Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Softbank iPhone 5 non-tethering data plan has 1.2 GB restriction

A Softbank CSR confirms the 1.2 GB limit.
Softbank is advertising unlimited 4G LTE data, but there's a catch: speed restrictions (throttling). I can no longer locate the press release, but I am 99.9% positive that when Softbank first announced 4G LTE, it was for 7 GB at ¥5,985. This was later changed to unlimited for ¥5,460. Then came the announcement of tethering under the same terms as KDDI - free for the first two years with a 7 GB cap, then at an addition ¥525 cost with a 7.5 GB cap.

That's pretty much full circle - nearly the same amount of data at the original price. As far as I can tell, there will be no speed restrictions on the 7 GB tethering plan, which is the limit originally intended. The throttle on non tethering plans will effectively push all users to the capped plan. So the unlimited data plan is just smoke and mirrors. It doesn't exist.

Do NOT take my word for it regarding whether the 1.2 GB throttle is or is not applied to the tethering plans. Find out for yourself.

Softbank 4G LTE data speed is throttled after 1.2 GB for non-tethering plans

Exceeding 1.2 GB of LTE data usage in any given month will result in speed limitations (throttling) two months later for an entire month. The exact nature of the limitation is unclear. But, hold on a second…

Two months later? (翌々月) WTF is that?

I can think of no reason to apply the punishment two full months later. The only thing I can think of is that it would make it more difficult for the customer to pin down what exactly is going on.

Via the No! Softbank blog we found links to specific information on the Softbank site, which until now, remained elusive. A 2channeler set up a version tracker on Softbank's FAQ. On August 24, the 4G LTE page SPECIFICALLY SAID NO SPEED RESTRICTIONS. On August 25, Softbank made a STEALTH EDIT removing the mention of no speed restrictions.

Bad Softbank! Bad! You do NOT make stealth edits to contract terms!

WTF is that? 詐欺、やりましょう。

Seriously, it said:
速度制限 • 超過料金なし
No speed restrictions or overage fees
Now it says:
No overage fees
And here is the description of the throttling, straight from softbank:
パケット定額 for 4G LTE:前々月の月間パケット通信量が1,000万パケット(約1.2Gバイト)以上:当月1ヵ月間
Packet flat rate for 4G LTE: Data usage two months previous exceeds 10,000,000 packets (1.2 GB): current month for 1 month.

This is the link to the 4G LTE plan, prominently advertising unlimited LTE data. The above information is linked to in the fine print.

Direct information is hard to find

Actually, I vaguely recall hearing about this in the past, but had failed to locate the information anywhere on Softbank's site. This is where The Googles fail me. No softbank pages are in the top 10 results for a search of a 1.2 GB restriction by Softbank. Note that a search now brings up many results concerning the motivation for this post - the application of this cap to 4G LTE.

So until now, this has been a mystery.

I had heard grumblings about throttling in the past with Softbank's 3G network, though it was never clear. It's been discussed on this blog here and here. More recently, a commenter mentioned that he was told by a service rep from Softbank that speeds would be throttled after 1 GB. I couldn't find anything about a this on the softbank site. So I unfortunately said it seems to apply to 3G and assumed (incorrectly) that it wouldn't apply to LTE. I mean, why should it? LTE protocols allows for 3 times the bandwidth through the same infrastructure.

The simple answer is that the unlimited 4G LTE plan is really not unlimited.

Much ado about nothing?

Honestly, my gut feeling is that Softbank is NOT applying a strict 128 kbps cap. The fact that the English-language Japanese blogosphere has not already exploded with complaints indicates this has not had a large, noticeable effect on people. As described above, there's been confusion as to whether it even existed for 3G plans.

This could be due to several reasons:
  • The speed resitrictions are not drastic.
  • Few people have exceeded 1.2 GB.
  • Softbank's 3G network is over capacity and prone to issues so nobody noticed they were being throttled.
  • The application of the throttle 2 months later made it hard to link to high data usage.
  • Some combination of all of the above.

AU iPhone just as likely to be usable overseas

From our point of view, AU phones that lack a GSM baseband are of very little interest because we want to use them overseas, but most AU phones are incompatible with any other network in the world. Except for the iPhone. It is technically compatible with the same networks as Softbank's model.

In fact, they may even be the same model.

A KDDI official with direct iPhone and LTE knowledge has indicated that the Softbank and AU iPhones are most likely the same. This actually makes sense and is what I initially suspected when seeing the description of the "three" iPhone models. The reason that this is important is because Softbank refuses to abide by government guidelines and unlock phones, unless it's for the purpose of reselling in foreign markets.

So there is no advantage to getting a Softbank iPhone from the perspective of use with overseas with a local SIM card. It will have to be jailbroken and unlocked. And if an iPhone bought from Softbank can be unlocked, so can one from AU. I am aware of reports that the same model is sold from US Verizon with an unlocked GSM baseband. If that were to be confirmed for the AU model, we'd be 2000% behind KDDI on this. Unfortunately, I honestly don't expect the same from a Japanese carrier.


  1. Just by reading this article, I got so confused with softbank.. now what will be the final decision? heck they might even change this tomorrow or later...

    Please keep us updated Japan Mobile Tech.

  2. 翌々日 means "two days later", not "two months later"...

  3. I believe this page has the details, seems like you might have 3G data limit restrictions confused with those for LTE


  5. Sigh.

    I guess I'm going to have to set up my own version trackers and take more screenshots. SBM backtracked on the limit for LTE. At the time this was published the link you posted indicated that the LTE service would have the same restrictions as 3G.

    I wrote about that here.
    Softbank Mobile to buy eAccess, moves up tethering date, backtracks on 1.2GB cap

  6. thanks for catching the typo. The english is correct.

  7. Ive been capped by these bastards (softbank). I get like 10 k/b per second downloads now if I'm lucky. This has just added to the list of why I hate all Japanese phone companies. Not just softbank. They are sneaky little rip-off merchants. Unlimited my arse. We call unlimited unlimited when their is no restrictions. Theres nothing unlimited about a capped speed because once you exceed (1.2 g) (really bugger all and can be achieved in less than an hour if you like streaming multimedia all the time).

  8. It's not just Japan of course, though I suppose European carriers may be better behaved. In the US we have Unlimited* 4G*, where the asterisks indicates that the data network is neither unlimited nor 4G.

    Japan is expensive, though.

  9. I switched from my unlmited Softbank 3G iphone plan (where I had NO limits at all on data but no tethering) to iphone 5 plan 4G LTE tethered plan at the Apple shop after the sales person told me that it was also an unlimited plan. "Great" I thought and I disconnected my eMobile personal WiFi service thinking that now my iphone could do it all. 3 days later I was throttled back and could not do business for 3 days. 6 months later and with being throttled back almost constantly I have had to re-apply for eMobile plan just to carry out my business. Its just a blatant lie on Softbanks behalf and an act that will ultimately lose them a great deal of loyal customers (I have been with them since day 1 - actually J-phone days).

  10. Just happened to me today. Called in and they told me (on this date in time,....):

    Exceeding 1 gig over a three day period will cap you. So, a rolling 72 hour 1 gig (or close to that) cap is in effect. My cap is due to expire (if I do not keep above the rolling limit) and I will have the "privileged" use of my 7 gig plan at 0600 tomorrow morning.

    What this means is that you do not have free use of your 7 gigs. You must sip, not chug it. Sorry, but if I want to use my 7 gigs and pay for more (for which there is a cost, but possible) then that should be my choice, not theirs.

    Unless I calculate incorrectly this means that unless you want to be throttled so hard that it becomes a useless piece of #### then you can only use a theoretical 10 gigs a month, even if you pay to exceed the 7 gig cap.

    Should have kept my iphone 4S on 3G. Never any issue, ever.

    WTF ?

    WiFiBANK provides also unlimited turbo fast WiFi for 115 YEN daily,
    short time and term available, check their page and make bargain!!