Introduction to Mobile Service in Japan

Share the joy!

Mobile Phone Service in JapaniPhone 4 Photo

In recent years, the number of companies offering mobile phone service in Japan has increased substantially, along with the variety of plans available. While not a comprehensive list by any means, the information listed below should serve as a good introduction.

 

The Big Three

Docomo, Softbank, and au are the three largest providers in Japan. They have very similar plans and costs, and generally require a two-year contract. The biggest advantage these providers offer is subsidized purchase of new mobile devices (through a monthly discount). Please find the price simulation for a new contract with the purchase of an iPhone 7 32GB model phone (as of November 10th, 2016) for comparison purposes.

 

Provider  Softbank  NTT Docomo  au
Monthly Cost Unlimited Talk JPY 2,700+tax

S-Basic JPY 300+tax

5GB Data Plan JPY 5,000+tax

Device Fee JPY 3,670

Discount JPY 3,220

 

Total: JPY 9,090 (tax inclusive)

Unlimited Talk JPY 2,700+tax

Sp Mode JPY 300+tax

5GB Data Plan JPY 5,000+tax

Device Fee JPY 3,429

Discount JPY 2,322

 

Total: JPY 9,747 (tax inclusive)

Unlimited Talk JPY 2,700+tax

LTE Net JPY 300+tax

5GB Data Plan JPY 5,000+tax

Device Fee JPY 3,300

Discount JPY 2,850

 

Total: JPY 9,090 (tax inclusive)

Notes Softbank tends to have the best English support.

 

English Customer Service: 0800-919-0157 (Toll Free)

Press “8” for English support

Docomo has good family plans for those requiring 3+ devices.

 

 

English Customer Service: 0120-005-250 (Toll Free)

 

English Customer Service: 0120-959-472 (Toll Free)

* Each provider offers an Unlimited Talk Lite option for JPY 1,700+tax/month, which allows unlimited calls until 5 minutes, and then charges for the talk time in excess of 5 minutes. Many people choose this option and then use VoIP services such as LINE or WhatsApp to avoid any calling charges.

* Data cap is for high-speed data. If you go over the cap, in general your speed is just reduced to 128kbps until the next monthly cycle. Some companies have the option to automatically charge for additional high-speed data, so please check the company policy of your provider when you make a contract.

* Monthly cost will change depending on the device chosen, the data plan chosen, and the talking plan chosen. Every effort has been taken for accuracy; however, please contact the companies directly for confirmed/updated costs.

* These providers offer SIM-unlock service for certain devices (generally those released from May 2015) after you have had a contract for a set length of time. Please confirm the applicable rules at time of device selection.

Y!mobile

Y!mobile is a new company with brick-and-mortar stores offering lower prices than the Big Three. That being said, there is no English support offered, and the devices offered are not as varied as the Big Three and only offer iPhone 5s. SIM-only contracts are also offered through Y!mobile, and cost between JPY 3,000 and 6,000 depending on the data plan chosen (additional calling charges apply unless the unlimited calling plan is added).

*For SIM-only contracts, please check to make sure your device is unlocked and supported by Y!mobile in advance.

Low Cost SIM-only Options

In 2014, Japan established a “mobile virtual network operator” or MVNO market, to encourage competition. Since then, many MVNO companies have been established which use a larger provider’s network and offer more reasonable plans.

These companies also offer data only SIMs as well, however the details below relate to SIM offerings which include a calling function.

 

Advantages

  • Low monthly service cost
  • Ability to use a phone from overseas provided it is unlocked and supported
  • Shorter contract term requirements (often 1-year)

Disadvantages

  • Somewhat lower speeds than the Big Three
  • Lack of English support
  • Lack of brick-and-mortar stores for service
  • No unlimited talk options

 

Provider  IIJmio  U mobile
Monthly Cost 3GB Data Plan: JPY 1,600+tax

5GB Data Plan: JPY 2,220+tax

10GB Family Share Plan

JPY 2,560+tax plus JPY 700+tax/SIM
(up to 10 SIM cards, with a share fee of JPY 400+tax/SIM for the 4th SIM onwards)

 

Talk Charges: JPY 20/30 sec.

3GB Data Plan: JPY 1,580+tax

5GB Data Plan: JPY 1,9800+tax

LTE Unlimited: JPY 2,980+tax

LTE Unlimited 2 (12 mo. contract): JPY 2,730+tax

 

Talk Charges: JPY 20/30 sec.

Notes Contracts are for 12 months.

 

IIJmio SIMs can be purchased and contracted at select Bic Camera stores and Aeon Shopping malls.

There is an option for unlimited domestic calls up to up to 3 minutes for JPY 600+tax/month, or 5 minutes for JPY 830+tax/month. However, it requires using a special application in Japanese.

6 months contracts (except LTE Unlimited 2).

 

U Mobile SIMs can be purchased and contracted at select Yodobashi Camera and Yamada Denki stores.

July 2016 Update U-Mobile has decided to only accept domestic credit cards.

* Data cap is for high-speed data. If you go over the cap, in general your speed is just reduced to 200kbps until the next monthly cycle. Some companies have the option to automatically charge for additional high-speed data, so please check the company policy of your provider when you make a contract.

* Every effort has been taken for accuracy; however, please contact the companies directly for confirmed/updated costs.

*For SIM-only contracts, please check to make sure your device is unlocked and supported by the provider in advance.

 

Things to bring when making a mobile phone service contract:

  • Residence Card (the visa term generally must be longer than the contract term to pass screening)
  • Passport
  • Credit Card (Japanese bank cash cards can sometimes be presented instead, but often stores will ask for a credit card to register with the account – normally the method of payment can be changed to bank withdrawal later on)
  • Mobile Device, if using an existing device which is SIM-free/unlocked and supported by the Japanese carrier

*Relo Japan does not endorse any companies/services listed. Please check terms with each company for accuracy.