Are you looking for pocket WiFi that you can use long term in Japan?
Because it can be used both inside and outside the house, pocket WiFi is a very popular product.
In this article, we will be introducing to you the 5 best pocket WiFi plans for internationals living in Japan.
When looking to choose a pocket WiFi plan that fits your needs, you should take the following points into consideration.
- Connection speeds
- Contract period
- English support
We will be comparing each of these points of the 5 recommended pocket WiFi plans and explaining each of them in detail.
After reading this article, you should be on the right track to knowing which pocket WiFi plan to choose.
We’ll avoid the difficult technical words so that you can easily understand all the ins and outs of pocket WiFi.
This article will only be covering monthly Pocket WiFi contracts catered towards those who are planning to stay long-term in Japan (over 90 days).
If you are interested in Pocket WiFi rental for short-term visits to Japan, please refer to the following article.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- What is pocket WiFi?
- A comparison of the top 5 pocket WiFi plans in Japan
- So, which one should I choose?
- For those who need unlimited, fast internet | Get fiber internet
- FAQ about pocket WiFi
A quick look: Which pocket WiFi provider should I choose?
1. What is pocket WiFi?
To put it simply, pocket WiFi is a portable device that provides internet connection wherever you go. In Japan, the most widely used term is “pocket WiFi,” but in other countries it may be common to refer to the device as a “mobile WiFi router,” “mobile hotspot,” or “portable WiFi.”
For in-home use, fiber internet is also a popular choice, but there are some benefits to choosing pocket WiFi over fiber internet.
- Ability to use the device soon after application
It can be assumed that most people choose pocket WiFi because of its portability. Those who are looking to use large amounts of data outside of the house (do work on the go, want to watch Netflix while riding the train, etc.) are more likely to use pocket WiFi.
For international residents in Japan, having the ability to use the device soon after application is a large benefit too. Applying for pocket WiFi is significantly easier than applying for fiber internet; after applying, the pocket WiFi device is delivered within two to three days.
This makes pocket WiFi popular amongst those looking to get internet connection as soon as possible after coming to Japan.
How pocket WiFi works
Just like your smartphone, pocket Wifi uses a mobile network to connect to the internet. There are four main networks that are used for pocket Wifi: docomo, au, SoftBank, and WiMAX.
All four networks are widely-used and well-trusted, making them of the highest standard when it comes to Japan’s pocket WiFi.
2. A comparison of the top 5 long-term pocket WiFi plans in Japan
In the following table, we compare the top 5 long-term pocket WiFi plans. We will then go on to explain which one will fit your needs the best.
Scroll right for more →→
|100 GB||60 GB||50 GB||100 GB|
|Free rental||22,000 JPY||27,720 JPY||27,000 JPY||6,980 JPY|
|3 months||2 years||2 years||None||3 months|
*All prices listed include tax
*Sakura Mobile’s official site does not list plans over 30GB, but please contact us if you are interested in larger data options
*For those who are looking to use unlimited data, we recommend Sakura Fiber Internet
- 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.
Does this give you the gist of each of the features of each plan?
Now we will move on to explaining the details of the important features of pocket WiFi (pricing, connection speed, contract period, etc.).
Many providers list on their homepages that the maximum internet connection speed can reach numbers such as 1,237 Mbps or 988 Mbps. However, this is only the maximum speed in theory.
Pocket WiFi speeds vary greatly on a number of factors; some of these factors include the time of day that you use the device, the area that you are using it from, and whether or not there is anything to interfere with the connection.
As a result, all of the 5 providers listed on the table have actual connection speeds of 1 to 40 Mbps. You may be thinking that you want to choose the provider with the fastest internet, but because internet speeds rely so heavily on your environment, the “fastest” internet may not be the fastest all the time.
Therefore, you should not experience much of a difference no matter which of the 5 providers that you choose.
You may also be wondering how fast 1 to 40 Mbps actually is. For those of you who are curious, here is a table that lists the internet speeds necessary in order to complete certain actions.
|4K Videos/Online Games||25 Mbps|
|Online Meetings||10 Mbps|
|Video Streaming (1080p)||5 Mbps|
|Video Streaming (720p)||3 Mbps|
|Web Browsing/Emails/LINE||1 Mbps|
Because pocket WiFi uses a mobile network, there are going to be times when the speed becomes slow. When it comes to online conferences, streaming videos in 4K, or playing online games, there will be cases in which you will not be able to connect smoothly.
However, it would be best to assume that you will be able to consistently stream high quality videos (1080p) without any major problems.
For those who would like to use internet with consistently fast speeds, we recommend getting fiber internet, which will be covered later in this article.
Internet connection is not possible without the router, so paying the device fee is a must. You will need to purchase the router at the start of the contract.
You purchace these devices to keep, but they can only be used in Japan; looking to invest in a WiFi router may seem like a waste of money.
With Sakura Mobile, on the other hand, the device is provided for free as a rental. When you terminate your contract, you just need to send the router back. This saves you expensive device fees, as well as the hassle of needing to figure out what to do with the router when your contract is up.
As you observed on the comparison chart, there are very few companies in Japan that offer English support.
In the table, “limited” is written for some of the providers. This means that they provide English versions of their websites, but often require customers to sign a contract completely in Japanese.
Additionally, these providers do not provide English customer support.
When using the internet long-term, you should expect to run into some problems; for example, there may be instances when the internet won’t connect or it is unusually slow. Troubleshooting these types of issues is much easier if you have English customer support to rely on.
Moreover, it might be hard to convey exactly what you mean to those who only speak Japanese. When you want to cancel or change your contract, you will need a company that can provide for you in a language that you can understand.
Sakura Mobile provides full English support. With both native and near-native speakers on our customer support team, we can confidently support you seven days a week.
The length of the contract period is an important point that should be taken into account when deciding what provider to choose. The majority of the pocket WiFi plans in Japan require customers to enter at least a two year contract.
This contract will be automatically renewed after two years, so you must take the opportunity at around the two year point to cancel your contract. If you cancel your contract at any other time, you will have to pay a penalty fee.
（Ex. 2 year contract）
- 0 – 23rd month after starting contract → Penalty
- 24th – 26th month after starting contract → No Penalty
- 27th – 47th month after starting contract → Penalty
- 48th – 50th month after starting contract → No Penalty
Not all companies have this rule, however. Sakura Mobile and SoftBank Pocket WiFi both have options for those who do not want to have to deal with the commitment of a two year contract. With these two companies, you will be able to cancel the contract whenever you wish.
3. So, which one should I choose?
If you are an international resident in Japan looking for pocket WiFi, the following most likely apply to you.
- You do not want to have to purchase a new, expensive device
- You want to avoid the commitment of a two year contract
- You want to complete the application process completely in English with a provider that has English support just in case something goes wrong
If this is the case, then we recommend Sakura Mobile.
- Sakura Mobile lets you rent a device for free, so you will not have to buy a new device
- The contract period is three months; after that, you can cancel at any time
- You can contact English customer support if you run into any problems
- Devices are on the docomo network, the fastest in Japan
- The Pocket WiFi router has a long battery life, with one charge lasting about 20 hours
- The router is small in size (74 x 74 x 17mm), making it easy to use on the go
- If you apply for a Voice SIM card at the same time as Pocket WiFi, the initial fee (5,500 JPY) will be waived
Sakura Mobile is on the top of our list for long-term Pocket WiFi providers. Compared to other Japanese providers, Sakura Mobile does not have the restrictions of a two year contract. Plus, you will not have to pay an extra fee for the actual device.
The Pocket WiFi devices are on the docomo network, which is the largest in Japan. This means that you will be getting the highest quality possible when it comes to connection speed.
Additionally, Sakura Mobile has year-round English customer support. Having English-speaking staff to help you with your connection or other device issues can be a lifesaver if you are not fluent in Japanese. Compared to other providers that have little to no English support, this aspect makes Sakura Mobile suitable for international residents in Japan.
4. For those who need unlimited, fast internet | Get fiber internet
If you are looking for fast internet with unlimited data, we recommend that you choose fiber internet over pocket WiFi.
Unlike pocket WiFi, fiber internet connects to your home with a physical line (a fiber optic line), allowing you to enjoy stable and high speed internet.
While pocket WiFi has speeds of around 1 to 40Mbps, fiber internet can be anywhere around 100 to 700Mbps. You are guaranteed to be able to participate in online meetings and play online games without any problem.
For those who are interested in getting fiber internet, please refer to this article for more information.
5. FAQ about pocket WiFi
What is the coverage of docomo, SoftBank, and WiMAX’s networks?
docomo, SoftBank, and WiMAX’s networks are the most widely used networks for pocket WiFi.
These networks’ coverage includes 99% of the populated areas of Japan, meaning that you should not run into any problems with having internet connection. However, keep in mind that underground, or in places where the walls are thick, your connection may go out of range.
Check the following sites to see whether or not your area is covered.
If you would like to know about the coverage of Sakura Mobile’s Pocket WiFi plans, you can also ask us here!
How long does it usually take from the application until I can use the device?
Although the application process depends on the provider you choose, you will generally be able to use the pocket WiFi a few days after you apply.
The process for the Sakura Mobile looks like this:
Apply online by sending us your name, address, a picture of your ID, and other required documents.
2. Application confirmation
You will receive a notice that your application has been received (same day or the next day).
A few days after the application, the pocket WiFi device will be delivered to your address. You will be
able to use it the day it arrives.
This article explained the pros and cons of pocket WiFi, as well as compared some of the best choices for international residents in Japan.
What do you think? Will you be able to make a more informed decision as to what pocket WiFi you need?
Good luck, and please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.
Conclusion: Which pocket WiFi provider should I choose?