Will a Canadian iPhone 3G work in Japan?

Another question about traveling to Japan.

The telephone representative of my provider, Fido, said no. Fido’s website mentions roaming agreements with two Japanese carriers using UMTS (third-generation GSM-family digital cellular, hence “3G”) on the 2100-MHz band. Apple’s website mentions that the iPhone can handle 2100-MHz 3G cellular. The iPhone 3G is sold in Japan. So it seems like it ought to work, unless there’s some subtle software incompatibility.

Has anyone taken a Canadian iPhone 3G to Japan and used it on a cellular network there?

Can’t speak to Canadian iPhones but in the US they are all AT&T. I went to London and was no problem. Call your provider, tell them what you are doing and they will lay out your options for you. I HAD to do this so my phone would work overseas but surprisingly it was a quick call and easy to do with my provider (which is to say might be different for you).

The thing to watch for is turning off your data pushes. Basically your phone reachiing out on it’s own to get email and whatnot. Go to wifi hotspots to get your mail. If your phone keeps checking you will get creamed on your bill.

If your network carrier does not have a roaming agreement with a Japanese network provider, then even if the phone can technically work, it won’t work on roaming because there is no business agreement that allows it to work, i.e. when the phone tries to authenticate on the network, it will be denied. If your network carrier has a roaming agreement with a Japanese carrier, and the Japanese network operates on a frequency supported by the phone, the phone should work. In some cases, it could work for voice and GPRS data, but not 3G data, depending on the technical specs of the partner network.

Even if data roaming on 3G or GPRS works in Japan, the data roaming charges on the iPhone are prohibitive. Unless you are willing to bear the cost, you should just disable data roaming (from settings), and use WiFi wherever available. WiFi will still work, even if the cellular network doesn’t work.

If, instead of using your existing SIM on roaming while in Japan, you want to use your iPhone 3G with a local Japanese SIM card for voice and data, this is possible and probably a whole lot cheaper too. If you want to do this, you will need to unlock your iPhone 3G. There are only 2 ways to legitimately unlock your iPhone, using software developed by the iPhone Dev Team or GeoHot’s blacksn0w. This is a legal grey area. It is NOT illegal, but it will void your iPhone warranty. Do NOT ever pay for iPhone unlock software.

While UMTS is closely related to GSM, it is not technically GSM. It requires costly upgrades to the existing GSM infrastructure. It is 3G though, and is often called 3GSM. Japan is very advanced when it comes to mobile technology, and all 3 of their GSM providers support UMTS.

The iPhone 3G supports the following frequencies:

UMTS/HSDPA (850, 1900, 2100 MHz)
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

There are only 2 networks in Japan that support iPhone frequencies:


NTT DoCoMo, Inc - UMTS 3G 2100MHz


So, technically, it should work. But unless there is a business roaming agreement between your network provider and the Japanese networks, it won’t work.

For example, here are AT&T Data Roaming charges in Japan (your provider’s charge, if any, may vary):

$24.99/month: 20 MB
$59.99/month: 50 MB
$119.99/month: 100 MB
$199.99/month: 200 MB

Overage rate is $0.005/KB. That’s $5 per MB over.

Softbank, the sole provider for the iPhone in Japan, will not give you a SIM card to use with your non-Japan iPhone. Moreover, if you acquire one anyway and attempt to use it in your own device, you will not be approved for the unlimited data plan and can end up racking up huge, huge bills which they won’t be to thrilled about waiving for you. As for whether your existing SIM will work with roaming, I have no info on that, sorry.

Interesting. I wasn’t aware of this. NTT DoCoMo is still a local option.

This would be a concern for any carrier. For the OP - always read the fine print, and stay within the data limits.

I know this, but I was trying to be brief. Hence, ‘GSM-family’ to differentiate it from the third-generation CDMA-family networks found in the US and Canada. :slight_smile:

It looks like there is such a roaming agreement between Fido and both DoCoMo and Softbank, but Fido says it won’t work. I have another phone, but it’s quad-band GSM only, and does not support 3G or the 2100-MHz band.

I may have to revert to Skype over WiFi. Is WiFi in coffee shops and the like typically charged in Japan? I assume it’s charged in hotels.

I’d be very surprised if DoCoMo would be willing/able to help. SIM card swapping isn’t done in Japan, and I believe that each of the major cellphone providers use proprietary formats for their cards.

Many business hotels include WiFi, or at least 'net access, for no extra charge. I’ve always made it a criteria for “mansions” (マンション) or hotels, without unduly restricting my choices.

I just got back from Tokyo, with my US AT&T iPhone. I bought the $25 international roaming package, and it worked fine. I could also make calls (at like $2.50+/minute). The phone flipped back and forth between SoftBank and NTT network. Speed was actually about the same as the LAN connection in my hotel room.

Google Maps was a lifesaver in the city.

Cool! maybe Fido doesn’t quite know what it’s talking about then…

:: makes note ::

Did you use the data features on WiFi only?

I have to ask you, what is a ‘mansion’? I seem to recall that it’s either a long-term rental apartment or a condominium. (I definitely remember that it isn’t a large house set on extensive gated grounds… :slight_smile: )

Nope. I used exclusively 3G, actually. I didn’t use any of the WiFi I found (and I found a lot). I accessed my Gmail, posted pics to Facebook, used weather, GoogleMaps, FlightTracker, etc. in addition to conducting my first phone call in Japanese, which was scary. :slight_smile:

I was just looking over my provider’s site… there are ‘travel packs’ – one-time purchases of services at reduced rates – for international data, voice, and text messaging. Still pricey but not as much as the default rates.

:: nods ::
I remember when I conducted my first phone call in my second language (not Japanese in this case). The effort was so great, the sweat was rolling down my face and I got a headache. I guess it takes that kind of effort to break out of the monolingual mould…

If its any help, you can also rent a Japanese cellphone at Narita airport on arrival. Sorry I can’t help you on rates/particulars.

A mansion in Japan is basically what we call a modern apartment building back in the states: a large structure, usually concrete, full of individual living quarters. An ‘apartment’ is actually more like a duplex, usually smaller, older buildings with fewer high-tech features and less peace and quiet.

Mansions are weekly or monthly apartments, often furnished, usually on short-term contracts. The majority are used by business people on extended assignment away from home, including a lot of foreigners (the cliche “ex-pat” deal often included a fancy “monthly mansion” or luxury condo, but those are fewer and further between these days).

I generally get a weekly mansion when I’m staying there, although you usually have to get someone local to sign up on your behalf. I’m not aware of any that cater specifically to individual foreigners, but I’m sure they exist. They are usually a better deal than hotels, although not always strictly on price.