UK mobile operator EE has become the first British network to offer 4G LTE roaming coverage in mainland China.
The carrier's list of 4G roaming countries has not yet been updated to reflect the change, however we've been seeing solid LTE coverage through China Unicom on our EE SIMs in the Beijing area in recent days. Unicom operates FDD-LTE — the flavor of 4G used by most Western networks — on Band 3, which also happens to be EE's main LTE band at home. Its main rivals, China Mobile and China Telecom, only use TDD-LTE frequencies, which are incompatible with most 4G phones sold in Europe. So naturally, the Unicom pair-up makes most sense for a Euro network like EE.
China is a big and important addition for EE, as major competitor Vodafone continues to expand its LTE roaming partnerships in other parts of the world. What's more, while local 4G SIMs are easy to come by in China, many popular sites and services like Google, Facebook and Twitter are blocked. Roaming subscribers from foreign networks aren't subject to the same restrictions, adding a major convenience factor.
But EE's standard roaming rates remain pretty expensive — most customers can choose from £40 for 500MB, £20 for 200MB or £10 for 100MB. EE subscribers grandfathered into the carrier's "special" roaming rates, however, can get up to 1GB for £25.