Saturday, April 2, 2011

Trying to get an unlocked phone working on Docomo is a waste of time

UPDATE: A Shukan Ascii article sums up the issue:
“テザリング対応機種かどうか”は、ドコモが「今後発売のSIMフリー端末を検証してサイト上で公開する」(ドコモ広報部)とのこと。実際にユーザーがテザリングを利用したかどうかではない点には注意したい。ドコモが認定した機種以外は通常料金用のアクセスポイント(APN)に接続不可で、テザリング端末用料金になる。4月1日時点では、公開端末がないため、パケット代はどの機種でも10395円かかると考えてよい。
Docomo will publish on it's website at a later date which phones it determines are capable of tethering. It doesn't matter whether a user actually tethers. All other handsets will be prevented from accessing the mpr2.bizho.net APN and be automatically assessed a tethering fee (because they will use the mopera.net APN). As of 4/1/2011, there are no approved handsets, so all handsets will be charged 10,395 yen at the moment.

(You'd think that people who work at Docomo would have access to this information.)

/UPDATE

Docomo is now allowing unlocked phones to be brought and used with their unlimited data plans.

However, it would appear that procedural information has not been circulated to the people working at the call centers or at the shops. Basically, they know that Docomo is now allowing unlocked phones to be brought it and SIM cards to be purchased ala carte, but they don't have any idea of what they should do to make it work.

I tried to get an android handset working with the capped data plan yesterday, which requires connecting the phone to a specific access point (mpr2.bizho.net). This access point has been, as presumably still is, filtered by the phone's IMEI number such that only phones bought from Docomo can connect to it. This is common knowledge among readers of this blog, but is not advertised by Docomo. Many shop staff don't know this.

Last night, I spent an hour at a shop as a staff tried and failed to get the phone to connect to the mpr2 APN. I tried telling them it wasn't going to work, but that information fell on deaf ears. Finally, the staff connected the phone to the pay-as-you-go APN (0120.mopera.ne.jp).  I also tried to tell them that was going to cost me money, which it has, according to my online statement.

I spent another hour on the phone this morning with basically the same result. Since it is not their phone, they say that they don't know how to connect it. The problem is obvious, though: the IMEI number must be registered. Until someone at Docomo figures this out, there is no need to try and connect.

On top of this, they can't seem to figure out how much it will cost. The original press release indicated that any unlocked handset would be eligible for the capped data rate, which is less than 6000 yen per month, unless it was capable of tethering, then it would be charged around 10,000 yen per month.
他社のSIMロック解除端末をドコモSIMカードでご利用いただく際、各種料金プラン、割引サービスなどはドコモブランド端末をご利用されるときと同様の料金体系となります。

なお、総合プランをご契約の場合、他社のSIMロック解除端末がテザリング非対応であることなどをドコモで確認できた端末については、パケット定額サービスをご契約いただくことで、パケット通信料の上限額は5,460円3 もしくは5,985円4 となります。当該端末については、ドコモで上記の確認が取れた時点で、ドコモホームページにてお知らせします。その後、お客様が当該端末に指定のアクセスポイント(APN)を設定していただくことで、それ以降のパケット通信が上記パケット通信料の対象となります。その他の端末については、上限額10,395円となります。

また、定額データプランをご契約の場合は、テザリング対応可否にかかわらず、指定のアクセスポイント(APN)を設定していただくことで、ご利用料金の上限額は5,460円5 もしくは5,985円6 となります。
However, the above is not included in the official information, which is much more vague and simply says that the plan may cost about 10,000 yen:
各種料金プラン、割引サービスなどについては、ドコモブランド端末をご利用されるときと同様の料金体系でお申込みいただけます。なお、他社携帯電話機を利用した国内パケット通信にかかるパケット通信料については、以下のような取り扱いとなりますのでご注意ください。
  1. パケ・ホーダイ ダブル、パケ・ホーダイ シンプル、パケ・ホーダイ フラットまたはパケ・ホーダイ ダブル2をご契約の場合、他社携帯電話機のブラウザ機能をご利用になった通信であっても、ドコモのiモード通信・ iモードフルブラウザ通信・スマートフォン定額通信には該当せず、通信料金の上限額は、10,395円となる場合がございます。
  2. パケ・ホーダイ、パケ・ホーダイ フル、Biz・ホーダイをご契約の場合、上記と同様の理由から、定額通信の対象とはならず、従量課金となる場合がございますので、パケ・ホーダイダブル、パケ・ホーダイ シンプル、パケ・ホーダイ フラットまたはパケ・ホーダイ ダブル2への変更をお勧めします。
  3. 定額データプランをご契約の場合、定額対応アクセスポイントへ接続した通信に限り定額通信の対象となります。
    なお、VOIP、ファイル交換など一部ご利用いただけない場合があります。定額対応以外のアクセスポイントへ接続した通信は、定額通信の対象とはならず、従量課金となりますのでご注意ください。
But what I've encountered so far wouldn't even result in the price being capped at 10,395 yen because the staff tried to set the wrong APN. I know from an expensive experience that correct APN in this case would be mopera.net, not the 0120 APN.

Neither the shop's staff last night, or the smartphone call center this morning, could tell me how much I would be charged.

I understand that Docomo has more important things to be concentrating on right now, so don't even bother trying to get a handset working with Docomo's capped data plans for the time being.

28 comments:

  1. I like this line: "Neither the shop's staff last night, or the smartphone call center this morning, could tell me how much I would be charged."
    I can totally see it unfolding...ha ha!
    I too understand that getting things "back to normal" after the quake/tsunami is more of a priority, but it seems like a big policy move like this would have to get passed along somehow...kinda thinking golden weekまでis the "grace period"? I've adopted this approach for my work situation, too...for now anyways...until the SUMMER HEAT induced A/C on OVERDRIVE 停電kicks in.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I tried my luck at a docomo shop today also, with even less luck. They didn't even try to suggest that unlocked phones without tether capability could be capped at the normal data rate, simply told me it would cost the 10,395 rate. Clearly they've made no attempt to provide any guidance to their stores on this matter. My wife needs a new phone and has been reluctant to switch away from docomo because she uses the family plan to talk to her mother. I went in prepared to buy her a new docomo handset and switch my own service, but I just couldn't stomach giving them any money.

    I'm just going to buy her and her mother both new phones and pay for their service on softbank rather than buy her a docomo handset. They don't deserve my business. I really don't believe having their hands full with the current crisis is any excuse for this, as they've had many months since the original announcement to plan. It seems pretty clear that they've realized that they're hemorrhaging customers to softbank and need to do something, but are unwilling to take any material steps in the direction of openness.

    I've only lived in Japan two years, but softbank has treated me reasonably well while docomo makes at&t look like a flexible and efficient service provider. At this point if I buy anything from docomo, its going to be put options...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Did you see the update at the top of the post? I went into this with the wrong idea.

    I thought the staff at the shop would determine the whether or not a phone was capable of tethering, but this is not the case. Docomo will compile a list of handsets that they determine are not capable of tethering. Anything not on the list will be deemed capable of tethering and be charged ¥10,395.

    Because the list does not yet exist, by default, as far as Docomo is concerned all phones can tether and should pay ¥10,395.

    They know that they can't leave it up to the shop staff to determine because they shop staff would screw it all up. So, they'll determine centrally, but they can't physically test every handset, so everything starts off in the tethering category. Only after Docomo a handset is deemed safe, will it be moved to the (as of yet nonexistent) List.

    The List is sure to be incomplete and the definition of "capable of tethering" is sure to vary between docomo and us. For example, different variants of different handsets can and cannot tether. How is Docomo going to handle this?

    I am betting that, in the end, The List is going to be very short.

    The fact that the list doesn't even exist yet speaks to this issue.

    I know a lot of you aren't going to like this, but to me the only solution that makes sense is to do away with a flat rate, capped plan. Set a 5 GB limit like for Xi LTE and be done with it. 99% of users will be under. I will be under (way way under). Others of you I know would be over, though. But you guys really are heavy users IMHO.

    It has always been possible to use an unlocked handset on Docomo with the mopera.net APN and pay 10,395 for data, as I accidentally did one month. So as of April 1, the only thing that REALLY changed was the stamping out of FOMA micro SIMs.

    *****

    I understand your frustration. I was pretty annoyed as well. Obviously, I have similar feelings towards softbank. The situation in Japan will only improve as time goes by and the carriers can finally wrap their heads around the concept of unlocked phones and how to deal with them.

    Several words of warning before switching your wife and mother-in-law, who I am assuming are Japanese. I'm guessing you've considered these points, but it is always good to be sure.

    First, if they live in the country side, make darn sure they are not in a FOMA Plus area because, if they are, the chances are high that they will have no reception on softbank. Even so, make sure that they get good reception in the places they visit often.

    Second, Docomo is seen as/ has the reputation of being the professional carrier, while softbank is certainly not. There is intrinsic value in that to my mother-in-law. If you were to just up and switch them, it may come back on you in the form of, not one, but two unhappy women. You don't want that. Especially if they are connected like mother-daughter - you could be setting yourself up to get it from two sides. (shudders.)

    Third, further assuming your wife and mother-in-law are not so tech savvy, from an IT point of view, whenever you have someone who has learned to use microsoft word/excel/windows/whatever and all of a sudden you make them use new software, it never goes well (because we are talking about people who learn to use software as opposed to just using software - where's the F!#%#! "start" button).

    It can be very unpleasant for non-tech oriented people to be suddenly told to use new hard/software and they tend to vent those frustrations on those who are responsible for the change, which in this hypothetical case, would be you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. You can connect an internatioal phone to docomo's unlimited data capped @ 5785 yen thanks to the SBS Blog... (althogh you are limited to 128kbs, but everything still works, just slow... unless you are surfing or try to watch youtube, i don't notice all that much.)

    Sent from my Nexus S on Docomo.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow, thanks for the insightful response, especially the warnings in the latter part.

    I had learned of the phantom list a few weeks back when I called the service line. I felt what they were telling me contradicted the English language press release so I pressed them on it, and they called me back later to tell me that by April 1 they would have the list. I told him that almost all phones could be made to tether so it would indeed be a short list. In the case that there was any chance of there being some discretion on the part of the individual at the shop, I made sure my Nexus S carried the appropriate certification ;)

    http://i.imgur.com/E6HHS.jpg

    What I'm really curious about is how they handle iphones. If they say an iphone is "okay" then I can go in with an unlocked iphone (yuck) and just switch my SIM to something else when I leave the store.

    I did consider the points you mention regarding wife/mother. Her mother is a bit reclusive and lives in the city, not leaving her place much, and mostly only using the phone to talk to my wife. I would definitely go make sure softbank signal was strong there. I'm also thinking of getting her one of those home VOIP PBXs that can take an analog phone line. For my wife, I end up being tech support anyway and since I can't read Japanese it would likely be easier for me to support a vanilla android phone vs. the experia I was considering getting her at docomo. Very valid warning though and I should do some more soul searching about taking all that on vs. not rocking the boat.

    The cost of the solution really has never been the problem for me, just the principles involved. I don't normally tether as my laptop has wimax, and generally I'm in places with wifi. That said, in a pinch I want the capability. I'm tempted to get a non-tethered cheap phone from them and pay for the houdai plan and the minimum voice service possible, plug the thing in somewhere that has great signal strength and set it up to download 24/7. Curious what they'll do if I manage to pull down > terabyte / month.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Good to know that you're thinking about the issue from multiple angles. In that photo, is that just a sticker? I have been told by some in the industry that a particular phone can be 100% assembled from approved parts, and is therefore actually legal for use in Japan, but it may not actually have the certification mark, which is a real bummer.

    With the latest firmware update, didn't apple add in tethering? I'd guess that most of the branded iPhones have it disabled. I'd also guess that many of the unlocked ones don't. So what will Docomo decide indeed.

    I'm always recommending people to wait if they can, and this case is no different. June will have the unlockable models coming. Maybe something cool will be along. By the end of the year, we should see LTE handsets.

    The way Docomo is going about doing this, the only things that will be allowable will be 1) feature phones and 2) Docomo phones. There's no point to either of these since the none of the features on the feature phones will work (e.g., no email) and Docomo phones are already allowed.

    The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that capped plans just aren't going to work with this.

    PS - You've probably realized that you can't depend on any info in English, for the most part. English content in online news articles, press releases, etc. is often different from the original Japanese. Sometimes with bits and pieces removed. Sometimes completely lacking in detail, as was the case with the English ala carte SIM press release.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I had an old pre-pay handset I had gotten while visiting years back. It (like the nexus s) had its certification mark on a sticker instead of being printed on the plastic, so I got it warm and peeled it off, and took a hobby knife to it and stuck it over top of the circle with exclamation mark which appears on the nexus s (with a dab of glue). If you scratch with your nail you can feel that its slightly raised and in good light the white backgrounds aren't a perfect match. If this stumbling block really was the only barrier to getting the service, it would be fairly simple to just print a whole new sticker complete with barcode, etc with a properly photoshoped certification.

    In any case, I thought it would be funny watching the docomo store guy scratching his head, afraid to accuse me of it being fake (or maybe in best case allowing him to shut down the avenue of thought permitting him to reject me on certification basis). If called out on it I figured I'd say I bought it from google online and its for Japan market and maybe they stuck it on there after manufacture, whatever....watching him squirm calling me a liar is entertaining, and its kinda sorta plausible when you're in the realm of mysterious non-existent lists of phones and obvious attempts to enforce vague requirements for purposes of bilking your customers.

    I know you're right about English being entirely a courtesy here and frequently inaccurate/incomplete. Even in Japanese, the press release isn't a legal contract, and this doesn't seem to be the kind of place where you get very far suing on false advertising claims.

    Questions of permitted devices and contractual vagaries aside, a major aspect of this is how they'll enforce people keeping the SIM card in the approved device. What stops me from going in with a cheapish phone which is on their list of un-tetherables and then swapping the SIM?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Techniker TechnologeApril 4, 2011 at 12:36 AM

    thanks for your remarks. It seems I am not the only one with this problem. The swmbo is on Docomo, as is her whole family...

    More and more it seems to me that Docmo is "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes", even though I thought that this title is fixed forever with Tokyo Denryoku from now on. Because, even with the 6000 Yen Flat, this is still quite expensive if you compare it with say, the European Market... nexus s will obviously never work. It very much looks like a big stunt just to get the iphone....

    ReplyDelete
  9. Don't forget that Docomo started the revolution. The problem is that they don't yet know what to do now that they did.

    If indeed The List is laughably short and doesn't even include the iPhone, which I don't think it will since iOS supports tethering, Docomo will be slammed hard in the Japanese blog/twitter/social-verse.

    While this won't result in immediate changes, of course, it will be embarrassing enough to force a rethink. And I'm pretty sure they already realize that their plan is fatally flawed.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Aaron, does Softbank solve any of the problems you have with Docomo? Softbank doesn't even allow any non-Softbank phones (do they?) while Docomo offers a capped data plan for them. Considering that you can officially use it for teething I find the 10,390 Yen plan actually quite reasonable. After many years of using Softbank I am much happier with Docomo since I switched about two years ago. Great reception in places I didn't have any reception on Softbank is one of the things I like about Docomo.

    ReplyDelete
  11. If Docomo makes all Android users pay the tethering fee I think my next phone may be on Softbank. I don't use tethering much but when I do it saves my but. I was able to work through a 4 hour power outage using my phone and my laptop.

    Whichever phone I got though I would want to make sure it will work here and in the US but with the ATT and TMobile merger who knows if that is even feasible anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Softbank doesn't officially allow it but people can obviously make it work.

    I still say give me 5 GB at 5000 yen.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You can always just get one from Docomo that has a hackable bootloader and get the packet houdai and the ability to tether. And if you wait until the release of the next models, then you can get it unlocked.

    BMobile and Emobile are selling the IDEOS. I can't 100% confirm that the radio is the same, but both are unlocked. The BMobile version is unbranded and supports 3G at 850/1700/1900/2100 MHz, which covers AT&T (850, 1900) T-Moible (1700, 2100), EMobile (1700), Docomo (2100 - maybe the 850 could work with Docomo's 800 FOMA Plus, maybe not), and Softbank.

    Having purchased this handset, I can tell you that it is not state of the art, but it can be used with every WCDMA carrier in the world as far as I can tell.

    By the way, there is no way in hell AT&T-Mobile aka T&A ;-p is getting regulatory approval. Sprint is already raising a stink as they'd drop to number 4. If all carriers in the US used WCDMA, but since the only two GSM carriers want to merge, I just don't see it happening. If it does, it ain't gonna happen within the 1 year time frame layed out. 無理。

    ReplyDelete
  14. yeah I hope the T-Mobile merger doesn't go through. I just want to make sure whatever my next phone is will be completely compatible unlocked and off contract. Who knows what my future will be here in Japan will all of the craziness going on.

    I would love to get the Nexus S or something similar and use it on a month by month basis. I will not pay the high tethering cost just in case I need to use it.

    Like you said give me a 5GB cap and let me use it the way I want.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I've been using Softbank for two years with unlocked phones from overseas (jailbroken/unlocked iphone 3g, Nexus One, Nexus S.) I don't have a contract/commitment, and my total cost including voice service is about ¥7000. ¥10300 just for data is not competitive with any other provider in the world, as far as I know. Given that someone else with a very similar phone purchased from docomo has to pay HALF that cost, it seems pretty unreasonable.

    I have very few problems with Softbank. Unless I get a docomo handset I won't have access to their FOMA plus network anyhow. I haven't bought a phone from a cell service provider since 1999, except for the terrible mistake of getting an iphone 3g before I left the US. Iphone sucks and it was worth every penny to break the AT&T contract. Aside from that, I've always bought unlocked, feature rich phones from other markets and avoided any form of lock-in/contract. Docomo does surely have a stronger network, but I suspect Softbank will gain ground quickly as they start to cash in on the customers they captured with subsidized iphones.

    Its a flat rate capped plan, that's supposed to mean something (unlimited use). I can watch streaming HD video on my phone all day long, without ever tethering. Or, I could tether and IRC from my laptop and use next to nothing. If they don't want to sell unlimited plans, fine, don't. If they don't want to sell SIM-only service, fine, don't. If they don't want to accept that they're no longer the only game in town, and continue to lose customers, keep doing what they're doing. No one is going to be fooled by this half-assed attempt to regain lost market by offering double-priced service or pay-to-unlock schemes.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I don't know it things changed, but one year ago, i succed to connect an samsung omnia i900 if i remember corectly at the APN mpr2.bizho.net. as it is windows mobile 6.1, the procedures was the same as the htc models sold at that time. unfortunately, the plan didnt cover my packs and i ended up with a bill of more than 75.oooyens in just one month... strange that the atendants didnt know how to set up my phone, didnt know the plan will not cover an overseas model and didnt even know that plan (bizhodai double) exists... and of course, all the guilty was mine, docomo didnt even accept to parcel my bill...

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think it's time this blog changes its name. Softbank may suck but at least the money goes to a useful cause like http://www.engadget.com/2011/04/05/softbanks-ceo-donating-10-billion-to-japans-quake-affected-re/

    Also if you have an unlocked overseas smart phone, it seems the best bet is to get it working Softbank rather than NTT.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I wonder how long it will take DoCoMo to realize that they've shot themselves in the foot? Non-tetherable unlocked smartphone is an oxy-moron.
    And wait till people find out their unlocked phone on Docomo without 850Mhz FOMA Plus band gets just about the same shitty reception as Softbank.
    Now I'm feeling better about myself for getting the cellular-WiFi dongle.

    ReplyDelete
  19. softbankdontsuckApril 6, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    I should add that this blog is the best source of info for mobile/internet for gaijin in Japan - just unfortunate with the name. Perhaps the better name is "alljapantelcosux.blogspot.com" because they are all horrible compare to many other countries. For example in Australia where I came from, I had and (and still have) a plan which costs me $50/month and it comes with hours of voice and over 3GB of data with no extra charge for tethering. Don't even get me started on the woeful state of VoIP in Japan ....

    ReplyDelete
  20. softbankdontsuckApril 6, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    not sure if this is the appropriate place to ask, but what is the best deal for one of these cellular wifi dongle?

    ReplyDelete
  21. http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/product/data/bf01b/index.html
    It's a WiFi hotspot using Docomo's network for data. It supports up to 6 simultaneous devices.

    When I signed up, it was on special. Zero Yen for the device and Y4,410/mo. May be different now. That plus voice service for my phone (without data plan) comes up to about Y10,000. Still better than the alternatives imho.

    Which is also why Docomo's rule on "tetherable" devices is so ironic. I could run my computer and all my other wifi devices over this hotspot all day, every day for Y10,000/mo. But having a tetherable smartphone is so scary, they have to charge Y10,000 PLUS your normal voice plan??! Retarded

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks for the info. It does seem to be the best of of a bad bunch.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Fuji, check this out. I think this guy has the same plan you do. He should be able to tether, which means that either something is wonky with his settings or the firmware on the tablet has been jiggered with.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I will check my bill and let you know (can't find it a.t.m.). But I'm pretty sure it is the same. The manual states that the correct APN for BF-01B is mopera.flat.foma.ne.jp.

    You would think Chris should be allowed, contract-wise, to tether, regardless of device config/restrictions. But Docomo doesn't share that opinion. The Optimus pad spec sheet says アクセスポイントモード (access point mode, ie. tethering) = No. Neither do any other "data-only" devices, eg. Galaxy Tab. But I bet if he rooted it, and loaded a different ROM he could tether without tariff penalty.

    But still we're left with baffling tethering provisions:
    1. Tethering allowed only for "data-specific" devices (Wifi-hotspot) = Y4,200~
    2. Tethering NOT allowed for "data-only" devices (Optimus, Galaxy Tab, etc.) = N/A
    3. Tethering allowed for voice/data device, ie. Smartphones = Y10,395

    So we're to conclude that increased price for devices that have voice & data enabled simultaneously demand higher tariffs? But tablets shouldn't tether at all? And wifi-hotspots can tether as much as they want and are cheap because?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Yestarday I went to Docomo-shop, ask for new Arc-Xperia and sim-free option and the young lady told me sim-free phone from "Natsu-model", actual Smartphone model NO sim-free option; I hope my HT-03 could resist another 90 days...

    ReplyDelete
  26. I should point out, I have successfully used Docomo Data and voice SIM cards with 2 different mocels of unlocked eMobile phones with no problem at all). The data works on the data SIMs, and the voice works on the voice SIMs. I haven't tried to use data on a voice SIM, however.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Uhm, you can have unlimited GB at $3880 yen with eMobile...

    ReplyDelete
  28. I have unlocked iPhone (not jailbroken either), running Docomo Xi service. Mostly thanks to this guys's post: http://www.sim-free-iphone.com/home/prepare/docomoplan

    ReplyDelete