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The Japanese mobile phone market is heating up. Willcom has been picking up many users with the first windows mobile devices introduced in Japan. Can they keep it up?

Softbank is encroaching on their territory by introducing the White Plan. The Softbank White Plan is unlimited calling to other Softbank mobile phone users. There are reports available from Eurotechnology a consulting firm in the Japan market. However, in general Softbank is picking up steam. They

Softbank Mobile’s service and coverage has certainly improved from the Vodafone days. However, the billing is extremely confusing. For one unit at AINEO we pay

+3,400 Yen for the Basic Service
-1,258 Discount Service
+980 Internet Service
+300 S-Basic Pack
+2,280 Hand set Fee
-2,175 Super Bonus

Are you lost yet? It took the customer service representative at Softbank Mobile about ten minutes to explain the logic of the billing. Still not sure if there is any logic. I think the idea is to get the user to think they have a cheap phone service when actually they are paying more. For example, the handset is “free” but you’re paying a 2,280 yen handset fee. That would not qualify as free to most people.

At AINEO are team is almost exclusively Willcom. For running phones in Tokyo, the Willcom service is great. Now with the smart phones, AINEO project managers, engineers, and account managers can talk to each other for no additional charges any time. (Softbank has a window of 9PM to 1AM that they will charge you for with their White Plan). They can also send and receive email no problem from wherever they are.

If you are looking for a cost effective mobile in Japan. Willcom is definitely the recommended. What is the low-down on mobile phones?

The best overall for cost of both email and standard telephone use. The Willcom “Teigaku” plan is excellent. They do have a limited number of handsets but have been doing a good job of increasing their line-up. Customer service is just as good as AU. There is no English voicemail on Willcom. Willcom provides a cost effective solution that many AINEO clients have taken advantage of to keep Japan wireless costs under control.

Absolutely, the best carrier in Japan. Their coverage works when the Docomo FOMA, Softbank, or Willcom cannot get a signal. AU is owned by KDDI and their customer care is also the best in Japan. They know their products and services in the AU customer contact center. The drawbacks are their international roaming is expensive (In Australia 120 yen/min as opposed to Docomo and Softbank’s 80 yen/minute) and limited to a very small number of phones. They also do not have as many nice handsets (the number one reason why Americans switch wireless carriers) as compared with Softbank.

The largest mobile carrier is basically losing subscriptions more than any other company. They are so big that to actually gain subscribers could be quite a challenge. Visiting their stores is somewhat like going to a Japanese bank. You take a number and wait around for your number to be called so you can be helped. The Docomo FOMA service reception does not match the coverage of AU.

Recently gaining subscriptions with drastic price cuts. We wonder how long they sell their service so cheap without making much profit. Clearly, Softbank mobile is just trying to get marketshare. Their White Plan is nice if you have many friends using the Softbank Mobile service. Their biggest sales point is that their international roaming charges are reasonable (although Docomo has matched most of their rates now).

AINEO recommendations-
For the individual using the phone mostly in Japan with a lot of email

For a world traveler, receiving a lot of calls on their Japan phone overseas

For the business person traveling around Japan needing access outside of the major metro areas

For the business person looking to deploy the powerful Blackberry in your organization

If you are just traveling to Japan for a project or a extended stay, you may want to consider purchasing an AU pre-paid phone to avoid the high costs of roaming in Japan from other countries.

Happy shopping!