Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Will the Docomo prepaid data plan for game consoles be priced like SMS?

The quick answer is I'm not yet sure, but this certainly has the potential to be just as bad a value as sending SMS. On the other hand, it could be a good deal for gaming.

When this popped up in my twitter stream, I was cautiously excited. The idea of prepaid data straight from Docomo is appealing. While this is only for use with the upcoming PlayStation Vita (other products to be added), it shows that Docomo actually understands there is demand for something other than a one-size-fits-all data plan.

This plan will be billed by the hour, which almost makes sense for a gaming console. You turn it on and play for an hour and you know exactly how many units got ticked off your charge. However, determining the value of this plan requires a guess of not only the amount of bandwidth gaming consumes, but also of how long will the connection sit open but idle? Data usage will not be limited to just gaming.

The cheapest plan offers 20 hours of usage over a 30 month period for ¥980. This works out to playing online for 40 minutes every day. Speed is limited to 128/64 kbps, which I am assuming is enough to play games. I calculated the theoretical maximum amount of data consumable if max up and downlink throughput were sustained for 20 hours.

The answer is 1687.5 Megabytes*, which there is no way in hell that Docomo is going to allow that much data to be used for only ¥980. That would be about ¥0.6/MB. For comparison, the b-mobile 1 GB Flat Rate SIM is priced at ¥3.1/MB. Is Docomo counting on only 10 or 20% of that theoretical maximum bandwidth being consumed?

Either way, this would be ridiculously stupid for use in a smartphone, but it might just fly with a game console. But only if the 3G data connection is active when gaming online - using this for twitter or facebook would be a mistake.

Here are the main points from the announcement.
  • ¥2,100 contract fee
  • Available from 12/17/2011 (simultaneously with the PSV)
  • Prepaid
  • 128/64 kbps down/uplink
  • Two plans
    • 20 hours for ¥980 valid for 30 days
    • 100 hours for ¥4,980 valid for 180 days (with an additional 3 hours at full FOMA hi speed (14 Mbps)
  • SIM becomes unusable if not recharged within 14 days of expiration
*calculated as (128 kbps + 64 kbps) = 192 kbps / 8 = 24 KBps * 3,600 = 86,400 KBph / 1024 = 84.375 MBph * 20 hours = 1,687.5 MB

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