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How to Choose Internet Service in Japan (Fiber-Optics)

fiber-optics Japan

Fiber optic internet(or fiber-optics) is the fastest and the most popular home internet in Japan, so if you are searching for a home internet service for your long-term life in Japan, it would most likely be fiber-optics. (the second popular option is WiMAX, if you are interested in it, go here.)

There are number of optical fiber internet service providers in Japan, but the question is, which one works best for you?

That depends on your internet usage habit, residential building type, and cell phone carrier.

Concerning those factors, for helping you to pick the best internet service for you, this article will talk about the characteristics of the most famous fiber-optic services in Japan and compares their speeds, prices, and deals.

3 Most famous Fiber Optic Internet Services in JP and Their Features

Before You Read...

There are two different types of companies in the Japanese internet industry. One is network operator(回線事業者 in Japanese) and the other is internet service provider(or ISP, プロバイダー in Japanese).

Simply put, network operators lend fiber-optic cables and other hardware for the internet connection to multiple ISPs, and using them, ISPs provide internet services to users. Sometimes one company can be both a network operator and an ISP.

In the past, it was often said that users need to make a contract with a network operator and an ISP separately for the internet in Japan. Fortunately nowadays in most cases, People just need to pick a fiber-optics service and get a single contract with an ISP which provides that service.

The three most famous fiber optic internet services in Japan are,

• FLET'S HIKARI(フレッツ光)

• au HIKARI(auひかり)

• NURO HIKARI(NURO光)

And, below is a brief explanation of the features of those services and their internet service provider(ISP)s.

FLET'S HIKARI(フレッツ光)

FLET'S HIKARI

Network operator for the service: NTT
(The biggest telecommunications companies in Japan)

FLET'S HIKARI(フレッツ光) is the fiber-optics service with the largest coverage area all over Japan.

As FLET'S HIKARI is offered by the biggest telecommunications companies in Japan, with its technological prowess and support, it provides the most stable internet connection with the max speed of 1Gps.

Also, as it has the broadest coverage area in Japan and many buildings likely have had its fiber-optics lines installed already, there is more possiblity you don't need a new installation of the internet or the installation would be fastly done if you live in an apartment.

Whether you live in a house or an apartment, from the order, it takes the least time for you to start the internet services in Japan(in the case of SoftBank HIKARI of FLET's HIKARI, it takes at least 10 days till the activation. Other services take at least 2 weeks or 1 month).  

The main internet service provider(ISP)s for FLET'S HIKARI are Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光), So-net HIKARI collabo(So-net光コラボ), and OCN for Docomo HIKARI (OCN for ドコモ光).

And each company provides internet + smartphone bundled deals for, in order, SoftBank, au, and Docomo smartphone users.

• Official website of the ISPs(Japanese only): Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光) , So-net HIKARI collabo(So-net光コラボ) , OCN for Docomo HIKARI

• More details about SoftBank HIKARI: SoftBank HIKARI(SoftBank光)

• More details about OCN for Docomo HIKARI(OCN for ドコモ光)

au HIKARI

auhikari

Network operator for the service: KDDI
(smaller than NTT but, still one of the biggest telecommunications companies in Japan)

au HIKARI(auひかり) is the optical fiber cable internet service that has a wide service area all over Japan(for now, au HIKARI is not available in the Kansai area(Osaka, Hyogo, Aichi, Kyoto, Nara, Fukui, Shiga, and Wakayama), but instead, eo HIKARI(eo光) of the same quality with au HIKARI by the same group's company).

au HIKARI's strengths are a stable internet connection(max speed of 1Gbps) and its cheap monthly charges.

au HIKARI provides internet + smartphone service bundled discounts to whom get contracts for both au smartphone service(auスマホ) and au HIKARI.

There are 7 ISPs which provide au HIKARI internet, and basically, all ISPs of au HIKARI provide the same discount on a monthly charge via a promotion except So-net au HIKARI(So-net光auひかり). So-net au HIKARI provides more amount of discount on a monthly fee via a promotion than the other au HIKARI's ISPs.

• Official website of So-net au HIKARI(Japanese only): So-net au HIKARI(So-net光auひかり)

NURO HIKARI(NURO光)

NURO HIKARI

Network operator for the service: Sony

With a max speed 2Gbs, NURO HIKARI(NURO光) is the fastest home internet service in the world. So, this internet service is highly recommended for heavy internet users, especially gamers.

NURO HIKARI(NURO光) provides service in Kanto region(Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa, Ibaraki, Tochigi,and Gunma), Kansai region(Osaka, Hyogo, Kyoto, Shiga, and Nara), Tokai region(Aichi, Shizuoka, Mie, and Gifu), and Hokkaido(from December 12, 2019).

The thing you need to be cautious about is you might need to wait for a long time(sometimes even longer than 3 months) to actually use the internet from the order as its waiting time for the installation is much longer than other services(check here to know more about waiting time of internet services in Japan).  

So-net NURO HIKARI(So-net NURO光) is the only ISP for NURO光, and it provides internet + smartphone bundled discounts to Softbank smartphone users.

• Official web page of the ISP(Japanese only): So-net NURO HIKARI(So-netNURO光)

• More details about NURO HIKARI(in English): NURO HIKARI(NURO光)

Which One for You?: Internet Service Recommendation in Japan

Internet in Japan recommendation

Choosing the best optical fiber internet in Japan for you depends on how important internet speed is to you, the type of your residential building, how soon you need to use the internet, and your smartphone carrier.

The Fastest Internet?

Japan internet speed

The fastest internet in Japan(also in the world) is NURO HIKARI(NURO光) whose max speed is 2Gbps.

NURO HIKARI is the only fiber-optics service in Japan that provides the max speed. All other service's max speeds are 1Gbps.

japan internet speed comparison

For work, study, games, or etc., if you use the internet a lot in Japan, NURO HIKARI(NURO光) is highly recommended.

However, as mentioned above, people who live in an apartment with 8 and more floors can't get a contract for NURO HIKARI.

Below is the NURO HIKARI's promotion(キャンペーン in Japanese) that provides cashback and free fiber-optic cable installation.

nuro hikari

Monthly Charge
3-year contract: 5,200 yen
2-year contract: 5,700 yen

Cashback Amount
45,000 yen
+ Free fiber installation

* This special promotion applies only to whom get a contract for the internet on this promotional web page.

Promotional web page: NURO HIKARI (Japanese only)

However, if you can't get a contract for NURO HIKARI because your place doesn't meet building's structural requirements or is out of the service area, the second recommendation is SoftBank HIKARI(SoftBank光).

It was previously mentioned that all Japanese fiber-optics services, except NURO HIKARI, provide the internet with a max speed of 1Gbps.

However, even though their max speeds are the same, their average internet speed varies depending on the environment of the internet connection. 

SoftBank HIKARI's average internet speed is the fastest among those of fiber optic internet services(max speed of 1Gbps) in Japan.

It's because SoftBank HIKARI uses FLET'S HIKARI(フレッツ光) network which has the strongest internet connection and technical support in Japan, and it's faster than other internet services which use the same network by adapting its own IPoE connection(for more information about IPoE, click here).  

You can get a deal for SoftBank HIKARI from the promotional link below.

softbank hikari

Monthly Charge Discount
House Course(2-year contract): 4,679 yen
Mansion Course(2-year contract): 3,139yen

*Those are the prices if you divide 25,000yen cashback offered via this promotion and apply to monthly fees

+ If you switch your current internet service to Softbank HIKARI, SoftBank will pay all the cancellation fee.

Promotional web page: Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光)

English Guide to Online Contract

The Lowest Cost Internet?

Japan internet cost

Here, monthly charges of fiber-optics ISPs in Japan will be compared, then you will know which one is the most reasonable.

Monthly charges for House(戸建て) Course and Mansion(マンション) Course will be separately compared.

(House Course is payment course for whom lives in a house, and Mansion Course is for whom live in an apartment.) 

Japan home internet cost

House Course(戸建てタイプ) 

Internet Service
(fiber-optics)
au HIKARI
(auひかり)
FLET'S HIKARI
(フレッツ光)
NURO HIKARI
(NURO光)
Monthly Charge 5,390~5,610 yen 5,280~6,270 yen 5,200 yen

Although the table above shows that NURO HIKARI's monthly charge is the cheapest, actually, you can get a better deal with au HIKARI(auひかり).

au HiKari's price in the table is before any discount through its promotion. Basically, au HIKARI's internet service provider(ISP)s give their customers a discount for a monthly usage charge, as a result, the monthly fee for the House Course of au HIKARI becomes 4,785 yen for 2 years and 6 months.

If you get a contract for au HIKARI with an ISP, So-net au HIKARI(So-net光auひかり) you can get even more discount.

For a 3-year contract, So-net au HIKARI offers au HIKARI for 980 yen a month for the 1st year, 4,872 yen for the 2nd year, and 4,762 yen for the 3rd year.

So, by contracting with So-net au HIKARI, you can save the most money on fiber optic internet. 

The link below leads to the promotional web page(in Japanese) that you can start to use au HIKRI's House Course for 980 yen a month.

• au HIKARI House Course for 980 yen/month for the 1st year (3-year contract)

• English Guide to Online Contract(au HIKARI)

To conclude, for House Course, So-net au HIKARI(So-net光auひかり) provides the cheapest fiber-optics service, and the second-cheapest is NURO HIKARI(NURO光) with the charge of 5,200 yen/month. Below is the link to NURO HIKARI's promotional web page(in Japanese).

• NURO HIKARI(NURO光) promotional link

Internet in Japan for apartment

Mansion Course(マンションタイプ)

Internet Service
(fiber-optics)
au HIKARI
(auひかり)
FLET'S HIKARI
(フレッツ光)
NURO HIKARI
(NURO光)
Monthly Charge 4,180 yen 3,850~5,060 yen

In the table above, Mansion Course's monthly charges look similar for au HIKARI and FLET'S HIKARI,

However, like the way of House Course, via the promotion of So-net au HIKARI, you can use the internet for 980 yen/month for the 1st year and 2,746 yen for the 2nd year. Below is the promotional link that you can get a contract for the price.

• au HIKARI(auひかり) Mansion Course 980 yen/month for the 1st year(2-year contract)

• English Guide to Online Contract(au HIKARI)

For FLET'S HIKARI(フレッツ光)'s Mansion Course,

Monthly fees vary depending on the internet service provider(ISP).

Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光)'s monthly charge is 3,139 yen/month, Docomo HIKARI(ドコモ光)'s is 4,180 yen, and So-net HIKARI Plus's is 4,928 yen. Those are all discounted prices via promotions.

So for Mansion Course, au HIKARI(auひかり)'s monthly charge is the cheapest, and the second-cheapest one is Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光).

Below are the promotional web pages of FLET'S HIKARI(フレッツ光)'s ISPs.

• FLET'S HIKARI(フレッツ光)'s promotional web pages: Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光) , So-net HIKARI collaboration(So-net光コラボ) , OCN for Docomo HIKARI(OCN for ドコモ光)

There is Mansion Course for NURO HIKARI(NURO光), but yet, it's so hard to find apartments the course is available because, although NURO HIKARI launched in 2013, it is still too new service to make the course available.

So, its monthly fee for the Mansion Course is not shown in the table above.

If you want to make a contract for NURO HIKARI, whether you live in a house or an apartment, you should get a contract for House Course.

The Internet Service with the Least Waiting Time?

In Japan, you don't get an internet connection right after you make a contract for an internet service. It takes more than 1 week after the order for you to actually be able to use the internet. 

The table below shows major internet services in Japan and their waiting time for activation(installation) of the internet after ordering the services.

Internet Service Minimum Wating Time for Activation(installation)
SoftBank HIKARI 10 days
So-net HIKARI Plus 2 weeks
Docomo HIKARI 2 weeks to 1 month and a half
au HIKARI Mansion Course: 2 weeks
House Course:1-2 months
eo HIKARI 1 month
NURO HIKARI * 1-3 months

As you can see in the table, SoftBank HIKARI has the least waiting period to start the internet, and So-net HIKARI Plus's waiting time is the second least.

Below are the links to the official web pages where you can order those services via promotions.

*And about NURO HIKARI, officially it is said that it takes 1 to 3 months for the service to activate the internet, but it can actually take even more time if too many people in your area make a contract for NURO HIKARI.

The Best Internet + Smartphone Bundled Deals?

japan smartphone

If your internet service provider(ISP) and smartphone carrier are the same company or affiliated companies, you can get a bundled discount for your smartphone's monthly charge.

However, each ISP offers a monthly bundled discount for different smartphone carriers.

Below is the table showing ISPs which provide bundled deals for the most popular smartphone carriers in Japan and the amounts of discounts

 

Bundled Deals for Smartphone Carriers in Japan

Smartphone

Carrier

ISP Monthly Discount
au
au smartphone
au HIKARI
(auひかり)
550~2,200 yen
So-net HIKARI Collabo
(So-net光コラボ)
Softbank
Softbank smartphone
Softbank HIKARI
(Softbank光)
550~1,188 yen
NURO HIKARI
(NURO光)
Docomo
Docomo smartphone
Docomo HIKARI
(ドコモ光)
550~1,760 yen


Below is detail about bundled discounts for each smartphone carrier.

au Smartphone

au smartphone

For au smartphone service(auスマホ), So-net au HIKARI(So-net光auひかり) and So-net HIKARI Collabo(So-net光コラボ) offer the same deal.

au smartphone users can get a discount up to 2,200 yen/month depending on their smartphone's data plan.

Multiple discounts will be provided if the user's family members use au smartphones.

So-net au HIKARI is more recommendable than So-net HIKARI Collabo for au smartphone users. It's because even though they provide the same bundled discount, So-net au HIKARI's monthly charges of the internet are cheaper and the average internet speed is faster than those of So-net HIKARI Collabo.

Below is the link to the official web page where you can get the bundled discount for au smartphone service in addition to the discount for a monthly fee of internet.

au hikari

ISP: So-net光auひかり

Monthly Charge
House Course(3-year contract):

  • 1st year: 980 yen
  • 2nd year: 4,872 yen
  • 3rd year: 4,762 yen

Mansion Course(2-year contract):
  • 1st year: 980 yen
  • 2nd year: 2,746 yen

Cashback
House Course: 14,154 yen cashback
Mansion Course: 17,222 yen cashback

+You can get up to 30,000 yen for switching your current internet service to au HIKARI(auひかり).

Promotional web page: au HIKARI (in Japanese only)
(promotion period: 2024.2.1~ 2024.2.29)

English Guide to Online Contract

*KANSAI AREA(Osaka,Kyoto,etc.,) LIMITED INFO

au HIKARI is not available in Kansai area(Osaka, Hyogo, Aichi, Kyoto, Nara, Fukui, Shiga, and Wakayama) for now, but instead, eo HIKARI(eo光) internet by the same group's company can be ordered.

eo HIKARI provides the internet with the same speed and stability of au HIKARI for a reasonable price.

This service is specialized for the Kansai area like Osaka and Kyoto, so eo HIKARI is strongly recommended for those who live in the Kansai area, but people in other areas can not order or use this service.

Below are the deals of eo HIKARI and the promotional link for it.

House Course: 2,380 yen(for 12 months)
Mansion Course: 3,326 yen(for 24 months)

Free fiber installation / 3,000 yen~10,000 yen gift card

Promotional web page: eo HIKARI(eo光)


However, there is a possibility that you can't make a contract for So-net au HIKARI for some reason(for example, your building is located out of the service area). In that case, if you live in Kansai area such as Osaka or Kyoto, you can order eo HIKARI(eo光) as it provides the same deal.

And, if you live in other areas, So-net HIKARI Plus is recommended as it still offers a good deal for fiber-optic internet.

You can get a bundled discount for au smartphone service in addion to a discount for monthly charge of the internet by making a contract for So-net HIKARI Plus via the following promotional link.

sonet hikari plus

Monthly Charge
House Course(2-year contract): 6,138 yen
Mansion Course(2-year contract): 4,928 yen

Cashback
50,000 yen cashback

+ Free fiber installation

* This special promotion applies to whom get a contract for the internet on this promotional web page only.

Promotional web page: So-net HIKARI Plus(So-net光プラス)
(promotion period: 2024.2.1~ 2024.2.29)

Softbank Smartphone

softbank smartphone

Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光) and NURO HIKARI(NURO光) offer an internet+smartphone bundled discount to Softbank smartphone users.

Both of them offer their customers up to 1,188 yen off a month and provide multiple discounts to a family if two or more family members use SoftBank smartphones.

If you are a Softbank smartphone user and live in an apartment in Japan, Softbank HIKARI is cheaper than NURO HIKARI, but if you live in a house, NURO HIKARI is more recommended as its monthly fee is cheaper and internet speed is almost two times faster than those of Softbank HIKARI.

Below are promotional links to the websites of Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光) and NURO HIKARI(NURO光) in turn.

softbank hikari

Monthly Charge Discount
House Course(2-year contract): 4,679 yen
Mansion Course(2-year contract): 3,139yen

*Those are the prices if you divide 25,000yen cashback offered via this promotion and apply to monthly fees

+ If you switch your current internet service to Softbank HIKARI, SoftBank will pay all the cancellation fee.

Promotional web page: Softbank HIKARI(Softbank光)

English Guide to Online Contract


nuro hikari

Monthly Charge
3-year contract: 5,200 yen
2-year contract: 5,700 yen

Cashback Amount
45,000 yen
+ Free fiber installation

* This special promotion applies only to whom get a contract for the internet on this promotional web page.

Promotional web page: NURO HIKARI (Japanese only)

Docomo Smartphone

Docomo smartphone

There are several internet service provider(ISP)s of Docomo HIKARI(ドコモ光 in Japanese, one type of FLET's HIKARI internet service) which provide the same bundled deal for Docomo smartphone.

They offer up to 1,760 yen off a month for whom use individual data plans and up to 3,850 yen off a month for whom use family data plans.

OCN for Docomo HIKARI(OCN for ドコモ光) is the most recommended ISP for Docomo smartphone users here as with the same bundled deal, they use a special network called Tier 1 which offers faster average internet speed than other Docomo HIKARI ISPs.

Below is the link to the official web page that you can make a contract for Docomo HIKARI with cashback and Docomo points.

OCN Docomo HIKARI

Monthly Charge
House Course(2-year contract): 5,940 yen
Mansion Course(2-year contract): 4,620yen

Promotion
20,000yen cashback
Free Installation Fee

Initial Fee: 3,300 yen

Promotional web page: OCN for Docomo HIKARI