Sunday, May 30, 2010

NTT East announces Hikari Portable 3G router, price drop on flet's spot wifi access

NTT East made several important announcements last week. Flet's spot hotspot access will drop from about 800 yen per month to 200 yen in June. This gives access to nearly 10,000 hotspots across Japan, including just about every station in Tokyo, as well as several coffee shops and restaurants, and even several trains.

More interestingly, they announced an extremely inexpensive option for tethering any wifi device to a cellular network, the Hikari Portable 3G router. The Hikari Portable will be offered from June for a 300 yen per month rental fee to subscribers of NTT East's Flet's internet services, which includes Hikari Next and B Flet's.

Actually, with the cradle that includes both a 10/100 Mbps LAN and WAN port, this is a standard wireless router for home use. Unplugged and on the road, like the B-Mobile wifi, it becomes a 3G router. You must supply your own data SIM.

According to the FAQ, there will be two versions, one that is SIM lock free and one that is locked to NTT Docomo's network. Hmmm... I (sarcastically) wonder which one will be usable on Docomo? Presumably, B-Mobile's 300 Kbps product is the only current option for the SIM lock free version.
A: NTTドコモ社のSIMロックのかかった機種と、SIMロックフリーの機種の2機種をご提供する予定です。
It also has a micro SD slot (up to 32 GB), and mini USB port. Sans cradle, it is just under 4 inches long, about 2.5 inches wide, and weighs 105 grams. Battery life is listed at 6 hours (30 hours standby). See tech specs (Japanese).

Unlike the B-Mobile wifi, however, it can be rented for a nominal monthly fee. For someone who is dead set on getting a 3G router, this is, all in all, the best option for people in the NTT East service area.

Not only does it double as a home wifi router, but the LTE roll out is coming, after which 3G equipment will be obsolete. Even if it takes 2 years from now before LTE is widely available, compare the cost of purchasing B-Mobile's 3G router to the cost of renting for 2 years the Hikari Portable: 19,800 yen for buying 3G equipment versus 7,200 yen (7,560 yen including tax) in rental fees.

If you live in the Kanto region and find this compelling but are unfortunately subscribed to Yahoo BB, see my rambling rant on how to avoid their "落ちる穴", which was added to the cancellation terms in 2008 with the sole purpose of squeezing more money out of customers who got fed up with their consistently high latency and decided to switch ISPs. (I was located less than 1 Km from an ADSL base station but always, no matter what time of day, had about 150 - 200 ms latency which resulted in timeouts when initiating multiple connections at once, even though my download speed was always in excess of 30 Mbps.


  1. When is LTE coming to Japan? This is the first I've heard about that. I thought the wireless speeds in Japan today were already at or in excess of what they're claiming LTE will be in the U.S..

  2. Forgetting about theoretical maximums, I'd bet you'd get 10x faster transfers with LTE over 3G in real life.

    Check out page 13 of this pdf of a presentation by some guy at docomo.

    Docomo will overlay LTE with 3G on the 2100 MHz band beginning at the end of the year according to everything I've heard. They will eventually expand it to also include 1500 MHz end of 2012, but with only limited coverage until 2014.

    Other bands such as 800 MHz will remain 3G it appears.

    This presentation also indicates a theoretical max of 300 Mbps for LTE (versus 7.2 for the current 3G).

    A few other links:
    presentation file above at my google docs

  3. "You must supply your own data SIM."

    this means i need to sign to some usb or pci card with 3g data communication to use this router. i think the b-mobile solution still the best for now, am i right?

  4. Not USB or PCI, but a regular SIM card that goes in the router. The router then broadcasts a standard wifi signal (not the new "n" standard, though) for your computer.

    Right now it seems that b-mobile is the best option, but NTT is studying options for SIM offering from Docomo e-mobile and softbank.

    Keep in mind that you can't stream music and video or use Voip (skype, etc) with b-mobile.

    Also, Docomo also announced a similar product.