How long does it take to get fiber-optic home internet hooked up in Japan and is it worth it?
Having a fiber-optic internet connection at your home in Japan offers the fastest possible connection speeds currently available (some of the fastest speeds in the world, in fact). Whether for work, study, or just entertainment (or staying in touch with your friends and family back home), there is no faster or more stable and reliable connection available. However, applying for fiber-optic home internet in Japan does come with some drawbacks, particularly the potential hassles (and costs) involved with setup and installation. In this article, we lead you through what to expect when trying to get fiber-optic internet hooked up at your home in Japan.
About fiber-optic home internet in Japan
Fiber-optic internet is now the most popular choice for home internet in houses and apartments throughout Japan. The system functions using networks of high-tech fiber-optic cables (older ADSL lines are no longer available and are set to disappear by 2023, replaced by FTTH fiber-optic cables).
These cables offer the fastest internet connections in Japan, in fact some of the fastest in the world, with download speeds up to 1GB/sec (1 Gigabyte per second). Data is generally unlimited.
You should be aware, however, that even these days not all homes in Japan come pre-equipped for fiber-optic cable internet, so you should expect some additional installation costs as well as the possibility of having to wait several weeks before installation can take place (a technician may need to visit your residence, which requires an appointment).
Fiber-optic home internet in Japan - Advantages and Disadvantages
Here is a quick overview of some of the main advantages and disadvantages of fiber-optic home internet in Japan.
While cancellation fees are still a factor to consider, they have become a bit less steep in recent years, meaning that long-term contracts are not quite as foreboding as they once were.
The installation process (and its associated installation costs) are still a cause for concern for many new arrivals to Japan, however, as the installation process is somewhat long, inconvenient and complicated, while exact installation costs are not always clear (at first).
Still, considering the superior speed, unlimited data, and stable connections provided by fiber-optic internet, pushing through these initial costs and hassles can definitely be worth it in the long run.
This article simplifies the application and installation process for fiber-optic internet so that you will have a better idea of what to expect in terms of how long it will take to get your home internet set up and how much it will cost to do so.
Is fiber-optic home internet a good choice for foreign residents of Japan?
If you are on a very tight budget living in Japan, have limited home internet needs, will be relocating frequently within Japan, or will be living in Japan only a short time, other internet options such as Pocket Wi-Fi, Home Wi-Fi, or mobile SIM cards might seem preferable to fiber-optic internet.
However, if you intend to stay in Japan for more than one year at the same address and require consistent, reliable, and fast access to the internet (especially for work, study, or entertainment purposes), fiber-optic home internet is by far the superior option.
Just to be totally clear on this, fiber-optic home internet does provide you with Wi-Fi. All you need to do once it is set up is to plug in a Wi-Fi router (some companies provide this for free or rent one to you for a small fee, or you can buy one yourself) and you will be good to go.
Can I choose any fiber-optic home internet provider I want? It depends. If you live in your own house, yes (probably). If you are renting a house, a certain provider's line may already be installed, so be sure to check with your landlord first.
If you live in an apartment building (マンション, mansion), you may not have much choice when it comes to providers, as some buildings are configured specifically to certain providers/networks. If you are not sure about your building, just contact your building manager or any fiber-optic home internetf provider (just provide your address and any home internet provider should be able to check).
Speed, Stability, Reliability
Fiber-optic internet speeds in Japan can be extremely fast (1 Gbps or higher). While these are maximum speeds advertised by providers but not always reached in reality, it still cannot be denied that the speed of fiber-optic connections is undoubtedly faster than that of other options such as Pocket Wi-Fi or Home Wi-Fi, usually ranging between 100-700 Mbps.
If you’re like me and not too sure what Mbps speeds actually mean in reality, here is a chart to help you understand the speeds that common online activities generally require.
|4K Video/Online Gaming||25 Mbps|
|Online Meetings (Zoom, etc.)||10 Mbps|
|Streaming Video (1080p)||5 Mbps|
|Streaming Video (720p)||3 Mbps|
Messaging Apps (LINE, etc.)
As you can see, the speeds provided by a fiber-optic connection are more than adequate for all your online needs, even if you live in a household with multiple users (families, couples, shared housing) and/or multiple devices.
Also, because fiber-optic internet is provided by a physical network of cables, network stability and reliability are generally very consistent. Data is usually unlimited.
For families or those who use the internet extensively (online games, online meetings, high-quality video streaming, etc.), fiber-optic internet is likely worth the price. Nobody likes a spinning wheel on their screen in the middle of an important online meeting, not to mention a penalty shootout or the climactic scene of a film!
Prices vary quite a bit based on the fiber-optic internet provider that you choose.
Installation/setup costs depend on several factors, such as the building you live in and the extent to which it is already configured for high-speed fiber-optic internet. Be aware that costs can sometimes be higher if you live in a house rather than an apartment. Setup costs can run anywhere from ¥3,000 to ¥40,000, though some companies offer deals that waive such fees or allow you to pay them off in installments, so it is worth doing some research.
|Provider||Initial Setup Costs*||Monthly Rates*|
|au (KDDI) Hikari||Up to ¥44,550||¥4,400|
|NURO Hikari||Up to ¥47,300||¥5,217|
|FLET’S Hikari||¥16,500-¥19,800||From ¥3,355 + provider service charge***|
|Docomo Hikari||Up to ¥23,100||¥4,400|
|SakuraOfficial site||¥5,500 (admin fee)**
¥2,200-¥24,200 (installation charges)
|GTN HikariOfficial site||Unclear||(Possibly) ¥3,800|
*For reference purposes only; please refer to company websites.
**If you sign up for a Sakura Mobile long-term mobile phone contract at the same time, you can get a discount on this admin fee, reducing it to just ¥110!
***Because this is only the line rental from NTT East, you would also be paying your service provider’s monthly fee on top of the ¥3,355 to NTT East.
Be aware that many of these providers also charge some sort of initial contract fee (usually ¥1000-¥3,000) when you first sign the contract (similar to the admin fee charged by Sakura).
For some providers, setup/installation costs as well as your monthly rate will differ based on whether you live in a house or an apartment building. For example, NTT East charges ¥3,355/month (+ service provider fee) for apartments but ¥5,940/month (+ service provider fee) if you live in a house.
Some companies do offer ¥0 installation fees if you sign a contract for 2 or 3 years. Be aware, however, that in this case if you need to cancel your contract before it is over, you will need to pay the full installation fee on top of a cancellation fee.
Moving House (Cancellation Fees, Contract Length, Etc.)
Another consideration is how long you plan to stay at your new residence in Japan (and how long you plan to live in the country). Many fiber-optic internet companies require a contract of at least one year, with cancellation fees if you break contract (though these penalty fees have gone down somewhat recently). Be sure to ask the company about their cancellation policy and any associated fees before you sign the contract.
You should also be aware that for some companies, you will incur no cancellation penalty fees only if you cancel your contract exactly at the end of your contract (e.g. if your contract is 24 months, canceling at the end of 25 months would already be into your second contract with them and thus could be subject to a cancelation penalty fee…) or within the period prescribed by your provider (sometimes 2-3 months before or after contract renewal).
|Provider||Minimum Contract Length*||Cancellation Fees**|
|au (KDDI) Hikari||24 months||¥10,500|
|NURO Hikari||24 months||¥10,450|
|FLET’S Hikari||24 months||¥1,650-4,950|
|Softbank||24 months||Around ¥10,000|
|Docomo Hikari||24 months||Around ¥10,000|
|SakuraOfficial site||1 month||¥0|
|GTN HikariOfficial site||Unclear||Possibly ¥0|
*For reference purposes only; please refer to company websites
**For reference purposes only; please refer to company websites. Other fees may be involved with cancellation.
Sakura Mobile does offer fiber-optic internet contracts, however, that can be canceled at any time without any extra cancellation fees.
Cancellation fees aside, you should also factor in the installation and admin fees that you will likely need to pay again if you move to a new house or apartment in Japan (as well as enduring the hassle of setup and installation all over again). Some companies offer options if you are moving within Japan.
Customer Service in English
The ability to communicate in English when applying for home internet in Japan is a huge bonus if you cannot speak (and read) Japanese, along with the ability to access customer service in English. Below is a list of the level of English support provided by Japanese fiber-optic home internet companies.
|au (KDDI) Hikari||Very Limited|
|NURO Hikari||Very Limited|
|FLET’S Hikari||Very Limited|
|Docomo Hikari||Very Limited|
|GTN HikariOfficial site||Yes|
Paying slightly more per month for home internet from a provider in Japan such as GTN or Sakura who can support your needs in English could save you a lot of hassle. It could even save you money overall as you will avoid getting roped into contracts that you do not understand that could come with extra fees.
Applying for fiber-optic internet in Japan
Sakura has the advantage of having its application procedure completely online (and in English). For most other internet companies, you probably will need to physically visit one of their stores (check based on the company) and speak to someone at the counter (be prepared to wait).
Bundles of…joy? Most Japanese internet providers will try their utmost to get you to sign up for “bundles” when you apply to them for fiber-optic internet. Bundles are multiple services (mobile phone, landline, other utilities, etc.) via the same company that usually involve discounts.
The discounts that come with such bundles may seem attractive, but beware of hidden costs and cancellation fees (as well as being persuaded to receive services that you do not really need). Sales tactics in Japanese communications companies are not exactly “hard sell” in comparison to other countries; the approach is often rather to overwhelm the customer by presenting a bewildering array of options and then guiding them toward options such as bundles that ultimately make more money for the company.
That said, if you are already considering applying for services such as mobile phone service from a certain provider, it never hurts to ask about a discount!
When you sign the contract, you will also need to make arrangements for installation at your home in Japan.
Getting fiber-optic internet installed at your home in Japan
We’re not gonna lie…this can be a bit of a headache.
Picture this. You’ve just made a visit to the provider’s store, filled out the forms, listened to a bewildering array of options you’re not interested in, pushed through and signed your contract and then…what?? You learn you still won’t have your internet hooked up at home for days, or weeks!
While the amount of time you will need to wait to get your internet connection set up at home is largely determined by factors outside your control (the building you live in, which part of Japan you live in, how busy the company is, etc.), you can do a few things to save yourself time and get your get your home internet connection set up as quickly as possible:
- Avoid the “moving seasons” (March/April and August/September) when many people in Japan relocate for work/university, if possible. Also remember that early May includes the Golden Week holidays and the end/start of the year has a string of holidays too.
- Understand your building’s existing internet connection (if applicable). If you live in a house, the provider is usually pretty much up to you (but installation of fiber-optic lines may take a while depending on the house). If you live in an apartment (known somewhat confusingly as a “mansion” in Japan), your building may already be configured to a certain provider, which will limit your options. Knowing this in advance can save you time in your search for a provider.
- Choose a provider that won’t make you wait too long! Certain providers in Japan are in especially high demand and so have longer waits than others (for example, new applications to FLET’S HIKARI NEXT Giga Family plans are currently not being accepted due to high demand and global semiconductor shortages). Obviously, this may be because some companies offer superior internet in terms of speed and reliability, but can also be attributed to greater name brand recognition and more advertising.
So…how long is this going to take?
Obviously, this varies from case to case (location, type of building, etc.), but here is a table that indicates some of the general trends across the different companies.
Note that the biggest factor is ultimately whether the physical line is already installed in your home or not. If the line is installed, you may have internet within a week. If not, a month is usually more realistic as a technician may need to visit your home for installation.
|Provider||Typical Wait for Installation|
|au (KDDI) Hikari||2 weeks - 2 months|
|NURO Hikari||1-3 months|
|FLET’S Hikari||2 weeks-1 month|
|Softbank||2 weeks-1 month|
|Docomo Hikari||2 weeks-1 month|
|SakuraOfficial site||2 weeks-1 month|
|GTN HikariOfficial site||2 weeks-1 month|
What can I do while I’m waiting for my fiber-optic home internet to be installed… If you want the speed and bandwidth of fiber-optic internet in your home in Japan but are worried about the first few weeks without access to the internet (maybe you will be working from home or studying or trying to keep small children entertained), you might want to consider a short-term Pocket Wi-Fi rental until your fiber-optic internet has been set up.
Sakura Mobile, one of the providers that specifically caters to English speakers in Japan, offers the option to request a temporary Pocket Wi-Fi rental when you apply for their fiber-optic internet service online. Doing so ensures that you will have access to the internet via Pocket Wi-Fi until your fiber-optic internet has been fully installed and set up.
Or you can arrange to rent a Pocket Wi-Fi from a company such as Ninja Wi-Fi that rents units by the day.
Payment for internet services is usually done via your credit card, though some providers may allow for other payment options.
Conclusion - is fiber-optic internet in Japan worth the hassle?
Whenever you move to a new home (or even more so, a new country), there is a lot to do. And so the hassle of setting up fiber-optic internet at your house or apartment can seem an extra unwanted burden at that time.
However, if you do your best to avoid the busiest moving times in Japan (March/April and August/September) select a company that caters better to your needs (if you need service in English, for example, it might be better to go with Sakura or GTN, for instance), you can somewhat mitigate the strain of the process.
Additionally, as fiber-optic internet infrastructure continues to proliferate and improve across Japan, costs and wait times should hopefully begin to become less of a problem.
Finally, while setup costs and installation delays can be frustrating, once it’s done, it’s done! If you are planning on staying in Japan for a while and need fast, stable internet access at home, putting up with the initial hassles is worth it. A year later when you are enjoying reliable high-speed internet in your home in Japan, you will definitely be grateful you did so!