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Mobile Phone Contracts in Japan with Carriers and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)
Mobile Phone Contracts in Japan

July 2017

There are two major kinds of mobile phone contracts in Japan. The first choice is a contract with Japanese three national wireless carriers which are NTT docomo, au, and Softbank. The second choice is a contract with Japanese Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) which do not have their own wireless networks. The MVNO operate on either the NTT docomo, au or Softbank networks. Generally, MVNO offers cheaper plans than carriers because they don't have to invest or spend maintenance costs in the infrastructures of wireless networks.



Coverage is not an issue with MVNO, as MVNO are covered under the same wireless networks of national wireless carriers. One of the biggest difference between carriers and MVNO is the data speed. In crowded areas or internet rush hours, MVNO tend to provide slower data speeds due to their contracts with national wireless carriers.



One more difference between carriers and MVNO is the minimum contract period, carriers tend to have a two-year minimum contract period, while MVNO only require one-month or one-year. Most of the prepaid SIM cards sold in Japan are provided by MVNO.




Japanese National Wireless Carriers
# Wireless Carriers Number of Contracts Market Share 3G Bands&Frequencies 4G Bands&Frequencies
1 NTT docomo 74,879,600 46.0 % W-CDMA
Band 1 (2.1GHz)
Band 19 (800MHz)
LTE
Band 1 (2.1GHz)
Band 3 (1.8GHz)
Band 19 (800MHz)
Band 21 (1.5GHz)
Band 28 (700MHz)
2 au 48,540,100 29.8% CDMA2000
Band 1 (2.1GHz)
Band 18 (800MHz)
LTE
Band 1 (2.1GHz)
Band 11 (1.5GHz)
Band 26 (800MHz)
Band 28 (700MHz)
Band 41 (2.5GHz WiMAX)
3 Softbank 39,310,100 24.2% W-CDMA
Band 1 (2.1GHz)
Band 8 (900MHz)
Band 9 (1.7GHz)
Band 11 (1.5GHz)
LTE
Band 1 (2.1GHz)
Band 3 (1.8GHz)
Band 8 (900MHz)
Band 41 (2.5GHz AXGP)
Source: Telecommunications Carriers Association, IIJmio Meeting 6
Note: Data as of March 2017.
Note: Total number of contracts above include 8,100,000 contracts of MVNO.



Japanese Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO)
# MVNO Market Share by Contracts Website
1 OCN Mobile ONE 17.0 % Website
2 IIJ MIO 14.9% Website
3 Rakuten Mobile 9.6% Website
4 Mineo 7.4% Website
5 FREETEL 5.3% Website
6 BIGLOBE 5% Website
7 UQ mobile 4.3% Website
8 Others 36.5% N.A.
Source: MM Research Institute
Note: Data as of March 2017





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