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.
Number of Contracts
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)
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)
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.
* Our speed test results do not represent any minimum guaranteed speeds. The data speed may vary depending on the location, time and the type of your device.
** An extremely large amount of data usage with the Unlimited Data Wi-Fi may trigger the throttling for the rest of the day.
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