Thursday, April 26, 2012

Docomo responds to JCI lawsuit

ITpro has published an interview with Furukawa kouji, NTT Docomo's (DCM) executive in charge of planning and coordination, regarding Japan Communications Inc's (JCI) recently-filed lawsuit alleging excessive connection charges. The gist of DCM's response is that JCI's understanding of the contract terms is lacking.

JCI is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that provides service by purchasing wholesale access from a Mobile Network Operator (MNO), in this case DCM. JCI then resells this access in creative ways to its customers, the end users of b-mobile SIM cards, as well as other MVNOs such as BlueSIP. The premium above actual cost that Docomo charges JCI is regulated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). The calculation of cost takes into account variation in construction, operation, business, and indirect costs. Therefore, the price charged to MVNOs will fluctuate.

While the actual details are not yet clear, the suit most like concerns what are best described (by @Durf) as "additional associated costs" (接続料直課コスト), such as those for personnel and infrastructure.

JCI started service with DCM in August 2008, but these additional associated costs were not billed to JCI prior to FY2010. According to Furukawa, this was because data was insufficient to allow proper calculation, and estimation of the additional costs would be fundamentally against the MVNO guidelines put forth by the MIC. It wasn't until the end of year reporting for fiscal 2009 that DCM was able to quantify the additional costs.

Even after billing JCI for the additional costs, Furukawa claims that DCM was been unable to recover the full cost of providing access to MVNOs, losing 35 million yen (~ $350,000US) on MVNO operations in FY2010.

How, exactly, Docomo is calculating these "costs" will certainly be the central issue in the upcoming proceedings.

Monday, April 23, 2012

PSA: GT-i9100 SiyahKernel 3.1RC6 causing Bricked Devices

Yesterday when the Siyah kernel developer updated 3.1RC6 there was a bug introduced that was bricking devices when the user performed a factory reset. Nobody is sure if it is a hard brick or a soft brick but at this point in time, no one has been able to un-brick their device.

In my guides I am only using the 3.0.1 stable version, so it is not a problem for those using that one. But if you are using a different source than this blog any 3.1RC6 version older than today is suspect. You can find more info on the official thread.

Friday, April 20, 2012

JCI lawsuit to recover excessive connection fees charge by NTT Docomo

This lawsuit is not about money. It's about NTT Docomo abiding by arbitration terms set by the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications.
-JCI CEO Frank Seiji Sanda

Japan Communications, Inc. (JCI), the MVNO who provides the popular b-mobile SIM cards, has filed a lawsuit against NTT Docomo (DCM) in Tokyo District Court seeking to recover excessive connection charges.

A wholesale pricing structure for reselling service on DCM's network was set through government arbitration in June 2008. For the following two fiscal years, DCM charged JCI according to the terms of the contract. However, beginning from fiscal 2010, DCM began basing charges on alternate calculations.

The formula was in DCM's favor.

JCI immediately protested the change in billing but was told by DCM that service would be suspended if payments were not made in full. With no other choice, JCI has continued making payments and estimates excessive charges total ¥80 million, a relatively small sum. Therefore, the primary purpose of the suit is to prevent DCM from abusing its dominant position as the largest mobile network operator in Japan by unilaterally rewriting industry contracts.

Interestingly, DCM sees the fact that JCI paid the recalculated fees as evidence of agreement with the new formula. Obviously, if DCM is allowed to change the rules on a whim, the effects on MVNOs would be profound, and much of the progress we've seen as consumers in Japan over the last few years could be reversed.

In an interview with the Nikkei, Frank Seiji Sanda said that he had indicated to DCM the possibility of a lawsuit but doubts JCI was taken seriously. He went on to say that DCM likely had a "so sue us" attitude.


JCI press release

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Japan Communications Inc to file suit against NTT Docomo?

One week ago, Frank Sanda, founder and CEO of Japan Communications, Inc. (JCI), sent the following tweet.
The biggest problem in our country is that large companies deliberately undermine the success of small companies.  This is against the law.
JCI, the provider of the popular b-mobile SIMs and the MVNE behind many recent mobile startups, is responsible for the recent availability of reasonably-priced mobile data plans. Through government arbitration, they forced NTT Docomo (DCM) to adopt transparency and consistency when dealing with MVNOs. More recently, DCM has started releasing products that are in direct competition with popular plans like the Aeon 100 kpbs "Plan C" SIM.

Now, JCI has called an emergency press conference to apparently announce a lawsuit against DCM.

I'll update this post when I know more.

Welcome to Japan Mobile Tech (dot com)

It was time. It really was. We know a lot of you actually liked the old name - it was cool in a childish sort of way.

But we unfortunately (kinda) grew up.

This blog was created and named for a completely different purpose than it now serves, which is providing English information on Japanese carriers. And since they all suck, it's hard to single out just one carrier with the URL. ;)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

NTT Docomo handset domestic compatibility

NTT Docomo recently published the results of compatibility checks with other domestic carriers. There is no mention of data, but if voice works, so should 3G data. This is because, as far as I know, Japan never used 2G GSM. So it works with 3G data and voice, or it doesn't work at all. As you can see the results are not surprising. Everything is compatible with SBM and hardly anything with Emobile.

I assume that as Docomo adds new handsets, this table will be updated.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Installing ICS (CyanogenMOD 9) on your SC-02C (Galaxy S2)

Update: I have published an easier more comprehensive guide here

The usual warnings apply: We are not responsible for any broken or bricked devices. Use this guide at your own risk. However this worked for me on my SC-02C so it should work for you too. CyanogenMOD9 isn't considered a stable release yet and the kernel we are using has just hit a "stable" release so some hiccups are to be expected. For kernel specific issues please report them in the XDA thread for the kernel.

Up until this point we have not been able to install any Ice Cream Sandwich based ROM's on our Japanese Galaxy S2 (SC-02C) due to our hardware being slightly different and the lack of support for ICS from kernel developers.

When Docomo announced that we wouldn't be receiving the Ice Cream Sandwich update until some time in July, I was pretty disappointed. And now that the Galaxy Nexus has all but disappeared from store shelves, there's no option for a Docomo ICS Japanese phone right now.

Fortunately, wjchen0 has recompiled Siyah ICS kernel to support the SC-02C and he has also supplied us with a fix for the infamous compass pole reversal problem a lot of people experience. I have created a CWM flashable ZIP file that has the latest Siyah 3.0.1 kernel that wjchen0 has compiled, the compass fix patch, and the stock SC-02C radio.

If you get stuck you can always restore your backup or flash the stock firmware on your device with the info here.

CyanogenMOD9 checks your devices build.prop file to check if the phone is compatible and doesn't recognize the SC-02C as being a compatible device. If you are coming from stock you will want to flash a GT-19100 ROM first before you continue.

  • Download the latest CyanogenMod nightly for the GT-i9100 here
  • Download the Google Apps ZIP file for ICS here
  • Download my here
  • Copy the CyanogenMod, Google Apps, and signed_SC-02C_CM9_Siyah3.0.1_OMKL4_Compass_Fix ZIP file's to your internal storage
  • Take note of your current APN settings under mobile networks -> Access Point Names
  • Remove your SIM card (in case the APN is not set correctly when you boot up)
  • I am assuming you already have a custom recovery installed if you do not have one installed follow step 1 in this post to install Siyah Gingerbread kernel that has a custom recovery.
  • Reboot into recovery (power off your phone and then turn it on while holding "volume up")
  • Backup your phone
  • Follow the official CyanogenMod guide to install CM9 via recovery (i.e., wipe, then flash CM9)
  • Flash the Google Apps ZIP
  • Flash the file
  • Wipe the dalvik cache and reboot your phone.
  • After your phone boots connect to wireless and configure your Google account
  • Go into the wireless settings and disable data networks (so we can safely set the APN latter) 
  • Power off your phone, insert your SIM card, reboot, configure your APN settings, and re-enable data usage.
  • There is a pretty nice tool in the Play Market called ExTweaks for configuring some of  Siyah kernel's more advanced options,you can download it from here .
  • Enjoy!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0.4 Released for the Xoom (MZ604)

Motorola has released the Android 4.0.4 OTA update for the WIFI Xoom. If you are still running the stock AU WIFI Xoom software (Honeycomb), then follow this post to install the US stock firmware first, then the OTA should be available to you from the settings menu.

However, if you are running a rooted version of ICS, you'll need to follow this guide to download the update and install by booting into recovery.

The 4.0.4 enhancements include:
  • Quicker screen rotation
  • Ability to immediately lock the tablet with the power button
  • Microsoft Exchange improvements with additional EAS policies
  • Better phone number recognition
  • Camera and image quality improvements
  • Improved stability

Summary from XDA

This is a modded update package ( that updates the US Xoom Wi-Fi from any ROM to stock rooted Android 4.0.4 IMM76 using ClockworkMod Recovery:
  • Flashes bootloader from a previous update (3.2.1 HTK55D) to ensure integrity (bootloader remains unlocked)
  • Flashes the boot partition with rooted stock 4.0.4 boot image, stock kernel
  • Stock ICS update fixed the Bluetooth tethering issue that was introduced in 3.2
  • Stock kernel includes no extras (overclocking, etc.) from custom kernels
  • Flashes system partition with rooted stock 4.0.4 image (minus the recovery overwrite script; includes gapps)
  • Includes Superuser.apk 3.0.7 and su binary to enable functioning root (thanks, chainsdd)
  • Hardware SDCard continues to be read-only via documented application permissions
  • Leaves existing recovery partition intact (unmodded stock 4.0.4 update overwrites it on every reboot)
  • Leaves user data intact (note: some users updating from custom ROM's recommend wiping data/factory reset to prevent issues)
When installing it remember to copy the update ZIP file to your microSD card and install it from there otherwise it will appear to install but when you boot your system it will be on the same version.
I installed this on my Xoom and all of my data was intact but you should backup your data just in case.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Softbank announces 4G FDD-LTE service from fall

Softbank announced yesterday that their FDD-LTE network will start from this fall. Prices and terms will be comparable to Docomo's Xi network, with ¥5,985 for 7 GB of data per month, after which, speeds will be decreased to 128 kbps. There will also be an option for purchasing additional data in 2 GB intervals for ¥2,625.

Combine JCI's constant agitating of the incumbent players with Softbank being finally allowed to compete on a level playing field, and we finally (hopefully) will see true innovation in pricing and products in Japan. Docomo will no longer be able to relax and rely on government protection.

Compatibility with other carriers

See here for a comparison table of Japanese carriers. Here is a broader table showing worldwide LTE deployment.

Internationally, FDD-LTE is the standard most used. TD-LTE was developed in China and is only used domestically by SBM, and Japan is the only country using Band I (2100 MHz). As far as I can tell, US AT&T is using Band IV (AWS) and will not be compatible with any SBM's upcoming network. This means that, unless Apple uses a multiband LTE radio, iPads and iPhones that would support LTE on SBM will need a specifically tweaked radio.

Domestically, Unlocked Xi devices should technically be compatible with Softbank's upcoming FDD-LTE network (and vice versa). However, it is expected that the SBM will use their newly acquired 900 MHz band (Band VIII) for FDD-LTE, which will be incompatible with DCM. [UPDATE: SBM is using it for 3G currently but plans to move it to LTE in 2014.] Therefore, while devices should be swappable between these two carriers, it may be difficult to get a signal in the mountains or underground (similar to current situation on Softbank's 3G network).

KDDI will continue to use CDMA-2000 for voice, even after starting their Band I 2100 MHz FDD-LTE network at the end of the year, so AU phones will remain incompatible with the other domestic carriers. EAccess (Emoblie) is the only domestic carrier not awarded either a 2100 MHz allocation or a low frequency "platinum" band.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Docomo SC-04D Galaxy Nexus supply shortage

UPDATE: Some shops do still have stock.

Janne in Osaka first reported that the Galaxy Nexus was unavailable at several Docomo shops in his area. I've since also made the rounds. It's official - NTT Docomo is unable to guarantee whether new stock will ever become available. 入荷未定

Note that this phone is officially listed as "on sale" on the NTT Docomo product page. (発売中 in the above screenshot). While you can probably order/reserve one, it may be months (if ever) before it is delivered.

However, there are still handsets available. You'll just have to hunt for them. I've seen new and used ones at various shops in Akihabara, though some of the new ones were the SIM-free international version (for about ¥30,000). Buying the international version will require a Xi contract to use with Docomo. 

There were reports back in December of supply issues in the US, so I guess this should be no real surprise. At least Docomo now knows the formula for a popular Android phone.