid tourist visa) and no other documentation.

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