Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Docomo Xi LTE data plan pricing and products announced

Docomo's Xi LTE service will begin 12/24/2010. So far, two products focusing on business customers have been announced, a USB dongle (L-02C) and Express card (F-06C). Each of these products supports the full 100 Mbps/50 Mbps down/uplink of the LTE standard, though Xi will not, at first, support these speeds.

Nothing yet on handsets.

Data plans

There are two plans, the Xi Data Plan (Xiデータプラン) and the Xi Two-Year Data Plan (Xiデータプランにねん). The two-year plan results in a significant discount but requires a two-year contract.

The XI Data Plan (XI Two-Year Data Plan) has a base fee of ¥2470 (¥1000) per month, which includes 3,177KB of data. After this is passed, fees increase linearly  at ¥0.315 per KB until 20 MB. From 20 MB to 5 GB, the fee is a flat ¥7,980 (¥6,510) per month. During the campaign, the flat rate is ¥6,405 (¥4,935).

Exceeding 5 GB will incur a charge of ¥2,625 for an additional 2 GB, which is significantly different from how data has been billed previously but inline with what other carriers abroad are doing. According to Docomo CEO Yamada, 99% of current FOMA users do not exceed 5 GB, so this is why this was selected as the cap. This logic is flawed, however, because a Xi users will find it much easier to consume 5 GB than a FOMA users simply because of the higher throughput.

The end of all-you-can-eat data?

As data hungry mobile devices proliferate, carriers have been scrapping unlimited 3G data plans. So far in Japan, we've been unaffected by this trend, but beginning with Docomo's LTE Xi "4G" service, this will no longer be the case. I expect other Japanese carriers to introduce similar plans as they phase in next generation networks using the newly allocated 1.5 GHz spectrum, though Softbank remains a bit of a question mark due to their history of aggressive pricing and subsidizing.

Xi Basics

To recap,  Xi uses 1.5 Ghz with a 5 Mhz channel bandwidth for outdoor coverage resulting in theoretical maximum downlink and uplink of 37.5 and 12.5 Mbps, respectively. Dual channels will be used in select indoor locations to increase bandwidth to 10 MHz resulting in 75 Mbps down and 25 Mbps up.

Xi, like all current wimax and LTE networks, is not officially 4G because it does not meet all necessary standards, such as a 100 Mbps downlink, but this will change as the network evolves (LTE = longterm evolution). Right now, Xi is best considered 3.9G.

By March 2011 (end of FY 2010), Docomo expects to have service to 7% of the population by covering the cities of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, with this increasing to 20% by March 2012 and 40% by March 2013.


  1. Techniker.TechnologeNovember 9, 2010 at 3:35 PM

    The price plans for Data are still ridicoulously expensive. I mean even for 3G, you effectively always pay 6000 Yen / month for data usage, since the maximal limit is already reached at 70000 packtes, which, in reality is just 8MB or something. One can easily reach that just with using mail or Google Maps once. Compare that to any other western nation, where you can get easily 500MB or something for $20.

  2. I guess I just don't get it - and maybe I'm not the ultra-data-gobbling-road-warrior this is targeted toward either. But why would someone get this over WiMax (or WiMax 2)?

    Actually I just hope it's not an excuse, like you hinted, to get rid of flat-rate-buffet data plans. I already pay ¥10K/mo as it is. Not looking forward to forking out more than that for my paltry newsgroup reading, email and ghetto car-navi.

    Would that also mean the demise of current FOMA HSPA data plans?

    That would push me over the edge. I'd buy the sweetest Gingerbread handset money can buy, dump DoCoMo and grab b-mobile.

  3. No, FOMA is here to stay for a while. And they would have an absolute revolt if they did away with the capped FOMA plans. Early adopters will be willing to pay more in the base fees for data. The Xi data plan is not really that much more expensive than the FOMA plan, excluding the usage of 5GB. In fact, depending on the deal you got with respect to campaigns, etc., it could be cheaper - assuming you use more than 3000 KB but less than 5 GB a month.

  4. Yes, for the light user, Japan is a bad deal. But for the moderate to extremely heavy user it is great, with the current unlimited plans. Think about it, 5 GB for 6000 yen. At $20 every 500 MB, that would cost you $200!

    But, yeah, you're right that for people who only want to use a few hundred MB, it is a total rip off.