When it comes to wireless data In Japan, you have the choice of going with one of the big three network operators, all of which require lengthy contracts, Japanese credit cards, and a Japanese billing address. For tourists, short-term residents, or anyone who doesn’t have a Japanese credit card or billing address, MVNOs are the way to go. Keep reading to find out what they are and how to pick the best one for your wireless needs with our Japan MVNO comparison.
What Does MVNO Stand For?
MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator, which is a company that leases network capacity from one of the big three Japanese operators.
These smaller companies can offer more flexible data plans because they don’t need to maintain a massive network infrastructure—instead they “rent” network space. The benefit of using MVNOs is that they tend to focus on creating plans that match specific groups of customers, which means you’re more likely to find a plan that fits your unique needs.
Each MVNO has advantages and disadvantages. Some offer smaller data caps at cheaper prices, others offer faster speeds but have hidden fees. The only difficulty is figuring out which plan is right for you.
Japan MVNO Comparison
|UQ Mobile||Iijmio||Mineo||Biglobe||U-Mobile||LINE||B-Mobile||Rakuten Mobile||Y!Mobile||Sakura Mobile|
|Smallest plan||おしゃべりプランS||ミニマムスタートプラン||デュアルタイプ 500MB（Dプラン) + （Aプラン）||音声通話スタートプラン||通話プラスプラン 3GB||LINEフリープラン||おかわりSIM 通話付き プラン||プランS||スマホプランS||Mini Plan|
|Data||2GB (1st 2 years)|
1GB (from 3rd year)
|3GB||500MB||1GB||3GB||1GB||1GB||2GB||2GB||3GB (including 30min + international calls)|
|Monthly price||¥1980 (1st year)|
¥2980 (from 2nd year)
|Network||au||au / Docomo||au / Docomo||au / Docomo||Docomo||Docomo||Docomo / Softbank||Docomo||Softbank||Docomo|
|Contract duration||2 years||1 year||None||1 year||6 months||1 year||5 months||1 year||2 years||None|
|Contract early cancellation fee||¥9500||Remaining months x ¥1000||None||¥8000||¥6000||¥9800||¥9800||¥9800||¥9500||None|
|Payment methods||Credit card (no international debit), bank transfer||Credit card (no international debit)||Credit card (no international debit)||Credit card (no international debit), bank transfer (additional ¥200 fee)||Credit card (no international debit)||Credit card (no international debit), LINE pay||Credit card (no international debit)||Credit card (no international debit), bank transfer (additional ¥100 fee)||Credit card (no international debit), bank transfer||Credit card (international debit OK), convenience store|
|English support for long-term plans||None||Some English pages, but application page is in Japanese||None||None||None||None||None||None||None||Yes|
As you can see above in our Japan MVNO comparison, it can be difficult to find a wireless network plan that fits your needs. When comparing MVNO plans, it’s best to consider more than just the advertised price or data amount, because the cheapest plans can quickly become more expensive. In addition to the comparison we’ve provided, other important points to check are:
- Data cap policy
- Fees for voice calls
- Throttling policy
- Credit card fees
Japan MVNO List
Considered to be the original Japanese MVNO, B-Mobile recently started offering larger data caps for an additional fee. Plans connect to the Docomo or SoftBank networks and have a 5-month minimum contract with a penalty for early cancellation. Visitors to Japan have the option of the data-only SIM card; but with expensive delivery and restrictive terms of service, it may not be convenient enough to be an option for many.
Biglobe Mobile focus mainly on larger data caps. They have a minimum 1-year contract, an expensive early cancellation fee, and only accept Japanese credit cards. Unlike many other MVNOs, the company offers data caps up to 20GB for an additional monthly fee.
The Japanese online retailer Rakuten also offers phone services through its Rakuten Mobile brand. Plans only accept Japanese credit cards and charge an additional fee for using them. They have a 1-year minimum contract that includes a cancellation fee.
As one of the better established MVNOs, Iijmio offers SIM card plans for both Docomo and AU and has a solid reputation among Japanese residents. With typical hidden fees, including variable cancellation fees, and no English-language support, it may be tricky to order a plan that suits you for a reasonable price unless you’re comfortable with Japanese-language contracts.
A recent addition to the MVNO market, LINE offer a reasonable base price, unlimited data for major social networks, and a simple system for adding extra features, like SMS messaging and larger data caps. There is however a minimum one-year contract and steep termination fees that make the initial price much less attractive for potential users. LINE pay is accepted, but foreign debit cards can’t be used.
Mineo is another MVNO that offers a choice of networks. The cheapest data plan, which offers 500MB, is realistically too small for anything but the lightest use, although it is the only company besides Sakura Mobile to offer no cancellation fees and no minimum contract length.
Sakura Mobile is an MVNO that focuses on providing wireless network support in a variety of languages, including English. Data plans are available in a many sizes, and there is no minimum contract duration, no cancellation fees, and next day delivery of SIM cards and Mobile WiFi Routers to hotels, airports, and post offices throughout Japan. International credit and debit cards are accepted.
U-Mobile features a large number of contracts. They offer a base data cap of 3GB and a relatively short minimum contract period of 6 months, with a termination fee. No English language support and being required to use a Japanese credit card makes U-Mobile difficult for most international visitors to use.
UQ Mobile is part of AU Mobile and uses the AU network. UQ Mobile offers many of the same products as the parent company, which includes a bewildering number of add-ons like text messaging or voice minutes, each with their own additional cost. Plans also have some of the highest cancellation fees of all the MVNOs.
A subsidiary of SoftBank, Y!Mobile is more focused on providing broadband services as well as long-term packages and bundles for households. Plans are closer to those of traditional providers than MVNOs and are mostly tailored for Japanese residents.
What Makes Sakura Mobile Unique?
Because Sakura Mobile’s wireless network plans focus on providing the best services for international visitors and expats in Japan, you’re likely to find a plan tailored to your specific needs.
Sakura Mobile doesn’t require a minimum contract length or early cancellation fee. This makes our plans ideal for anyone visiting Japan on holiday or business, or as a student. Also, the flexible usage terms can be tailored to your individual needs, from extending your stay to increasing data caps.
Easy Payment Options
Payment is quick, easy, and available in English. Whether you are using a Japanese credit card, an international credit card, or a debit card from your home country, it’s quick and easy to pay online—you can even pay with cash at a convenience store! All customer support is available in English, too.
Wireless Device Options to Fit Your Needs
Sakura Mobile offers Mobile WiFi Routers in case your phone isn’t compatible with Japanese SIM cards. A mobile router is an excellent option for tablet devices, laptops, and older smartphone models. The same generous data caps and fast 4G LTE speed included with our SIM cards are also available for our mobile router customers.
Choose Sakura Mobile as Your Japan MVNO
There are a growing number of MVNOs and wireless network plans in Japan, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Whether you need a flexible short-term plan, a reliable business solution, or a wireless device to match your unique lifestyle, Sakura Mobile is a great choice for your Japan MVNO!