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Japan cellular phones and mobile services

Cellular phones and mobile services in Japan

Japan is arguably the world's most advanced mobile market and a world leader in mobile phone technology, with 40 percent of mobile data revenues worldwide are generated here, three-quarters of the population use the mobile web, and 4-in-5 users are on 3G devices. Japan uses unique cell phone networks, and as a result not all foreign phones will work. However, you can easily get a rental phone during your stay, or you can stop by an internet cafe and use internet phones.

Mobile phones are constantly getting new features such as internet browsers, games, cameras, televisions, electronic wallets(train passes), GPS navigation, music player and other enhancement capabilities to lure more users and higher usage. The biggest mobile phone companies in Japan are NTT Docomo, au by KDDI, and Softbank (formerly Vodafone, and before that was J-phone).



Do foreign cell phones work in Japan?

Most cell phones from overseas will not work in Japan unless you are using a 3G network phone. Alternatively if you are using other phone network other than 3G, you can purchase an International Roaming Plan(from your home service provider) or use a rental SIM card. Rental SIM card is widely increasing with many companies offering this service and with lower rates.



Information on Rental Phones

You are required a photo ID and a credit card in order to rent a mobile phone in Japan. There are many mobile rental companies with counters at major airports(Narita, Kansai, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and others), while other companies will mail a phone to your home or to your hotel. You can return the phones at the airport or through the mail depending on the company. The charges for rental phones vary and usually consist of a basic fee on the rental (around 150-500 yen per day) plus a usage fee of around 50-200 yen per minute on outgoing calls, incoming calls are free. It is highly popular and nowadays an essential for business travelers.



Information on Prepaid Phones

The purchase of a prepaid phone now requires proof of a Japanese residence such as a Japanese driver's license or an alien registration card. As such this is not available to travelers. With prepaid phones you must purchase the phone (only limited models) and pre-pay for credits at participating cell phone stores or convenience stores before you can start making calls. The credits will expire after some time if not used by a given period(usually 3-6 months). All incoming calls are free and the rates for outgoing domestic calls are quite similar to the standard rate when purchasing a subscription plan. However credits tend to run out fast should you make frequent overseas calls as charges are kept high. Nevertheless it is able to help you keep track on your phone bills.



Information on Cell Phone Subscription

With cell phone subscription you pay for the usage at the end of a monthly billing cycle as opposed to prepaid phones where you buy your usage before you use it. You usually get a reduced price for purchase of a mobile phone set when you enter into a 1-2 year contract with a mobile phone company. Each mobile phone company offer their unique subscription plans that entice you into a contract with them.

All the latest and most advanced phones are available with subscription plans and the selection of handsets is huge. Subscription plans are only available to residents and require an alien registration card and a Japanese bank account.







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