Internet services are typically unbundled in Japan, meaning that one company provides the line and the other establishes the internet connection. In other words, the internet service provider, ISP, is typically separate from the company who sets up the line and rents you the modem, although this isn’t always the case. For residents of Tokyo the most common provider of the line and hardware is NTT East Japan, though KDDI in rare cases provide this as well.
Having an unbundled internet connection will also allow you to be online without requiring subscription to separate services such as telephone line or subscription TV, though of course these are available as packages from some providers.
ISPs, as your provider, are who you will contact to arrange an internet connection to your home. There are many ISPs in Japan, the most well-known companies include Yahoo BB, OCN, So-net, @nifty, Biglobe, plala and Asahi Net.
You can sign up with NTT East on your own and then sign up for an ISP separately, or you can sign up with an ISP and they will pass your application onto to NTT East directly. You may end up paying two bills each month, or a combined bill, depending on which option you go with and the ISP you choose.
Internet Options for Tokyo
Fiber-Optics / Hikari Flets
Fiber optic is the fastest and the most common form of fixed line internet in Tokyo and Yokohama. NTT East advertises their fibre service under the name of Flets Hikari and connection is delivered into your building on a fibre optic line, though at that point some apartments will wire it differently to individual units. Advertised speeds are usually 1Gbps but some services are now promoting double that in some areas. Legacy speeds are still very high, at around 100 or 200 Mbps.
There are two types of fibre services in Tokyo: family/home type and “mansion” type. The former is usually for standalone houses (and is more expensive) and the latter for apartment buildings with several units. What exact speed you receive will depend on your location and your home`s line/wiring.
Also, if it’s not already installed in the building (if you live in detached house, etc.), you will have to request permission (via a special form) from the owner to have a line put in.
Connection time, from the time of application, can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks, or possibly longer during peak season (March/April and August/September, sometimes around the New Year holidays as well). If you’re hooking up the mansion-type service, then it will probably be closer to two weeks, and if the family/home type, four weeks. These are just in general though and your experience may be different based on the provider.
Mobile / Cellular Internet
An increasingly popular alternative to fixed line fibre optic internet is wireless broadband. Delivered over a cellular network to a small modem which then transmits the signal through wifi to your surrounding area.
Japan`s mobile internet service is amongst the leading in the world and both 4G and 3G speeds are high (in some cases 4G is faster than fixed line). It is extremely robust, and offers several other benefits. The increased mobility that connecting to the cellular network offers, together with the types of devices we are all increasingly using, means that the connection can be carried around and used on the go for no additional fee (though outside of central Tokyo 4G service availability is mixed). As the service comes from a cellular provider rather than an ISP, you may also sign up for mobile internet in addition to getting your cell phone, which means you may have a chance of getting a better deal on your monthly fee.
The drawbacks of such a service are that downloading large data files can be slower and at rush-hour times in Tokyo the network can also be affected by the number of people accessing from the cell phones.
Top Japanese Providers
This an overview of the leading internet service providers available to residents of Tokyo. These prices do not include initial payments for installation or for equipment and are offered here only as a guide (Prices as of April 23, 2014).
These as the top 5 providers for 1 year:
1. So-net Flets Hikari with Flets S Mansion, 3,057 yen per month, 100 MB per second
2. OCN Flets Hikari with Flets Mansion, 3,528 yen per month, 100 MB per second
3. Biglobe Flets Hikari Pack Neo with Flets Mansion, 3,528 yen per month, 100 MB per second
4. Plala Flets Hikari with Flets Mansion, 3,213 yen per month, 100 MB per second
5. @nifty Flets Hikari with Flets Mansion, 3,407 yen per month, 100 MB per second
For 2 years:
1. So-net Flets Hikari with Flets S Mansion, 3,296 yen per month, 100 MB per second
2. Toku Toku BB Flets Hikari with Flets Mansion, 3,094 yen per month, 100 MB per second
3. Qit ARTERIA Mansion VDSL, 2,938 yen per month, 100 MB per second
4. So-net au Hikari Mansion, 3,987 yen per month, 100 MB per second
5. Plala Flets Hikari with Flets Mansion, 3,578 yen per month, 100 MB per second
For 5 years:
1. Qit ARTERIA Mansion VDSL, 3,015 yen per month, 100 MB per second
2. Toku Toku BB Flets Hikari Mansion Service, 3,317 yen per month, 100 MB per second
3. Ucom Hikari ARTERIA Mansion Type, 3,520 yen per month, 100 MB per second
4. BB excite Flets Hikari Mansion Type, 3,371 yen per month, 100 MB per second
5. WAK WAK Flets Hikari with Flets II Mansion, 3,490 yen per month, 100 MB per second
Your decision to sign up with a internet service provider will depend on your own situation, the location and status of your home in Tokyo and whether or not you choose to go with any further internet services such as Internet TV. The marketplace for your business in Tokyo is competitive and promotion campaigns and special offers are also frequently available. You may also want to consider to what extend you require english language support.
Residents of Tokyo who rent their home through Housing Japan receive assistance in setting up the internet and all other utilities. You can contact your representative to discuss more. Others who are about to move home in Tokyo, contact us to help find a better place and receive our personal care.