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2009 Feb 25

The sky's no limit

Softbank phones will be able to be used in planes from March 18 (domestic flights only).
The catch is the cost: 650 yen per minute for outgoing calls ; 800 yen per minute for incoming calls....
Sending mails will be 180 yen each , but no charge to receive.

2009 Feb 25

Free i-phone !!

Softbank has announced that from Feb 27 to May 31 the 8-giga i-phone will cost zero yen !!
(you must sign up to a two-year contract, which will cost a minimum of 23,040 yen over two years)
The 16-giga will be discounted by a little over 10,000 yen.

2009 Feb 6

Softbank/ Docomo Spring Models out

Softbank and Docomo have each brought out 9 new models for spring. Softbank has not followed AU and Docomo with new numbering systems, and the models show no surprises.
Docomo have a new Blackberry out , the Blackbery Bold.

2009 Feb 5

Docomo / AU / Softbank spring MNP campaigns

All thee major carriers are offering 10,000 yen to customers who sign up for their services and currently have contracts with other carriers. Under MNP (My Number Portability) you can keep your number even when you change companies.
Softbank is offering 10,000 yen of department store coupons - which you can exchange for cash at discount ticket shops (getting about 90% of face).
AU is giving away post office cheque which you can cash at a post office.
Docomo is offering 10,000 yen discount on phones (making most of last year's phone effectively free) Offers expire March 31

2009 Feb 3

Softbank White Plan for Students 490 yen / month

As last year, Softbank is launching a spring offensive to attract new student customers with White Gaku-wari with Kazoku-wari ( White Plan Student Discount with Family Discount). Applications can be made up to March 31.
This year the White Plan cost is halved to 490 yen AND so is the cost for any other family members signing up( last year the deal was zero yen White Plan for the student him/herself )
The catches :
1) as last year, only new Softbank customers can get it; existing customers can't.... bound to piss off any family that has just switched to Softbank.
2) again as last year, you can only use it for 3 years, after which it automatically changes to the normal White Plan.

As of Feb 6 this year's White Gaku-wari with Kazoku-wari was not on the Softbank English website. The link on the Softbank price plan page refers to the _old_ White Plan Student Discount ( zero yen White Plan for the student him/herself ), which ran from Feb 1 to May 31 in 2008 ( due to complaints from existing customers who initially could not change to the plan, applications from them were accepted from April 15 that year when a phone model upgrade was made).
The following link to this year's White Gaku-wari with Kazoku-wari is in Japanese :
http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/price_plan/3G/students/

2009 Feb 1

Softbank Mobile international call rates changed

Softbank Mobile has changed their international calling charges effective Feb 1, mostly going up, some dramatically (weekend calling to the UK at weekends has tripled in price!)
Not that this will have much effect for readers as Brastel etc were way cheaper before, but if you have a Softbank phone and your Brastel card runs out in mid-conversation, you may need to use this....
The old rates had two time brackets - daytime and evenings/weekends.
Now the rates are the same 24/7.
Here are the rates for main countries - in Yen with new rate first and old in brackets ( weekday daytime / evenings + weekends)

USA 78 (90/54)
Canada 98 (90/54)
Australia 198 (170/100)
NZ 100 (170/100)
UK 238 (130/72)
France 238 (170/100)
Germany 238 (130/72)
Italy 238 (170/100)

For other countries see :
http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/global_service/international/call/voice_call_charges/index.html

2009 Feb 1

Universal Service Charge increase

Effective February 2009, the Universal Service Charge for postpaid contract phones will increase from 6.3 yen (i.e 6 yen + tax) 8.4 yen (8 yen + tax).
The Universal Charge goes towards the maintaining of fixed-line telephone lines, public telephones, emergency calls and other essential telephone services provided by NTT. It was introduced in Jan 2007.
For more information, see- http://mb.softbank.jp/mb/en/important/archive/2006/20061205/index.html
For Softbank prepaid phones:

From 3 March 2009 the Universal Service Charge prepaid phones will change from 19 yen to 29 yen for each card added. Why such odd numbers ? Not sure, but probably because 19 and 29 sound that much cheaper than 20 and 30 - it was 20 yen to start with, then Softbank dropped it to 19 yen.
For AU prepaid phones:
The Universal Service Charge is now deducted from the credit balance on registration of cards depending on the card value (previous to 16 Jan 2009 AU did not apply the Universal Service Charge to prepaid phones).
The current Universal Service Charge being 8.4 yen (i.e. 8 yen plus 5% tax), the Universal Service Charge will be deducted as follows-1000 yen card -30 days credit usage period extension -1 month - 8.4 yen (8 yen ?)
3000 yen card - 60 days credit usage period extension -3 months -25.2 yen (25 yen ?)
5000 yen card - 90 days credit usage period extension -5 months- 42 yen 10,000 yen card -365 days credit usage period extension -12 months-100.8 yen (101 yen ?)

2009 Jan 31

AU Spring handsets out early

AU has copied Docomo's new numbering system and brought out handsets for Spring early.
Not listed in full on the English website yet, but click on the link to the right of this page -http://www.au.kddi.com/english/index.html - to get info in Japanese that can be waded through by the gaijin with minimal Japanese

2009 Jan 30

DoCoMo to stop Mova 2G Service

Docomo announced today it will discontinue its 2G Mova service March 1993, at the end of March 2012. For Mova customers who wish to shift to 3G Foma, the company has launched a campaign offering discounts on the cost of purchasing a 3G handset and the waiving of any related administrative fees.

2009 Jan 25

4G frequencies to be allocated in June

The first steps towards the next generation of mobile phones have been taken with the allocation of new frequency bands for cellphones by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
Using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, the phones are hoped to provide communication speeds rivaling optical communication. Download speeds will be 30 times faster and upload speeds 100 times faster than current third generation (3G) cell phones.
While initially planning to assign frequency bands to just three carriers, the ministry decided to allow four telcos -- NTT Docomo, KDDI, Softbank Mobile and Emobile -- to apply. Applications will be taken from April, and approved by June.
The first 4G phones themselves are slated to hit shelves in 2010 at the earliest.
From the Mainichi Daily News
For more info about 4G Frequencies, see-
http://techon.nikkeibp.co.jp/article/HONSHI/20071219/144404/

2009 Jan 8

Brastel / E-Mobile tie-up - advertisement in Daily Yomiuri

Brastel and E-Mobile have done a deal in which customers signing up for E-Mobile phones through Brastel get to call abroad at landline rates.
Comments-
a) if you are the average gaijin calling home for a 5-minute chat with mum once a month, this makes almost no difference to your budget.
b) there is barely any info about this on the Brastel website and none on the E-Mobile website (E-Mobile only has a skeleton English site) - we called up and asked them to send more information, which they did... in Japanese. Useless!