【2019 Version】The Best MVNOs for Working Holidays

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photo by Titanas

Working Holiday visa is a unique visa that is only issued to people aged 18 to 30 who are from the countries that have agreements with Japan. The best thing about working holiday is that you can work in Japan to supplement your travel expenses. When you search a job in Japan, a mobile phone is one of the essential items because most employers would ask applicants’ phone numbers. However, a working holiday visa allows for only 12months stay. That means, working holiday makers cannot meet 24months minimum contract period of major phone companies. In such a case, Mobile Virtual Network Operator(MVNO)can be the best option. With MVNO plan, you can use your own mobile phone purchased outside Japan by changing SIM cards. As well as mobile phone number, MVNO offers cheaper rate compare to major phone companies.

 

The pros and cons of Japanese carriers

Using the Big-Name Carriers to Contract a Phone and a SIM

Using the Big-Name Carriers to Contract a Phone and a SIM
If you choose docomo, au, SoftBank, you’ll be required to sign 2 contracts: one for a phone and the other for a SIM.

Pros

  • There’s a lot of branches throughout Japan that offer a wide range of support.
  • If you use the phone for at least 2 years, (basically, if you complete your contract) a discount will be applied that makes the cost of the phone free.
  • The plans are cheap (in other words, there are a lot of discounts you can choose from)

Cons

  • You need to buy a phone at the carrier.
  • There is a chance that you may not be able to use your phone back in your home country.
  • Data is expensive.
  • Data-only plans do not exist (Calling is usually a mandatory part of almost all
  • If you break your contract within 2 years, you have to pay a fee.
  • If you break your contract within 2 years, you have to pay the remaining balance in full upfront.

Using Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) to Acquire a SIM

You can use your existing device to sign up for a SIM

Pros

  • Data is cheap compared to the big-3 carriers.
  • The minimum contract is one year.
  • You can use your own SIM-free machine.

 Cons

  • Not as much support compared to the big-3 carriers listed above (not as many branches)
  • You need a SIM-free machine that actually works in Japan.
  • Calling is slightly expensive.
  • You need to do the initialization on your own.

Purchasing a Pre-paid SIM

Using a prepaid SIM with your device usually comes at no additional costs other than the amount you initially paid upfront to purchase the SIM because most plans are single-use.

Pros

  • No contracts, no hassle.
  • No fees for breaking a contract.
  • No additional fees.
  • Ability to use a machine you already own.

Cons

  • The duration for pre-paid SIMs are best suited for short term stays.
  • Not as much support compared to the big-3 carriers listed above (not as many branches)
  • Data is a bit expensive.
  • Recharging the SIM may be a bit of a hassle.
  • You need a SIM-free machine that actually works in Japan.

Considering limited 1 year duration of visa and total communication costs, contracting MVNO is the best decision for working holiday visa holders. You will need a SIM-free device to purchase a SIM from MVNO. If your device unfortunately does not meet Japanese standards, firstly you may want to purchase global model iPhone at Apple Store. iPhones are priced rather cheaper in Japan comparing to other countries’ Apple Shops. However, this is for those who has plenty of funds as iPhone is still an expensive item even in Japan. Secondly, you may purchase a SIM-free budget smartphone sold in Japan. Enquire a shop staff if the smartphone you purchased can be used in your country before purchase.

 

Types of plan of MVNO

There are three types of MVNO plan.

Calling + SMS + Data

You can make phone calls, send SMS and use data.

SMS + Data

You can send SMS and use data. Most commonly used free-call app in Japan “LINE” requires a SMS vilification. There is only a slight difference in prices between Data only plan and SMS and data plans, normally 100 – 150yen difference. It is recommended to have SMS on your phone while you live in Japan.

Data only

You can use data only, thus low price. This is the best plan if you only want to use the internet with no phone numbers and SMS.

If you are going to look for a job, you are definitely need a phone number. Also, you cannot call emergencies by your free-call app in Japan. Calling + SMS + Data plan is the most recommended for working holiday makers.

 

Data Usage

Monthly data size would be your prime concern when you make a contract with MVNO. While each carrier provides various plans with monthly data of such as 1GB, 10GB or even unlimited, 3GB plans are typically popular. This is because most sharehouses, backpackers or guesthouses normally have free Wi-Fi connection, then guests do not need to use data on their mobile phones unless they go out. Therefore, a majority of people tend to choose plans with rather small data to keep their communication expenses down.

 

MVNO Carrier SIM 3GB Plan Comparison Chart

Depending on the plan you choose, MVNOs offer several different choices. The following chart summarizes the information for 3GB plans of different MVNOs.

Name

Set up fee

Monthly fee

Minimum contract

Call option

Call rates

Cancellation fee

Rakuten Mobile 3.1GB

3394yen

1600yen

12mths

10min free call
850yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

9800yen

DMM mobile3GB

3394yen

1500yen

12mths

10min free call
850yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

9000yen

UQmobile data phone plan

3000yen

1680yen

12mths

×

20yen/30sec

9500yen

Biglobe Mobile 3GB

3394yen

1600yen

12mths

10min free call
830yen/mth*

9yen/30sec*

8000yen

IImio Minimum Start

3394yen

1600yen

12mths

10min free call
830yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

12mths-Number of used mths ×1000yen

OCN Mobile ONE3GB

3394yen

1800yen

6mths

10min free call
850yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

8000yen

LINE Mobile Communication Free 3GB

3400yen

 1690yen

12mths

 10min free call
880yen/mth*

10yen/30sec

 9800yen

DTI SIM calls 3GB

3394yen

1490yen

12mths

10min free call
830yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

9800yen

NifMo calls SIM3GB

3000yen

1600yen

6mths

10min free call
830yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

8000yen

U-mobile call plus 3GB

3394yen

1580yen

6mths

Call pack 800yen/mth*

20yen/30sec

6000yen

b-mobile just fit SIM3GB

3000yen

1290yen

5mths

3min fixed rate call 500yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

8000yen

LIBMO calls3GB plan

3000yen

1580yen

12mths

10min free call
820yen/mth*

20yen/30sec

9500yen

Rocket Mobile call plan 3GB

3000yen

1400yen

12mths

10min free call
820yen/mth*

20yen/30sec

9500yen

mineo A plan 3GB

3406yen

1510yen

Fixed rate call
840yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

excite mobile 3GB

3394yen

1600yen

12mths

10min free call
820yen/mth*

20yen/30sec

9500yen

nuro mobile calls 3GB

3000yen

1600yen

12mths

10min free call
820yen/mth*

20yen/30sec

12mths-Number of used mths ×1000yen

Aeon Mobile calls 4GB

3000yen

1580yen

×

050 Free call
1500yen*

 10yen/30sec*

×

BIC SIM calls3GB

2990yen

1600yen

12mths

10min free call
820yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

12mths-Number of used mths ×1000yen

BIC Mobile ONE data&call 110KB

2990yen

1600yen

6mths

050plus0円*

Land line 9yen/3min*
Mobile18yen/1min*

8000yen

Yamada New Mobile 303GB

3394yen

1600yen

12mths

10min free call
800yen/mth*

10yen/30sec*

9800yen

ANSIM3GB plan

3000yen

1600yen

12mths

×

20yen/30sec

8000yen

hi-ho data&calls SIM minimum start

3000yen

1633yen

12mths

×

20yen/30sec

12mths-Number of used mths ×1000yen

※The above is tax excluded.
※Cancelation fee applies if terminated during a minimum contract period.
※Termination fees do not include MNP fees, which arise when you port your phone number to a different carrier.
※*:phone app is used.

SMS and call fees are often overlooked when using a MVNO SIM. Receiving calls is free of charge, but calling to other phones is charged. Also, while receiving SMS is free, sending domestic SMS message costs 3-30yen per message and international messages cost 50 – 500yen per message. In addition, there is monthly fees of 2-3yen called “Universal service fee” which is to maintain the service system.

 

Summary

Best customer support

MVNO plans can be applied online. However, most of those websites are written only in Japanese. If you are not confident in your Japanese language skill and have no others who can help you, it is recommended to choose a carrier that has branch shops. AEON Mobile customers can have customer support at more than 200 shops across Japan operated by AEON Group. Also, AEON SIMs allow 4GB with no minimum contract period. Also, BIC Camera which sells BIC SIM and BIC Mobile ONE has retail shops across Japan and has a multi-language website. ANSIM by AsahiNet accepts online application via their English website as well as general enquiries for those who do not speak Japanese.

Best call deals

One downside of MVNO SIMs is expensive charge of phone calls. All carriers charges on phone calls at 20yen every 30 seconds. Calls charged are discounted to 10yen every 30 seconds if their own call app is used. Also, most of the MVNO providers offer 3 to 10 minutes free call services. Among these plans, DTI SIM calls 3GB offers low rates in both monthly and optional rates. If you often make a phone call outside your house, Aeon Mobile can be the best choice. 1500yen monthly fee is rather expensive, but it comes with unlimited free domestic calls.

Best value deals

If you simply want to cut down your phone cost, go for b-mobile or mineo. b-mobile renewed their palns at the end of last year to provide lower monthly fee and option rates with only 5months minimum contract period. The rares of mino are also lower than those of other providers, and they have no minimum contract period or cancellation fee.

 


Related Article:
【2019 Version】Comparison of Short-term Prepaid SIM
【2019 Version】Stay Connected! A Guide to Japan’s Free Wi-Fi Spots


 

 

あきらことほ

Writer

あきらことほ Kotoho Akira

Living outside Japan for a good many years, I often rediscover nice little things about this country every time I return here. I would be more than happy if this column may help you find your "nice little things about Japan"!

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