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eMobile Pocket WiFi LTE (GL-01P)

Whether you've read our reviews on the original Pocket WiFi D25HW, and newer GP01 and GP02 models or not, if you are interested in higher speeds (and who isn't?), you'll want to read this article.  eMofile will release their next generation service and routers on 15-Mar-2012, though you can sign up starting on 01-Mar-2012.

So, what's different, and what's the same?

eMobile Pocket WiFi GL01P

  1. All of the previous eMobile Pocket WiFi models were manufactured by Huawei.  There will be two LTE models launched during March 2012, one of which is Huawei (GL01P), and one of which is manufactured by Anydata.  We will be covering the Huawei model in this review since it will be available first - however the specs are quite similar. 
  2. The previous models all had rated battery life of about 4-4.5 hours with WiFi and Mobile Data turned on, depending on the model.  The GL01P is rated at 9 hours.  eMobile staff told us this is because "Previous models used mobile phone batteries, now we are using dedicated batteries".  We assume "dedicated" means "bigger", and indeed, it is considerably larger than previous models, at 3000mAh.  GP01 in particular had to drain power faster since it connected to multiple cell powers simultaneously.
  3. The GL01P has a non-removable battery.  This means you can't swap out batteries to charge one while you use it with another, nor can you buy an extended size battery.  On the other hand, given the base specs, this shouldn't be necessary. (The Anydata model has a removable battery).
  4. Since the battery is not removable, the device doesn't open, and the SIM card and SD card are both removable from the outside, similar to Apple devices. The reset button is also a pin-hole on the outside.
  5. The USB connector is now on the left side of the device instead of the bottom - so there is no chance it will work on the cradles designed for previous models.
  6.  The limit of simultaneously connected WiFi devices had been raised from 5 devices to 10 devices.  While we doubt most people would connect 20 laptops at once, this ought to help out in households where people might be using their smart phone, PSP, printer, etc. with the device.
  7. Zero-Install is going away - there is no more fake CD-ROM drive presented in order to install device drivers when you connect the device to the computer.  This is because of #6.
  8. There is no USB modem capability like the previous models had.  USB now is only for using the MicroSD card, and charging the battery.  All data connections must now be done via WiFi.  Update: There is now a USB networking feature that has been released with a firmware upgrade, but the networking feature works only on Windows and requires the installation of a special connection manager software.
  9. The "NAS" feature allowing web access to the MicroSD card's contents in the GP02 has been dropped in the GL01P. (At least for the initial software version).  In fact, there is no MicroSD card slot anymore on the GL-01P.  
  10. The APN names have changed.  "em.gbl" is now the name for the unrestricted APN with global IP.  "em.std" has private IP addresses only, and is the default setting.  (For those that don't know what this means, don't worry about it).
  11. eMobile will issue you a new SIM card for the LTE router, and your old SIM card will become unusable after the switch.  ("There is no going back").  (We have heard a rumor that the reason for this is that the new SIM is a MicroSIM - we will report as soon as we are able to confirm/deny this). Update: This rumor was false.  The GL01P uses normal size SIM cards.  The reason the SIM card is different is because eMobile classifies LTE service as phone service rather than data service at some level.
  12. Changes in the throttling practices. (See break-out below for more detail). 
  13. Most Importantly: The maximum theoretical speeds have been upgraded to: Download: 75Mbps; Upload: 25Mbps.
  1. The price.  The monthly fee is 3,880 yen per month for the protocol unrestricted plan under the current campaign.  The modem is free with a 2 year contract (the actual price is close to 50,000 yen though! - so make sure you are ready for the 2 year commitment!).  Quite honestly, it is somewhat amazing that eMobile is basically doubling the speed for the same price. (Though see point #5)
  2. The new modems still support HSPA and DC-HSPA, which means that outside of the LTE area, they will be as fast as the GP-02 would have been, though we suspect this will drain your battery more quickly. 
  3. The routers still support MicroSD[HC] cards, which can be used when connected to the computer.
  4. Both of the new modems will charge by the same MicroUSB cables as the GP01 and GP02.
  5. The GL01P well have a web admin interface similar to the previous models. (The GL02P is also confirmed to have some sort of web interface).
Unconfirmed Assumptions:
  • We assume that the firmware will eventually support Multi-SSID as the latest software updates for GP01 and GP02 do - but there is no evidence of that in the current manual versions available online, so we assume the feature will not be available at launch.  Update: This has been confirmed.  The GL-01P does not have multi-SSID capability in the stock firmware, nor the recently release firmware update 1.

Changes in Data Throttling Policy

According to eMobile shop staff, the current 3,000,000 packet throttling rule still applies to the LTE contracts for now.  Any customer who uses more than that many packets (around 366MB) of data in a day will be throttled that day during the peak hours of 9PM to 2AM JST.  Exactly how throttled?  They don't say.  Our experimental evidence shows that several Mbps are still possible in throttled mode on the G4 plans.  Also note that eMobile is the most lax here, when compared to the other Japanese carriers such as NTT DoCoMo, etc. 

However, according to documentation recently published by eMobile, starting in 2014, different rules will actually apply to LTE contracts.  The new rules state that any customer who exceeds 10GB in a month will be throttled until the end of that month.  

Note that 10GB per month works out to a little over 300MB per day (depending upon the number of days per month) - which means that the net change isn't big, just that it is tracked on a monthly basis (instead of daily).

Notes for people currently under contract with eMobile:
  • If you are under a current contract that would incur cancellation fees, note that eMobile is offering a 10,000 yen discount on the cancellation fee until May of 2012 for customers who convert. That means people who are past the one year mark on their contract can upgrade without paying the early cancellation fee.
  • If you are unsure, visit your local eMobile retailer and ask them to look up your contract information.


Under the G4 plans, eMobile has two options:
  1. The full plan, where you have a global IP address, and no protocol restrictions*.  You can also use unlimited data, subject to the throttling restrictions discussed elsewhere.
  2. The B plan, for basic web users.  They are restricted from certain services (internet radio, file sharing, etc.)  They also may have a limit of X GB per month before throttling begins. 
Most people opt for plan 1, however inexpensive plan 2 may be suitable for those customer who simply want occasional access for web and email.

The LTE plan seems to be a hybrid, the promotional feature states:
  1. VPN May not be available
  2. File Sharing service may not be available
The problem is that both of these things are vague, perhaps intentionally so.  VPN comes in many forms.  VPN is typically used by business users to access their company's networks, and providers' motivations for blocking VPN is typically to force businesses to pay for a higher "business" tier of service.  eMobile had not announced any such service, and not historically had a distinction, so this seems unlikely.  If IPSEC is blocked, basic DNS could stop working as more and more places start implementing it.  Also, a significant percentage of eMobile's users are business users, so it seems likely that blocking VPN would lead to a massive outcry.  We find it unlikely that eMobile would actually make such a move - yet we don't know the motivation for including it in the fine print.

"File Sharing" can mean a lot of things.  eMail attachments let you share files.  So do services like DropBox.  FTP, SSH, and lots of other programs and protocols exist to allow the transfer of files.  In fact, even visiting a normal web site consists of them "sharing" HTML files with your computer, so you browser can display them on-screen.  Clearly, eMobile doesn't plan to block all file sharing.  We immagine that their targets are programs like Gnutella, BitTorrent, Winny, etc.  Yet there are legitimate uses of all these programs - and many actually decrease the load on the network compared to what it would be if the same number of users downloaded the same files from an external site separately.  

BitTorrent works fine on the G4 plans, as evidenced by our tests downloading Ubuntu Linux, and a VM containing Android 4.0 for PCs.

While we find it unlikely that eMobile would summarily block any and all file sharing, this contract provision is something to keep in mind.  On the other hand, any serious downloader probably has a land-line connection.  

* Note that all plans have outbound port 25 blocking (OB25) in place to prevent SPAM email from being sent.  

What about Actual Speeds?
Don't worry, we'll be conducting several different types of speed tests at various locations in the Tokyo area.  Check back soon for our results.  Update: We are waiting for June, when T-Mobile claims they will have LTE coverage of most of the population, to begin our official speed tests.

Pocket WiFi Comparison

LTE vs. WiMax

Many people have been wondering whether they should go for LTE or WiMax.  This depends mainly on your purpose.

  • WiMax currently has better coverage than LTE in Japan due to its 2 year roll-out head-start, but LTE devices themselves normally have better coverage than WiMax because they can back down to 3.5G or 3G services.  (i.e. Docomo Xi will back down to FOMA, and eMobile's LTE will switch to their "G4" DC-HSPA+ when LTE is not available).  In the coming years, the LTE coverage area will expand, of course.
  • WiMax doesn't currently have any data usage limitations or throttling at the moment by the main carriers (UQ, etc.)
  • Even with an equal number of towers, the frequencies used by WiMax are more easily blocked by buildings, etc., resulting in poorer coverage.
The bottom line: LTE terminals has better overall coverage (regardless of speed), whereas WiMax currently has better high-speed coverage, and better speeds where there is coverage.
Essentially, if you plan to use the service for internet with your laptop mainly in locations with good signals, (i.e. speed is more of a priority than coverage) then WiMax may be better.  If you want to make sure you always have a signal wherever you go, and speed is a secondary consideration for you, then LTE is the way ahead.

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