The quickest way to pick a provider is to look at amazon.jp ranking of sim cards. Note that many of the cards come with no minimum contract term and no activation fees (unlike the deals through kakaku that instead offer moneyback (which is too much hustle for me)). But you might want to look at kakaku‘s ranking since it provides a better summary.
Note that some people get lower speeds due to the lack of supported frequencies on their phone; for NTT docomo LTE it is 1800 and 2100 Mhz; you can double check frequencies of you phone (nifty site).
I am quite proud of no longer being dependent on evil japanese cell companies. My total monthly phone bill is now ~$9 (with phone, internet, and some international calling); comparing to $60+. Below is how I did it.
Major Japanese cell/mobile carriers (SoftBank, Au, NTT) would have you believe that you have no other option but to sign a 2-year contract with them at $40 + / month. My experience was particularly bad with SoftBank after paying $50 / month and getting 400kbps on my personal phone (contrasting with getting awesome 40 Mbps on my work phone (w/ NTT the lesser evil major mobile company)); and then SoftBank refusing to unlock iPhone after the 2-year contract was up.
Data Plan (LTE)
Kakaku now allows you to compare various sim card plans (select on the left the options that you need; and Chrome does a good job at translating them).
Luckily there are other much better options. A friend of mine just got one from DMM; and is getting 3MBps speeds; starting from 660 Y / 1Gb / month.
My favorite one being U-mobile (Double Fix) that costs either $7 / month for 1GB; if exceeded automatically becomes $20 / month for 3GB; thereafter unlimited but speed is degraded to 128kbps. (unfortunately Umobile’s speed has deteriorated to kbps). Another option that I like is OCN $16 / month for 2GB (with nice top up cost of $5 / 0.5GB). You know can also get a prepaid sim at a store such as BIC Camera; which even provides a test sim to ensure that you phone is compatible (thanks to Mike for pointing it out); it also allows you to rollover unused data to the next month.
There are also other descent prepaid providers including bmobile dti iijmio ocn plala rakuten amazon biglobe.
Note that while some providers offer cheap initial packages; their top up costs could be quite high; e.g. bmobile $5 / 100MB; OCN’s offer seems to be one of the most reasonable ones at $5 / 0.5GB.
Most of MVNO sims are on the NTT network; so if your phone is from NTT it should work on these networks (pointed out by Mike).
If money is no object TreMobile provides unlimited prepaid lte plan (unlike softbank or ntt where unlimited ends at 3GB) for $990 / year.
I recently bought another year with TreMobile (for my work) and their service has become beyond horrible; 2GB limit (previously unlimited); once you are over the limit the speed is supposed to be 200Kbps, but I’ve only gotten 5Kbps (not enough for anything; even email). Wasn’t able to use their sim card in my phone either; so basically useless; I get a better service from Umobile at 1/10th of a cost. Called customer service and was unable to either get a refund or to change to a different plan.
You can even get a free 050-xxx (voice) number through SmartTalk; (you can install their app; or if you are a little bit tech savvy you can directly configure SIP on your phone). Their rates are very cheap ~$0.16/min (Japan and International)
NOTE: These VOIP/SIP phone numbers are not capable of dialing emergency numbers such as 119, etc.; here is a more complete list of providers.
You can also get # usable with SMS for $1.5 (from the data provider).
p.s. Phone-wise I highly recommend getting a nexus phone (had very good experiences with nexus 4 and 5).
p.s. most of the providers actually use NTT’s network; since I think NTT used to be a national carrier; hence has to provide access to its network.
While most carriers claim lte speed 100+ Mbps; not many of them actually reach it. B-mobile was quite horrible in my experience at around 200 kbps.
This post provides a test run through many of the providers (although some of it for so called “turbo charge” mode).
|No limit (at night)||Down||1,638||5,426||2,994||2,239||4,267||1,498|
|No limit (early morning)||Down||12,365||10,318||10,839||6,198||5,453||2,685|
And other post:
|3:00 pm Monday units
|9:00 pm Friday units
|5:00 cars Saturday morning
|11:00 am Saturday units
To make sure that your phone supports bands in Japan; you may want to double check it on: https://www.frequencycheck.com/models
Very comprehensive table of current offerings (may need to filter & sort to see the good plans): http://ma-bank.net/word/92/
Some of the providers offer VOIP numbers (050, 070); $0 from , $3 from NTT, $5 from Skype Number; am not sure how reliable it is during the emergencies though (although right after the last big earthquake the internet worked much better than the phone lines).
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