Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Important points when switching a Docomo FOMA handset to a Xi contract

I'f you've been following my Google+ page, you'll know that a week ago I switched my FOMA (3G) plan to a Xi (LTE) plan, which includes tethering at no additional cost.

So far, I have not incurred any unexpected data fees. As of yesterday, my online statement indicates no irregularities in my bill, and the campaign rate of ¥4,200 for 7 GB of bandwidth is being properly applied. Nonetheless, I will wait until my December bill arrives before making a post on how to switch over to Xi. If all is OK (and it had better be or my wife is going to kill me and you'll never hear from me again), I'll post a detailed description of what I did to change my FOMA plan to Xi.

In the meantime, here is my reasoning for switching, followed by a list of points to consider.

Motivation for Switching to Xi

For the past 8 months, I've been carrying around two phones, one with a NTT Docomo FOMA SIM for voice, and one with a bmobile FAIR SIM for data. The reason for doing this was the desire to use a better phone than my NTT Docomo ht-03a (HTC Magic). If you recall, I wasted several hours and ¥500 back in April trying to get my unlocked Nexus One working on Docomo's network, only to give up due to the exorbitant fees levied on non-Docomo-branded handsets (in excess of ¥10,000, now reduced to only about ¥8,000, not including basic voice fees, etc.).

The next best thing was using a bmobile FAIR data-only SIM with the N1 and shutting off data completely on the ht-03a. This gave me the best of both worlds, a Docomo family voice plan and a newer/faster/better handset for data with tethering, all at a reasonable price - my total mobile costs were about ¥4,000 each month. However, carrying two phones is less than ideal for a number of obvious reasons.

Now, I can use the N1 for voice, data, and tethering with an Xi contract for no additional costs. I am also not breaking the terms of the contract in any way. The N1 is even properly certified for use in Japan, including the (aftermarket) battery. As a final note, I was very satisfied with the bmobile SIM and would recommend JCI's talkingFAIR or talking 1 GB Flat Rate SIMs to anyone who is otherwise not eligible for a family calling plan.

Points to consider before switching

If you have a relatively new Docomo handset, there is little reason to switch to Xi, and it could get expensive if the phone is subsidized.

This is the flyer I received from the staff at the Docomo shop where I changed my contract. An OCR'd PDF is here. Some of this is obvious, some of it not so, and some of it may be wrong, as I can confirm that the ht-03a does in fact work. *
  • NTT Docomo will not guarantee that the flat rate will be applied, leaving open the possibility of per KB charges at ¥0.41/KB. (This information is not included on the flyer but comes via calls by the staff to the internal help desk.) **
  • FOMA handsets will not support high-speed LTE data or contents exclusively for Xi handsets.
  • Monthly handset subsidies will cease (i.e., 月々サポート), and if either "handset purchase support" (端末購入サポート) or "basic purchase support" (ベーシック購入サポート) is currently applied, a cancellation fee will be assessed.
  • Xi Price plans and data flat rates will be applicable.
  • The following FOMA handsets cannot be used with Xi*: HT-01A, HT-02A, HT-03A, HT1100, M702iS, M2501, M1000, M702iG, NM850iG, NM705i, NM706i, BlackBerry Bold, BlackBerry Bold 9700, BlackBerry Bold 9780, BlackBerry Curve 9300.
  • Users of "Mopera U" and "Business Mopera Internet" should manually set the APN to mopera.net (consult the owner's manual for instructions).
  • Users of third party ISPs may experience difficulty connecting to the internet or incur additional fees. Confirm if this is the case with your ISP before contracting Xi service.
  • Users who switch back to FOMA from Xi will be ineligible for the "Value" voice plans unless purchasing a new FOMA handset (which will nearly double the price of the basic fee).
  • A new Xi SIM costs ¥2,100, though it seems I was only charged ¥2,000 ¥2,000 + 5% tax = ¥2,100. (This information is not included on the flyer.)
* I can confirm that my ht-03a works perfectly fine with the Xi SIM. I even showed it to the staff at the shop (who really liked my splash screen, by the way). The staff member was aware of the custom ROM. He commented that perhaps it works but could cause billing issues. However, since my bill is so far normal, this doesn't appear to be the case.

** Technically, I don't see how this could happen unless Docomo specifically makes it happen, or you set some funky APN.

Original Japanese from flyer follows:

FOMA端末では、高速通信や一部の Xi端末向けコンテンツをご利用いただけません。

くFOMAから契約変更する際、 FOMA契約において月々サポート等にご加入中の場合 について〉
  • 月々サポート適用中の場合は、適用が終了いたします。
  • 端末購入サポート適用中の場合は解除料がかかります。
  • ベーシック購入サポート適用中の場合は、解除料がかかります。
料金プラン及びパケット定額サービスは、 Xi専用プランとなります。

くご利用いただけない FOMA端末について〉 以下の FOMA端末については、ご利用いただけません。
HT-01A、HT-02A、HT-03A、HT1100、M702iS、M2501、M1000、M702iG、M850iG、NM705i、NM706i、BlackBerry Bold、BlackBerry Bold 9700、BlackBerry Bold 9780、BlackBerry Curve 9300

く iモード・ sp モード以外のインターネット接続サービスの利用について〉
当祉の「moperaU」 又は「ビジネスmoperaインターネット」をご契約の方は、APNを「mopera.net」に手動で設定して下さい。設定方法は各機種の取扱説明書をご覧下さ い。
他社プロパイダをご契約の方は、FOMA 端末で Xiサービスを利用することで、接続できなくなる場合や、接続時聞に応じて別途のプロパイタ利用料が発生する場合がありますので、必ず事前にご契約プロパイダヘご確認下さい。

Xi 契約をされたのちに、FOMA端末の購入を伴わずFOMAサービスヘ契約変更する場合 は、バリュープランをご選択いただけません。

本書の内容は、2011年11 月24 日現在のものです
株式会社 NTTドコモ


  1. I switched my unlocked iPhone 4s from Softbank today.

  2. I am solely interested because of the reduced data fee. Is this 4200Yen/month the standard fee for LTE (thus LTE being in fact way cheaper than 3G if you use less than 7GB/month) or some special price to new subscribers? I mean, if I subscribe now, will it stay so low for the next 2 yrs?

  3. No this is a special price. From 5/1/2012 it goes up to ¥5,985, comparable to the FOMA price for a Docomo-branded device, but several thousand yen cheaper than the FOMA price for an unlocked unbranded phone (or from another carrier).

  4. Wow, I incorrectly assumed that 4,410 Yen/month would apply during the whole contract period, but you are right. This changes the picture as I do not have an LTE handset and would not be able to use the benefits of LTE, but only be able to use my unlocked iPhone4 on the Docomo network and also be able to tether.

    Difficult decision...
    Docomo Xi 2-year contract with 4 months @4,410Yen and 18 months@5,985Yen for 7GB.
    b-mobile Talking 1GB Teigaku 1-yr contract with 12 months @ 3,480Yen for 1 GB.

    <...firing up Excel>

  5. If I didn't have a family calling plan, I would be using bmobile exclusively. However, I have no choice but to have a phone number with Docomo. Given those requirements, it is worth it for me to have Xi. If I don't go overboard with calls to other carriers, I'd be paying roughly the same as I paid when I had a FOMA data plan for the ht-03a.

    For me the 7GB cap is irrelevant since I never come anywhere near this. As more streaming services become available, it could, though...

  6. You have a valid point with the family calling plan. As this does not apply to me (since my wife is with SB), I will most probably sign up for Xi w/o the 2-yr contract, retire my WiMax and test the waters for a couple of months. If my data consumption incl. tethering is constantly below 1GB, I will consider to switch to b-mobile (Talking 1GB Teigaku plan).

  7. One thing to note for those under a recent FOMA contract - they charge a roughly 6,000 yen FOMA cancellation fee to switch to Xi --- at least they did for me.

  8. You must be mistaken because I don't know of any Docomo service that has a 6000 yen cancellation fee, and I just switched to Xi from FOMA outside of my once every 2 year window and WAS NOT charged any fees for canceling.

    Canceling you line is ¥9,000 plus change, but changing you contract and keeping the number shouldn't cost anything.

    If you can post your bills/paperwork, maybe we can sort it out.

  9. Here it is. I'm just repeating what the guy at the shop repeated from the girl on the phone. He said that, because I was still under contract on a FOMA plan, I had to pay a 6,600 yen cancellation fee. Its probably less because I'm not actually cancelling a contract. Just some typical Japanese corporate BS. As you can see, I am abusing Kakehodai to the best of my ability, so I'm not to angry about the whole thing. The cancellation fee will pay for itself this month.

  10. It's looks like you switched to Xi before your 24-month contract period was up and were therefore charged. See below link

    The paragraph just before the PDF link is relevant to you.
    As far as I understand it, Docomo has discontinued to sell subsidized handsets by March 14, 2011 as they introduced the so called 24-month support plan (Basically spreading the subsidy over 24 months). Customers who have purchased a handset before that date may have to pay a cancellation fee (端末購入サポート解除料). I assume that you had to pay exactly that fee.

  11. That would be it. I purchased the Galaxy S on its launch day. I'm slightly obsessed with cell phones, so my wife lets my new phone be my yearly splurge. You probably also noticed that I only spread the cost of the phone over 12 months - thats why :)

  12. As you are now on Xi, it would probably make sense to not buy phones from Docomo anymore, but purchase unlocked phones instead. Don't give them another chance to lock you in or charge ludicrous fees.

  13. An exception to this would be if he actually wants to use LTE instead of HSPA, of course. It doesn't seem as of yet that LTE phones are supporting multiple bands. Unless this happens, we won't have any choice but to buy from the Japanese market.

    On the good news side, Frank Sanda (CEO and founder of JCI) has been tweeting about considering to start offer LTE SIMs as well. If this happens, they'd likely offer an LTE handset at some point, like they did with the ideos and their tablet. However, these are fairly low end products for a very reasonable price, so they may not be offering the latest and greatest.

  14. That makes sense. Totally not how they explained it, but makes sense.

    ...and yeah... I think I'm stuck with buying Japanese phones for the foreseeable future. The one thing I hated most about my Galaxy was no osaifu keitai. I know docomo is implementing a NFC/Felicia combo system soon, but until the Japanese companies start using NFC (seriously, do you think JR is going to change?), I'm stuck with Japanese phones. LTE is an added bonus.

  15. Their "explanations" are notoriously bad and overly complicated. A calculator really shouldn't be necessary to explain a rate plan.

    It is completely conceivable that the person explaining it to you simply screwed up. I didn't mention this in the post, but when I switched to Xi, it was beyond the ability of the young lady behind the counter and she had to be relieved by more experienced staff. The older more experienced woman sitting at the adjacent booth had an ear focused on our conversation and once corrected what I was told.

    The final straw that got her relieved is when she told me that I'd have to SIM unlock the Xi SIM card to use it in my unlocked phone Yes, I was actually told that.

    Fortunately, this young lady was not at all arrogant and willing to accept she was wrong. When I told her that she was wrong that that couldn't possibly be the case for a number of technical reasons, she went to ask a supervisor. She came back and apologized profusely for proving misleading information, and the supervisor followed her, taking over.

    So I did this whole thing with the most high up guy at the shop, and we spent an hour going over multiple possibilities, with him making several phone calls to confirm information.

  16. ht-03a→atrix tokyoDecember 23, 2011 at 2:42 AM

    I dropped by a docomo shop (not my regular place as I think they're getting a little sick of me over there) and asked about the costs involved in switching my FOMA sim card to a Xi sim card for use in my non-NTT branded Motorola Atrix. All seemed pretty reasonable as per your explanation above. I'd consider making the same kind of switch so as to avoid carrying another device (in my case it's a WIMAX portable wifi router - 3600/mo which allows my phone to have a data connection as I went ahead and cancelled my docomo data plan, too) except for one point: the Xi voice plan (780/mo for basic / 1560/mo for free calls to all docomo) doesn't include any prepaid minutes - those are all charged at 42/minute (aka, 21 per 30 seconds). I feel that it's too risky for me. Did you calculate your phone voice usage before making the switch to make sure it wouldn't cost you more on that front.

    Good luck on having it all work out OK...we fear for your life (hee hee) and ask for the support of your wife in ***good "cell phone times" and bad***

  17. Ha! You recall when I got the ¥4,200 added to my bill when CM6RC1 set my APN to mopera.net? That was touch and go for a while :)

    I perviously calculated to the best of my ability my usage here:

    I went back to those data and redid it trying to estimate how much I'd pay for non Docomo calls. The problem is that I could only differentiate between family and non-family calls because the (free) simplified bills I get don't breakdown the number your calling, etc. So I ran a worse case scenario where every call to a non family member was off the Docomo network (using the average of my outgoing minutes over the 1 year period I analyzed). I can't recall the exact answer right now, but it was acceptable.

    Of the people that I call the most who aren't family (coworkers, colleagues, and friends), only one is not on Docomo. Unfortunately, that guy and I tend to speak quite often, but he has a beefy voice plan, so he usually calls me. This kind of stuff is hard to quantify, but I don't think voice will be an issue for me.

    Of course depending on your friends' network, it could be different.

    (When placing a call to a Docomo subscriber, the sound before connection that usually goes beep beep beep - beep beep beep a few times is replaced by a female voice saying "docomo", so you know that you can talk with abandon. I was most concerned about making a call to someone who was docomo but MNPd to another carrier and I didn't realize... Good to know that can't happen.)

  18. Oh yeah, you gave me the idea to cancel the data plan in the first place. Until you did it, I didn't realize it could be done.

  19. I agree that explanations by Docomo shop staff is inconsistent at times. I still do not know whwther I would need sp mode (315 Yen/month) or mopera U (525 Yen/Month) when signing up for Xi as one Docomo sales rep told me that I could choose (between sp mode and mopera U) knowing that I have an iPhone and another rep (at a different shop) told me that I would need mopera U.

  20. So in less than 3 days I managed to hit 6GB.

  21. In two weeks I've used 2 GB. (You are going to have to change your data habits or you'll likely have trouble in the future, as every carrier everywhere is moving towards data caps - you'd be screwed in the US for sure).)

  22. Right, but I'm not in the US. I've never had any issue from Softbank; although, their network was so slow how could I have downloaded that much data? I found out the problem and shouldn't exceed 7GB in a mont any more; however, I just passed 7GB and my speeds are not capped at all. I'm geting almost 4MB DL 2MB UL from Hokkaido.

  23. It was unclear - I though you were using Xi and already killed your monthly quota in 2 days. That you're not getting throttled is good, but I wouldn't expect to continue to be able to use that amount of bandwidth indefinitely into the future. Now that Docomo is moving toward caps, you can expect the rest of the J carriers to follow suit.

  24. I convinced my wife to switch to Xi from her FOMA contract since she had an unlocked iPhone 3g from Europe that she doesn't want to switch for a Japanese handset. Before, she was using the 128k APN since using mopera.net would impose the insane tethering charges. However when switching to Xi which would enable her to use the mopera.net apn without additional charges, the speed wouldn't go up. Maybe I misunderstood but I thought that Xi would also enable non-4g handsets to use the faster APN for the 3g network. Is that not the case? I'm quite puzzled about this.

  25. Hmmm... Some stuff doesn't quite make sense here. First off, Mopera.net is not the 128k APN. Mopera.net provides unrestricted speed but for a high price if you have a FOMA contract. I am getting normal > 2000 Mbps speeds with mopera.net and a Xi SIM. This is the same speed I got with the bmobile FAIR.

    Are you sure that you have mopera.net set, and not mpr.ex-pkt.net (which is the 128k APN)...?

  26. I do not know if this is the right place to ask this, I have been looking for a good way to stay in touch with family back at the states and also comunicate while in studying for a semester in Japan that does not leave me broke. Thus I was thinking of a combination of skype and google voice with my android phone, but for that I would need data streaming. Not having the need for this services at home, I have no idea of the amount of data I would incur. Does docomo offers a monthly plan at a higher rate? If so, could one get it with a student visa? would skype run smoothly? Thanks very much!

  27. Sorry, missed your comment.

    These days, most of the voip is fairly low bandwidth. If you have wifi available, I think you could easily get by with 1 GB a month. Maybe the Talking 1GB Flat Rate or 1GB Flat Rate from bmobile.

  28. How is your experience with respect to sipped on Xi/LTE. I have a LC09 Wifi router but never really get the promised speed from the marketing slides. I know they wrote: best effort.
    What transfer rate do you get ? In Senzoku, Jijugaoka or Nishiazabu I get maybe 5Mbs down and 2 Mbs up. I even called NTT but they couldn't really help.
    It's still better compared to SB in rush hours

  29. Just noticed this comment. Since I'm using a phone with a 3G radio, I don't get anything special speed wise. SIP works great for me. With the headphones and mic, the sound quality is better than cellular.