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NTT Docomo iPhone 5s and BMobile LTE

I noticed a pattern on B-Mobile's website--a pattern that seemed to show that all Docomo Xi phones can get LTE.  Since Docomo just started selling the iPhone 5s and 5c, my theory was that Docomo iPhones would get LTE on B-Mobile.  I couldn't get LTE on my unlocked iPhone 5 (a thorn in my side), and I just love testing IT-related theories, so...

1. I bought a Docomo iPhone 5s on Yahoo Auctions Japan.  There's no way in hell I was going to enter a 2-year contract to get one direct from Docomo.  I'm a typical man with a typical fear of commitment.  I would have waited had I known the Japan Apple Store would finally start selling unlocked iPhones (yeah!), but my fortune-telling skills are something to be desired.  At least it will be easier to get an unlocked iPhone 6 in Japan.

2. I put my B-Mobile SIM card in and restored my iPhone 5 backup to the new 5s.  It worked!  It even got LTE.

But some things were amiss...

Where are the APN settings?
The Docomo iPhone 5s is locked (of course), and they locked-down the setting screens that allow you to enter the B-Mobile APN settings.  My phone worked because the APN settings were restored from my backup.  I was a bit worried about this because swapping SIM cards or (more rarely) iOS upgrades can blow-out the APN settings, forcing you to reenter them.  This was not an issue on my unlocked iPhone because the setting screens were there.  But now they weren't.  What to do?

Again my buddy Professor Research directed me to this post from Apple: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4839?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US

Basically you can download the free "iPhone Configuration Utility" from Apple, create a custom configuration profile containing the APN settings, and install it on the iPhone.  Nice!  Now I'm relieved because it means I can indeed use the Docomo iPhone 5s with B-Mobile.  In fact, B-Mobile even offers a downloadable ready-to-go configuration profile on their website: http://www.bmobile.ne.jp/devices/setting_iphone_profile.html

What about tethering?
Tethering (aka "personal hotspot") doesn't work.  Boooooo!

Learnings
When it comes to iPhones and B-Mobile, you can't have it all out of the box:
* You get LTE on a locked Docomo iPhone, but no tethering.
* You get tethering on an unlocked iPhone, but no LTE.

For someone like me that wants it ALL, here are the options:
* Jailbreak this damn Docomo phone and install a tethering app.
* Use an Android Docomo Xi phone instead.  Docomo will actually unlock those, and they're more generous when it comes to things like tethering.  Now if only they had an Android phone that wasn't freakin' HUGE and loaded with DoCoMo bloatware.

UPDATE - 2013/12/5
Japan's Apple store has finally started selling unlocked iPhones!  Nice!  Now a new door has opened for those of us living in Japan.  Unfortunately, according to a kind reader (comment below), the unlocked iPhone from the Japan Apple Store cannot tether on B-mobile.  So sad...maybe someday...

B-Mobile on Amazon Japan: Amazon Japan - B-Mobile

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  • Guest - Maka

    Update: rsim 10+ works perfectly with ios9 softbank locked iphone 5s. I. Can use tethering before in softbank, but now, the option says I need to contact softbank for the settings (even though I'm using bmobile). Maybe the phone "thinks" like it is still locked to softbank even with the rsim inserted in it. rsim 10+ is available in amazon japan for just 600 yen :)

    from Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
  • Guest - maka

    i just bought a bmobile okawari sim. i'm using it on my unlocked iphone 5 and it works on LTE. like what you said, i downloaded the apn settings from bmobile but i still have the option in the settings to manually input the apn. at first, the personal hotspot option which is used to be available before disappeared when i inserted my bmobile sim. i just played with the manual apn configuration and so i tried copying the settings of apn for the personal hotspot apn and it worked. So, in short... i can tether and use LTE at the same time for an unlocked iphone 5. i don't know if that helps :P

    PS: i have a softbank locked iphone 5s, and i'm planning to buy a R-sim 10+ to unlock it. i will let you know if it works :) http://i65.tinypic.com/2805x1g.png

    from Kyoto Prefecture, Japan
  • Guest - Theerawat

    Hello there,
    I have read several articles regarding using MVNO service instead of the 3 major carriers in Japan. I wonder how I can get my hand on one of the sim cards sold on Amazon.co.jp when I am in the US military and do not have a Japanese mailing address. Also, I am not sure if I have to be 20 years old to sign up with either E-mobile or B-mobile. Any information would be much appreciated!

    from Okinawa, Japan
  • Guest - Leeroy

    Very interesting read. I too have an unlocked 5s from Apple store japan and have been looking at bmobile's LTE sim. Would you say the speed is definitely useable? I've heard some complain that it's worse than softbank 3G speeds at times. I don't know what to believe there. As long as it is fast enough for average daily use and the odd bit of spotify streaming, I'm ok with it.
    Also, I don't have a Japanese credit card. Just a rakuten visa debit card. I wonder if that'd be an issue with them?

  • Guest - Leeroy

    It works great when I get LTE. 3G kinda sucks, though--feels bogged down. I don't really care since I have wifi at home and work. As for the debit card, I think you'd be fine with that since it works just like a credit card.

  • Guest - mangaman

    Great post! It helped me figure out how to activate the data part of my b-mobile data/voice SIM.

    A quick update, though: Apple no longer supports the iPhone Configuration Utility, and it won't even run under OSX Mavericks. However, Apple offers a new tool that can does basically the same job (including the installation of custom configuration profiles). It's called the Apple Configurator, and is available directly through the Mac App Store. https://itunes.apple.com/en/app/apple-configurator/id434433123?mt=12

  • Guest - Lunatique

    I have a iphone5s unlocked from singapore and I bought and activated the recommended voice+data sim plan. Calling works but I can't connect to internet even though there is the 3g sign at the top. There is a banner citing "pdp authentication failure". Anyone had this problem? I think it might have something to do with the apn settings but I don't know how to fix the apn part.

  • Guest - Lunatique

    There are 2 places you have to enter the APN info. First at the top (for the voice phone), then scroll down to the bottom and enter the same info again (for the Internet service).

  • Guest - Hanza

    Thanks for the blog post! Very useful information for gaijin ;)

    Quick question: Is the unlocked phone 5s sold in the Japan apple store able to do tethering in other countries? (e.g. Hong Kong)

    from 2 Chome-9 Tsuruhara, Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
  • Guest - Hanza

    Availability of features like tethering usually depends on the policy enforced by the SIM you put in the phone and the APN in use. NTT Docomo doesn't seem to allow tethering on the iPhone 5s when used with Bmobile's SIM & APN. They do allow tethering with other phones on Bmobile. They do allow tethering if your 5s uses their "official" (expensive) service (not Bmobile). Another country's provider / SIM / APN may or may not allow it. For example, I could tether with my unlocked iPhone 5 with a Bmobile SIM. When I visited the USA and used an ATT SIM, tethering was disabled.

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