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 foreigners 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
- Allocated Data
- 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.
Keep in mind that there are two types of pocket WiFi: Those meant for tourists coming to Japan short-term and those for long-term residents. Today, we will be focusing on long-term pocket WiFi.
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 want cheaper plans | See light use plans
- 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 foreign 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: WiMAX, au, docomo, and SoftBank.
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.
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|Provider||Plan Name||Monthly Fee||Device Fee||Amount of Data|
|Network||Contract Period||Application||English Support|
|Sakura Mobile||WiMAX Unlimited Plan||6,480 JPY|
*Device rental fee
|0 JPY||Over 100 GB|
|WiMAX||3 Months||Online||Full English Support|
|au||WiMAX Mobile Router Plan||4,292 JPY||20,000 JPY||Over 100 GB|
|WiMAX||2 Years||In-Store||Japanese Only|
|NTT docomo||Gigaho Premier||6,380 JPY||25,200 JPY||60 GB||docomo||2 Years||In-Store||Japanese Only|
|SoftBank||50GB Data Plan||4,800 JPY||24,545 JPY||50 GB||SoftBank||None||In-Store||Japanese Only|
|Mobal||Mobal Wifi Plan||4,980 JPY||6,980 JPY||100 GB||SoftBank||3 Months||Online||Only website is in English
Limited customer support
＊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.
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.).
(FYI: The difference between WiMAX and pocket WiFi)
WiMAX is the name of a mobile network. 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.
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.
Allocated data and connection speeds after data caps
Out of all the different types of pocket WiFi available in Japan, the plans with the highest amount of allocated data provide 10 GB per three days (equivalent to over 100 GB per month).
What you should pay attention to, however, is what happens after that data goes away. Once you have used up all your allocated data, the pocket WiFi device will automatically become slower.
Scroll right for more →→
|Provider||Plan Name||Amount of Data|
|Connection Speed |
After Data Cap
|How Long Data Cap Lasts|
|Sakura Mobile||WiMAX Unlimited Plan||Over 100 GB|
|1 Mbps||From 6 pm to 2 am the next day|
|au||WiMAX Mobile Router Plan||Over 100 GB|
|1 Mbps||From 6 pm to 2 am the next day|
|NTT docomo||Gigaho Premier||60 GB||128 Kbps||Until the end of the month|
|SoftBank||50GB Data Plan||50 GB||128 Kbps||Until the end of the month|
|Mobal||Mobal Wifi Plan||100 GB||384 Kbps||Until the end of the month|
As you can see on the table, the internet speed after the data cap is imposed varies by provider. Your speed will become either 128Kbps, 384Kbps, or 1Mbps (1,000Kbps).
With internet speeds of 128Kbps to 384Kbps, you will barely be able to send text messages and it will be difficult to access regular webpages.
With 1Mbps, on the other hand, you should be able to browse the web and send text messages, so you do not have to worry as much about using up your data.
You may also be wondering how long these speed reductions last. With Sakura Mobile WiMAX and au WiMAX, if the data you used over the span of three days totals over 10GB, a speed reduction will be imposed that starts from 6 pm the next day and continues until 2 am.
The other three providers (docomo Pocket WiFi, SoftBank Pocket WiFi, and Mobal WiFi), on the other hand, reduce internet speeds until the 1st of the following month.
When it comes to allocated data and connection speed after data caps, it is fair to say that Sakura Mobile WiMAX and au WiMAX are superior to other providers.
When you enter a contract for pocket WiFi, there are three types of fees you should keep in mind:
- Initial fees
- Monthly fees
- Device fees
The initial fee is a one-time fee that you pay at the start of the contract. It usually costs around 3,000 to 5,000 JPY.
The monthly fee is in other words, the fee that you pay for your monthly data. As listed on the comparison table, it will generally total around 4,000 to 8,000 JPY.
The device fee refers to the price of the physical pocket WiFi router. This price will differ greatly depending on the model; cheaper models may be around 6,000 JPY, while expensive models can get up to 50,000 JPY.
Internet connection is not possible without the router, so paying the device fee is a must. You will need to purchase the device at the start of the contract.
With the Sakura Mobile WiMAX plan, you can rent the Speed WiFi Next WX06 (normally 20,000 JPY), a high quality pocket WiFi router. The monthly fees will be 6,480 JPY, which also includes the device fee. Therefore, there are no additional fees.
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|Device Name||Device Fee||Maximum Battery Life||# of Devices That Can
Connect at Once
|Speed WiFi Next WX06||20,000 JPY|
*With Sakura Mobile, you can
rent it without additional fees
＊Prices listed do not include tax.
As you observed on the comparison chart, there are very few companies in Japan that offer English support.
In the table, “Japanese Only” 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 is the only provider that offers full English support. With both native and near-native speakers on our customer support team, we can confidently provide you with help 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 WiMAX 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?
The provider that you choose will depend greatly on your situation.
However, we believe that the majority of foreigners in Japan may fall into these categories.
- You want the largest amount of allocated data with the fastest possible internet connection
- You want to avoid the commitment of a two year contract
- You need English support when signing the contract
If these apply to you, we recommend that you go with the Sakura Mobile WiMAX plan.
Connection speed and allocated data
With the Sakura Mobile WiMAX plan, you can use 10GB of high speed internet per 3 days. If you calculate this in terms of the month, you will have over 100GB. Looking at the comparison table, you can see that this is of the highest grade that you can find in Japan.
The connection speeds are also top class, with actual speeds ranging from 1 to 40Mbps. This is the same as the other well-known providers in Japan, making Sakura Mobile a fair match for other competitors. Depending on the area in which you are using the pocket WiFi, this plan can provide you with the fastest internet in Japan.
*The speeds of 1,237 Mbps, 988 Mbps, etc. that are listed on many providers’ pages are only the maximum connection speed in theory; the actual speeds will be closer to what is written in this article.
Additionally, even after you have used up all your available data, the Sakura WiMAX plan continues to have speeds of 1Mbps. This is much more manageable than other companies, for which speeds drop to around 128 and 384Kbps (barely enough to load a webpage). With 1 Mbps, it is still possible to send emails and browse the web.
Fees and the contract period
With the Sakura Mobile WiMAX plan, the monthly fee will cost 6,480 JPY, which includes the device rental fee. This is very affordable compared to other companies which require you to purchase a router at the start of the contract.
In addition, the Sakura Mobile WiMAX plan allows you to cancel the contract any time after three months without penalty. On the other hand, other providers will require you to enter a two year contract in which you can only cancel at the two year mark.
Because these two year contracts are made specifically for native Japanese people, foreign residents have trouble getting around them.
At Sakura Mobile, we provide year-round English customer support to help you at any time.
There are many instances where providers will have an English version of their website, but when it comes to the contract signing process and the customer support, everything will have to be done in Japanese.
There are even quite a few companies that do not provide customer support. Just in case your internet cuts out, you want to cancel or change your plan, then it is important to have access to reliable customer service.
For more details about Sakura Mobile WiMAX Plan, please click here.
For those of you who feel as though the Sakura Mobile WiMAX plan is not a good fit
If you believe there is another provider other than Sakura Mobile that fits your needs, you might fall into these categories:
- You do not mind the commitment of a two year contract
- You want to buy a pocket WiFi router by yourself
- You are confident in your Japanese abilities
If these apply to you, we recommend that you choose the au WiMAX plan.
The au WiMAX plan is 4,292 JPY per month, making it much more reasonable than other companies’ pocket WiFi plans. However, keep in mind that you will be required to buy a pocket WiFi router.
au uses the same network as Sakura Mobile, WiMAX, so they will be around the same in connection speed. The two plans are also identical in usable data as well, so you will be able to enjoy large amounts of high-speed internet.
Another difference between Sakura Mobile, though, is that you must directly visit a au shop in order to apply for au.
4. For those who want cheaper plans | See light use plans
For those who want to use pocket WiFi at a cheaper price, there are providers which allow you to choose a plan with a smaller amount of allocated data.
Scroll right for more →→
|Plan Name||Allocated Monthly Data||Monthly Fee||Network|
|5 GB Plan||5 GB||3,480 JPY||SoftBank 4G LTE|
|30 GB Plan||30 GB||4,980 JPY||SoftBank 4G LTE|
|WiMAX Unlimited Plan||Over 100 GB|
＊Prices listed do not include tax.
For those who do not plan on using the pocket WiFi for an extended period of time each day, we recommend that you choose either the 5GB or 30GB plan.
5. 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.
6. FAQ about pocket WiFi
What is the coverage of WiMAX, docomo, and SoftBank’s networks?
WiMAX, docomo, and SoftBank’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 WiMAX and SoftBank pocket WiFi plan, 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 WiMAX plan 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 foreign 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?