jamesb2147 reports that he was able to use the internet traveling in China without restrictions of China’s Great Firewall while roaming with Google’s Project Fi, and suggests that any sort of roaming on a cellular network should behave the same way.
What’s happening anytime you roam onto a network is that your data packets, at an extremely low level, are forwarded to the local controller (e.g. France’s Fake Telecom). From there, they’re packaged up and forwarded, likely over the public internet but crucially inside that packaging, and sent along to your home network’s controller. Once at your home network’s controller, they’re handled just as if you were in your home country on your home network. So, whether you’re using Project Fi, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, ATT, or Billy Bob Joe’s Cheapo Cell-u-lar (aka Ting), as long as you’re roaming then your traffic should behave as it does on your home network, just slower.
This probably isn’t an effective solution to scale for Chinese people to circumvent internet controls, both because of cost and that cellular networks likely won’t allow roaming on an ongoing basis.
The “Other” Great Wall, at Badaling
How cost effective, though, is it to roam with Google’s Project Fi when visiting China?
What’s interesting about the Project Fi angle to this is that they’re fairly consistent about giving you high speed data internationally (I’ve yet to find a country with anything slower than a strong 3G network) and they price it the same as in the US, $10/GB (notably better than Verizon’s $10/day international charges on top of your usual bill). The terms are a little fuzzy on this, but I’ve not heard complaints from anyone about weird charges (yet), so it may be a case of inartful drafting of the terms.
Seemed interesting enough to pass along.