Monday, August 26, 2013

LTE version of Google Nexus 7 will probably suck with KDDI, for now

UPDATE: KDDI has announced the sale of the wifi-only Nexus 7, and Engadget Japan has a more detailed article [J]. ¥39,800 for the 32 GB LTE model. Supported technologies and frequencies are:

4G LTE 700, 750, 850, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz (Bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 13 17)
HSPA+ 850, 900, 1900, 2100, AWS (1700, 2100) MHz (Bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 8)
GSM 850, 900, 1700, 1900MHz

As suspected, it does not support CDMA-2000 and it does not support LTE Bands 11 and 18 (1500 and 800 MHz), which means that with KDDI, the only option will be Band 1 LTE, which in May had extremely limited coverage.
N7 LTE with KDDI?
A new post on Engadget is, without any citing any sources, announcing that the LTE version of the Nexus 7 will be available in Japan within a few weeks. Unlike iPads sold in Japan, it will of course be unlocked ("SIM free") for use with any carrier. According to Mat Smith at Engadget:
Google says it'll work on all three of Japan's major carriers (DoCoMo, Softbank and KDDI's au).
Technically that is true, because all operate a Band 1 LTE (2100 MHz) network. However, if you intend to actually have a good mobile experience, we recommend staying away from KDDI, for now.

KDDI lacks the appropriate LTE coverage

You may recall that back in May, KDDI was caught greatly exaggerating their Band 1 LTE coverage. They claimed over 95% coverage, when in fact they had less than 15% and no plans for expansion. While KDDI is certainly working to increase coverage, that's just an amazing misrepresentation. KDDI does have the stated LTE coverage with Bands 11 and 18 (1500 and 800 MHz), but unless the modestly-priced N7 has some uber multiband LTE radio, the only way to support all Japanese carriers is with Band 1, and KDDI doesn't have the coverage.

KDDI 3G is likely incompatible

If you use LTE in Japan and pay attention to the network displayed in the status or notification bar, you'll notice that it often falls back to "H" or "3G", indicating no LTE signal. The problem is that, unless the N7 LTE model includes a dual WCDMA/CDMA-2000 radio in addition to the LTE radio, there will be no fall back for KDDI users.

Instead, what will most likely happen right now is, anytime you would see an "H" or a "3G" icon with a SoftBank or docomo SIM, you'll see a BIG RED X or 圏外 (out of area) icon with KDDI.

Wait for clarification

Of course anything is possible. Yes, LTE coverage will improve with time, and yes, Apple makes LTE hardware that fully supports SoftBank (WCDMA) and KDDI (CDMA-2000). Therefore it's not impossible for the N7 to do the same. It is just highly unlikely to get that in a budget tablet priced between 30,000 and 40,000 yen. Even a Japan-specific model seems unlikely at that price, given the total increase in manufacturing costs.

It could be as long as a month before it's available if the Engadget article is correct. We'll be sure to keep you appraised of carrier options. As we've long said, an MVNO is perfect for a second, data-only device.


  1. Weird on how the Engadget Japan article lists emobile as one of the supported carriers. Looking at the specs, the Nexus 7 LTE doesn't support any of emobile's bands.

  2. Thats almost a 30% premium (+$74) for the 32G wifi model over US pricing. Yowza.

  3. Yeah, and since the US and Japanese models are the same, guess where I'll get mine ;)

  4. Eaccess LTE is "1700" Band 9, which is listed. (Though it seems that they may be calling it Band 3 - anyways, the "1700 band 9" mentioned by the article is probably compatible with eaccess.

  5. ah,帯

    UMTSネットワークとしては、NTTドコモ、イー・アクセスともBands 9帯域として運用しているが、LTEネットワークでは、海外の帯域にハーモナイズする理由から、Bands 3として帯域運用(予定を含む)している(Bands 3は、Bands 9の帯域を完全に包括している)。

    The important part is the last bit in parenthesis: Band 3 is completely within Band 9, so doesn't really matter. It'll work on LTE for all carriers.

  6. Checked out the new Nexus 7 at Yodobashi today. What surprised me more is that the Nexus 4 will also go on sale SIM-free on Friday! Kinda moot now since the phones available from Samsung, Sony, HTC and others right now trounce it in specs and LTE capability. Plus, the new Nexus phone will probably be announced in a couple months. Hopefully, this means that the next Nexus phone will get a more prompt release in Japan.