Thursday, October 3, 2013

Tokyo Police push ID verification for data-only SIMs

This sucks and is about as well thought out as a knee-jerk reaction from a politician who knows the internet is in fact not a truck but instead thinks it is a series of tubes.

It will mean the end of cheap data SIMs for visitors, and it's going to take away a large source of revenue during the Tokyo Olympics for scrappy MVNOs like JCI. Maybe the Police haven't considered the olympics and the number of visitors that would need mobile data access, or the have and that scares them.

As I have mentioned numerous times (and why I think an unlocked iPhone could have been a game changer), MVNOs usage is exploding in Japan. The idea that "Japanese people don't even know what a SIM card is" outdated and no longer really applicable. True, there are some that of course do not, but if the Metropolitan Police is making an issue of MVNO SIMs, that means a LOT of people are using them.

Anyway, here is the issue. From the Yomiuri:



As the number of people who use a traditional feature phone for voice calls and a smartphone for mail and internet increases, so does demand for data-only SIM cards.

In 2008, a law was enacted requiring identification verification for the sale of voice SIMs, but data-only SIMs are exempt because the Ministry of Infrastructure and Communications didn't imagine they could be used for nefarious purposes since they lacked voice capabilities.

However, downloading free smartphone apps allow voice communications with data-only SIM cards.

Therefore, Tokyo Metropolitan Police Chiefs have pointed out that "as technology has evolved, data-only SIM cards now effectively posses the same functions as voice SIMs. It is necessary to immediately begin identification verification for [data-only SIMs]."
On is the following:
One incident involved the usage of LINE and KakaoTalk to recruit high school girls into prostitution.
As I understand it, when Line detects a "44010" SIM*, it requires you to login to your mydocomo page, which users of MVNOs don't have. This means line can't even be used with an MVNO (of course other services can, though).

*440 is Japan's Mobile Country Code and 10 is Docomo's Mobile Network Code. So a docomo SIM is often simply referred to by phone geeks as a 44010 SIM. MVNOs using Docomo's network provide 44010 SIMs (which is why they will be locked out of the Docomo iPhone 5S and 5C).


  1. I'm increasingly becoming fed up with all the stupidity around tech here in Japan that's causing them to fall behind drastically in terms of competing with other countries around the region. This whole thing is very unnecessary, and the onus should be on educating people how to use those applications and possibly working with companies like Naver monitor illicit traffic.

  2. OK, let's consider this- does Tokyo Metro have authority to stop the sale of these things in the whole of Japan? Is it possible that they'll just block delivery to / sales within the city border, and we'll all have to shlep to Chiba to get our illicit tech, like in Neuromancer? It's a silly suggestion but seriously, what authority do they have? In similar cases have they been able to ban stuff country-wide?

    Question two, why does "registration required" equal "the end of cheap data SIMs for visitors?" B-mobile sells some voice+data SIMs that require registration and they're still pretty cheap. What are the actual roadblocks to registering? Like you'll need a gaikokujin tourokusho or something?

  3. you haven't heard the last of them yet, dear boy.

    Seriously, I have a much shorter way to describe it: fire the f#()*&#(*&king hell of the ass of all those old officers, changing everything from tip to toe in Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Or just turn back to Japan Imperial for all I care.

  4. But for short period visitor this may be quite troublesome. B-Mobile still don't have registration process for using their visitor SIM. All you got to do is ordering them, paying by credit card then picking your SIM at the airport or hotel. If this law come true, it will make it more difficult to have data roaming when traveling.

  5. Tokyo Police, essentially the Ministry of Justice, Tells the guys over at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Communications that they want a new phone law. The MIC guys draft it and hand it over to the (mostly) useless politicians who do their thing and it becomes law.

    A law requiring the same identity verification will prevent non residents from getting these SIMs. What counts for 本人確認 is only available to residents of Japan. If you aren't a resident, you cannot get a contract for a voice SIM or phone. This will expand to cover data SIMs.

    The only way a non resident gets a phone in Japan are through though over priced rentals. Do you think the same companies are going to turn around and offer a reasonable price on data SIMs while ripping people off on voice SIMs?

  6. Probably not, but by the same token, what are guys like JCI going to do? Roll over quietly and go out of business?

    As you said, a lot of people are using these data-only SIMs, which were themselves created in part to circumvent the laws about phone registration. That means there's a market for it and somebody will probably go after it.

    If they come up with an offering that's fundamentally the same thing, but you have to have a friend who lives in Japan and lets you use his/her address for registration, that would be pretty inconvenient but not the end of the world for a lot of people. If you are a straight-up tourist who doesn't know anybody in the country, you still have the (admittedly worse) option of renting a wifi unit at the airport and just connecting your smartphone to that.

    Another possibility- JCI keeps making the same prepaid products but requires a 本人確認. Some people / small firms buy them in bulk and resell them illegally. We get a black market in SIM cards. Unlikely but maybe possible?

  7. Tip for getting LINE on data SIM. I use a bmobile data only SIM. I had trouble getting LINE to work because it requires SMS confirmation (which data SIMs do not handle.) What I did was switch back to my European SIM card, download the app over WIFI and just enter the European mobile telephone number into the app for SMS confirmation. The SMS arrived, entered code into app, and I was now on the LINE network. Simply replaced the b-mobile SIM and was good to go.

  8. I have a Bmobile 1g data sim. Does anyone know how to verify age on Line now? Will going to a Docomo shop help?

  9. Hey JB, you can use the desktop LINE app (there's one on the Mac App Store) and add users via ID search that way. I know it's annoying but at least it works.

  10. I actually managed to find one way around this. If you have a rooted android phone you can download a Google Play market changing app. Run that. Kill line. Load line again and you're free. You will have to do this every time your phone/line restarts.

  11. Did this really work? Google changed the market country system some months ago. It is now checking the latest credit card's country you used for purchasing stuff, or if you never purchased stuff, your IP address.

    Which market changer did you use?

  12. So if I get that B-mobile monthly 2GB Sim with voice, I still won't be able to add Line ID's because I will need a Docomo email address to age verify?

  13. This has nothing to do with the google play store actually. What the market changers do is temporarily change your sim card details to make your sim card appear as if it's from another country. This is enough to fool line. The one I used was Market Enabler. There are a bunch of them around, but not in the play store. Also I should note that I left Japan two months ago, so can't verify if this is still working.