As any expat living in Japan knows, securing a reasonable cellphone plan is far more difficult than it should be. Complicated and binding contracts with phone companies who have little English-language support turn the simple task of finding affordable cellphone and data service into a full-blown saga. Sakura Mobile is offering foreigners a novel solution to this enduring problem, with the first MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) for foreigners. MVNO providers don’t own entire networks, instead they borrow networks. By paying for access to cell towers run by major phone companies like SoftBank, Docomo and Au, MVNO providers gain access to established networks but are allowed to set their own rates and plans. Bypassing infrastructure costs, MVNOs are able to set rates up to half the cost of the three major phone companies. Sakura Mobile’s plans start at just ¥2,980/month. The appeal is undeniable and the number of Japanese smartphone users on MVNOs has grown to 10% of the mobile phone market since 2014. But foreigners have been largely left out the rising popularity of these new services, until now.
Sakura Mobile has taken on the mantle of the first MVNO catered specifically to foreigners living in Japan. In practice, this means real English language services. While we’d all love to have the Japanese language skills to negotiate data, texting and calling fees in Japanese, this isn’t a possibility for most, making a visit to a major phone company an anxious and unenjoyable experience. With application forms and informational materials all in English, Sakura Mobile avoids the language-barrier hassle. They also follow up English registration with full English-language customer support.
While major Japanese phone companies sometimes enforce unreasonable restrictions on customers, Sakura Mobile is designed to be as flexible as possible. This means you can bring your own device onto Sakura Mobile’s plan at no additional cost. Payment options include cash and credit cards issued in foreign countries. Customers are also able to use Sakura Mobile for two years without a binding contract. And if you still have any reservations about the quality of MVNO service, there are no cancellation penalty fees for leaving your plan.
Sakura Mobile has already been endorsed by a wide range of international students, expats, families and corporations, as well as embassy and military personnel. To join the MVNO ranks, you can apply online at www.sakuramobile.jp or visit their Shinjuku offices (reservation required) for a free consultation. Whether you’re new to Japan or a long-term customer of Softbank, Docomo or Au, consider transferring to Sakura Mobile.