Thursday, August 11, 2011

120 days with a bmobile FAIR SIM

Four months ago, I received a bmobile FAIR SIM to test. Today my remaining charge expired. Honestly, when I started this test, I never thought that I'd actually keep using it. Well, I was wrong. I just added recharged it for another 1000 MB or 120 days, whichever comes first. (See the bottom of the post for an interactive, live updating google chart.) Because my credit card is already registered, charging was easily done with the bcharge app.


Suffice it to say, I'm happy with the SIM because it allows me to use my Nexus One on the FOMA network. If I have to chose between 250 MB at ¥2,000 per month or unlimited data at over ¥10,000, the choice is rather obvious. I have a better experience with a newer phone, and the total I pay for cellular has decreased by 4,000 yen per month.

However, the data-only FAIR is not a perfect solution for several reasons, the most obvious of which is the need to carry around two devices. Also, Android still has issues with this type of SIM card, which may result in increased battery drain at least until the next Android version is released. (Ice Cream Sandwich will merge Honeycomb, which is designed with data-only devices in mind, unlike previous versions.) The only current workaround is to use the TalkingFAIR SIM, which is a standard circuit-switched SIM card.

Finally, while the FAIR provides the best value for people who don't need an unlimited plan, the price per gigabyte is still very high. The best case scenario with the FAIR is 250 MB per month at about ¥2,000 per month, this is not only twice the cost of AT&T's 250 MB data plan, the same amount of money would you 2 GB per month, an eight-fold increase in value.

But, this is not the US or Europe or Australia or wherever. And of course this post wouldn't be complete without a discussion of the data. :-)


To use exactly 1000 MB in 120 days requires 8.3 MB of data consumption per day. I averaged 7 MB and had about 150 MB remaining when the SIM expired. Two month ago, I predicted that I'd have about 400 MB remaining (gray fit line).

So what happened?

Of course in the end, I used a lot of the remaining data. Looking at the blue fit line, you can see that I would have had closer to 300 MB remaining if I didn't drastically increase usage about a week ago, as the expiration date approached. I totally stopped using wifi and started signing in to skype all day, which works great over 3G, by the way. The reason was not to eat all the remaining data, just be cause I could. Rather, I wanted to test skype some more and get a better idea how much using wifi was saving me.

The largest reason for the increased usage was the Google+ Android app. Of course I have it set to only upload photos on wifi, but using it displays a lot of user-posted images. Considering only my usage since I joined Google+, I've averaged 8.5 MB per day, after removing the final week's usage (light and dark blue dashed line). This would actually work nearly perfectly, resulting in 1020 MB over 120 days.


Additional charge added on 8/11/2011 (Chart is interactive)

14 comments:

  1. How are you tracking your data usage? With an app? How do you get this info onto your spreadsheet? I'm guessing you aren't sitting down every night to type this stuff in.

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  2. Upon returning to Australia I noticed that most/all the prepaid data plans measure data in 100kb or even 1mb increments. The providers don't disclose how long a 'data session' remains open before it times out; what this means is that having a Gmail message pushed to your phone, assuming no other data goes through while that connection is open, would cost you a whole megabyte's worth of data regardless of whether your message is 1kb, 500kb or 1023kb. So the 5gb prepaid data plan I got, suddenly doesn't sound so appealing. What are the size of the increments measured by the B-Mobile plan?

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  3. I believe it is bytes.

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  4. I think it is packets, with one packet being 128 bytes

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  5. Any information on the average download speed?
    I chatted with a Yodobashi camera employee the other day and he mentioned that b-mobile is -by far- not reaching Docomo's FOMA download speed.
    If b-mobile SIM cards (incl. Talking Fair) do not deliver Docomo FOMA download speeds, the price is borderline.

    He also let me try a Docomo Xi router (L-03C) and the speed is pretty good (WiMax level). Price and conditions are of course typical Docomo (4,935Yen per month w/ 2-yr contract or 6,405Yen). Base fee: 1,000 Yen (up to 3.2MB), increasing to 4,935 Yen when reaching 20.2MB (which is a joke) and then flat. This means that a typical smartphone user will already pay the full amount. I would give it a try if it was not a 2-year contract, but this is a dealbreaker for me.

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  6. Normal Docomo SIMs are also by far not reaching FOMA download speeds. No one ever gets a 14 Mbps downlink in FOMA high speed area, even if your chipset supports it. The 7.2 Mbps otherwise offered on the FAIR is also theoretical. I've never personally seen anything remotely close to that on any carrier, Docomo Bmobile Softbank AU eMobile.

    I see no real world difference in FAIR speed and docomo packet houdai speed. Here is a speed test using the FAIR and a nexus one.

    Also, keep in mind that FOMA high speed uplink was shutdown in kanto/tohoku after the quake. (you can see that in the image)

    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-SLOGD1zQr4M/TaTYfqilVYI/AAAAAAAAAZI/GYpKwcbrV20/s1600/6.png

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  7. Thanks a lot for the info. That speed would be acceptable of course.
    The Yodobashi rep mentioned that they were running 'real life' tests in the shop, which basically means that they measured download speed for b-mobile and Docomo under identical conditions (=the same location). According to this rep, b-mobile speed was roughly 1/5 to 1/4 of Docomo's speed. I cannot verify if this is true as I could not find any benchmark testing data on b-mobile's Talking Fair on the web. Your speed looks fine though.

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  8. Interesting. The FAIR is "best effort," but I understand it to have absolutely no artificial restrictions and no proxy. If it really is getting on those test around 400 to 500 kbps, then that would be interesting. I'd suspect something fishy going on on the Docomo side, rather than the JCI side, though.

    However, I've learned not to trust anything I get told by any rep, whether it be in a carrier's store or at an electronics store. Unless I am in a very specialized store, 99 out of 100 times, I not only have more specific knowledge than the rep, but also have a better background understanding of the underlying tech. This of course goes for anywhere, but the issue can be exasperated here because the rep is supposed to be the "pro" and might have trouble saying he doesn't know the answer.

    Now, this of course doesn't necessarily mean the reps are wrong or lying, but if I can reasonably expect a 2 Mbps downlink with FOMA and I am only getting 400 or 500 kbps with my FAIR, I would notice.

    What was the rep trying to sell? Does telling you that the bmobile FAIR is 1/5 the speed of Docomo help him sell you something? Did he mention if they were using the same phone for the testing? Or at least the same model phone. Or, at the very least, one with the same chipset?

    (By the way, that price you mention Xi is only for the first 5 GB, after that you get charged for each additional 2 GB.)

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  9. Not sure if that rep was trying talk me into signing up for Xi and therefore mentioning that b-mobile is slower than Docomo when I remarked that b-mobile's offer looks quite attractive to me as a 'iPhone on Docomo network' user. He also mentioned that e-mobile is the slowest of all the providers. I could probably go back and ask whether he would let me try a b-mobile SIM in my phone to compare b-mobile with native Docomo FOMA speed.

    Please have a look at this website:
    http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/service/data/xi/index.html#p02

    It looks like one has a full flat rate for Xi (even beyond 5GB) if on is signing up for a 2-year contract during the campaign period (until end of April 2012). Xi would anyway only be attractive if they offered a LTE handset and offered this data plan allowing tethering. Probably the Galaxy S II LTE...

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  10. Hmm... I'm going to have to clarify the pricing on Xi when I have more time. I had previously thought that the campaign was still limited to 5 GB, but that link does seem to indicate differently.

    Go on a the weekend and you should be able to test a FAIR in your own handset at yodobashi akiba.

    http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/personal/shop/yodobashi.html

    I think that rep is being a bit disingenuous. emobile has a DC-HSDPA downlink at 42 Mbps. Of course that's theoretical. Definitely best to test it for yourself.

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  11. Hi, I just bought a Fair 1 GB for 120 days card and start finding it super annoying that I cannot receive SMS. Do you know if there is a simple way to change it into a "talking fair" card? Thanks!

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  12. Sorry, there is no way to convert a from a data only to a data+voice plan. Why do you need SMS? It is such a waste of money. Have you calculated how my a 5 MB iTunes song would cost if charged at SMS rates? It is amazing.

    No one here uses SMS, really.

    If for some reason you must have SMS, the best thing to do would try and sell your data only FAIR to someone and buy a Talking FAIR (which has a 1 year contract).

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  13. Thanks for your reply! It is mainly to stay in touch with friends in Europe (they love to send SMS) and be able to call in case of emergency. My coworkers are now urging me to carry two phones with me, my FAIR 1GB smart phone and a prepaid SB phone... I guess I will do as you said and try to sell it.

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  14. Google Voice is being tested in Europe so hopefully soon you can get a local gvoice number in europe then you can text all you want through the web or the Android app.

    http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/google-voice-being-tested-in-europe-1028248

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