China officially bans Skype: service still working?

By John Walton, January 4 2011
China officially bans Skype: service still working?

China has officially declared Skype and other third-party VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services illegal, according to reports from China and an article in the state-run People's Daily. The announcement follows previous similar bans on sites including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

Following the announcement from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), a Skype spokesperson said that the service was still available in China, via their majority JV partner TOM Online. Australian Business Traveller has confirmed with contacts located within the PRC that Skype is currently functional. However, with China having announced its policy, it is unclear for how long this will continue to be the case. 

Our recent review of Skype 3.0 for iOS devices may have tempted some business travellers to increase their reliance on the service, but it now seems sensible to have other options for connectivity in the People's Republic. 

According to the Chinese announcement, VoIP services provided by China Telecom, China Mobile and China Unicom -- the largest mobile telcos in China -- are permissible. Skype and others, including Google Talk, won't be.

Business travellers should note that the crackdown is on service providers rather than users, so if a service is up and running, users are unlikely to face any difficulties with the authorities for using it. With the speed and availability of high speed Internet access in China increasing, Skype and similar services had seemed like useful services for business travellers.

For business travellers looking for alternative ways to stay in touch, we have also had success buying local SIM cards for iPhones and other devices. Prepaid SIM cards of all sizes are widely available in Chinese cities, and calls into China are free to the recipient. Data plans are available, but iOS users should remember that their devices may need to be synced with iTunes to update carrier settings before data starts working.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Nov 2010

Total posts 60

Skype still working as of last night, this same scenario has been talked about for more than 5 years already, maybe one day they'll stop it, I visit China often but don't rely on Skype anyway, I might use it as a Skype to Skype service but nothing more than that, I have local SIM cards for use when in China and there are plenty of ways to save money on calls, stay contactable etc

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 673

Hi jokiin,

Yeah, we tested Skype fairly extensively with contacts in China this morning, and it worked just fine. I do know some people who rely almost entirely on Skype for their calls, though...although I'm not one of them. We use Skype fairly heavily in the Australian Business Traveller office, especially since I'm in WLG and the rest of the team is spread around SYD. My mum back in the UK is also a big fan!

--J


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