Monday, October 1, 2012

Softbank Mobile to buy eAccess, moves up tethering date, backtracks on 1.2GB cap

Purchase eAccess

Keeping up with the goings on in the Japan mobile industry has not been easy lately, no thanks to Softbank Mobile, who just announced, pretty much out of the blue, that they are purchasing the fourth largest (that is, the smallest) of the Japanese mobile carriers for ¥200 billion. From what I've head so far, it seems that the focus is on building out a more complete LTE network.

This will put them in serious contention for the number 2 carrier spot in terms of subscriber numbers.

Emobile LTE became available this past March and is currently limited to data-only devices. Emobile has had a rough time at the hands of the government with only a single allocation of an exotic frequency band (1700 MHz). When the Softbank won the "platinum band" allocation, I wondered what Emobile would do. They had argued that it was desperately needed for their plans. Well I guess we see what happened to Emobile.

Softbank is really getting unwieldy with the frequency bands. 900 MHz for W-CDMA, moving over to LTE in the future. 1500 MHz for a DC-HSPDA network. 2100 MHz for FDD-LTE and W-CDMA. 2600 MHz for TD-LTE, and now 1700 MHz.

The 2100 MHz Band 1 LTE network will likely be used for primarily the iPhone, for now at least. Routers and dongles will probably stay on the 2600 and 1800 MHz LTE bands. Who knows what will happen with the domestic phones. Hopefully those are on 2100 MHz LTE band with the iPhone, but we'll have to see.

Moving up tethering start date

Early today, KDDI CEO Tanaka announced that, compared to August, they had a 3-fold increase in September in the number of customers moving in from Softbank. This is no doubt related to Softbanks blundering of tethering. First, the CTO announces that they simply don't have the capacity, then their CEO says their going to do it anyway, with a much delayed start date in next January.

Softbank CEO Son just announced iPhone 5 tethering will start from 12/15, a month sooner.

Of course the damage has been done. Many people, including readers of this blog, decided to move to KDDI because of the lack of tethering and the CTO's comments, which were widely publicized in both English and Japanese.

Explaining away the 1.2 GB data cap

Also making waves through the Japanese interwebs was a sneaky stealth edit to the Softbank LTE data plan FAQ to add a 1.2 GB monthly cap. Exceeding this would result in an undisclosed speed restriction being imposed for an entire month, not immediately, but two months later.

The timing of the imposition of the penalty would make it difficult to link it to any particular behavior.

Now Son has said that it was basically an insurance policy and he doesn't intend to implement it. However, if this condition remains in the contract terms, Softbank can chose to enforce it at any time, and given the 2-month delay, it will be difficult to tell what exactly is going on.


  1. Son seems to be saying after Apple clears some testing, they'll start on 1800MHz Band 3 with the iPhone5? Is this simply pushing down into the upper 1700 e-mobile range?

  2. Oh, great. I got emobile specifically because it is the best Pocket Wifi in the area I live. And basically unrestricted. (Supposedly, they reduce your speeds at night if you use it a lot during the day, but it's never been an issue for me...) I just worry that we'll end up with a 1.2GB data cap, too... That, and/or higher prices... :(

  3. The band they're talking about is LTE Band 3 which is 1700s down 1800s up, There's some inconsistency in what its referred as, much like the 800/850 GSM band in the US.

  4. Are there not going to be any conditions placed on this purchase to ensure Softbank does not just close down eMobile's current cheap, unlimited, tetherable data plans?

  5. Has anyone else seen this > My current download speed is 0.09Mbps.