For those planning a trip to Japan, the decision between buying a prepaid SIM card, eSIM or renting a Pocket Wi-Fi is crucial for securing Internet access during their stay.
As of 2024, renting a Pocket Wi-Fi is often the best choice for people who need high-quality communications and heavy data usage.
If you’re someone visiting Japan for work, studying in Japan, or in any situation where reliable Internet is a necessity, opting to rent a Pocket Wi-Fi is highly recommended.
In this article, we’ve explained why renting a Pocket Wi-Fi is the best choice for ensuring a reliable Internet connection in Japan.
Differences between Pocket Wi-Fi and prepaid SIM card (eSIM)
When planning a trip to Japan, many travelers consider whether to buy a prepaid SIM card (eSIM) or rent a Pocket Wi-Fi for Internet access. Let me break down the differences for you.
Pocket Wi-Fi has good communication quality
Pocket Wi-Fi provides excellent communication quality. It’s provided by major Japanese carriers, which ensures fast and stable connectivity. Because it’s designed for long-term use, the network infrastructure is strengthened to maintain communication quality even during periods of increased usage.
On the other hand, prepaid SIM cards (eSIM) offered by Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are designed for short-term use. During peak times or when many travelers are active, there is a tendency for slower communication speeds. While newer prepaid SIM cards (eSIM) offer high data capacity, their communication quality doesn’t match that of Pocket Wi-Fi.
Pocket Wi-Fi has a large amount of available data capacity
Pocket Wi-Fi typically provides more data capacity, assuming that it can be connected to multiple devices. While newer prepaid SIM (eSIM) plans may offer 30GB or 50GB, Pocket Wi-Fi plans often reach around 100GB. If you’re traveling with family or friends, renting a Pocket Wi-Fi can be cost-effective because it allows multiple devices to connect.
Pocket Wi-Fi is easy to use
Pocket Wi-Fi is easy to use. Just turn it on, select the SSID from your smartphone, and you’re connected. In contrast, using prepaid SIM cards or eSIMs requires configuration settings on your smartphone, which can be challenging and error-prone for those unfamiliar with the process.
Pocket Wi-Fi connects anywhere
Pocket Wi-Fi is designed for use throughout Japan, providing connectivity anywhere in the country. In contrast, using a prepaid SIM or eSIM requires a smartphone that is compatible with Japan’s frequencies. While many modern smartphones support these frequencies, issues may arise in rural areas where different frequencies are used than in urban areas, making connectivity inconsistent.
Pocket Wi-Fi requires no support as it operates trouble-free
When renting a Pocket Wi-Fi in Japan, you might expect the need for support in case of issues. However, Pocket Wi-Fi rarely encounters communication troubles due to its excellent signal quality and compatibility with Japan’s frequencies. Its straightforward operation—just turning it on, selecting the SSID, and connecting—eliminates the need for any additional configuration. Once you receive your Pocket Wi-Fi, there’s no need for support.
On the other hand, purchasing a SIM card or eSIM in Japan for use in your smartphone requires compatibility with Japan’s frequencies. While communication is possible in urban areas like Tokyo or Osaka, it might be challenging in rural areas if your smartphone isn’t compatible for local frequencie.
Issues such as slow communication speeds during lunchtime or crowded places are common with services provided by MVNOs, not major carriers.
In such cases, many individuals contact the providers of Prepaid SIMs or eSIMs, thinking there might be issues with the SIM cards or eSIM.
However, the problem usually lies with the smartphone’s compatibility, and reaching out to the service provider won’t resolve the issue.
Considering these issues, renting a Pocket Wi-Fi is often the more convenient and reliable choice for travelers in Japan.
How to Choose Pocket Wi-Fi
While various blogs often highlight companies or services based on features like unlimited plans, airport pickup, or affordable prices, these details may not capture the true essence of Pocket Wi-Fi.
Most online reservation services offer convenient delivery options, either to the airport or to your hotel. As previously mentioned, since Pocket Wi-Fi generally requires minimal support, it’s crucial to focus on the fundamental qualities when making a selection in Japan.
The essence of Japanese Pocket Wi-Fi lies in its inherent strengths, such as reliable service and ease of use.
It’s not just about the availability of unlimited plans, airport pickup, or low prices.
To truly appreciate the benefits of Pocket Wi-Fi in Japan, it’s essential to consider its core attributes.
There are two key criteria when selecting a Pocket Wi-Fi:
2.Available Data Capacity
The predominant network providers for Pocket Wi-Fi available to visitors in Japan are Softbank and Docomo. While WiMAX and Rakuten services offer substantial data capacity and are popular among some Japanese users, they may not provide stable connectivity in many places, making them less recommended for travelers to Japan. For consistent and reliable network coverage throughout Japan, Pocket Wi-Fi on the Softbank and Docomo networks is highly recommended. Most online Pocket Wi-Fi rental services offer devices operating on the Softbank or Docomo networks.
Regarding the required data capacity for Pocket Wi-Fi, you can refer to this page for insights: How much data usage is needed for a trip to Japan?.
1 GB per day is all you need, assuming you use a little more data than the data capacity listed on this page.
The required data volume can be calculated as follows
You can estimate by multiplying the number of days of stay, the number of devices in use, and 1GB.
For example, for two friends traveling with two smartphones and one laptop for a 14-day stay:
14 days×3 devices×1 GB= 42GB
Note: Unlimited Pocket Wi-Fi
While an unlimited Pocket Wi-Fi plan would be ideal, most of these services have been discontinued in Japan since February 2021. Due to administrative guidance from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, services now transparently present the available data usage amount per month. It’s important to note that services claiming unlimited usage may have certain restrictions, so exercise caution.
For reference, here are some data on the Japanese.
On average, Japanese smartphone users consumed around 10.09GB per month in 2023, with a median of 3GB, according to the survey.
Choosing a Pocket Wi-Fi with Softbank or Docomo networks and an appropriate data capacity based on your usage needs will ensure a smooth and reliable internet experience during your stay in Japan.
Recommended Pocket Wi-Fi Plans on SoftBank Network
We would like to introduce a plan for a Pocket Wi-Fi that uses SoftBank’s network and allows large capacity communication of over 50GB per month.
The services presented below can be picked up at the airport and also delivered to your hotel. This plan is ideal for those who need a significant amount of data during their stay in Japan.
The Pocket Wi-Fi plan provided by Lightpocket, which uses Softbank’s network, allows for up to 100GB of data usage per month. This is quite a large data allowance for a Pocket Wi-Fi plan that utilizes Softbank’s network. It’s a great option for those who require substantial data usage during their stay in Japan.
The Wi-Fi Rental Store, which is located in Akihabara, allows for in-store pickup. Their main product is the Softbank Pocket Wi-Fi, and they offer plans with data allowances of 20GB, 50GB, and 100GB.
eConnect Japan offers plans with 20 GB, 50 GB, and 100 GB. While the prices are often higher compared to other service.
It has a rare 20GB plan, which is recommended for those who want a smaller capacity.
Reserve Your Pocket Wi-Fi Before Your Arrival in Japan
When it comes to Pocket Wi-Fi, it’s advisable to make a reservation before arriving in Japan.
While you can rent Pocket Wi-Fi at airport counters, doing so without a prior reservation can result in higher rental fees. Additionally, during peak travel seasons, there might be a shortage of Pocket Wi-Fi units, making it impossible to rent one at the airport.
Outside of airports, there are very few places in Japan where you can rent Pocket Wi-Fi. Therefore, it’s essential to make an online reservation before coming to Japan.
By reserving online, they can deliver the Pocket Wi-Fi to the airport or your hotel. Not only is it convenient, but it also comes at a more affordable price compared to renting at the airport. The quality is the same as airport Pocket Wi-Fi, making it a highly recommended option.
I am Japanese and my nickname is Momo.
I have been working in the mobile telecommunications industry for about 7 years and am familiar with Japanese telecommunications services. Although my English is not very good, I would like to provide useful telecommunication-related information to those who stay in Japan as accurately as possible.