【2018 Version】The Best MVNOs for Working Holidays

iphone

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. Online job search in the most commonly used way to find a job in Japan and you also NEED a mobile phone to contact to your employer. Getting a smartphone or tablet is a good idea, but there are many conditions you are required to meet when contracting with a phone company. So, what is the best carrier for working holiday makers staying in Japan for 12 months? 

 

The pros and cons of Japanese carriers

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.

 

3 Low-cost Carrier Options for 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

The low cost carriers require additional charges depending on how much data you use. Just how much data does the average person need each month.

スマホデータ使用量比率

data by MMRI 

According to a Japanese research company, the majority of people use up to 3GB of data in Japan. If you have Wi-Fi in the house, 3GB would be enough data. Furthermore, you can easily buy more data online if you’re about to run out, so for starters, start out with a 3GB plan.

 

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
period

Call option Call rates Cancellation fee
Rakuten Mobile 3.1GB 3394 yen 1600 yen 12
mths
5min free call
850yen/mth*
20yen/30sec 9800yen
DMM mobile3GB 3394 yen 1500
yen
12
mths
10m free call
850yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* 9000yen
UQmobile data phone plan 3000 yen 1680 yen 12
mths
× 20yen/30sec 9500yen
Biglobe Mobile 3GB  3394 yen 1600 yen 12
mths
3min free call
650yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* 8000yen
IIJ mio Minimum start 3394 yen 1600 yen 12
mths
10min free call
830yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* 12mths-Number of used mths ×1000円
OCN Mobile ONE3GB 3394 yen 1800 yen 6
mths
10min free call
850yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* 8000yen
LINE Mobile Communication Free 3GB 3400 yen  1690 yen 12
mths
10min free call* 10yen/30sec 9800yen
DTI SIM calls 3GB 3394 yen 1490 yen 12
mths
10min free call
820yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* 9800yen
NifMo calls SIM3GB 3000 yen 1600 yen 6
mths
10min free call
830yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* 8000yen
U-mobile call plus 3GB 3394 yen 1580 yen 6
mths
× 20yen/30sec 6000yen
b-mobile Okawari SIM 3GB 3000 yen 1800 yen 5
mths
3min free call
500yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* 8000yen
TNC Mobile 3GB Plan  3000 yen 1580 yen 12
mths
×  20yen/30sec 9500yen
Rocket Mobile Call Plan 3GB 3000 yen 1400 yen 12
mths
× 20yen/30sec 9500yen
mineo A Plan 3GB 3406 yen 1510 yen × 30min call
840yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* ×
excite Mobile 3GB 3394 yen 1600 yen 12
mths
× 20yen/30sec 9500yen
nuro Mobile Calls 3GB 3000 yen 1600 yen 12
mths
× 20yen/30sec 12mths-Number of used mths ×1000円
AEON Mobile Calls 4GB 3000 yen 1580 yen × 050Free call
1500yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* ×
BIC SIM Calls 3GB 2990 yen 1600 yen 12
mths
mio phone 0yen* 10yen/30sec* 12mths-Number of used mths ×1000円
BIC Mobile ONE Data&Call 110KB 2990 yen 1600 yen 6
mths
050plus0yen* Land line 9yen/3min*
Mobile18yen/1min*
8000yen
YAMADA New Mobile 3.3GB 3394 yen 1600 yen 12
mths
10min free call
800yen/mth*
10yen/30sec* 9800yen
ANSIM 3GB Plan 3000 yen 1600 yen 12
mths
× 20yen/30sec 8000yen
hi-ho Data&Call SIM Minumum Start 3000 yen 1633 yen 12
mths
× 20yen/30sec 12mths-Number of used mths ×1000円

※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.

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. In addition, carriers such as DMM Mobile, IIJ mio and YAMADA New Mobile offers 3~10 minutes free call services. If you often make phone calls over 10 minnutes, AEON Mobile can be the best carrier for you. Monthly charge is rather expensive as 1500yen per month, but it offers free domestic call service.

Best value deals

If you mostly receive calls and intend on using discount apps when making the calls yourself, if you don’t want to pay termination fees, then mineo is the plan for you. Their discount app slashes the calling cost to half and their plan requires no term of minimum use. 

 


Related Article:
【2018 Version】Comparison of Short-term Prepaid SIM
【2018 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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