How China’s Internet Infrastructure Affects Page Load Speed of Websites Hosted Outside of China

If you’re thinking about starting or expanding your overseas business, China, as the world’s second largest economy, should be a good choice. You may also want to have a Chinese version of your website, so potential Chinese customers and partners will soon get to know you better, right? Seems simple enough, but it’s not as easy as just having a Chinese version of your website.  And before customers begin visiting your site, it’s definitely a good idea to know how your website performs when it’s visited from within China. Does it load fast? Does it look weird? Does it respond effectively? Your website performance surely affects visitors’ impressions of your business and you.


Facts About of Mainland China’s Internet Infrastructure


6 Major Submarine Cables with 3 Main Landing Stations

Let’s consider the telecom networks inside each country as a giant Local Area Network (LAN), then the main communication channels that connect each country LANs are the submarine and terrestrial fiber optic cables. According to the public data in 2010, there were six major submarine cables (excluding Hong Kong and Taiwan) with three landing stations in mainland China – Qingdao, Shanghai, Shantou. The majority of mainland Internet users access the Internet outside China by these channels.  On the other hand, South Korea had 11 and Japan had 15 cables connected in 2010. Compared to its neighbors, the number of cables owned by China is relatively low.


Major Internet Exchange Points (IXPs)

Corresponding to the three geographic landing stations, there are there major national authorized Internet entry/exit points located in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou, which are also called Internet Exchange Points (IXPs). In 2014, seven new IXPs were reported to be established in seven inland Chinese cities. However, the three major IXPs are still playing far more important roles than the other seven, by observing the network resources of major telecom carriers in China.  The IXPs are acting as “Information Gatekeepers”, and responsible for supervising and filtering ANY information or data coming in/out mainland China. Thus they are strictly controlled by the government, in consideration of national security.


Three Major Telecom Carriers

Based on the latest report on Chinese Internet development published by the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) in April 2020, six major telecom carriers constitute International Internet Bandwidth of China, and three of them play dominant roles. By the end of December 2019, International Internet Bandwidth (Mbps) of the sum of China Telecom, China Unicom, and China Mobile was 8,651,623 out of the total number 8,827,751 of China, which accounts for 98 percent of traffic.  That means the three telecom carriers face tremendous pressure on providing smooth network traffic. They provide services to the majority of Chinese Internet users, which was reported as nearly 1 billion in 2020. Even if Internet users that actually access global sites or applications are just a small part, since the base number is huge, the sheer numbers are still overwhelming.


How Do These Factors Affect Your Website Performance?

Now that we’ve covered the basic Internet infrastructure of mainland China, let’s talk about how that affects website performance. Combined with Chinese government’s control on telecommunications and Internet, network traffic resources usually run short from time to time. At peak hours, which are early in the morning and after dinner, strain on the Internet climbs significantly. It creates latency, and more often, packet loss, or even connection failures, when trying to visit websites hosted outside of China.  We conducted a packet loss test over a 24-hour period from within China through the major telecom carriers and the results are below.


Packet Loss Rate to Visit Global Internet from China
  China Telecom China Unicom China Mobile
Peak Hours (Night) >15% >4% >3%
Off Peak Hours 5% – 10% 1% – 3% 1% – 3%


If your web host is not in mainland China, and you’re expecting someone from China to drop by, think again. You need to take these factors into consideration, and make decisions on how to optimize your website performance catering to the Chinese market.


How Do You Know Your Website Performance in China?

Fortunately, there are website monitoring tools and solutions available that can be used to bridge the gap between IT issues and user experience and business objectives. You can start by trying the free online network performance tools from Dotcom-Monitor. These tools enable you to get a quick yet effective diagnosis on your website availability and performance from different global locations, and includes a China Firewall Test to see how your website loads from behind the Great Firewall of China. The free tools include web page speed test, ping test for website availability, traceroute test for connection issues, network latency status check, and more.

Thinking about more comprehensive solutions? Dotcom-Monitor also offers several monitoring solutions that give you more continuous monitoring and testing features, website and web applications to web services and IT infrastructure monitoring. You will be able to check and address your website issues, as well as simulate what actual visitors see when accessing your sites and applications from China, so you can optimize and fine-tune elements accordingly to enhance performance and functionality. And more importantly, you can set up alerts to be notified immediately when performance issues impact your pages or applications, so you can quickly find and fix any issues so more visitors aren’t impacted.


Wrapping Up: How China’s Internet Infrastructure Affects Page Load Speed of Websites

You’ve got enthusiasm about your overseas business in China, but Internet performance is clearly spotty and unreliable. Now you know the things you need to pay attention to if you’re conducting business in China, and how performance monitoring tools and solutions can ensure your biggest investment, and revenue generator, is up and functional for visitors. Get started today.  Run a free China Firewall test now to see how your website performs from behind the Great Firewall of China.

For more advanced monitoring features try the full Dotcom-Monitor platform for free.


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