Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I just tried taking my NTT Docomo Foma (3G) SIM out of my F900iC and put it in my unlocked Nokia 7600 which is also a 3G phone. The SIM worked fine, but I couldn't send international SMSs. When I put the US T-Mobile SIM into the F900iC, it said "please insert your Docomo SIM". So obviously, the phone is locked. The question is, is there a way to unlock it? And, is there a way to use it on foreign networks. The Good news for Docomo users is that it appears Docomo now has roaming agreements so you can keep your Japanese phone number overseas, but the big question for gadget freaks is if you foreigners can use the new swanky Docomo phones. ;-) I'll look into it, but if anyone has any info, let me know.


Barak, did you try turning your's on in the US?

There must be, because there is not way the Japanese students at my school use their DoCoMo phones with Japanese numbers and roaming, for months and years on.

My [English only] googling didn't help much, so there must be stuff about this in Japanese.

Haydur misunderstood the question. Japanese mobile telcos have roaming agreements. Which means if you have an account with DoCoCo, etc, you can use your phone anywhere they have roaming.

The question is, can the phones be unlocked to be used on any network/carrier.
In other words, can the phone be set up with, for example, my phone number from my local carrier.

Or in other words, can Joi start a blackmarket japanese cellphone exporting business on eBay? :D

I'll take 3.

No I'm sorry but I didn't misunderstand. International roaming contracts are very costly, as in 'business class'. These are students we are talking about, who live here for years. There's no way they would use those costly roaming agreements to use their DoCoMo phones in the U.S. for extended periods. As a matter of fact, T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless are two carriers are know for sure that unlock your phone on request, if you make an excuse like being out of country for extended periods. So may be DoCoMo does that too.

I will ask a Japanese student

Looks like there is a way but DoCoMo is making it progressively harder with the newer FOMA phones.

Actually, my question was whether you could unlock a P900iC and use it in Europe with T-Mobile or something.

Sam... that link didn't seem to work for me... hmm...

The link is very long and disappears outside of the box with no scroll.

Here is a shorter version to the top of the thread:

However after reading various posts no one ever seems to be able to unlock DoCoMo phones, there are lots of posts asking how but I saw no answers.

With the P900iC I guess it would need to be hacked in some way. Do you know a phone hacker with a P900iC (or similarly SIM endowed) in Europe? If you do and they can figure it out my local store currently has a sale on FOMA ;)

Did you ring DoCoMo and ask them? Once they establish you're a regular customer and doing some call-volume, they'll *probably* give you an unlocking code.

This is the way it works in Western Europe. The blocking is to stop you from taking the subsidized handset and moving to a different network. In most of Western Europe the operator is required by the regulator to give out the unlocking code once the customer has spent a certain amount on the phone.

I don't think they'd tell you. In Japan DoCoMo does so much of the design and funding of the devices that the hardware companies can't even brand the phones with their brand...

I have Japanese friends in London (and Amsterdam) who use their Japanese phones - also if you go to Camden there are "specialists" who can unlock your DoCoMo phones apparently for a small charge!

The same in Amsterdam if you know where to look!

Also I recently met a guy working for Siemens on a flight to Frankfurt who says he can use his 3G phone from Korea whilst in Europe and can see who is at his front door in Seoul when the door bell rings - and decide whether to let them in from Europe by dialing in a security code to open his apartment door - how cool!

Although there may be hacks to unlock a DoCoMo FOMA mobile, you are left with a voice / video only device since DoCoMo do not provide the settings to alter your Internet connection in their mobiles.

Here is a good page that explains it pretty clearly

The gist of it is

PDC, cdmaOne/CDMA2000 and PHS phones:
They do not adopt a SIM card. (KDDI announces that their future CDMA2000 phones will adopt a SIM(R-UIM) card.)
W-CDMA phones ("FOMA" and "Vodafone Global Standard" phones):
They do use a SIM (precisely USIM) card. But they are hardcoded for their respective operators (DoCoMo or Vodafone Japan) and do not accept other operators' SIM cards.

So the answer is basically "no"

as for Japanese students using phones in other countries, the possiblities are

1) Roaming. Certain networks allow roaming, but do not allow the phones to accept foreign USIM cards.

2) Using a "Global standard" phone. A few such phones are able to accept a non Japanese USIM, however these phones are typically non-Japanese manufacture and are marketed in Japan with this specific feature in mind.

3) They are not using the phones to make phone calls. A surprising number of Japanese expats are unable to part with thier dear "keitai" in trade for a barbaric foreign model. They may continue to charge, carry, and display thier Japanese phone in spite of the fact it may not place or recieve calls. They may continue to use features like installed games and apps, ringtones, camera, and calendar/contact features of the device making it in a sense a pda. (I'd love to see someone write about this)

4) They are using a local phone solution. It just looks like a Japanese phone.

I'd love to see Japan adopt and hold to a global standard but have little hope of such a thing taking place. Docomo has recently made an agreement with Singtel to allow roaming on the Singtel network for 3G phones, so we'll see, but until I get a Blackberry working in Japan I'll continue to rate Japan telco as a lot of flash and no plan or substance.

From what I understand the FOMA SIM card is not the same as an international GSM card, but a superset of it- what that means is that the SIM card has all the connections to work in a standard GSM phone, but also has extra data required by FOMA, and international SIM cards will not be recognized by FOMA hand sets. There is of course no way around this, unless someone can actually reprogram the phone's firmware. And I do not mean a 'hack', but a very substantial alteration of the software.

Most of the students that you see walking around with the NTT DoCoMo phones are faking the funk. I would venture to say that most are not operational. One of my buddies at UC Berkely has managed to get his 900i to work here but, it is tethered to his desktop which is of no use to him outside his apartment since it looks like a science project still. I am sure within 3 months tops though the solution will be on the black market, not that I am looking :-// Although it would be very cool to use NTT Phones on a US Network *Chills*

Blake Moore - GUIWizzard

kakyo wrote @12:
I'd love to see Japan adopt and hold to a global standard but have little hope of such a thing taking place. Docomo has recently made an agreement with Singtel to allow roaming on the Singtel network for 3G phones, so we'll see, but until I get a Blackberry working in Japan I'll continue to rate Japan telco as a lot of flash and no plan or substance.

(Shakes head) NTT Docomo have been one of the driving forces behind the establishment of global W-CDMA 3G standards. The first "live" European 3G service trials on the Isle of Man used NEC-supplied handsets almost identical to those that were in use in Japan, as European companies like Nokia or Siemens hadn't been able to deliver 3G handsets yet...

Anyway, 3G USIM roaming agreements also exist between many European operators and NTT Docomo or Vodafone Japan. Also, the fact that a person with a Nokia 3G phone bought in Europe can use her phone in Japan with a NTT Docomo or Vodafone Japan 3G USIM card tends to show that the 3G service in Japan is quite compatible with a "global" standard like Europe's UMTS.

As for mobile e-mail services like the Blackberry, mobile phones in Japan have had Internet e-mail capability for years, as well as web-brosing capabilities (e.g. i-mode) allowing users to access with their phones their company's webmail-enabled mail server(s)...

For 2G services, the business case for adopting 900MHz GSM (which made a timid debut as a commercial service with Radiolinja in Finland in 1991) as a standard in Japan was very doubtful. Due to national spectrum allocation policies, NTT's commercial digital service which debuted in 1993 had to use a 800MHz frequency anyway. The blossoming of mobile services in Japan was also facilitated by the close relationship between NTT and the local phone manufacturers, allowing quick adaptation of the handsets to NTT's evolving business requirements. Unlike GSM's WAP "global standard", NTT Docomo's i-mode was an undubitable success, for example...