After about two months of trying, success! We finally have liftoff, Houston, or more importantly, we’ve been able to get a Blackberry (attached to our corporate BES) going in Japan.
Background: SSID here in Canada operates numerous communication networks for mobile devices ranging from the ultra-secure Exchange/ActiveSync over the air with SSL and IP tunnelling, to Blackberry Enterprise, to run of the mill IMAP4 with GPRS.
Late last year, I purchased a few Blackberry 8707′s to attach to our Blackberry Enterprise network. These devices are set up for GSM, GPRS, EDGE and UMTS (for use in Japan). This setup theoretically makes it possible to use the device in Japan.
Problem #1: Our Blackberries are activated with Rogers Wireless.
I find that large Canadian companies don’t really provide support to technically saavy customers or early adopters. If you buy a Vodafone-branded BB 8707, you’re SOL if you need help from the carrier.
The details for roaming in Japan on the Rogers website are sketchy. We’ve used Blackberries in Russia, Ukraine, Thailand, India, France, Germany and even China. Japan’s networks are quite different since they don’t really support GSM out there.
Rogers reccomends that you rent a phone while in Japan (along with a new phone number, etc.). The proliferation of quad-band phones like the Nokia E61 and Blackberry 8707 makes it possible for these phones to work in Japan without renting a phone but there is the question of a roaming agreement between Rogers and the Japanese carriers (in this case, Softbank and NTT DoCoMo).
After several phone calls to Rogers where I got a myriad of responses from somewhat clueless customer service agents telling me to refer to their website to flat out refusals to answer questions because I’m using an unsupported device (DUH! If I could buy a supported device for this application, I WOULD).
Problem #2: Which carrier do I select in Japan? DoCoMo? Vodafone (who obviously supports the hardware)? SoftBank? KDDI?
Well, after encountering all the rhetoric from the people at the network, there was a thought of switching all of our users off of Rogers on to a network that works, even if we have to go offshore and spend money upfront to secure the accounts. At this point, reliability outweighs the cost.
On the same trip, the Blackberry was tested and worked flawlessly. Australia (where we picked up a spare couple of Vodafone simcards activated and ready to go in case) and Thailand.
Upon arrival to Japan, when loaded with a Rogers simcard, the device stated that the connection was refused. The Vodafone simcard worked without a hitch.
I decided to report this issue to Rogers who’s agent, after some investigation, mentioned the account didn’t have “Blackberry Dot Net” on the account. Strange but apparently this didn’t affect the device in other countries but did in Japan.
Anyhow, after that small addition to the account, it was good to go. Finally, global communications on NTT DoCoMo.
PS – Vodafone staff are very helpful with roaming in Japan. Probably has something to do with Australia being i-mode enabled (therefore having strong ties to Japan) thanks to people like Walter Adamson.