Saturday, June 11, 2011

Big changes in Japanese mobile: Aeon exclusive b-mobile SIMs

Japan Communications Inc. and Aeon Retail, one of Japan's largest retailers have announced three new SIM cards, one of which is priced at less than 1000 yen per month. These went on sale yesterday at 14 Aeon stores. Expect the number of stores to steadily increase. I am not sure if contracts will be required, but if not, these are perfect for visitors to Japan. [EDIT: comments indicate that these SIMs are postpaid and not available to visitors.]

In short, this is a huge development for several reasons.

Not only is it the first monthly data service in Japan that costs what amounts to pocket change, as far as I know, this is the first time such a large retailer will be directly selling communications services. Of course you can buy all sorts of services, from cell phones to satellite television in an Aeon shop, but when doing so, you are buying from Docomo or SkyPerfect staff who were set up in rented space. Not this time.

This means that the big boys have finally noticed that consumers in Japan are tired of carrier pricing models that force a choice between "no service" or "expensive as hell service", similar to cable television pricing in the US that requires paying for 100 channels of junk to only see the 5 or so good ones.

So while Docomo is literally dicking around in the old world, MVNOs and especially JCI, the MVNE supporting many new startups like Rstream and BlueSIP, are increasingly offering much more consumer focused products. I can imagine that, up until now, Docomo thought that if they ignored it, it would go away. Obviously that didn't work.

It truly is an interesting time. Expect a number of more innovative products in the future. And if you haven't already done so, dig up as many old monthly cell phone statements and figure out, just as I have done, exactly how many minutes and megabytes you are consuming each month. Before it didn't matter because you paid the same price regardless. Now it's in your best interest to understand; last month the cost for my cell phone service equated to about 4000 yen, which is less than I have ever paid in Japan for voice and data for a cell phone... period (albeit with two devices).

New product Summary
  • 100 kbps "best effort" ¥980 primarily for mail, search and social networking
  • 400 kbps "best effort" ¥2890 for general smartphone usage excluding streaming
  • "best effort" (no imposed speed limitations) ¥4980 which includes streaming video.
update: this post originally indicated that the SIMs were on sale at all Aeon stores.


  1. Wait, is that with no total transfer limit? For that kind of money it'd be well worth picking up an unlocked Galaxy Tab mostly for wi-fi use, and have the slowest SIM option just for those times you're not near an access point.

    Of course, I guess you need to go to an Aeon to pick up a new card every month. And as we don't have them around where I live that may be a problem...

  2. I use a bmobile U300 (300 kbps) on my second phone, witch is slow but usable. (but connection go frequently timeout)

    A can't image using the 100 kbps one but well done bmobile

  3. Agreed. I also have used a U300 and it can be subjected to timeouts, but for the price it is worth it. As indicated in the press release, it is really only intended for search and email. Anything else it going to be painful.

  4. Not necessarily, when I have a chance I'll look at the details, but the current b-mobile U300s can be charged with a credit card even when they have expired (as long as the SIM isn't too old - after a point they can't be charged at all).

  5. Also, Docomo products need NOT be unlocked because all JCI services (and including the MVNOs they enable like blueSIP and Rstream) are using Docomo's FOMA network.

  6.  But they do need to be unlocked to use on other networks, such as when travelling abroad. I've learned my lesson and not buying a locked device again.

  7. Went to the only Aeon in Tokyo offering this (Shinagawa Seaside) and talked to the sales guys today.

    Postpaid, 2 year commitment. They're also supposed to check if your device has the japan-mic-approved mark, though they sucked teeth when asked what if the device doesn't have one.

  8. This is not available at all Aeon outlets, only 14 ones nationwide. The only one in Tokyo is Shinagawa Seaside.

    Here is the in-store pamphlet

  9. sorry, got ahead of myself. Yes, right now only at the 14 stores. Coming soon to many more. Thanks for the correction.

  10. Thanks for the postpaid info. I'm having trouble finding confirmation 
    online and in the scans you attached to the other comment... editing 
    to reflect this.... 

  11. ok i got one!
    i went for the unlimited speed and data plan. it's fast! :)

    skype works.

    you have to present id (japanese driver's license, gaijin card etc) to get one, and i asked if foreigners on holiday could get one: computer says NO! you need an address in japan.

    you need to pay by credit card, similar to the u300 etc plans. this means a month to cancel your contract.

    any data usage of 1.2gb may result in a throttling of your service.

    there are only 11 aeon stores where you can get this card. the ones in osaka are:

    ibaraki aeon vivre, takatuki aeon, itami aeon.

    the only others i can read are: nagoya: wanda

    ip phone number is available for an extra 490 yen a month, but you need to apply for that separately from the card purchase by applying on the bmobile site. why bother when you have skype!?

    torrents are not allowed.

    finally i'm happy, been waiting for this for several YEARS!!!!

  12. no, you have a monthly contract billed on your card.

  13. oh, and you have to cough up 3500 for the sim card when you sign up.

  14. here is a list of the 14 stores

  15.  Nice. Of course the unlimited speed one isn't really much cheaper than NTT's normal tabehoudai plan, especially if you find regular mobile voice calls useful. What data limits do the lower-speed versions have?

  16. Techniker TechnologeJune 12, 2011 at 1:48 AM

    anyone knows of working dual-sim solutions/hacks/adapters for the htc magic?

  17. humm... i asked the docomo bloke at aeon about tethering and he said you can do it on a galaxy but the plan is 10,000 yen a month. he said "i don't recommend it".

    the benefits of this are: unlocked, tethering, full speed, skype works and it's half the price of a docomo plan for the same thing.

  18. Is the initial charge for the sim a refundable deposit that's returned after you return it or a contract processing fee?

    Seems rather excessive in either case, as sim cards in a lot of countries go for under 50 yen, and the normal initial fee at the "big 3" is about 2800.

  19. Here is the link for online info available.

    I guess this has potential to further cut your data bill by 50% from the current bmobile Fair. 

  20. Are you thinking of using the AEON b-mobile SIM with your DoCoMo SIM and separate Voice (DoCoMo) and data usage (b-mobile)?
    I have heard of the dual SIM adapter from Simore, but haven't used it. While the HTC Magic is listed as compatible, I am not sure whether it's worth to try it out for 80 Euro. BTW, you would need 2 Micro-SIM cards for this adapter, which means that you would need a SIM cutter or cut your SIM cards with scissors.

  21. Keith, what do you mean with full speed being a benefit?

    Concerning the other benefits, being able to use any unlocked phone is great. But tethering isn't a benefit, I am doing that already. If Skype works I don't know but I am using a SIP phone number which works great and hardly consumes battery. Cost saving is small in my opinion, the data plan is 1000 Yen cheaper, but for the other services like voice you kinda get what you pay for.

  22. Ken, I read that he was comparing to the other Bmobile SIMs like the U300 regarding speed.

    This is actually the exact plan I want Docomo to implement. I want to use the nexus one as my everyday phone but I'm not paying about 12,000 yen per month to do it, which is what it would cost me. Give me 1 GB per month for 5,000 yen and let me use it as I want. Throttle me or just shut me down once I use it. The most I have ever used in a month was 600 MB and that was with heavy tethering for a week for email and necessary web browsing.

    I know that 5000 yen for  1 GB is expensive, but I am not holding my breath that out of the blue we'll start getting western prices.

  23. I, see, thanks for clarifying. For someone wanting to use a different phone this plan is definitely great. 

    If BlueSIP would support the actual SIP standard so that I can use SIPdroid to connect I would probably switch to the AEON SIM. I don't like having to use BlueSIP's app though, one reason is worry about battery life. SIPdroid has been working very reliably and doesn't use much battery. BlueSIP doesn't provide SIP information on their website though so I suspect it's not a true SIP service.

  24. Ken, can you expand on your thoughts wrt blueSIP v SIPdroid. I'm not well versed. On my new post incorporating much of this discussion, I note that b-mobile indicates their IDEOS will only last for 8 hours with the VoIP app active. (The IDEOS also has a relatively small battery at 1200 mAh)

  25. My European SIP service provider supports the open VoIP standard called SIP, which is now widespread worldwide but especially Europe. I can connect to it through any hardware or software which support SIP, like the SIPdroid app, PC soft phones, and even old-fashioned home phones that support SIP, and multiple devices at once. I think it is superior to Skype in many ways. I have been using my European SIP phone number at no monthly fee with the SIPdroid app for almost two years now, it doesn't consume much battery and the call quality is above Skype quality.

  26. Is this using Docomo's FOMA network? I'd love to have reception in several downtown areas that I frequent.  I wonder if there would be any issues unlocking my 3GS.
    One japanese reviewer tested the 100kpbs package and said it felt like using wilcom's network... but we would rather see the network performance of the unlimited speed plan.. and if that will be impacted by HSPA+ in july.

  27. Yes,this is using FOMA. These are all what I have started referring to as 44010 SIMs (440 is Japan's mobile country code and 10 is Docomo's mobile network code). Can't help you unlock your 3GS ;-p

    What's happening in July? I did a quick search but can't find anything recent suggestion any changes coming next month. There is some stuff from several years ago, though. I was under the impression that FOMA is going to stay as a hspa network (i.e., high speed up and downlink) in favor of developing the Xi LTE network, though I could easily be wrong.

    Either way, the 3GS only supports 7.2 Mbps downlink, asfaik, and doesn't support hsupa, so it won't benefit from hspa+

    According to this this, the 14 Mbps downlink was complete by 12/2008 and the 5.7 uplink by 6/2009. (there is a corresponding English page that, as usual, has contradictory information). But it wasn't until this year that any smartphones supported the 14 Mbps (

    It is my understanding that the most expensive one is getting "carrier speed," which I interpret to mean that there are no artificially imposed limitations. Instead of saying 7.2 or 14 Mbps, which no one ever gets, they are advertising it as "megabit class." So if you had one of these new phones, I'd guess it would do as well with Aeon as Docomo.

  28. Will this work in a 3GS iPhone (after it's unlocked)?

  29. Awesome! I've jailbroken my iphone, but no unlocked it yet. What are the pitfalls in doing so? Is it an easy process?

  30. i don't know. You'll need to ask someone who uses apple mobile devices.

  31. You sure about this? The Softbank iPhone is a GSM phone, and Docomo runs CDMA, no?

  32. yes I am sure. AU uses CDMA-200o the evolution of plain old CDMA. softbank, docomo and emobile all use W-CDMA, which is the evolution of GSM. - think 3G GSM = W-CDMA. (it is a bit confusing do to the use of the CDMA term.)

    Trust me on this, if it works on softbank, it is capable of working on Docomo's network ;-)