For the first time, unlocked smart phones can be properly used in Japan for data transfer, but there is a catch. The initial plans will be data only. Voice is not supported, and the up/down speed is not all that fast.
Japan Communications announced yesterday the 通信電池 b-mobileSIM ("communication battery" b-mobileSIM) series. The first offering will be the "b-mobileSIM U300," which will go on sale from April 5, 2010.
Data transfer speeds are advertised to be a "best effort" maximum of 300 kbps up and down using Docomo's 3G network. But this is a step in the right direction and only represents the first offering for this product series. We'll have to wait and see what comes next.
Three plans are available, each with unlimited packet usage for a set amount of time:
- 1 year for 29,800 yen
- 6 months for 14,900 yen
- 1 month for 2980 yen.
Right now, it is fairly simple to use an overseas, unlocked GSM smartphone in Japan for voice. Just swap in a SIM card. But as many readers are aware, it is much more difficult to access the proper APN for the capped data plans. It is possible on Softbank after jumping through a number of hoops, but completely impossible on Docomo. Willcom uses exotic frequencies that few, if any, overseas phones support.
While this is not a perfect solution, this is good news for those who are content to use their T-Mobile G1 or Google Nexus One as a data-only device. Japan Communication currently has no plan to offer service for the upcoming iPad, which uses a micro-SIM that is apparently there just to f*** with you.
And what is with the name "communication battery?" From the press release:
1年間使える乾電池のようなものなので、日本通信はこれを「通信電池」というコ ンセプトとして位置づけています。They are comparing their one-year plan to a battery that is good for about the same amount of time. Sorry, but that just sounds dumb. And I didn't know this, but apparently Japan Communication has been offering SIM cards since July of last year for people with Android developer handsets (which are unlocked).
You can subscribe to Japan Communications' mailing list for the latest news on the b-mobileSim series here.