It might be hard to imagine the internet connection speeds and data limits of Japan’s internet types, making it difficult to know whether to choose fiber internet or pocket Wi-Fi.
In most cases, both fiber internet and pocket WiFi will require 2 to 3 year contracts, so you won’t be able to simply try something else if you don’t like the service.
But have no fear.
After reading this article, it should be more clear to you whether you should use pocket Wi-Fi or fiber internet.
We’ll steer clear from the complicated jargon so you can get all the information you need, quick and simple.
1. The quick answer: Should you choose fiber internet or pocket WiFi?
There are many elements you should pay attention to when choosing internet. Out of the following five aspects, what do you want to prioritize the most?
I want the fastest internet speeds possible
I want to use a lot of data
I want to connect to the internet even outside of the house
I want the cheapest internet I can get
I need internet connection right away
For those who chose a or b → You should get fiber internet
For those who chose c, d, or e → You should get pocket WiFi
Let’s go into more detail.
a) I want the fastest internet speeds possible
Those who want or need fast internet connection should choose fiber internet.
To give an example, the following is the difference in connection speeds between fiber internet and pocket WiFi in Tokyo.
Fiber internet: 100 – 700 Mbps
Pocket WiFi: 1 – 40Mbps
*The connection speeds will change based on factors such as the provider or your device. However, these numbers should not be too far off from what you will experience.
*Most providers list numbers such as 1Gbps as the fastest possible internet speed, but these numbers are only the theoretical maximum speeds. In reality, your internet speed will not reach this number. The numbers here provide a more accurate representation of actual internet speeds.
Here are some things that you might want to do using the internet and the necessary speed that you will need to accomplish them.
4K Videos/Online Games
Video Streaming (1080p)
Video Streaming (720p)
As you can see, participating in online meetings or playing online games can be difficult with pocket WiFi; those who will be working from home or plan to play online games frequently should get fiber internet instead.
While pocket WiFi can achieve speeds of up to 40Mbps, depending on the day and time, it can go down to as low as between 1 and 5Mbps.
Because pocket WiFi uses a mobile network, there is no guarantee that the connection will always be stable.
However, if you are just trying to watch YouTube, there shouldn’t be any delays while streaming using pocket WiFi.
(FYI: The mechanisms of fiber internet vs. pocket WiFi)
Fiber internet uses a physical line to receive and transmit data, whereas pocket WiFi uses a mobile network.
By using a mobile network, pocket WiFi connection speeds are unstable and can become slow.
In Japan, there are four companies that provide mobile networks: au, docomo, SoftBank, and WiMAX. In terms of fiber-optic networks, NTT Flet’s is the most widely used, but there are other networks such as NURO Hikari and au Hikari to keep in mind as well.
If you are planning on using large amounts of data daily, choose fiber internet.
Pocket WiFi plans will always have data caps; in comparison, with fiber internet, the amount of data you are allowed to use is unlimited.
Here is a comparison of some of the widely-used pocket WiFi plans available in Japan.
Scroll right for more →→
Speed After Reaching Data Cap
WiMAX Unlimited Plan
Over 100 GB (10 GB/3 days)
Mobal WiFi Plan
Data Plan Merihari
For reference, below is a table showing what you can do with 1GB of data.
Scroll right for more →→
Estimated Quantity with 1GB
~ 2,000 Emails
~ 50 Hours
Twitter (Tweeting 140 characters)
~ 3,100 Tweets
~ 1 Hour
Online Games (Switch, PS4, etc.)
~ 6 Hours
Updating Online Games (Switch, PS4, etc.)
Less than once (1.5GB - over 10GB)
Hulu (High Definition)
~ 1 Hour
Video Calling on Zoom
~ 1.5 Hours
If you are content watching YouTube for an hour while you ride the train and before you sleep, then Sakura Mobile’s WiMAX plan, which has one of the largest available data amounts in Japan, should work perfectly fine.
On the other hand, if you want to stream videos for long amounts of time or you need to use Zoom for school or work, it would be a better decision to get fiber internet.
For school and work in particular, it is a lot more inconvenient to have bad internet connection. Thus, we strongly recommend getting fiber internet.
Fiber internet is also the right choice if you are planning on sharing the internet with your family or roommates.
c) I want to connect to the internet even outside of the house
If you want to be able to connect to the internet anywhere, you will be looking at getting pocket WiFi.
As you probably know, fiber internet can be used wirelessly if you have a router, but it is limited to inside the house.
In addition, there are very few places in Japan where you can use free WiFi. Establishments like Starbucks, McDonald’s, and a few other cafes have free WiFi, but it’s safe to assume that you will not have access to WiFi when you are outside of the house.
If you want to use internet on the go, pocket WiFi is the correct choice.
au, SoftBank, docomo, and WiMAX cover 99% of Japan’s populated areas, so you should not have any problems.
However, note that if you are in rural areas of Japan, underground, in the mountains, or in buildings where the walls are very thick, there is a chance that your signal will become very weak.
If you are worried about the coverage in your area of residence, contact your provider before entering a contract to make sure that you can use the pocket WiFi device without any issue.
For those who need access to the internet as soon as possible, we recommend that you choose pocket WiFi.
This is because fiber internet can take anywhere between two weeks and a month from the time that you apply until you can start using it.
Conversely, once you apply for pocket WiFi, it will only take a few days until the device is delivered to your door.
The reason that fiber internet takes so much longer is because it requires an installation.
Sometimes, because there are not enough electricians available to visit all the houses that need internet, your installation date may be pushed back further than you would like.
In particular, during moving season in Japan (which takes place between February and April), the installation schedules tend to be very full. Worst case scenario, you may have to wait up to two months until you are able to start using the internet.
If you need internet immediately, you should get pocket Wi-Fi instead of taking the time to wait for installation.
With Sakura Fiber Internet, you will be able to receive a pocket WiFi device with a WiMAX plan (10 GB/3 days) after you apply. This way, you can have access to the internet while waiting for your fiber internet to be installed.
A Quick Summary
If you are looking to:
Use the fastst internet possible
Use a lot of data
Then you should choose fiber internet.
On the other hand, if you want to prioritize:
Connecting to the internet inside and outside of the house
Only website is in English
Limited customer support
*The prices listed do not include tax
Connection speeds: The actual connection speeds of all the plans included in this table are about the same. They will be anywhere from 1 to 40Mbps at any given time.
Network coverage: The coverage rate also does not vary greatly between providers; all the networks cover 99% of populated areas in Japan.
(FYI: The difference between WiMAX and pocket WiFi)
WiMAX is the name of a mobile network. Currently in Japan, there are four mobile networks that are used as networks for pocket WiFi: au, docomo, SoftBank, and WiMAX.
Some may find it confusing that “WiMAX” is included in the some of the plan names. There is no specific reason for this, but it can be assumed that providers want to show that they use WiMAX, a network that is specifically made for pocket WiFi, in order to appeal to customers.
With Sakura Mobile’s WiMAX plan, you will be able to use 10GB of high speed internet per three days. In other words, you get over 100 GB per month. This is one of the largest amounts of data you can get with pocket WiFi in Japan.
In addition, the connection speeds of the WiMAX plan are also of the top class, with speeds ranging from 1 to 40Mbps. Depending on your area of residence, this plan can provide you with the fastest internet in Japan.
Many websites list connection speeds such as 1Gbps and 838Mbps as the maximum, but these are only the highest possible connection speeds in theory. You will not experience the maximum connection speed when you actually use the device.
Moreover, when you hit the data cap while using Sakura Mobile’s WiMAX plan, your internet connection speed will slow down to 1Mbps, which is still a usable speed in terms of internet.
Other companies will impose even slower speeds after the data cap; for example, 128 to 384Kbps is not even enough to properly load a webpage. With 1Mbps, you will be able to browse the internet and send emails without too much difficulty.
Monthly fees and the contract period
Sakura Mobile’s WiMAX plan totals 6,480 yen per month. This price includes the device rental fee, making it more affordable than other competitors.
Other companies require you to pay for the pocket WiFi device up-front, which may increase your initial costs to 20,000 yen or more.
The contract period for Sakura Mobile’s WiMAX plan is also different from other providers. If you use the device for at least three months, you will be able to cancel your contract without any penalty.
In comparison, other companies will require you to enter a two year contract in which you will only be able to cancel the services exactly at the two year mark.
If you try to cancel your contract at any other time, you will have to pay a large penalty. These plans are made for Japanese people who are planning to live in Japan long term, so foreign residents often struggle with the requirements.
At Sakura Mobile, we provide year-round English customer support.
Whereas other companies use difficult Japanese in their contracts and websites, Sakura Mobile allows you to do everything in English.
Even if a provider has an English version of their website, in many cases their customer support is completely in Japanese or even nonexistent.
If you are experiencing problems with your internet or want to change/cancel your contract, not having access to customer support can be a big problem. Although you might not think about it very often, fast and reliable customer support is indispensable to a good internet experience.
If you are interested in Sakura Mobile’s WiMAX plan, click here to check out the details.
au’s WiMAX plan will cost you 4,292 yen per month, which is a very reasonable price compared to other providers, although you must also keep in mind that you will be required to buy the pocket Wi-Fi device separately.
au’s pocket WiFi uses the same network (WiMAX) as Sakura Mobile, so you will be able to enjoy large amounts of high speed internet.
With au, however, you can only apply in-store, which means making a visit to your local au shop.
First and foremost, Sakura Fiber Internet is the only provider with full English support.
The reason that this is so important is that getting fiber internet without Japanese is impossible; looking through the website, reading the contract details, and installation will require you to know Japanese somewhere along the way.
Unlike pocket WiFi, the setup process for fiber internet can take up to one month. The process goes something like this:
Application → Contract → Schedule Installation → Setting Up Internet
If you do not have English support along the way, you will have to understand the contract and the instruction manuals, as well as be able to set the installation schedule and communicate with the electricians completely in Japanese.
Sakura Fiber Internet, however, does not require you to know any Japanese. The contract and all the communication between you and staff members can be completed in English. We also do not use any third-party translation companies, so we can offer you customer support that is fast and efficient.
Another reason why Sakura Fiber Internet a good choice is that the contract period is very short.
The majority of companies in Japan require you to enter a two year contract when applying for fiber internet, but with Sakura Fiber Internet, your contract period is only three months. This is why monthly fees are slightly higher than competitors.
With Sakura Fiber Internet, you can cancel your contract any time after the three months; with other providers, you will only be able to cancel at a specific time once your contract period is up. Attempting to cancel your contract any other time will result in a large penalty, sometimes totaling over 20,000 yen.
Now on to what everyone is curious about: internet speed. Because Sakura Fiber Internet shares Japan’s most high quality network, NTT Flet’s Hikari, you are guaranteed to experience fast internet speeds. NTT Flet’s Hikari also covers more than 90% of Japan, meaning that you will have access to the internet wherever you go.
Taking into account the quality of English support, the short contract period, and the quality of internet, we can wholeheartedly recommend Sakura Fiber Internet to foreign residents in Japan.
These three companies provide cellphone plans as well as fiber internet. If you have a cellphone contract and a fiber internet contract from the same company, you are eligible to save between 500 and 1,000 yen on your cellphone bill every month. It might be a wise decision to decide which company to get fiber internet from based on your current cellphone carrier.
docomo Hikari and SoftBank Hikari use the same network as Sakura Fiber Internet, NTT Flet’s Hikari. au Hikari, on the other hand, has a lower coverage rate than the other two, but does not vary in internet speed.