Thursday, November 11, 2010

Comparison of four major carriers improved data networks

While all carriers are eventually moving to LTE, Docomo will be the first to start service with their Xi (pronounced "Crossy") network. Once fully implemented, LTE will be a true 4G network with speeds up to 100/50 Mbps down/up. For now Xi is a "3.9G" network. The other carriers will be making improvements to their existing 3G networks prior to rolling out LTE service.

Softbank and Emobile, the number three and four carriers, will employ dual carrier waves to boost downlink speeds, using a standard first proposed by Emobile called "dual cell high speed downlink packet access (DC-HSDPA). AU, Japan's second largest carrier and only carrier using CDMA2000, plans to introduce a multi-carrier network using up to three carrier waves (click here for Japanese, or here for an English machine/MyGengo translation).

For now, AU's network will be by far the slowest but will launch simultaneously with the winter-spring line up of handsets and will have a number of handsets that support the increased downlink speed, including some androids (IS04 and IS06). The other carrier's launch products are all corporate-oriented data dongles or mobile routers, no phones. The only price I've seen so far is for Emobile's D41HW mobile router for ¥41, 580 (¥19,980 with 2-year contract... ouch).

WIN High Speed
Ultra Speed/SBM 4G
Speed (u/d) Mbps
9.2 / 5.5
37.5 (75) / 12.5 (25)*
42 / 5.8
42 / 5.7 **
Monthly price†
¥4480 (¥5580)
Data cap
5 GB
5 GB (none)
¥2,625 per 2 GB
Stop service (?)††
Start date
Launch products
IS06, X-RAY, S005, IS04, G11, S006
L-02C, F-06C
007Z, 004Z, 005HW
Initial (subsequent) population coverage
Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka (7% 3/2011; 20% 3/2012; 40% 3/2013)
Major Cities (40-50% 3/2011)
Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka (12% 3/2011; 60% 6/2011)
2100 MHz
2100 MHz
1700 MHz
1500 MHz/2600 MHz
15 MHz [5x3]
5 (10) Mhz [5x1(5x2)]
10 MHz [5x2]
10 MHz [5x2]

* 75/25 Mbps will be accomplished with dual-carriers in select indoor locations.
** Based on highest uplink of current handsets. DC-HSDPA seems to only increase downlink. Softbank has not announced uplink speed.
† Assuming 2-year contract and campaign pricing.
†† I've read conflicting reports on what Emobile does if you go over 5 GB. Some say throttling, others says shutting you off completely. Throttling seems more likely. According to wikipedia, service will be stopped.
‡ No official start date, but service is supposed to start with release of compatible winter/spring lineup handsets.


  1. wimaxも入れてあげて。笑

  2. The e-mobile offer is less than clear. I asked a Yodobashi Camera salesman about it and he explained that there is a price increase if you exceed the 5Gb threshold. If I remember well the price goes above JPY 6000 but there are no limits if you reach that level of payment.

  3. OK, I figured it out. The around 6000 yen regular plan seems to have no cap.

    I'll edit the post to reflect that.

  4. Did I ask about this one before??....

    Upcoming LTE spectrum bands for Europe, USA, Asia and Japan seem waaay different from each other. Is it even feasible to think that unlocked phones from the States or even Hong Kong are going to make any difference to us over (if DoCoMo allows unlocked handsets) here if the handsets don't even transceive over the same bands?

  5. I don't know but it has been discussed here. I think Brian did a lot of checking into it. It's either in the comments of a post tagged with LTE or perhaps the general info post.

    Basically, it seems that the bands will be different. What remains to be seen is makers that are planning on releasing a phone for a number of markets do like apple and support all the frequencies with one phone, or like HTC has done and switch radios for the different markets. If we get true "world phones" it won't matter.

  6. The E-Mobile information is incorrect. There is no 5GB limit. On older data contracts, there is no limit at all. On newer contracts (including all G4 contracts), there is a 300MB per day limit, after which throttling begins. The throttling seems relative to your maximum speed, though. For example, with a G4 SIM, you can easily get over 12MBps for a while, and after you have downloaded over 500MB, it will slow down to somewhere around 6-7MBps. If you use a SmartPhone SIM (still unlimited), the speed will drop after the same ~300MB, but to a much slower speed, like around 2-3MBps.

  7. Plan B is the "grandma" plan. Not only does it have a cap, but it limits some services/ports. (iirc Skype is OK, but no internet radio?) For 1000 yen more, I'll take the real internet.