NTT Docomo SIM Cards and eSIM: a Comprehensive Guide for Tourists

Japan has excellent internet connectivity due to technologically advanced infrastructure. NTT Docomo is the largest mobile network with the fastest LTE speeds and widest coverage nationwide. Renting an NTT Docomo SIM card or eSIM is ideal for traveling tourists to stay connected throughout Japan. This guide covers getting a Docomo SIM/eSIM, including coverage, plans, purchase locations, activation, top-ups, and more.

ntt docomo sim card

I. Quick facts about NTT Docomo

NTT Docomo is Japan’s largest mobile phone carrier, known for its reliable nationwide coverage and high-speed network. Some quick facts:

  • Largest mobile network operator in Japan: NTT Docomo has over 78.9 million subscribers, accounting for about 39% of the Japanese mobile market share. 
  • A pioneer in mobile technology: Docomo was the first to launch i-mode, a precursor to modern mobile internet, in 1999. They also developed the W-CDMA technology used in 3G networks.
  • 5G leader: Docomo was one of the first to launch 5G services in Japan in 2020 and is now the leading provider with over 25 million 5G subscribers.
  • Focus on innovation: Docomo is actively involved in the research and development of next-generation technologies, including 6G, AI, and robotics.
  • Sustainability efforts: Docomo is committed to reducing its environmental impact and achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2040.
ntt docomo
NTT Docomo

II. Japan NTT Docomo Coverage and Speed in Japan

As the leading mobile carrier in Japan, NTT Docomo works to ensure reliable connectivity for its customers through extensive 4G LTE and 5G network coverage nationwide.

1. NTT Docomo coverage in Japan

NTT Docomo Coverage
NTT Docomo Coverage

NTT Docomo has the best overall coverage in Japan covering over 99% of the Japanese population. Their 4G LTE network reaches extensively throughout the main Japanese islands of Honshu, Kyushu, Hokkaido, and Shikoku.

Based on the October 2023 Opensignal report on Japan’s mobile network experience, NTT Docomo performs well in several key areas. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 1st for Overall Coverage Experience: NTT Docomo secured 1st place in Overall Coverage Experience, with users experiencing a 9.1 point out of 10.
  • 1st for 5G Coverage Experience: NTT Docomo users enjoyed a smooth and responsive 5G coverage, earning them the 1st spot with a score of 3.4 points out of 10.
  • 1st for Availability: Docomo is also the sole winner of the Availability award, with a score of 99.7% – just 0.1 percentage points ahead of au.

Overall, NTT Docomo provides a good mobile network experience in Japan, especially in terms of consistency and coverage.

2. NTT Docomo speed in Japan

Japan Mobile Operators Speed
Japan Mobile Operators Speed. Source: Opensignal

The October 2023 Opensignal Mobile Network Experience Report for Japan paints a mixed picture of NTT Docomo’s speed performance. While it doesn’t grab any top awards, it lands in the middle of the pack for several key metrics:

  • Joint 3rd place for Consistency: NTT Docomo shares the 3rd spot with au, both scoring 81.2% on Opensignal’s Consistency metric. This indicates that NTT Docomo’s network consistently delivers a “sufficient” level of support for common mobile applications across various demanding tasks.
  • 5G Download Speed: NTT Docomo scored 177.4 Mbps, placing them second behind Rakuten Mobile (180.9 Mbps) but ahead of au (115.2 Mbps) and SoftBank (138.7 Mbps).
  • 5G Upload Speed: NTT Docomo scored 8.4 Mbps, placing them last behind Rakuten Mobile (30.4 Mbps).
  • Download Speed: NTT Docomo scored 44.8 Mbps, placing them first ahead of au (44.7 Mbps), SoftBank, and Rakuten Mobile.
  • Upload Speed: NTT Docomo scored 6.9 Mbps, placing them last behind Rakuten Mobile (18.7 Mbps), SoftBank, and au.

While not the fastest in any category, NTT Docomo consistently delivers reliable and above-average speeds across all download and upload metrics.

III. What are the Best Connectivity Options of NTT Docomo for Travelers to Japan?

NTT Docomo has 3 main connectivity options for foreigners traveling to Japan:

Option Availability Pros Cons
SIM Card Online purchase, delivered to your address. Widely available at airports, convenience stores, etc. Unlimited data for extended stays. Connects to Docomo's network. Affordable plans. High-speed data options. Easy setup Higher cost than some other Japanese tourist SIMs. Requires online purchase and waiting for delivery
eSIM Activate an eSIM profile on your device if it supports eSIM. No need for a physical SIM. Plans and pricing similar to physical SIMs. No physical SIM needed. Easy activation online. Same plans and coverage as physical SIM eSIM compatible phone required
docomo Wi-Fi Rental Airport rental counters, online booking Multiple users can connect. High-speed internet. No SIM unlocking needed Daily rental fee. May not be suitable for frequent movement

NTT Docomo prepaid SIM cards are the best option for most tourists visiting Japan short-term. They offer good value, convenience, and flexibility without requiring a long-term contract.

IV. Best NTT Docomo SIM cards for Tourists & Cost

NTT Docomo does not launch SIM cards under their brand name. Instead, many MVNOs of NTT Docomo operate on the Docomo network and offer prepaid tourist SIMs such as Sakura Mobile, bMobile, IlJmio, or eConnect Japan. Below are some of the best NTT Docomo prepaid data-only SIMs for tourists visiting Japan.

NTT Docomo SIM card

Docomo Network Price (USD) Data Validity
bMobile ~US$13 5GB in LTE/3G 10 days
~US$20 7GB in LTE/3G 21 days
eConnect Japan ~US$32 5GB in 4G/LTE/3G 30 days
~US$46 10GB in 4G/LTE/3G 30 days
IlJmio ~US$13 1GB in 4G/LTE 30 days
~US$20 2GB in 4G/lTE 3 months
Sakura Mobile ~$33 Unlimited 8 days
~US$48 Unlimited 15 days
~US$67 Unlimited 30 days
~US$108 Unlimited 45 days
~US$119 Unlimited 60 days
~US$178 Unlimited 90 days

NTT Docomo prepaid SIMs can only be used for the stated validity period while in Japan. Costs may vary slightly depending on the retailer. But overall they provide excellent short-term 4G LTE connectivity in Japan at a reasonable price.

V. Does NTT Docomo Japan support eSIM?

Yes, NTT Docomo launched eSIM support for compatible iPhone and Android devices. eSIM allows you to activate a mobile data plan digitally without inserting a physical plastic SIM.

  • bMobile is offering an eSIM package designed specifically for tourists, which includes the same plans mentioned previously.
  • Sakura Mobile also offers eSIMs to tourists visiting Japan with the same plans as prepaid SIMs.

eSIMs are more convenient as you don’t need to bring a SIM card to Japan or go to a store to swap it. You can purchase and activate an eSIM from NTT Docomo completely online before your trip.

VI. Where can you buy an NTT Docomo SIM card and eSIM?

If you want to purchase an NTT Docomo SIM card or eSIM while visiting Japan, there are a few options available depending on your needs and location.

1. Where to buy NTT Docomo SIM for Japan

You can purchase NTT Docomo SIM cards in several ways, both before you travel to Japan and when you arrive. Here are a few options:

  • Online from NTT Docomo: You can purchase NTT Docomo SIM cards directly from their website. However, their website is mainly in Japanese, and you may need a local address to complete the purchase.
  • From Amazon: You can find a variety of NTT Docomo SIM cards on Amazon, including prepaid data SIM cards and voice and data SIM cards.
  • From travel retailers: Many travel retailers sell NTT Docomo SIM cards, such as Travelex, WorldSIM, and KKday.
  • NTT Docomo stores: NTT Docomo has stores in most major cities and airports in Japan. You can purchase a SIM card and activate it at the store.
  • Convenience stores: Some convenience stores in Japan sell NTT Docomo SIM cards. However, the selection may be limited.
  • Airport kiosks: There are kiosks at some airports in Japan where you can purchase NTT Docomo SIM cards.
NTT Docomo store
NTT Docomo store

Recommendation: Order online before your trip for convenience and to ensure you get the right NTT Docomo SIM card plan for your needs. Some reliable websites are Japan Wireless, Mobal, and NinjaWiFi.

2. Where to buy Japan NTT Docomo eSIM

To get an NTT Docomo Japan eSIM, you need to order online from an eSIM-compatible provider or official website such as:

  • Official Website: Visit the official bMobile website, Sakura Mobile, and purchase directly an eSIM with the NTT Docomo network.
  • eSIM provider: Digital eSIM retailer with a variety of data plans including global delivery by email.

Recommendation: Using an eSIM provider like GIGAGO you can buy and activate quickly right from your phone before flying to Japan.

VII. How to Use and Activate NTT Docomo Japan SIM/eSIM in Japan?

Getting set up with a Japanese mobile network is key for using data and phone services while abroad. Here is a rundown of the quick and easy process to activate an NTT Docomo SIM card or eSIM upon arrival in Japan:

1. How to Use and Activate NTT Docomo SIM Card in Japan?

Activating an NTT Docomo SIM card is easy. You only need to follow these simple steps and everything will be ready.

  1. Insert the SIM card: Locate the SIM card slot on your device
  2. Power on your device: Turn on your device and wait for it to recognize the SIM card
  3. Activate the SIM card: In most cases, the SIM card will be pre-activated
  4. Set up APN settings.
  5. Check your services.

Once activated, you can recharge credit or purchase data add-ons as needed by logging in to the online portal or using the NTT Docomo prepaid app.

2. How to Use and Activate NTT Docomo eSIM?

Getting started with an NTT Docomo eSIM for Japan is quite easy as follows:

  1. Install the eSIM
  2. Activate the eSIM
  3. Set up the eSIM
  4. Start using the eSIM: Once the eSIM is activated and set up, you can start using its services.

eSIM activation is quick and convenient to get connected on NTT Docomo’s network before landing in Japan.

VIII. How to top-up NTT Docomo Japan SIM/eSIM

There are a few ways to top-up your NTT Docomo prepaid SIM or eSIM:

  • Online – Log in to the official website l and use an international credit card to recharge.
  • NTT Docomo Stores – Visit any NTT Docomo store in Japan and top up with cash. Staff can assist with language help.
  • Convenience Stores – Pay cash at 7Eleven, FamilyMart, or Lawson stores in Japan to add credit.
  • Vending Machines – Recharge using the prepaid barcode at FamiPort vending machines located nationwide.

Once topped up, the credit balance or data allowance will be updated to continue enjoying connectivity on NTT Docomo.

IX. Alternatives to Japan NTT Docomo

While NTT Docomo is the top choice for most travelers, below are some alternative options to consider:

  • SoftBank Japan – Second largest network in Japan with good LTE coverage and prepaid SIM cards.
  • UQ Mobile – KDDI subsidiary MVNO offering more budget options for data SIMs.
  • Rakuten Mobile – One of the major carriers in Japan with cheap data plans.
  • Pocket WiFi Rental – Portable WiFi hotspot rental with LTE data on various networks.
  • Public WiFi – Free WiFi is available in many cafes, malls, and stations but can be unreliable.
  • eSIM provider – A global eSIM provider offers eSIM plans starting at US$7 with no contract required. Works on many international phones.

Evaluate your connectivity needs, but for most tourists visiting Japan, NTT Docomo prepaid SIM cards provide the best experience.

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Japan eSIM

X. FAQs about NTT Docomo in Japan

Does NTT Docomo have good coverage in rural areas and smaller cities?

NTT Docomo has excellent nationwide 4G LTE coverage across Japan, including rural regions and smaller cities. Over 99% of the population is covered.

2. Does NTT Docomo SIM card work for voice calls and texts?

No, NTT Docomo’s data-only SIMs support data connectivity. To make calls and texts, you need to get a voice & text enabled SIM card plan from NTT Docomo.

3. Can I use NTT Docomo SIM in other Asian countries?

No, NTT Docomo SIM cards only provide service within Japan. To roam in other countries, you need an international roaming SIM or local SIM card.

4. How fast is the mobile data speed on the NTT Docomo network?

NTT Docomo’s average 4G LTE download speed is around 37Mbps across Japan with maximum speeds up to 80Mbps depending on location. It has the fastest mobile data experience in Japan.

5. How to refill credit on my NTT Docomo prepaid SIM card?

You can top-up your NTT Docomo prepaid SIM by payment online, at an NTT Docomo store, convenience stores, vending machines, or via the prepaid app.

XI. Conclusion

In summary, NTT Docomo is the best mobile network operator for fast and reliable connectivity across Japan. Their prepaid SIM card plans offer an easy and affordable way for tourists to stay connected. Order an NTT Docomo SIM online and activate it once you arrive in Japan to enjoy seamless 4G LTE data and call connectivity on your Japan trip.

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