How the Chinese Internet Works and Its Implications for You

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How the Chinese Internet Works and Its Implications for You


How the Chinese Internet Works

The Internet was designed to be immune to disruptions. It was originally a project of the U.S. Department of Defense. The goal was to establish a communications system that could survive most disruptions, and even an atomic bomb attack. In part for this reason, the same data was stored in different locations accords the country, with many different lines connecting them. This way, if one or two data centers are destroyed, the data would still be available in another center, and if a line was cut or otherwise unusable, the connection could be re-routed through another line. Because of the way it was designed, the internet in most of the world is very difficult to block or restrict. This can be seen in the mostly unsuccessful attempts by many western governments to block torrenting sites.

In China, however, the internet was designed to be controlled. Instead of trying to avoid any single choke point where, if destroyed, would incapacitate communications, it was designed with choke points built in. Currently, all connections to overseas are channeled through three choke points, located in Beijing, ShangHai, and GuangZhou. This makes it very easy to control what goes in and out of the country, and then block any connection as the government sees fit. An unfortunate side effect has been that these choke points are highly congested (especially during peak hours in the evenings), leading to slow speeds and very high packet loss (think 10-20%). Packet loss leads to even slower speeds, and it especially impacts video streaming, conferencing, and VoIP calls such as Skype.

How UltraVPNs Unblocks and Speeds Up Your Connection to the Outside World

Therefore, to unblock and speed up your connection, a VPN or other similar software needs to accomplish the following:
-           Encrypt (lock) your connection so that it can't be accessed by the Great Firewall (GFW)
-           Successfully hide the fact that you are using a VPN to prevent protocol (VPN) blocking or throttling (speed limiting) by the GFW
-           Find a way to deal with the congestion at the choke points
-           Maintain high throughput (data transfer speed, measured in Mbps) despite high packet loss from the congestion and the GFW

All VPNs will meet our first requirement, as encryption is the primary identifying mark of a VPN. Without encryption, VPNs would not exist. However, most VPNs use CPU (computer) intensive encryption algorithms (the way the computer encrypts data). With the rise of smartphones, which have limited computing power, these traditional algorithms slow down the phone and the connection. That is why UltraVPNs uses newly developed encryption algorithms such as chacha20 which are designed to be easy on smartphones and similar devices (like tablets and routers), without compromising on security.

The second requirement, that of hide from China the very fact that you are using a VPN, is much more difficult to accomplish. Chinese supercomputers can identify a VPN connection relatively easily, and either blocks it altogether, or slows it down significantly. UltraVPN uses a special connection called Shadowsocks. This type of connection is much harder for China to identify as it looks like normal connections. Therefore, it is not impacted by blocks or throttling.

The third requirement, that of dealing with congestion at choke points, is simple to achieve. Purchase better connections to china. What you have to know is that if foreign Internet Service Providers (ISPs) want to connect to China Telecom and Unicom, they have to pay them first. And as most things in china, the more you pay them, the more better service you get. Basically, think of it as those premium tickets some people pay for when going to an amusement park. You can buy the basic ticket, but you have to wait in line and its slow. But if you buy the more expensive ticket, you can skip the line and use the premium passageway, which is much faster. Most of UltraVPNs servers use those premium lines, and so don't suffer from the slow speeds most other VPN companies seem to have a hard time dealing with.

The fact that we use premium lines goes a long way toward solving the fourth problem, that of high packet loss. The cheaper lines tend to have between 10-30% packet loss, whereas the premium line only 0-5%. However, anything above 1% will have an impact on the speeds of your connection. Therefore, something more is needed to speed up the connection. At UltraVPNs, we use proprietary software on our servers to further speed up the connection despite high packet loss. This usually increases the speed by a factor of five to ten times. As a result, all of our servers are fast, even during peak periods.

What It Means for You

Usually, the closer the server is to you, the better and faster the connection. This means that servers in Asia will generally be much faster than those in the U.S. However, as discussed above, what matters more is whether or not the server is on a premium line or not. The following servers are on premium lines: Hong Kong, Russia, Los Angeles, Europe. Hong Kong is on the highest-level line, meaning it is the best server we currently have, or (probably) will have. It means that all other people's traffic is pushed aside to allow your priority connection to pass through, which means great speeds even at night. Therefore, when you are considering a server to use, prioritize these four servers.

Hopefully this has answered some of your questions as to why UltraVPN is faster and more stable than other VPNs, even the big companies. The answer is a deep knowledge of the Chinese internet, as well as specializing on the Chinese user base. Perhaps you now have a better idea of which server will best suit your needs. Whether it is a US server for the geo-location, or an Asian server with great speeds for watching YouTube, UltraVPNs can provide it all!

UltraVPNs team