The subject of using mobile phones in Japan and buying SIM cards which will work in the country is a subject which has attracted a number of posters in the Japan Forum. Like so many everyday products and services which we use, many people just assume that a well-known mobile phone brand will work overseas and it is just a matter of “switching on your international service” when in reality it can be very much different.
This particular post opens an interesting debate about Japan and mobile phone technology because many people just assume that as the country is central to many of the major breakthroughs in the mobile phone industry it can accommodate various mobile phone brands and services with no problems. The truth is that unless you have a quad band mobile phone which is specifically manufactured for the international market you may have problems with communications.
As these phone services are often sought after by people looking to work in Japan for a set period of time there can often be a requirement for free incoming calls and value for money international call charges. As with any technology-based product or service you need to shop around for the best deals as they can literally change from day to day and week to week and have a serious impact on your budget.
There are a number of options when looking to arrange a mobile phone service in Japan which include:-
Using your current quad band mobile phone
Even though your mobile phone may be able to accommodate the Japanese networks and the technology used over there you will still need to sign up to a local network to get the best deals available. Even phones which are deemed to be “unlocked” are generally only compatible with a small number of mobile network providers so the “unlocked” description can be misleading.
For those using the likes of Vodafone there is already substantial coverage from this leading mobile network service provider as well as many others. It is simply a case of signing up to the local Japanese network (e.g. Vodafone Japan, etc) after checking the charges and terms and conditions. The main benefit of using your own mobile phone is the fact that you may well be able to retain your own number although you may pay a little extra for this.
Hiring a mobile phone
There are a number of mobile phone hire companies in Japan whom you can arrange a deal with before entering the country and literally pick up and drop off your phone as you arrive and exit Japan. These phones are fully compatible with the local networks, can in some cases offer free incoming calls, offer fairly good value for money and can be a godsend for those in a foreign land for the first time.
However, in order to arrange these deals before you arrive in Japan you will need to confirm your identification, supply a valid e-mail address and an address check to ensure that you do not run off with the phone!
We recently covered a similar story on the blog in relation to Internet service providers overseas and the fact that many travellers just assume each and every service is compatible and the same price. Like the Internet, the mobile phone industry is very different around the world and you need to do your homework and make preparations before you land, if possible.