Friday, November 19, 2010

Is the price of one skype call on Docomo's FOMA network 4200 yen?

The Answer to the question posed by the title of this blog is NO.

[Long story short, someone added a completely unnecessary Docomo APN to Cyanogen's APN list. This list is used by many ROM developers. The APN was added ABOVE the proper flat-rate APN causing this unnecessary APN to be the default when flashing for may users (perhaps those flashing after a full wipe?). Sending of just one packet on this unnecessary APN would result in the 4200 yen charge. (What are the chances of a background packet being sent in the time it takes to navigate to "Access point names" in settings after first booting a new ROM?) This "bug" in cyanogen's list persisted for 2 weeks until Takuro Kurame aka northeye found and fixed it. The bug was fixed prior to the start of the November billing cycle but the existence of the bug was not publicized in English or Japanese, so people who flashed CM6.1rc1 or any ROM using the buggy APN list got charged an extra 4200 yen for November. The bug persists in CM6.1rc1 which should be avoided by Docomo users. Ok maybe this wasn't very short.]

UPDATE: It seems that I'm not the only one hit with a charge. Please leave a comment with information on your tethering and voip habits. If you could specifically answer the following questions, it would be helpful to all. I am trying to figure out if Skype is in fact going to a problem to use, or is Docomo has started policing for tethering, or if some of us just got unlucky.

1) Have you ever tethered?
2) Have you ever used skype?
3) Have you ever used another voip client?
4) Have you even been charged 4200 yen extra for tethering?
5) If so, when were you first charged?
6) During the billing months prior to being charged had you ever used skype?
7) During the billing months prior to being charged had you ever used another voip client?

Skype for android was introduced in early October. Prior to October billing, I had never heard of ANYONE being charged for tethering. Of course there is also fring and SIPdroid, but perhaps since they are less well known, their usage doesn't raise flags (?)
/UPDATE

Probably not, but I'll need to hear from you to confirm. Has anyone who has been using skype last month been assesed a tethering charge by Docomo?

I just got hit with one on my October bill. I used a total of 511.31 MB - up a whopping 25.69 MB from September. The charge was an additional 4200 yen that I was told could be incurred for two reasons 1) not using the unlimited biz-houdai APN* or 2) tethering. Docomo broke down my packet usage and assigned about 175 MB to my phone and the remainder to tethering.

Fortunately, Docomo just adds a flat fee on top of your bill for tethering, which is not even in violation of the terms of service - just imagine my bill if they would have charged me the standard packet rate for the remaining 330+ megs (like softbank has been known to do).

Of course I was tethering last month and had been this month, as well (until I got the bill at least), but Docomo has confirmed that there are no tethering charges on my bill for this month. So what gives? If they caught me last month, why did they stop looking at my packets this month? Either I was unlucky last month, Docomo was looking more closely, or I did something to attract attention.

What did I do differently? Nothing I can think of other than attempt a call over 3G with the skype android app at the beginning of the month. I didn't realize at the time, but skype (and all VoIP usage) is banned on the FOMA network.

Could it be that the skype usage flagged me and triggered inspection of my subsequent packet headers? Who knows, maybe it's just karma - after all, I did recently write a post on my data usage and tethering.

This actually has me reconsidering my perspective on data caps. It is conceivable that with a 5 GB cap, any usage will be allowed, since bandwidth is bandwidth, nothing more nothing less. But with an unlimited data plan, the carriers obviously have a very good incentive to keep PCs off their mobile networks. For my personal usage, I don't even come close to 5 GB. In fact, I haven't even exceeded 0.5 GB (last month was 0.499 GB).

So part of me feels it is ridiculous to be slapped with a tethering charge for using half a gig when people can easily chew up 5 10 times that with youtube, pods casts (especially pod casts), and generally heavy usage of their handsets. The rest of me knows the rules and that tethering is subject to an additional charge, whether you use 1 byte or a billion.

----

* I was previously told at a different Docomo shop that connecting to the wrong APN will actually result in no flat rate whatsoever and a very expensive bill.

33 comments:

  1. I have the same problem as well. Yesterday I browsed the my docomo website to see how much docomo points I have left, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that my bill for November usage is 4200 yen higher than usual. I thought maybe it was my changing of custom roms that did it (maybe some of the roms didnt have docomo's mopera APN etc), but I don't think that is it. After reading your entry though, I realized that I had used fringout to call someone through voip. So maybe it was skype, or fringout or any other voip service that was the culprit??

    My docomo updates the bill on a daily basis, so I'll try calling using fringout again today or later, and see if my packet usage for FOMA increase the next day.

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  2. I hope this doesn't mean we have to say good bye to tethering and VOIP. My online bill doesn't show any surcharge for the past 3 months. Since last months I haven't don't any tethering I think. Haven't used Skype either but used other VOIP.

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  3. Not necessarily.

    So, over the past 3 months, have you tethered or used skype?

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  4. To confirm: 1) was November the first month you used voip? Was is fring or skype or both? 2) Did you do any tethering in November? Have you previously tethered in October or earlier?

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  5. I have tethered since April but stopped it (had no need for it) sometime in October, I think. Never had Skype installed.

    BTW, you mention it's good that they just applied a flat fee. But that's in accordance with their price plan, isn't it. Basically for another 7000 Yen or so on top of the regular 6000 Yen data flat rate you can do unlimited PC tethering. I confirmed that when I signed up and it's clearly mentioned in the price plan. I am just surprised your fee is 4200 and not around those 7000 Yen.

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  6. Oh, thanks I missed it. I think that's quit fair, given how much these USB dongles with unlimited data from eMobile etc. are per month. And Docomo has a way better coverage. But too bad free tethering might be gone.

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  7. Last time I tethered was in September, and it has been while longer since I last used any voip services. I used to use voip stunt through fring, but I think my last call was somewhere in June or July. But last week, I used fringout for about 30 minutes. This is the first time I have incurred the 4200yen charge, even though I did tether and used voip quite a bit back then.

    I just checked my docomo page again today, and it seems that my FOMA packet ( FOMAパケット通信料[一般]) usage stayed the same, while my FOMA smartphone packet (FOMAパケット通信料 スマートフォン定額) increased. Since I did not tether or used fring yesterday, I guess it's normal. I'll use fring or tether today for a bit, and see if the 一般 FOMA packet usage increase tomorrow.

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  8. Yeah, it is certainly not unfair, especially considering that I was well aware of possibility of getting hit for extra charges. I just didn't expect that it would happen unless I used a ton of data.

    NTT East's hikari portable for 525 yen/month for flets subscribers would be a bit more affordable though ;-)

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  9. Yeah, on my bill, the ( FOMAパケット通信料[一般]) was where they put all the tethering packets, and I am thinking maybe the skype packets as well.

    Since you've already been charged the 4200 yen, it would be an interesting experiment to do some tethering in the next few days and see if the ippan packets increase again. Then don't do anything for a while and try fringout again. And so on for the rest of the month. It would give us a good idea of what activities they are putting in the ippan category once they've started that category on your behalf ;-)

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  10. What's NTT East's hikari portable? I am not really getting it, even though I read your post.
    http://softbanksucks.blogspot.com/2010/05/ntt-east-announces-hikari-portable-3g.html

    The new fees fall in the same time as the release of the Galaxy S, looks like Docomo got their technology ready to detects Wifi tethering supported by the recent phones with Android 2.2.

    It will be interesting to see what Docomo actually charges as FOMAパケット通信料[一般].

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  11. I was not charged a 4200 flat fee on my October bill. Here are the answers the the questions:
    1) Have you ever tethered? Yes.
    2) Have you ever used skype? Yes.
    3) Have you ever used another voip client? No.
    4) Have you even been charged 4200 yen extra for tethering? No.
    5) If so, when were you first charged? n/a
    6) During the billing months prior to being charged had you ever used skype?
    7) During the billing months prior to being charged had you ever used another voip client?

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  12. sorry...answers to 6) and 7) are also n/a

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  13. Thanks for the response. I figured they were n/a ;-)

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  14. Ken, I checked the Galaxy S, and it does not have wireless tethering. The shopkeeper told me docomo had the ability removed, and he let me check the settings on the shop's phone. In the "Settings" section under "Wireless", there were no options for tethering.

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  15. Hmm... you got me worried, so I checked MyDocomo, and my bill is sightly lower this month, by a few hundred yen. I've used at LEAST 20 minutes of 3G Skype calling in the past month...

    1) Have you ever tethered? No
    2) Have you ever used skype? Yes
    3) Have you ever used another voip client? Yes, Nimbuzz
    4) Have you even been charged 4200 yen extra for tethering? No.
    5) If so, when were you first charged? n/a
    6) During the billing months prior to being charged had you ever used skype? n/a
    7) During the billing months prior to being charged had you ever used another voip client? n/a

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  16. Good to hear you're fine. Maybe skype usage is just coincidental.

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  17. A question to ponder could be the phone/APN being used? I'm using the SP-mode APN on the Xperia. Maybe the mopera APN is better configured to detect tethering? I have no idea what I'm talking about though. ;)

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  18. "A question to ponder could be the phone/APN being used? I'm using the SP-mode APN on the Xperia. Maybe the mopera APN is better configured to detect tethering? I have no idea what I'm talking about though. ;)"

    That is perhaps an excellent point. I didn't even realize that SP-mode was using a different APN. We have been all using mpr2.bizho.net, which is the unlimited APN. I forget the exact name of the other one because I would never have a reason to use it since I would get charged by the packet for data.

    What is the address the SP-mode APN is using?

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  19. Thanks, shonangreg. I was hoping Docomo would turn their phones into official Wifi spots but that's probably one step too much for them.

    Btw, I have ordered the Galaxy S almost 3 weeks ago at a electronic store and they are telling me now they still don't have enough stock. Now I almost tend to waiting for the next new phone. But he upcoming Sharp and Toshiba phones aren't convincing me yet and I guess it might take another half year or longer until the next phones come.

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  20. The SP-mode APN is simply spmode.ne.jp. When SP-mode came around, I switched to it, and removed the Mopera ISP from my bill.

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  21. I take that back! Apparently mopera is still on my bill.. (Uスタンダードプラン)along with sp-mode, but, sp-mode is free until December.

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  22. Have you guys considered that this might be a reaction to rooting your phones and installing an alternate operating system?

    It seems odd that anyone with a Skype call on their books would not be charged if that were the culprit, but we know for certain that the OP has rooted his phone. Perhaps they're cracking down in light of the potential for bandwidth overload from tethering etc.

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  23. I don't think so because it hasn't happened to ht-03a tokyo and I haven't been charged for this month. Also, I doubt there is a difference in packet headers as coming from a custom ROM versus Docomo's. And I didn't post it, but here is how my bill was broken down:

    4,200 yen:(内訳)FOMAパケット通信(一般)計2,459,002パケットでした。
    5,700 yen:(内訳)FOMAパケット通信(スマートフォン定額)計1,729.690パケットでした。

    I've been running custom ROMs since April. If it was due to the custom ROM, then I would expect all the packets to not be assigned to my capped smartphone plan. If you saw my graph on the 5 GB post, then the it's clear the amount of packets they dinged me for is nearly the amount that baseline usage increased (due to tethering) after rooting.

    So I do think this is due simply to tethering. Just trying to figure out if i got unlucky, Docomo started looking, or I did something out of the ordinary. First thing that popped to mind was skype, but since it hasn't happened to everyone...

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  24. softbanksucks,
    thanks for the clarifications and more info in your last post...I was just about to ask you how many packets your bill showed...

    not sure if it helps to clarify anything (or just make it more confusing!) but my bill reads like this:
    5,700 yen:(内訳)FOMAパケット通信料 スマートフォン定額 計1千万パケット以上でした。

    perhaps the overall volume of the packet usage has something to do with whether or not you are flagged for the extra charge? they say I am at over 1,000,000 for packets...maybe they realize at 1.729,690? nice and random number, but who knows?
    or maybe it's random flagging followed up by investigative checks?

    by the way, i only ever tether to a ipod touch, perhaps this keeps my packet use down (as opposed to tethering to a pc...though i did use pdanet to tether to a laptap via usb before rooting....hmmm....)
    also, not sure that it matters, but i only used skype twice - just to find out how poorly it worked with the ht-03a. man those were a coupla crackly calls!

    isn't it time that one of these phone companies makes a reasonable way to purchase such obvious options with the phones?!?!

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  25. That is another potential aspect. This was the first time that I had used that much data. The first time it exceeded 500 MB, so it is possible that 500 MB is a magical number where they start checking you out.

    But the thing is, this would have to be done retroactively, because they'd say "oh, he just went over 500 MB, lets figure out how much was due to tethering." being the end of the billing cycle when this would happen, they'd have to inspect every packet I'd already sent for the past 30 days.

    So, no I don't think that is it. If they didn't break down my packet usage, then that would be a possibility. But they did.

    And by the way, I have all my bills for the last year (as seen in this image). I always get a break down of packet usage, or else I wouldn't have had the data to put together that graph.

    By far the most common usage of my tethering, in terms of time spent tethering, is also for an iPod Touch. when my wife commands me 電波ちょうだい。there is not much I can do ;-)

    But of course, the most packet usage comes from tethering to my MBP.

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  26. I registered for a my docomo ID so I can keep better track of what is happening to my bill. After registering I was expecting something modern like an email with my pw. Instead, I will wait up to 10 days for the login info to arrive by mail. Unbelievable.

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  27. After reading your original post I went to do exactly the same thing - register for my docomo ID - and saw that it is anything but instantaneous..."geez" was my reaction. I plan to just check the bills when they come and act surprised at any bad news of extra charges!

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  28. I did the little experiment, and yeah, it was a little one. I've tethered only about 7MB data on Sunday, and my 一般 packet did not rise a bit. Yesterday I used fringout again to make a call for about 2 minutes, and still no rise today. Maybe I need to use more data for them to flag my device? I'll try to tether more or make a longer call today and see what happens tomorrow.

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  29. Hmm.... That's interesting. Please do keep experimenting until the end of your billing cycle since now you've paid for tethering, so you might as well use it ;-) Any thing you can figure out will be helpful.

    I also wonder if there could be a slight delay in the packet updating. Did you regular FOMA packets rise?

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  30. I was automatically registered for mine when I signed up for my Xperia contract. I did the same thing, thinking I had to wait for the mail to come. Turned out I was already registered and just didn't notice it. I didn't know my ID or password, so I went to a store and they changed my password for me (ID is my phone number).

    BTW, I checked my bill last month - I used Wifi tethering with Barnacle a few times for light data and email, and I have no additional charge using apn2.bizho.net

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  31. I think I have found my problem. No, it wasn't the tethering or my voip calls. It was my changing of custom ROMs that did it. I have been tethering and making voip calls a lot last week, but there still wasn't any increase on my FOMA 一般 packet usage.

    But on saturday, my phone was crashing heavily, so I wiped and flashed the same ROM I have been using from the middle of this month. (it's CM 6 nightly build based ROM by alan90 http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=723520), and my 一般 packet increased the next day. I thought it was my tethering that did it, so I stopped tethering on sunday and yesterday, but the usage still keep on increasing.

    Just now, I checked my APN setting and found out that the ROM had set mopera.net as the default APN, and not mpr2.bizho.net (although the option was there as well). So I guess that was the culprit in my case. But it could have been skype in your case. Sorry I couldn't test skype as well since I don't have any skype credit.

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  32. Woah!, that is a real problem. I don't know when that got added. I added the mpr2.bizho.net APN half a year ago to the APN list. Since then someone else added mopera.net. That is really dangerous. It needs to be removed. This could also be what happened to me! Damn...

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  33. Krishani AkalankiApril 3, 2013 at 4:46 AM

    1) Have you ever tethered? No
    2) Have you ever used skype? Yes
    3) Have you ever used another voip client? Yes, Oovoo
    4) Have you even been charged 4200 yen extra for tethering? No.
    5) If so, when were you first charged? n/a
    6) During the billing months prior to being charged had you ever used skype? n/a
    7) During the billing months prior to being charged had you ever used another voip client? n/a

    But I use http://www.highspeedvpn.com/ service when accessing the skype, Is it impact on this matter?

    ReplyDelete