A Handy Guide to Internet Providers in Japan
Tired of slow-to-load streaming? Need reliable Wi-Fi for those hard-to-schedule calls back home? Here’s what to know about Internet providers in Japan.
Pocket Wi-Fi is a standard option for visitors to Japan, with plenty of advantages for those who are here short-term or who spend limited time at home. However, if you are here for over a year or you work from home for large portions of the day or week—you might want to consider something other than your phone or pocket Wi-Fi’s data plan.
Before listing the top Internet providers in Japan, here are some basics and tips to understand first:
Tip 1. Choose a bundled service.
In Japan, there are two separate contracts to sign to get landline Internet access: (1) with the telecommunications carrier who owns and installs the fiber optic line, and (2) with the company that provides access to the Internet, i.e., your Internet service provider. In recent years, companies have started to bundle these two services together so that you only need to sign one contract. (Good news: In this article, we’re only listing bundled pans.)
Tip 2. Check if you already have a contract.
Find out if your mansion or building complex has a contract with a telecommunications carrier. If you live in an apartment, your building may have already signed a contract with a wired landline carrier. This could narrow your options when choosing your provider, so find this out first. (If you need help with that, let us know!)
Tip 3. Assess speed and stability.
Your choice should be steadier and faster than the pocket Wi-Fi option (which has a data speed of 187 Mbps). 2 Gbps is more than sufficient for quality streaming or gaming. If you don’t do heavy streaming, but want website pages to load quickly, then 1 Gbps might be sufficient for your needs. Also, see if the company you are considering uses a Hikari fiber optic line (the current standard) instead of an ADSL, a slower, older form of Internet cable.
Tip 4. Check if they service your region.
Not all carriers provide equal service throughout Japan. If you are moving to the Tokyo Metropolitan Area or other urban region, you will have many providers from which to choose. Those in rural areas will need to look at the fine print to see if the telecommunications carrier provides sufficient coverage to that area.
Tip 5. Be aware of penalties and extra costs.
If your apartment or house is uncontracted with a telecommunications company, that means you will need to pay for the fiber optic line to be installed (between ¥15,000 to ¥40,000; construction fees differ depending on whether yours is a single-unit house or an apartment). Some companies wave this fee or bake this fee into your monthly payments—but if you cut your contract before it’s up, you might need to pay it off in one go. There may be other cancellation fees to contend with, so be sure to ask about this before signing up.
Tip 6: Plans are often divided into two basic types.
When visiting any website, you’ll notice that typical plans are divided into a higher-priced plan for single-unit houses and a lower-priced plan for apartments. The thinking behind this is likely that if you live in a single-unit residence, you probably have more household members using the Internet than someone in an apartment.
Ready to choose a service? Let’s go shopping.
Nuro Hikari is considered one of the fastest Internet providers in Japan, with a peak performance speed of up to 10 Gbps (depending on which of their plans you choose). This is an ideal choice if you’re a heavy Internet user. Their popular plan’s monthly fee is ¥4,743.
Precautions: Service is limited to the Hokkaido, Kanto, Tokai, Kansai, and Kyushu. So this is an excellent choice if you live in Tokyo, but not so great if you live in Tohoku or Shikoku.
Softbank mobile plan users can get significant savings with this bundled plan. If you aren’t a Softbank user, then the monthly fee depends on the length of contract you sign up for and the plan type. Plan prices range from ¥3,900 yen to ¥5,600 yen. There is also a contract fee of ¥3,000 yen and a construction cost of ¥24,000 for installing the line, although this is sometimes waived if you sign up during a campaign month. Data speed: 1 Gbps
Precautions: This isn’t the fastest option out there, and the fees can get relatively high if you aren’t also a Softbank mobile phone user.
The Docomo Hikari plan includes free rental of a Wi-Fi router, monthly discounts on Docomo phone charges, and an IPv6 connection that minimizes congestion issues. A good option if you are already a Docomo mobile plan user or plan to use them in the future. The speed is 1 Gbps. Construction costs range from ¥15,000 to ¥18,000. Monthly fees range from ¥3,800 to ¥5,200.
Precautions: Cancellation fees kick in if you end your contract before the contract period is up. Also, compensation is required if the wireless router is not returned once the contract is up or is found to be damaged upon return. If your contract is for 37 months, you do not need to return the Wi-Fi router.
After Nuro Hikari, this is one of the speediest Internet providers you can choose from. Monthly charge ranges from ¥4,300 to ¥5,600, for apartments and houses, respectively. Expect to pay more for their speedier data plans. The construction fee is ¥37,500 for houses and ¥30,000 for apartments. Many campaigns and mobile plan tie-ins can bring down your monthly payment but verify the contract particulars before signing the contract.
Precautions: When canceling, you will need to pay to remove the optical cable (construction cost: ¥28,800). Not applicable to apartments.
Note: The plans listed in this article contain many details that we could not easily cover within the space of one article. To find the plan that will best fit your needs, make sure to read through the fine print to avoid penalties or signing up for something insufficient for your needs.
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