Review: NTT EAST FLET'S HIKARI and associated providers (Softbank HIKARI, etc.)
NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation), the largest major telecommunications provider in Japan (divided geographically into NTT EAST and NTT WEST), is a major provider of high-speed fiber-optic internet infrastructure across the country via its FLET'S HIKARI network. While you can apply directly to NTT for FLET'S HIKARI fiber-optic home internet, better deals can often be found via partnerships with other telecommunications companies (Softbank Hikari, Docomo Hikari, GTN Hikari, etc.). This article explains the basics of these various NTT FLET'S partnership services, including the pricing plans that they offer, their application and installation processes, and their rules for cancellation.
Founded in the years after World War II, initially as a state-owned corporation, NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation) is the largest telecommunications company in Japan, supplying communications services and infrastructure to millions of homes and businesses across the nation.
The company is now divided up into a huge and complex group of subsidiaries and branches, but the easiest way to understand this in terms of your fiber-optic home internet needs is geographically, with NTT East mainly supplying the east of the country and NTT West the west. If you’re not so sure if you are in east or west Japan (this can be a bit confusing!), at least according to NTT, here is a quick table.
|- NTT East - Service Area|
|Hokkaido, Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Yamanashi, Nagano (partial), Niigata|
|NTT West - Service Area|
|Toyama, Ishikawa , Fukui , Gifu , Shizuoka, Aichi, Mie, Shiga, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, Nara, Wakayama, Tottori, Shimane, Okayama, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Tokushima, Kagawa, Ehime, Kochi, Fukuoka, Ehime, Kochi, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima, Okinawa, Nagano (partial)|
NTT West/NTT East Service Areas
For the sake of simplicity and brevity, this article primarily deals with services within the NTT East service area, so if you live in the NTT West service area, be sure to check specific details for your specific region.
NTT FLET'S HIKARI Fiber-Optic Home Internet
NTT FLET'S HIKARI is the generic name for NTT EAST’s various HIKARI fiber-optic home internet services, including FLET'S HIKARI CROSS, FLET'S HIKARI NEXT, FLET'S HIKARI LIGHT, and FLET'S HIKARI LIGHT PLUS.
Currently, the fiber-optic connections provided by the FLET'S HIKARI network can deliver data transmission and download speeds as high as 1Gbps, putting them right up there among the fastest publicly available connections in the world.
Applying for fiber-optic home internet via the FLET'S HIKARI network can be done either:
- Directly from NTT EAST FLET'S - you will then have to pay your internet service provider bill separately and set this up yourself.
- From one of the many HIKARI-based partnerships (Softbank Hikari, au Hikari, Docomo Hikari, GTN Hikari, etc.) with other telecommunications providers - these integrated internet service providers will help you set up both the physical line and the service all combined into a single convenient internet bill.
It is also definitely worth looking into these different partnerships as they tend to offer competitive rates and simpler, quicker installation procedures. However, this varies from company to company and place to place, so it pays to do some research before you sign a contract.
Do I really need a fiber-optic home internet connection in Japan?
Here is a quick overview of some of the main advantages and disadvantages of fiber-optic home internet in Japan.
While setup costs and waiting for installation can be frustrating, if you are planning on staying in Japan for a while and need fast, stable internet access at home for work, study, or entertainment, putting up with the initial costs and hassles of getting fiber-optic home internet is definitely worth it.
What are your options when choosing a HIKARI fiber-optic internet provider?
It can be pretty confusing out there when you start your search for a fiber-optic home internet in Japan.
Why does everything seem to be called HIKARI? Which company actually provides this HIKARI service to your home? Is HIKARI from one company the same thing as HIKARI from any other?
The first thing to understand is that Japanese fiber-optic internet is an "unbundled” service.
What is “unbundled” internet service?
Essentially this refers to the fact that the physical cables running into your building and your actual internet service are usually provided by separate companies. If you live in Tokyo, for example, the physical cable infrastructure for most buildings is provided by NTT East or au KDDI.
This means that when you pay your internet bill, you are actually paying one fee to the line provider and another fee to the service provider. While this could potentially lead to you needing to pay two separate bills (annoying), a good internet service provider will take care of this for you and wrap both costs up into a single bill.
NTT EAST FLET'S HIKARI integrated internet service plan providers
There are a large number of internet service providers available in Japan that offer fiber-optic home internet plans via the NTT EAST FLET'S network.
When you sign a contract with one of these providers, they will arrange for convenient billing (usually via credit card) as well as the necessary installation or setup procedures.
Let’s take a quick look at the prices (setup/installation costs as well as monthly rates) you can expect to pay with different providers, as well as the average wait for installation you will likely face and finally the cancellation charges you may have to pay if you cancel mid-contract.
Price - Setup/Installation Costs and Monthly Rates
Here is a list of some of the best-known internet service providers that deal with FLET'S HIKARI along with sample setup/installation costs and monthly rates.
|Provider||Initial Setup Costs*||Monthly Rates*|
|NTT East FLET’S Hikari||¥16,500-¥19,800||From ¥3,355 + provider service charge***|
|Docomo Hikari||¥16,500 (¥19,500 for houses)||¥4,400|
|Sakura (uses Hikari)||¥5,500 (admin fee)**
¥2,200-¥24,200 (installation charges)
|GTN Hikari||Unclear||(Possibly) ¥3,800|
*For reference purposes only; please refer to company websites or contact provider directly.
**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 reimburse the company the full installation fee on top of a cancellation fee.
How long does Setup/Installation take?
Obviously this varies based on many factors, such as where you live in Japan, the type of building you live in (apartment building/house), and whether or not a line is already installed (and if so, which company’s line), as well as how busy the line provider and service provider are (avoid March/April and August/September if possible as this is the “moving season” in Japan where many people relocate for work or university).
If the line is already installed in your building, you may have internet in as little as 1 week (though 2-3 weeks is probably more realistic). If not, it will probably be more like 1 month as a technician will need to visit your home for installation.
|Provider||Typical Wait for Installation|
|NTT East FLET’S Hikari||2 weeks-1 month|
|Softbank Hikari||2 weeks-1 month|
|Docomo Hikari||2 weeks-1 month|
|OCN Hikari||2 weeks-1 month|
|Sakura (uses Hikari)||2 weeks-1 month|
|GTN Hikari||2 weeks-1 month|
|au (KDDI) Hikari*||2 weeks - 2 months|
|NURO Hikari*||1-3 months|
*These are also both called “HIKARI” but this has been omitted here to be clear that they do not use the FLET'S HIKARI network.
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.
What if I need to cancel my contract?
Internet contract lengths and cancellation fees can be a cause of concern to foreign residents in Japan, especially as foreign residents tend to move out of the country at some point but are not always sure when they arrive how long they will stay.
While recent legal changes in Japan have led to a much-welcomed reduction of previously-steep cancellation penalty fees, the fact remains that if you leave your contract before it finishes, most companies will charge some sort of cancellation fee.
|Provider||Minimum Contract Length*||Cancellation Fees**|
|NTT East FLET’S Hikari||24 months||¥1,650-4,950|
|Softbank||24 months||Around ¥10,000|
|Docomo Hikari||24 months||Around ¥10,000|
|OCN Hikari||24 month||Around ¥11,000|
|Sakura (uses Hikari)||1 month||¥0|
|GTN Hikari||Unclear||Possibly ¥0|
|au (KDDI)||24 months||¥10,500|
*For reference purposes only; please refer to company websites or contact providers directly
**For reference purposes only; please refer to company websites or contact providers directly. Other fees may be involved with cancellation.
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).
If you plan to move house within Japan, you should check whether your provider can help you out or whether you will be completely on the hook both for cancellation fees and setup/installation costs all over again. Depending on where you are moving, some companies may be able to offer you some sort of deal.
Non-NTT FLET'S HIKARI providers (NURO Hikari, au Hikari)
If you have spent any time on YouTube in Japan yet, you may have already been bombarded by incessant (and irritating…) ads from NURO Hikari (the ones with what sounds like cartoon mice singing to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy”).
While it is true that NURO Hikari offers the fastest maximum speeds in Japan (2Gbps), it is important to consider that NURO Hikari (and au Hikari too) do NOT operate via the FLET'S network.
This means that prospective customers for NURO Hikari and au Hikari will likely face lengthy waits for installation due to the popularity of these services and because the required fiber-optic cables will need to be installed from scratch. For au Hikari, wait times for installation tend to be around 1 month, but for NURO Hikari, wait times can range from 1-3 months!
NURO Hikari and au Hikari also tend to have some of the highest setup and installation costs, nearly ¥50,000 in some cases!
The need for speed… For those of us who remember the early years of the internet in the 90s, plugging into dial-up modems, listening to that distinctive metallic whine, and going off to make a pot of tea while our email loaded up, the idea of commercially-available internet speeds up to 2Gbps these days that allow near instantaneous downloads and flawless video streaming is pretty incredible when you stop to think about it.
However, if the experiment conducted by researchers at Tokyo’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in 2021 is anything to go by, future generations (or us, in the not-so-distant future!) may look back on 2Gbps speeds like a Ferrari driver contemplating a jinrikisha (human-powered rickshaw). The NICT experiment set the world record for data transmission at a mind-bending 319 Terabytes/second (Tbps), fast enough to download 80,000 movies in a single second.
Obviously, don’t expect NTT or au KDDI to be installing 319 Tbps lines in your home any time soon. Still it’s pretty incredible to imagine what the future of this technology could hold!
Applying for fiber-optic home internet from FLET'S HIKARI integrated internet service plan providers
Information about most major internet providers in English is now quite freely available online, but for the vast majority of the FLET'S HIKARI internet service providers listed in this article, you will need to make an actual visit to one of their physical store locations to apply for fiber-optic home internet.
If it is a particularly busy location, you may wish to make a reservation either by telephone or using the apps or online reservations systems that many offer.
Obviously, this presents a big hurdle to many foreign residents in Japan: communication in Japanese. If you are not confident in your ability to speak (and read) Japanese, you should try to arrange to visit the store with a Japanese friend, family member, or colleague who can help translate.
If this will be difficult or inconvenient to arrange, you might want to opt for one of the internet providers that specifically caters to foreign residents in Japan (such as Sakura or GTN) for full service in fluent English.
You can also feel free to give us a call at Selectra Japan (0120-164-006) any time for a free consultation in English so that we can help you with your home internet needs.
Which providers in Japan are most accessible for English speakers?
|NTT EAST FLET’S Hikari||Very Limited|
|Docomo Hikari||Very Limited|
|OCN Hikari||Very Limited|
|au (KDDI) Hikari||Very Limited|
|NURO Hikari||Very Limited|
While some of the other providers do have (limited) explanations of their services available online in English, the only two Hikari-affiliated providers with full customer service in English are Sakura and GTN Mobile, both of whom cater specifically to the foreign community in Japan. If you want to be able to apply in English and receive any necessary assistance in English during your time living in Japan, choosing one of these two companies (Sakura or GTN) might be a good option for you.
Review: NTT East FLET'S HIKARI
We get it. It’s confusing. So many options. So many deals. So many companies named HIKARI.
At the end of the day, having fast and reliable access to the internet at your home in Japan is worth the cost and hassles.
Whether or not you require customer service and support in English is also an important part of your decision.
The first step is always to check whether your building is already equipped by a certain line provider. This will limit your choices, but at least you will have a better idea then of what your options are. From there, you can start to compare plans, discounts, and conditions offered by different service providers. Then, take the plunge and make your choice!
Feel free to give us a call at Selectra Japan (0120-164-006) any time you would like some assistance (in English!).