Thursday, October 18, 2012

LTE data in Japan costs $10/GB

A new study by Wireless Intelligence of the GSM Association is apparently showing that LTE data in the US costs $7.50 per gigabyte.

However, I haven't been able to locate the study in their analysis section. Without seeing the actual way in which calculations were performed, it's difficult to comment, but it would seem that this is including overage fees, as well as also voice and SMS fees, according to the New York Times, who also quoted a US Verizon rep as saying the actual price would be $5.50 for just data.

This is still expensive by European standards, but is half the cost of LTE data in Japan.

The benchmark price for LTE in Japan is 7GB for ¥5,985 ($75) as set by NTT Docomo. KDDI and Softbank Mobile will offer 7.5GB for that price, though for the next 2 years, ¥5,460 buys 7GB from them*. An advantage to Japanese customers over those in the US is that LTE data is unrestricted (except for p2p filesharing).

Adding extra charges for tethering or facetime or whatever is a scam. Excuses about not exceeding capacity are just BS. Yeah, if all customers turned on their wireless tether at the same time, it would bring any network to it's knees. But if all customers did anything at the same time, it would still bring down the network. In the case of NTT Docomo, sp-mode mail would probably reset some random people's passwords, or arbitrarily swap out email addresses, just for good measure.

Thanks to Google, US Verizon is actually unable to implement this sort of scam with their LTE network.

Back to Japan, here are the costs per gigabyte:
  • NTT Docomo Xi LTE: ¥855/GB
  • KDDI and SBM LTE: ¥798/GB (¥780 during 2-year campaign)
The exchange rate has been at about ¥80 to $1US ever since LTE has been available in Japan, which would put these prices between $9.75 and $10.50 per gigabyte. Even if the yen dropped to ¥120 on the dollar, levels we haven't seen since 2007, the least a GB would cost in Japan is $6.50.

* For ¥5,460, SBM offers an unlimited LTE data plan without tethering. It will be interesting to see how popular this plan becomes. SBM originally had no intention of allowing unlimited usage of their LTE network because this plan included a throttle after 1.2GB of usage.


  1. Hi,

    This is an interesting benchmark.
    However, do you have any way to compare the quality of the different networks?

    I guess the LTE coverage and performance between Docomo, AU and SFTB will not be exactly the same...

  2. As far as network quality and usability goes, the general rule of thumb is DCM > KDDI > SBM

  3. I would modify that to DCM > KDDI >> SBM

  4. I have to admit to being a little shocked by this post. NTT Docomo may well be the most popular carrier for phone service, with Au and Softbank not far behind - but for Data, e-Mobile is a big big player. Their *unlimited* LTE service is less than 4000 JPY for month. Yes, after using a lot of data in one day, they do throttle your connection somewhat for that day, but if you want unlimited data, e-Mobile can't be beat. I've used over 360GB in less than 6 months. (A lot of streaming TV, Facetime, Skype video, etc.).