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Using non-Japanese cell phones in Japan


CaptOblivious

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CaptOblivious

So, now that I'm situated in Kyoto, I'm ready to get some phone service. In Europe, it was a simple matter of popping by a T-Mobile and purchasing a pre-paid SIM that I could just pop into my phone. Japan doesn't appear to be that easy, though...grr. Is there any provider here that will sell/rent a SIM without requiring a contract, etc? Frosting on the cake would be availability of an inexpensive data plan (as I am addicted to Android; that said, I had no data plan in Budapest and it didn't kill me, so I can live without).

 

Suggestions?

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I had a Softbank prepaid mobile phone.

 

If you give them an address from where you're staying (better, a school or a workplace) you won't have any trouble and you will end up with a 5000¥ phone and 5000¥ prepaid credit.

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Be glad it's not an iPhone either. Most iPhone owners in America are on ATT with is a GSN phone. Japan is the freak country that still embraces CDMA tech.

 

japan uses wcdma or as one could call it 3g as do most countries that are developed like most of europe, uk, aus etc etc

 

cdma is different to wcdma.

 

Also how long ago did you get the prepaid sim as last year they no longer accept foreigners even with a real house address in japan if you are not on a working visa or better.

 

or at least they wouldn't let me so my wife got one under her name for me.

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CaptOblivious

Do you have a sore back and hips yet? Toyoko Inn have steel boxes for beds. :)))

 

Angus

 

Ha! It was quite firm…just the way I like it :D

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CaptOblivious

Grr - nevermind, I didn't realize you were *living* there.  I wrote a whole post assuming you were visiting.

 

No, no, I'm visiting, just long-term. I don't have a visa. I also don't have a US address any more that isn't a PO Box in my in-laws' town. So, in effect I am living here, but it is only for two months.

 

So, feel free to retype your post :D

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No, no, I'm visiting, just long-term. I don't have a visa. I also don't have a US address any more that isn't a PO Box in my in-laws' town. So, in effect I am living here, but it is only for two months.

 

So, feel free to retype your post :D

 

Well, I basically said that most western cell phones actually do work in Japan as already configured, but you may need to activate international roaming on your account.  Somebody mentioned the AT&T iPhone not working there, but that's not true - my wife doesn't even need to do anything when we go to Japan, her iPhone works 100%.  My Sprint phone, which uses regular CDMA (not WCDMA) works for phone calls and text, but just not data.  They have the equipment there to enable these phones to work; it just isn't what they use for their own network.

 

I also suggested that if your phone really doesn't work, NTT Docomo will rent you one for something like 500 yen per day, and you can keep your same number.

 

The problem is I think these solutions will be really expensive if you're there for a period of months.  Even for just a couple of weeks and even with intentionally trying not to use her phone except for emergencies, my wife racked up an extra $100 in roaming charges the last time we went to Japan.  That wasn't that big a deal in the grand scheme of a vacation, but multiplied by a couple of months and actually using your phone as normal, I think it would get really expensive.

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That was me Space Cadet who said that and when I went to Japan last year, my iphone would not work there, no voice or data, and when I contacted ATT before I left ATT state my GSM ATT iphone will not work on the CDMA system. My ex just got back from Japan and commented her annoyance on the subject as well. Unless something has changed in the last few days ATT uses GSM, and I know of no Japanese carriers that use GSM. Are you sure your wife's iPhone is on ATT and not Verizon?

 

Here is further reading on the issue: http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2223.html

 

Do foreign phones work in Japan?

 

Due to different technologies, mobile phones from your home country may not work in Japan. Most importantly, there is no GSM network in Japan, so GSM-only phones do not work. The following are needed for a handset to work in Japan:

 

   For Voice - The handset must be compatible with a Japanese mobile phone network (typically 3G UMTS 2100 MHz or 3G CDMA2000 800 MHz). Compatible handsets may be used via international roaming (check with your home provider for details) or a rental or prepaid SIM card from a Japanese carrier (unlocked handsets only). Alternatively, phones with wireless network (WIFI) connectivity can use internet based telephone services (voip), such as Skype, when connected to a WIFI network.

 

   For Data - Phones that work in Japan for voice (see above) can also receive and send data (such as e-mails and web content) via international roaming or a rental/prepaid SIM card, but note that the cost for data transfer can easily skyrocket without an appropriate data plan. Alternatively, phones with wireless network (WIFI) connectivity can take advantage of the numerous paid and free wifi hotspots found around the country. See our internet page for more details.

 

Unless something has changed on the ATT iPhone 4s from the iPhone 4/3Gs/3G, ATT iPhone 4's are GSM only, not dual or tri-mode bands.

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CaptOblivious

Note: WCDMA is not the same as CDMA. Rather, WCDMA is the 3G iteration of GSM (1G) technology. Japan skipped 1G (GSM) and 2G (EDGE), directly to 3G (WCDMA). Verizon uses CDMA in the states, but no other place on earth that I know of uses CDMA.

 

So, if your ATT iPhone didn't work at all, it's because you were outside of your roaming partner's 3G coverage, which might well be quite limited. Or because your phone is broken.

 

I've actually put my American carrier on hold while we're away, so I don't even have the option of roaming. I'm looking currently at SIP options, but there is precious little WIFI internet available to foreigners here (free or otherwise) that I can locate. Does this seem like a way forward? Trying to use some kind of VOIP option via WIFI?

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Note: WCDMA is not the same as CDMA. Rather, WCDMA is the 3G iteration of GSM (1G) technology. Japan skipped 1G (GSM) and 2G (EDGE), directly to 3G (WCDMA). Verizon uses CDMA in the states, but no other place on earth that I know of uses CDMA.

 

sorry you are all confusing yourselves.

 

GSM is 2g GPRS is the term for data on a gsm/2g site edge is a modification to gprs i.e. EGPRS or EDGE as nokia named it.

 

CDMA was a failed technology becasue it suffered from massive cell breathing meaning the signal would fluctuate towards the larger amount of people using the service. WCDMA/3g W meaning wideband works similar but was modified not to be affected as much by cell breathing.

 

to put it simply edge is the same in a sense to HSDPA as in it's like a modification that needs to be on a site to enable higher speed packet transmission.

 

a typical basic 3g site will run no more than 384k from memory then you add the HSDPA component to get faster enabled speeds i.e. 3.6mbps or 7.2mbps and so forth depending on the equipment on the site and the linkspeed the site has to the backhaul.

 

 

i could put it in much more complicated 2000 page story if one wants...

 

 

 

 

sorry but i work for a mobile carrier in networks and had to say it.

 

 

if you want roaming to work you need to goto this link http://maps.mobileworldlive.com/network.php?cid=3027&cname=Japan

 

check that roaming is enabled on your account with your provider.

 

check your phone supports one of the frequencies listed on the link and that your provider has an agreement for roaming with them.

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That was me Space Cadet who said that and when I went to Japan last year, my iphone would not work there, no voice or data, and when I contacted ATT before I left ATT state my GSM ATT iphone will not work on the CDMA system. My ex just got back from Japan and commented her annoyance on the subject as well. Unless something has changed in the last few days ATT uses GSM, and I know of no Japanese carriers that use GSM. Are you sure your wife's iPhone is on ATT and not Verizon?

 

Considering she's on my AT&T account that I had for five years before moving to Sprint, yes I'm sure :)

 

I just checked AT&T's site and yes, their iPhone works in Japan.  I don't know if this link will work, but this is what I'm looking at:  http://www.wireless.att.com/travelguide/coverage/roaming/step4.jsp?CIDL=392&CTN=&MNC=SHOP&DID1=388&DID2=&devicenum=&STEP=4

 

I was wrong about one thing - it's not using GSM in Japan, the iPhone actually has a UMTS2100 radio.  A lot of phones apparently do these days, if they're called a "world phone".

 

My Epic 4G does not have a UMTS2100 radio, but I was right that Japan still does use regular CDMA for roaming.  I know this link doesn't work directly but you can just select Japan here and then see the services supported:  http://internationalroaming.sprint.com/IntlCoverage/WelcomeRoaming.do

 

You see it says CDMA Voice, and since text is actually carried on the voice band, it supports texting as well.

 

Here's a listing of the Sprint phones that have UMTS2100 radios:  http://www.sprint.com/popups/international/devices_advanced_worldmode_popup.html

 

So the iPhone is actually one of the best phones to have (from any carrier) if you want to use it in Japan.

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lol ifail any phone does 2100 if it's a 3g phone which is almost every phone made since 2008

 

excluding some cheap nokias or blackberry phones

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lol ifail any phone does 2100 if it's a 3g phone which is almost every phone made since 2008

 

excluding some cheap nokias or blackberry phones

 

Most Sprint phones, at least, still do not have UMTS 2100 radios.  Did you look at the link I posted?  Some of those phones on that Sprint list are actually really old.  Only a few of their current models do 2100; the rest of their phones roam on CDMA in Japan.  Even the 3G (and Wimax) ones.

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CaptOblivious

I know for a fact that my phone is technically compatible with the Japanese phone system, but as I don't currently have a provider at home, my worry was more about finding someone who will sell/let me a SIM to put in it. This is common and trivial in Europe (as evidenced by the Hungarian SIM sitting idle in the phone's slot right now), but as near as I can tell, is literally impossible in Japan. Which saddens me. The dearth of free/cheap/available-to-gaijin wifi makes the situation even worse, as I am left with no method of calling my wife if I were to venture out alone.

 

Feeling a little disappointed that in such a technologically advanced society, connectivity is nearly impossible for a foreigner unwilling to pay through the nose for roaming.

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CaptOblivious

Softbank has an option to rent a SIM card only - but only at the airports.

http://www.softbank-rental.jp/en/phones/sim3g.php

 

 

Interesting. At KIX, they only had the iPhone SIM rentals...and they wouldn't rent one to me for use in my Android phone (I cannot imagine any technical reason why it wouldn't work?). They didn't have the 105円/day 3G (no data) SIM at all. Instead, they said the only other option was to rent a handset for 4000円 on the spot plus 100円/day, and then post-pay for our calls, etc.  By the end of our two months, we would have paid more for the rental handset alone than we did for our fancy-pants Android phones, so we passed.

 

Anyway, they didn't have the 3G SIM option I'm seeing on the web page, and I don't understand why not. Hrm.

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