Sunday, February 19, 2012

NTT Docomo Xi LTE 4G contract works for unlocked iPhone and Androids



Because NTT Docomo refuses to guarantee that unlocked phones from other carriers will work properly with Xi, here is the relevant portion of my January invoice that confirms there are no billing irregularities using the phone of my choice with a NTT Docomo Xi (LTE "4G") SIM card and contract. My feeling is that their refusal to simply say, "yeah, it should work - no problem," is because it absolves them of any responsibility if something did go wrong, which is, as far as I can tell, technically impossible. It also introduces enough doubt and concern to perhaps prompt someone to buy a new phone from Docomo.

Advantage of Xi over FOMA for Unlocked Phones

NOTE: Using a Xi SIM in a regular 3G handset will result in no increase in speed.

Even though Xi data is not unlimited (7 GB cap after which speed is throttled to 128 kbps), it is significantly better for non-docomo branded phones than a FOMA 3G contract. This is because the standard FOMA data APNs are filtered by IMEI number. Attempting to use any non-Docomo phone, or anything other than the two phones with IMEIs currently in Docomo's database, WILL result in no data connection to the (relatively) "inexpensive" APNs. The only way to open a working data connection with a FOMA SIM card is to set one of the APNs that add prohibitively expensive additional fees, either per packet charges or a tethering fee.

Docomo's treating of tethering with Xi is very reasonable. They don't add any extra charges and allow tethering.

Another potential advantage of Xi is the option for 24/7 free calling to other Docomo subscribers. However, this quickly becomes a pitfall if you often call non-Docomo subscribers because Xi voice plans contain zero free included minutes and no possibility of discounts to non-Docomo numbers. You can confirm if you are calling a Docomo number before the call connects. The standard beeping while the call is being placed (i.e., beep beep beep x3) is replaced by a voice saying "Docomo".

While the price for data is currently very good, this is a campaign price. From May 2012, the price will increase to the standard ¥5985, so I haven't listed price as an advantage.

Contracting Xi Service

There shouldn't be any real issues doing this, though I haven't personally started a new contract. I simply changed mine from FOMA to Xi. It should be as simple as walking in and asking for a new contract for Xi. There are both regular and micro SIMs available. If you run into trouble, ask to speak to someone else or go to another store. None of the J carriers make much of an attempt to educate store staff members on practices that are somewhat out of the ordinary.

(I actually had a young woman at a Docomo Shop tell me that SIM cards are locked, which is about the stupidest thing I've ever heard at any mobile phone store. They also apparently don't realize that the "special SIM" used when unlocking handsets is nothing but a non docomo SIM.)

The APN is mopera.net. Other details here.

A Xi micro SIM

Explanation of Invoice

For some reason, Japanese telcos feel compelled to make invoices overly complicated. It appears to be an attempt to show the customer how good a deal they are getting with unlimited contracts by listing many (often large) numbers and then subtracting them out. The irony is that, compared to the rest of the world, Japanese contacts are expensive.

Expenses
Credits
Total
Base Fee
¥743
¥743
Voice Charges
¥2,440
¥2,440
¥0
International SMS
¥50
¥50*
¥0
Data (up to 7 GB)
¥4,200
¥4,200
U Standard ISP fee
¥500
¥500
¥0
Xi Talk 24
¥667
¥667
USC
¥5
¥5
Subtotal
¥5,615
5% Consumption Tax
¥281
TOTAL
¥5,896


With tax, this works out to ¥4,410 for 7 GB of data, of which I used 4.8 GB, and ¥1,480 for unlimited calls to Docomo subscribers. I made no calls to non-Docomo people using my cellular plan. Instead I used SIP, which provides much better rates to Japanese mobiles than any J carrier. Without the discount, Xi calls are billed at ¥21/30 seconds. The ¥2,440 amount of calls indicates I only used 58 minutes, which is not a lot but definitely enough to be worth paying the extra ¥700 for Talk 24.

The international SMS charges, which are the result of user error (replying to an SMS without using the Google Voice app - d'uh!), were offset by a credit carried over from previous months where I didn't use all of my included FOMA voice allotment. Because Xi voice plans include no allotment, this credit will no longer be available to me.

Points to consider when switching a FOMA handset to Xi

Main article is here. We have confirmation that it is indeed possible to purchase a FOMA handset and use it with a Xi contract while receiving monthly handset subsidies (i.e., 月々サポート). The trick is to immediately contract for Xi service upon purchase and NEVER have a FOMA contract. Canceling a FOMA contract cancels subsidies, period.

The flier I received when switching to Xi
  • 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.


45 comments:

  1. So, the ¥4200 data fee is the portion that will go up to ¥5985? ¥1785 per month extra -- taking the total price before taxes up from ¥5,615 to ¥7400 (taxes +¥370=¥7770)?

    ¥7770 yen per month. That is less than ¥200 above what I pay now on my Xperia for unlimited 3G (but no tethering).

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  2. Yeah, that's correct. It will be essentially the same price as FOMA now. The variability will come from your calling habits, which, if you call a lot, could make significant difference in the total price. Which way depends on if you call docomo peeps or not.

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  3. I checked at the local docomo shop today. 7770 yen is the price for the Xi plan/red SIM with no phone included. If you also get a phone, it is actually cheaper. 7080 yen per month. (I think I got that right; not certain...) Ironic that. Buy a phone too and lower the price. But then you would be stuck with whatever version of android docomo decides to give you*.

    If you go FOMA, though, and want tethering, you'll be paying 9695 yen per month. Not an attractive option with eMobile being half the price.

    * Getting a subsidized, rootable Xi phone might be the best of both worlds -- cheap plan, LTE included, and faster android updates.

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  4. Docomo just announced increased subsidies on handsets. S GS2 LTE might be the way to go, then. You've probably noticed that Nicholas has done a lot with the non-LTE version. I assume the LTE version is just as friendly, though a problem could be if it uses a different kernel and one compatible with the custom ROMs is not available.

    If you are OK with a FOMA phone (you can still get a Xi contract), the galaxy nexus would be the next best choice.

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  5. Several Docomo staff told me the SIM was locked rather than the phone too, it was painful.

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  6. Did you "educate" them successfully?

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  7. Just to flesh this out with numbers from eMobile:

    3795 yen per month is their base internet plan on their tethering phones
    (4580+315-1100=3795, whatever all that means...)
    Voice calls are billed at 18.9yen per 30 seconds!
    1400 yen per month will get you a calling plan. 300 calls per month at under ten minutes each.
    (There is a huge gulf between those two. Still, 37 minutes with no plan would put you at 1400 yen.)
    1600 yen per month (x25 payments) to get the Huawei Legend (basically the 39,840 you'd pay to buy the phone outright.)
    I think using the Sony Xperia mini might be totally free.

    So, data only, with no voice plan:
    3975/mo. for the Sony Xperia mini (it has bad battery life...)
    5395/mo. for the Huawei Legend.

    This is not much cheaper than getting a docomo Xi phone plan (7080/mo.) unless you opt for the Sony Xperia mini with eMobile. Then you're spending under 4000 each month for unlimited data. note: I'm not sure how many minutes (to non-docomo phones) are included in the docomo plan.

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  8. zero minutes to non-docomo phones.

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  9. great breakdown, totally understand the cost side of it...tempting me to move away from the wifi router (wimax) that I'm using instead of docomo's network to give signal to my atrix 4G and iPad. wondering about connection speed...I've got way too used to the speediness of wimax (though not so used to the spot-coverage around town...)

    got a way-too basic question for you: will the Xi signal (LTE Advanced?) work any phone that's set up to be "4G" (LTE) - i.e., the AT&T branded Atrix 4G I use?...how about phone that's not LTE - are you using the nexus one with the Xi sim?

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  10. Any phone that doesn't support LTE will fall back to FOMA if it supports the proper frequencies. As far as I know, LTE radios aren't multiband, and LTE frequency bands are all over the place. I don't think any of the networks are compatible. If you want LTE, you (right now) have no choice but to get a phone from the carrier.

    There is no difference in speed on my nexus one compared to using a white FOMA SIM and a red Xi SIM because both are using the same 3G signal.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Updating the eMobile part of this thread. eMobile is now showing a new phone, the Dell Streak Pro (GS-01). http://vr-zone.com/articles/dell-s-streak-pro-gs01-smartphone-to-launch-in-japan-march-8th/15004.html

    With a two-year contract, the monthly price for all-you-can-use data (including WiFi tethering) is 5395 yen, the same price as the Huawei Legend (GS-02). The Sony Xperia mini is slightly less expensive at 4995. And the pocket WiFi only devices are 3880.

    If Dell gets android 4.0 on this, it would make it a lot more attractive. I think Huawei has already said they will do so for the Legend. And the sales guy said the Dell comes unlocked, as do eMobile's other phones.

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  12. I am curious, your bill contains Mopera U, instead of sp-mode. Are you not using tethering function with your Xi?
    I am asking this because according to Docomo staff and its website, sp-mode subscription is required to use tethering.
    http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/service/func_tool/tethering/notice/

    ReplyDelete
  13. Just curious, are you using tethering function? Your bill only listed Mopera U, and not sp-mode.
    According to Docomo staff and its webisite, sp-mode subscription is required to use tethering.

    http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/service/func_tool/tethering/notice/

    ReplyDelete
  14. Just curious, are you using tethering function? Your bill only listed Mopera U, and not sp-mode.
    According to Docomo staff and its webisite, sp-mode subscription is required to use tethering.

    http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/service/func_tool/tethering/notice/

    ReplyDelete
  15. test.
    why my comments are not posted?

    ReplyDelete
  16. Just curious, are you using tethering with your Xi?
    According to Docomo staff, and its website, sp-mode subscription is required for tethering, but I only saw Mopera U in your bill.

    http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/english/service/func_tool/tethering/notice/

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  17. Looks like DoCoMo is extending the discount period for Xi data (until 9/30) with "Xi Start Campaign 2"

    http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/charge/packet/xi_pake_hodai_f/about/index.html

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  18. is the @docomo.ne.jp mailing address accessible from your phone after upgrading Foma to the Xi data plan or do you still have to use there crap pc website to view the email. I know I can switch to gmail but family all use that docomo email and some are not on a data plan this is why Im asking.

    Thanks

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  19. I don't know. I've never had one and I don't want one.

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  20. I went into Docomo shop and they told me it is not possible to get a FOMA handset with a Xi service while receiving monthly subsidies (support or discount). How can I prove this is possible like you said?
    thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I haven't personally confirmed that you can do it. That's what was discussed. Another person reported having difficult, but IIRC it was due to a discontinued handset. Maybe it's actually not possible and the guy who originally reported that you could was given bad information from the shop he visited. You'd have to never have a FOMA contract in the first place.

    The only thing I can think of is to ask them to confirm with the helpdesk. If it still comes back negative, I probably have bad info.

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  22. Hello, I have an unlocked iPhone and live in Japan.

    Can I go into a Docomo store and get a microsim only (no phone), put it in my iPhone, and not have to worry about any sort of enormous charges for data usage?

    Thanks
    Sam

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  23. Hi SBSDroid, hopefully this is will be my last round of annoying questions. I went ahead and just got a Xi LTE plan with docomo, instead of going the bmobile + MiFi route as one the whole this plan will be end up being much cheaper, I believe. The problem I have run in to however is that on my T-Mobile HD2, I have no voice but I do not have a data connection, which is annoying, because I was just using a bmobile data SIM that worked fine. I have changed the APN to mopera.net, but still no-go. Any ideas?

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  24. Never heard of that. the APN only effects data, not voice. what does settings about phone say? I have no idea what is wrong.

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  25. Ack! I meant to say I have no data connection, but I DO have a voice connection, frustrating because the bmobile data only SIM worked fine. Everything looks normal under my phone status except for "Mobile network state" is obviously Disconnected. Annoying. My "Mobile network type" is even displaying HSDPA.

    I bought a used Fujitsu Arrows F-07D because docomo originally wasn't going to sell me a Xi LTE SIM card and when I put the SIM in that phone, data works as normal. One thing is that it's showing 'spmode.ne.jp' as the APN, rather than 'mopera.net.' I have tried both and neither has worked. I seem to remember not having data initially with the bmobile SIM, until I set the APN correctly. Am I missing some type of Username and Password?

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  26. I've made some progress here... five days later. -____-

    After a ton of fiddling around this past weekend, I've think the issue is that I 'mopera.net' was not set up properly at the docomo store. During the process of signing up for the Xi LTE plan, I had bought a used phone to use as a way to get them to sell my the SIM card, but she never did anything with the phone while setting up my service. I figure what is happening is that 'mopera.net' is blocking access for my phone because it hasn't been set up yet.

    I came to this conclusion because I was able to connect to docomo's HSDPA using '0120.mopera.ne.jp', which I used to try to log-in into 'start.mopera.net' and input the PIN I typed in at the docomo. The problem now is that I'm stuck at this stage, as the PIN number I input does not do anything. I feel like I'm so close to a solution... it's staring me right in the face. Should I have had the representative not sign me up for spmode (which I understand is the mailing system and that's it, right?), but mopera instead? If so, then what now?

    Sorry! I will be out of your hair soon enough! Haha

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  27. If you haven't set a pin try "0000" I believe that is the default.

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  28. Still getting the same thing... here's a screencap of what happens after I input the PIN, hopefully it's large enough.

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  29. Supposedly it is not possible to transform a microsim to a nanosim due to the differing thickness (unless you have some precise tooling equipment). Does anyone know if Docomo is planning on offering a nanosim on Xi? I am looking to get an iPhone 5 from HK as soon as it goes on sale.
    Thanks
    Bill

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  30. they already do.
    http://www.applenoir.com/?p=2606

    ReplyDelete
  31. Sorry that's not correct - just noticed what you meant - yet another SIM card size. Jeez

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  32. Help. Encouraged by this site I signed up for a 2-year Xi plan with Docomo today to use on my unlocked iPhone 4S. The voice works fine but cannot get the data to work...
    I received a welcome SMS from moperu when the micro-sim from Docomo went in. It tells me to go to http://start.mopera.net/ to do my initial set up. I connect the iPhone to wifi at work and navigate to that site, where I put in my Docomo network PIN as instructed and click on "I agree". Page then freezes. Every time. No other page freezes.
    What I am doing wrong? (I know Docomo will refuse to help as they dont support iPhones...)

    ReplyDelete
  33. I've never done that. Are you sure it's necessary? Have you actually set the APN to mopera.net?

    ReplyDelete
  34. Sigh. The next day 3G was working fine when I woke up. All good for the last 13 days. Then I took the Docomo SIM out and put my Australian SIM in for a few minutes to check voice messages...

    Iphone works only for voice now that the Japanese SIM is back in.

    Strong 3G signal, zero Internet "Safari cannot open the page because your iPhone is not connected to the Internet". Darn. I need to use this phone with 3 SIMS in a year to tell the truth - I take it to 3 countries for prolonged periods.
    I have seen this problem all over the Internet when searching today. Many fixes suggested - hard restart, toggling Flight Mode on and off, toggling Cellular Data and 3G on and off, toggling Data Roaming on and off, soft restart, removing and reinserting SIM...all to no avail.

    What next? Really need this brand new iPhone 4s to be more than a paperweight.

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  35. I'm not much of an IOS expert but are you able to see what APN you are connecting to under mobile networks?

    ReplyDelete
  36. NTT Docomo? Not sure I am looking in the right place...

    ReplyDelete
  37. http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2283


    comparing with the APN's here
    http://www.japanmobiletech.com/2011/04/docomo-access-point-names-apn.html



    If you have the wrong APN or have some how configured the settings wrong you would only get voice and not data. I am guessing you need to be set to the mopera.net APN.


    Other than that I can't really say since I don't actually own any IOS devices.

    ReplyDelete
  38. Thank you! Found the APN setting fields and set both (I dont tether so not all three) to mopera.net. This worked immediately. Guess I will need to do this now every time I pop my Oz SIM in to check my voice messages. :-))

    ReplyDelete
  39. hellooo,,,
    Sorry how to unlock nttdocomo simlock?

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hi, i know this thread is a bit old, but my question somehow i think is relevant to this topic. I got an iphone 5 from Singapore and its unlocked. Would I be able to use a Xi sim card for it? i know its micro sim, but i can cut it right?
    I am planning to MNP to Docomo, get the cheapest Xi handset and resell it to auction. I just want to use the sim for my iphone 5. Will this work? and anyone has experience doing it? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
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  44. Sorry for necroposting. I just called up Docomo & it seems even if I outright buy an iPhone 6 from Apple Store Japan, I can keep using SPMode without switching to MOpera. So I guess it means Docomo are registering those SIM free iPhone 6 sold by Apple stores in Japan.

    ReplyDelete