After ordering a pair of B-Mobile Visitor SIMs and hoping that I managed to get the Japanese address for our hotel correct, I was very happy when the front desk staff handed me two B-Mobile envelopes upon arrival. Now I only had to worry about actually getting the SIM cards to work in our phones. I was carrying an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S3 and my father-in-law had both an unlocked iPhone5 and an iPhone 4s.
The B-Mobile Visitor SIM cards are data only and do not include any voice service. Data but no voice means that the SIM cards don’t really work the way that your phone is expects them to. I’ve read that some phones will show zero signal strength yet still have fast data connections. Despite arriving at our hotel just before midnight local time, I was keen to see if I could get data working so I popped out my Hong Kong One2Free SIM and dropped in the B-Mobile Docomo card.
After initially getting a no signal warning from my phone, I ended up seeing bars, which was a good thing. Next up I had to manually enter the APN information as specified on the instructions that came with the card.
I followed the Android set-up instructions, although on the Galaxy S3 instead of “Wireless and Networks” you click “More settings”: Settings -> More Settings -> Mobile Networks -> Access Point Names -> Menu Button -> New APN
Click “More settings” then “Mobile networks”
Click “Access Point Names” and if the b-mobile APN isn’t there you can click the hidden “menu” button next to your physical home button and then click “+ New APN”
When adding or editing an APN you get two screens worth of settings but you only have to modify the following ones:
- Name: b-mobile
- APN: bmobile.ne.jp
- Username: bmobile@fr
- Password: bmobile
- Authentication type: PAP or CHAP (if available)
After entering all of that information I went back to my home screen and launched my browser but no data flowed. Sometimes when switching SIM cards it helps to give your phone a fresh restart so I tried that a couple of times and still no luck. I started to sweat.
Using the hotel Wifi I went online to troubleshoot the problem and had very little luck. Some people seemed to have no problems and I found one message board thread (which I can’t seem to find anymore) where one person was having the exact same problem that I was having.
In desperation I started looking at other settings and systematically would make a change, restart my phone, check for connectivity, sigh, make a new change, and repeat. After about 30 minutes I was getting close to giving up but suddenly one of my changes finally worked!
On the “Mobile networks” screen there is an option called “Network Mode”. When I selected the GSM/HSPA options with no LTE the 4G symbol on my phone lit up! After a bit of a panic attack I finally had sweet sweet fast and reliable mobile data in Japan.
And if you’re curious, setting up the SIM on the two IOS devices was a bit less stressful as they both found 4G connectivity as soon as the APN information was entered.