Guide to SoftBank Phone Plans | Prices, Speeds and How to Apply

SoftBankthumbnail

Alongside docomo and au, SoftBank is considered one of the three big phone carriers in Japan.

Recently, more and more mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) are offering cheaper phone plans, but SoftBank continues to be one of the most popular in terms of market share and number of customers.

This article will explain the costs and services included in SoftBank’s mobile plans in more detail.

And for international residents who are especially interested in international calling, international SMS, and English support, read our section below on “International calling, SMS, and roaming data fees”.

Now then, let’s get into it!

Table of Contents

  1. How do SoftBank phone plans and SIM card plans work?
  2. SoftBank phone plans/SIM card plans | Merihari Unlimited and Mini Fit Plan Plus
  3. International calling, SMS, and roaming data fees
  4. “Do I have to purchase a device?”
  5. Connection speeds and coverage
  6. English support
  7. Application process
  8. What to look out for: failing the screening process
  9. If you are looking for affordable phone plans with English support

Related Article

Are you looking for smartphone plans that you can use in Japan? In the article below, we compare SoftBank with the most popular phone plan carriers in Japan, including our favorites.

1. How do SoftBank phone plans and SIM card plans work?

SIM-card

Before going into detail about SoftBank’s phone and SIM card plans, here’s a quick overview of how the rates work.

Two types of fees come with signing up for a SoftBank phone or SIM card plan. The initial fee and the monthly fees.

It will be easy to understand each plan if you understand the big picture first.

Here’s a breakdown of each of the fees.

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Initial FeesAdministrative Fee: 3,300 JPY
(A one-time fee for new contracts)
Monthly Fees
  • Basic Fee (Data Usage and Voice Function)
  • Voice Call Fee
  • SMS Fee

Here are details about each of the fees with tax included.

Basic fee (Data usage and voice function)

Your basic fee is a fixed monthly cost based on the plan you chose.

Roughly speaking, the basic fee is the fee for having voice function and data communication.

SoftBank uses a tiered payment system, where your basic fee will increase according to the amount of data that you use.

For example, SoftBank’s Merihari Unlimited plan costs 5,588 JPY only up to 3GB/month. If you use more than 3GB, your basic fee will go up to 7,238 JPY.

Voice call fee

The voice call fee is determined by the amount of time that you call.

For example, domestic calls are 22 JPY/30 seconds. You will be billed the following month for the minutes you use.

If you don’t make any calls, you won’t be charged.

This isn’t just SoftBank’s policy, but the policy of all Japanese mobile carriers. Making a call costs money depending on the amount of time the call lasts, but picking up calls is free.

There is no charge for receiving calls in Japan from overseas.

Your voice call fee will be the same, no matter what plan you choose.

SMS fee

This is the charge for sending SMS. SMS stands for short messaging service and is an acronym widely used in Japan. Carriers in America would call it texting.

Every time you send a message, you’ll be charged.

The longer the message, the more it costs.

Of course, getting messages is free.

Like your voice call fee, the SMS fee will be the same, no matter what plan you choose.

To sum it up:

  • When you sign a contract with SoftBank, you have to pay three monthly fees, the basic fee (data usage), voice call fee, and SMS fee.
  • The basic fee is determined by the plan you choose and will be a fixed amount (3,278 to 7,238 JPY) per month based on the amount of data you use.
  • Your voice call and SMS fees are based on the amount that you use each month. The calling and SMS rates are the same throughout all of the plans.

Optional monthly fees

Up until now, we’ve explained the basic fee, voice call fee, and SMS fee. But, when you sign a contract with SoftBank, there are various options for extra services that you add to your monthly fee each month.

  • Add-ons
  • Monthly installments

Add-ons

SoftBank offers a variety of optional services. The most commonly used is the Fixed Price Plus add-on for unlimited domestic calls.

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Add-onsMonthly Fee
(Tax inc.)
Includes
Fixed Price
Plus
1,980 JPYUnlimited domestic calling
Semi-Fixed
Price Plus
880 JPY・First 5 minutes of domestic calling: Free
・Time after 5 minutes: 22 JPY/30 seconds

There are many other add-on services offered by SoftBank, like answering machine services.

Add-ons are optional, so the more you add the more expensive your monthly fee will be.

Monthly installments

SoftBank offers the option to buy a new smartphone in combination with a SIM card plan.

You can buy the phone in full or in installments that add to your monthly bill.

If you decide to purchase your phone in installments, you can choose between 24 and 48 times.

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2. SoftBank phone plans/SIM card plans | Merihari Unlimited and Mini Fit Plan Plus

Woman Smartphone

Next are details of each of the plans provided by SoftBank.

SoftBank offers several different phone and SIM card plans, but the following 3 are currently available and allow you to get a Japanese phone number.

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PlanNetwork
Speed
Monthly Fee
(Tax inc.)
Data Amount
(1 Month)
Merihari Unlimited5G/4G5,588 to 7,238 JPYUnlimited
Mini Fit Plan Plus5G/4G3,278 to 5,478 JPY1 to 3GB
Smartphone Debut
Plan
5G/4G2,728 JPY3GB

*These three plans all offer calling (Japanese phone #), data, and SMS.

5G is available for all plans.

Many people might be thinking that the Smartphone Debut Plan is super cheap, but there are some conditions that you have to meet to be eligible for this plan.

  • People who are switching from a flip phone to a smartphone (and keeping the same phone number).
  • OR

  • New contracts for kids older than 5 years old and younger than 15 years old.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us will be applying for the Merihari Unlimited and Mini Fit Plan plus.

Here are the details of the two major plans, Merihari Unlimited and Mini Fit Plan Plus.

Merihari Unlimited

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Basic Fee
  • 0 to 3GB: 5,588 JPY/month
  • 3GB+: 7,238 JPY/month
Available Data
Amount
Unlimited
Domestic
Call Fee
Calling: 22 JPY/30 seconds
Receiving: Free
Domestic
SMS Fee
Sending: From 3.3 JPY/message
Receiving: Free
International
Call Fee
Calling: From 36 JPY/30 seconds
Receiving: Free
International
SMS Fee
Sending: 100 to 1,000 JPY/message
Receiving: Free
International
Roaming Fee

Depends on the country and
carrier while outside Japan.
It can get fairly expensive.
Initial Costs3,300 JPY

*Tax included

Merihari Unlimited has unlimited data, and is marketed toward people who use their phone a lot.

This basic fee has two tiers. Tier 1 is 5,588 JPY and is charged when you use less than 3GB in a month. If you use more than 3GB a month, you’ll be charged an extra 1,650 JPY, or 7,238 JPY total (Your billing amount will change automatically based on usage).

In addition to the basic fee, voice call and SMS usage will be billed together automatically.

Mini Fit Plan Plus

SoftBank MinifitPlan

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Basic Fee
  • 0 to 1GB: 3,278 JPY/month
  • 1 to 2GB: 4,378 JPY/month
  • 2 to 3GB: 5,478 JPY/month
Available Data
Amount
  • 3GB/month
  • Using over 3GB will slow your
    data speeds to 128kbps maximum.
Domestic
Call Fee
Calling: 22 JPY/30 seconds
Receiving: Free
Domestic
SMS Fee
Sending: From 3.3 JPY/message
Receiving: Free
International
Call Fee
Calling: From 36 JPY/30 seconds
Receiving: Free
International
SMS Fee
Sending: 100 to 1,000 JPY/message
Receiving: Free
International
Roaming Fee

Depends on the country and
carrier while outside Japan.
It can get fairly expensive.
Initial Costs3,300 JPY

*Tax included

Mini Fit Plan Plus is a plan aimed at people who don’t use a ton of data.

On the Mini Fit Plan Plus, when you use more than the allotted 3GB of data, your data speed will slow down to a maximum of 128kbps until the end of the month.

Like Merihari Unlimited, this plan has a tiered system (3 levels), and your monthly bill will be based on the amount of data you use.

Again, voice call and SMS usage will be billed together automatically with the basic fee.

Need an affordable plan?

If you’re considering Mini Fit Plan Plus, you may find other carriers have similar plans with more data and lower prices. Check out this article!

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3. International calling, SMS, and roaming data fees

Airport

We’ll start by explain what each of the 3 fees means.

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Fee TypeWhat it meansCosts
International
Call Fee
The fee for calling
overseas from Japan
Calling: From 36 JPY/30 seconds
Receiving: Free
International
SMS Fee
The fee for sending SMS
overseas from Japan
Sending: 100 to 1,000 JPY/message
International
Roaming Fee
The fee for using a
SoftBank phone abroad
Depends on the country and
carrier while outside Japan.
It can get fairly expensive.

International call and roaming rates differ depending on the country you’re contacting.

International SMS rates differ depending on the number of characters in the message.

It’s a bit complicated, so below is a quick explanation of each in more detail.

International call fee

International call fees differ depending on the country. We didn’t list them all, but a handful are listed below.

International call rates (Price at 30 seconds in JPY)

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CountryCost (JPY)
United States39
Canada49
Australia99
England119
France119
Germany119
Indonesia99
Philippines94
Taiwan99

To learn about the rates for other countries, please check SoftBank’s official site (Japanese only).

International SMS fee

International SMS rates are listed below.

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Number of
Half-sized Letters

(Alphabet)
Number of
Full-sized Letters

(Japanese)
Price of One
Message
(JPY)
1 - 1401 - 70100
141 - 26871 - 134200
269 - 402135 - 201300
403 - 536202 - 268400
537 - 670269 - 335500
671 - 804336 - 402600
805 - 938403 - 469700
939 - 1,072470 - 536800
1,073 - 1,206537 - 603900
1,207 - 1,340604 - 6701,000

You can check the countries and carriers to which you can send SMS from the following site.

International roaming fee

International roaming fees are incurred when a SoftBank phone is used in a country outside of Japan.

For example, when you call a friend in Japan from America or watch a YouTube video without WiFi in Canada, you’ll be charged.

This fee differs depending on the country you’re in, what you’re doing, and what phone model you have.

It’s fairly complicated, so be sure to ask SoftBank any questions in advance before traveling.

The page below is only in Japanese, but try taking a look for yourself.

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4. “Do I have to purchase a device?”

When going to SoftBank’s official website, at first, it may seem like you have to buy a device and a plan as a set. But, it’s possible to sign up for just a SIM card plan.

If you want to sign up for a SIM card plan, make sure that your smartphone is unlocked.

If you bought your smartphone abroad, it may not be compatible with the cell service in Japan. Be sure to check with SoftBank beforehand to see if your phone is compatible with Japanese cell signals.

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5. Connection speeds and coverage

SoftBank is apart of the 3 largest mobile carriers in Japan along with au and docomo. They offer the fastest mobile connection in Japan.

How fast is the fastest mobile connection in Japan? SoftBank publishes its data on its official website.

iOS download speed: 90Mbps to 163Mbps

iOS upload speed: 13Mbps to 24Mbps

Source: SoftBank

Mobile connections are known to be a little unstable at times. But, with such high speeds, you will be able to comfortably watch YouTube videos.

They cover 99% of the populated area of Japan.

If you aren’t in the middle of the countryside, in the mountains, or underground, you should be able to be connected with no problem.

If you’re curious about your area, you can check here (Japanese only).

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6. English support

They have an official English website.

Phone support is also available in English.

  • Phone: 0800-919-0157 (press “8” for English support)
  • SoftBank English support business hours: 10 am to 7 pm

SoftBank stores offer English support by making an appointment in advance.

Although SoftBank staff members probably will not speak English, you can proceed with a contract through a telephone interpreter.

  • Business hours of SoftBank stores: 10 am to 7 pm (Includes weekends and public holidays)

Business hours and holidays vary slightly from store to store. Make a reservation here.

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7. Application process

Woman on Mac

When you want to apply for a SoftBank contract, you can apply online or in-store.

You can find a store location near you by looking up SoftBank on Google MAP.

SoftBank’s online store is convenient, but because it’s only in Japanese, we recommend applying with a friend who can read Japanese.

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8. What to look out for: failing the screening process

Sad phone call

If you have successfully applied for a SoftBank contract, there is a chance that you may not be able to start using their service immediately.

From what we’ve heard from international residents living in Japan, it seems like many fail the screening process.

SoftBank’s screening process criteria are not disclosed to the public, but be aware that you may not be able to start using the service if you do not meet the criteria.

If you happen to fail the screening process, check out the phone service for international residents, Sakura Mobile.

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9. If you are looking for affordable phone plans with English support

Shibuya Crossing

If you’re looking for a phone plan that can be used in Japan, consider Sakura Mobile.

Features of Sakura Mobile’s long-term SIM card plan:

  • 4GB and 25GB Plans from 2,980 JPY/month
  • docomo’s fast 4G LTE network
  • Full English support 7 days a week
  • Online order and next day shipping
  • Japanese phone number

For more information take a look here.

Related Article

Are you looking for smartphone plans that you can use in Japan? Here’s an article comparing SoftBank to the top mobile carriers in Japan. Check it out!

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