One unique feature of Internet connections in Japan is that a customer needs to deal with two companies – one is a line provider simply providing infrastructure & the hardware and the other is an Internet Service Provider (ISP), establishing the internet connection. As for the line provider, NTT controls Japan’s top market share as this company started out as a monopoly government-owned corporation maintaining telephone services all over the country.
However, NTT is obligated to lease some of their optical fiber to other line providers such as KDDI and Sonet. So, currently, one of these companies is likely to be the line provider if the apartment you are planning to move into is compatible with fiber optic service. On the other hand, some apartments in certain areas of major cities offer internet service via cable TV rather than NTT’s infrastructure. While fiber optic line providers have hundreds of ISPs to select from, Cable TV companies seldom have multiple ISPs (Usually the same cable TV company acts as its ISP). There are 2 major Cable TV companies in Japan (J:COM and ITSCOM) and their customers would not need to enter 2 separate contracts like fiber optic.
Once you decide which apartment to move into, the very first thing you would need to do is to confirm with the building management what type of internet services are technically adaptable to that specific apartment unit. In regards to setting up the fiber optic, you may contact the line provider and the ISP separately, however in most cases, customers contact the ISP first and then the ISP will connect them to the Line provider accordingly who will usually offer some discount package. If one tries the other way round, one might not be able to obtain any discount..
The whole process of internet installation requires 2 weeks or even longer so please do not set the move-in date of your apartment too early as you might end up living without internet for several days.
Occasionally, some landlords provide free internet service to their customers. However, a wifi setup is typically not included within their service.
The duration of the contract between the customer and ISP is typically 2 years and will be renewed automatically upon expiry. One thing that is very unfriendly about most ISPs is that unless one terminates the service within 1 month prior to the renewal, one will be charged a cancellation fee of around 5,000 – 15,000yen and this is how ISPs try to chain their customers to the on-going contract. However, as a remedy, each ISP provides a penalty fee coverage promotion (which is often referred to as “Cash Back campaign”) that enables customers to change providers more flexibly in the middle of the contract. So when one changes ISPs, it is very important to check with the new ISP whether or not such a campaign is available to balance out the costs.
Internet service is a rapidly evolving industry where rates and methods are constantly changing so please update yourself before you actually make an application.
Please find below the list of line providers and the ISPs.
Followings are the leading companies
NTT East/West – Flets Hikari (Fiber Optic)
ADSL – (Much slower than fiber optic but cheaper. Hence, market is shrinking)
KDDI – au Hikari (Fiber Optic)
Sonet – NURO Hikari (Fiber Optic), The fastest at 2 gbps
J:COM – Cable TV
ITSCOM – Cable TV
Internet Service Providers (ISP):
(ISPs providing services in English)