Now that you’ve started tackling the logistics of your plan for Japan, when searching for WiFi Rentals and SIM Card options, you’ve probably come across a little gadget called Pocket WiFi in several places on the Internet. So why is Pocket Wifi often recommended in Japan, and is it worth it to rent one? How do they work? We’ll cover all you need to know before you make your decision of the best way to stay connected while on vacation.
Pocket WiFi: The Basics
If you come from a country where using Pocket WiFi isn’t the norm, first it’s important to get an idea of just what Pocket WiFi is. Pocket WiFi is basically a portable Internet router. Pocket WiFi’s have an internal SIM card, and rely on the network service of telecom carriers on the 3G or 4G/LTE networds. Using a Pocket WiFi works just as your home Internet does. Devices have an SSID and password/key that are necessary for accessing the connection. Pocket WiFi gets its name based on its size, which fits comfortably in a pocket.
Pocket WiFi in Japan
In Japan, Pocket WiFi isn’t just for tourists. Several people who like to work remotely, and people who live alone and don’t necessarily spend enough time in the apartment to warrant getting a home router go for Pocket WiFi. Generally, Pocket WiFi comes with a contract from 1-2 years, and have a cap on the high speed data that can be used per day/per month. Prices usually start around 3,500 JPY.
You might be wondering, now with most people having smartphones, why would someone need an additional WiFI source? There are a few reasons specific to Japan that make carrying these little devices handy. First, recently carriers have expanded options such as with Softbank’s Giga Monster plan, but cell phone carriers still generally offer limited data for smartphone contracts.
Similarly, while things are changing little by little, free and public WiFi in Japan is still limited.
In recent years, convenient stores, coffee chains, department stores, train stations, and certain neighborhoods have adopted public networks that make WiFI much more accessible. However, finding free WiFi with a good network is not a guarantee. And if you do have access to public WiFi, chances are it will be necessary for you to register with their network by telephone number or email address, and check off their terms of agreement. (This can be a pain if you don’t have a Japanese telephone number or don’t necessarily want to share your email address with someone you don’t know. ) Which brings us to another related point: another reason many people in Japan carry pocket WiFi, is that people in general here still value secure connections. Again, because the Pocket WiFi requires an SSID and password, it is impossible for others to access your Internet without passing this security hurdle.
Pocket WiFi for Tourists and Short Term Visitors
So for the travelers and short term visitors to Japan, many people question whether or not they should go for a Pocket WiFi or a disposable SIM Card. (It’s probably not worth it to even think about paying roaming charges for your home provider, it’ll be expensive, and in Japan, the chances that the compatibility of the Network Bands will give you good service is pretty low…). So what are the specific benefits of using Pocket WiFi.
- There are no compatibility issues with Pocket WiFi. With SIMs, you need to worry about Card Size and the Network bands that your phone supports. Pocket WiFis are usable by any device that can connect to WiFi, from smart phones to computers and tablets!
- Pocket WiFi easily supports multiple users at once. Most devices can accommodate 5+ people at once
- Pocket WiFi rentals generally have greater data allotments at higher speeds.Especially in Japan, there are specific allotments for data usage, and it’s difficult to find short term plans that are truly unlimited. You’ll notice when you go look at Prepaid SIM options, the daily or weekly limit is often quite low, and for unlimited options, they are often offering unlimited usage for the much slower 3G network. Pocket WiFi, while more expensive, has larger caps for heavy users.
- Pocket WiFi rentals are more flexible with rental periods. Short term SIMs have a limit on how long they can be used for, while Pocket WiFi do not.
General Popular Pocket WiFi Service Providers
These are the most popular Pocket WiFi service providers in Japan. Note, you cannot obtain short term rentals directly through them.
WiMax (UQ Mobile) WiMax is run by UQ Communications. WiMax devices have good coverage, but not as wide a network as DoComo or Softbank, with good coverage in Okinawa.
DoComo (Japanese Only) NTT Docomo has the largest coverage of any network in Japan.
Softbank (Data Plan Information in Japanese Only) While the network for Softbank is not as large as DoComo, Softbank is the most popular among users. (Maybe this is something to do with the company mascot, a dog known as otousan.)
Y-Mobile (Japanese Only) Y-Mobile is a service provided by Yahoo.
MVNO SIMs and Separate Pocket Devices. If you’re not familiar with MVNO carriers, these are service providers that purchase data in bulk from larger providers and then sell them to individuals. You can find good deals with MVNOs, but often the customer service isn’t as comprehensive as larger companies. Pairing a SIM here with a Pocket WiFi device purchased online is a thrifty way to stay connected.
Any questions? Feel free to ask in the comments and we’ll get back to you.
If you are interested in getting a Pocket WiFi Rental today, consider our affordable associate, CDJapan Rental. Full customer service available in English, Japanese, and Chinese, and great rates!
GetAroundJapan is a travel information website of Japan. We cover different topics from the essential travel tips and the latest news about discount transportation passes to the list of SIM cards sold in the major airports.