eConnect Japan WiFi-to-Go – review

eConnect Japan Wifi-To-Go - Huawei GP02 front

Need internet access for your trip to Japan? I guess a lot of us can’t live without staying connected 24/7 – even though it’s a vacation and you’re supposed to go off the grid. Here’s a short guide and review about the services of a company called eConnect Japan. They offer rental of portable WiFi routers (or Mi-Fi) and data SIM cards.

Even in the world’s most elaborate theme parks, we ended up using our mobile phones to pass some of the time while waiting in line. Having an internet connection is also useful for planning on the go – you can easily check attraction wait times and store/restaurant locations. Or you could use Google Translate App’s powerful features on the go.

Option 1: Data Roaming

This option doesn’t require you to do anything apart from a call to your Telco (or activating via an App). You also don’t need to get or rent anything – your mobile phone will roam on its own. The caveat to accept would be that you usually can’t select the network to use overseas – it’s your telco’s partner.

All three local telcos in Singapore have unlimited data roaming plans for Japan (for $15~20 a day):
Singtel | Starhub | M1 (scroll down)

After last year’s experience with Singtel DataSaver in Hong Kong (no service in Hong Kong until we called back to Singapore to complain), we’ve decided to scrap that idea. Singtel charges S$20 a day for Unlimited Data Roaming in Japan (with Softbank) – that means S$100 for our 5 days in Tokyo – for one mobile phone.

Option 2: SIM card rental

This is similar to the option below, except that you buy a (throwaway) SIM card with pre-paid service: either days or data limit. This will be the cheapest option if you travel alone and only need internet access on a single device. Depending on your needs (one device? a few?) and requirements (nanoSIM is not yet available at most rental companies), this might be a complicated option for some. Some apps (iMessage) may be affected when you switch SIM cards. And not all mobile phones can support all the cellular network standards in Japan. This brings me to the third option.

Option 3: Mobile Wi-Fi (or Mi-Fi) Hotspot / Router Rental

What we did instead: We rented a Pocket Wifi router (WiFi-To-Go) from eConnect Japan. What is it? It’s a modem and router in one tiny device, allowing you to have a personal mobile hotspot. The connection provided is HSDPA – theoretical top download speed of 42Mbps – somewhat similar to Singtel’s 3.5G service. This option costed us ¥5,650 (about S$76) and it was very convenient to use.

How do you get one? You just need to visit a rental company’s website and place an order. The device and accessories will be delivered to your hotel, or the post office at the airport.

eConnect Japan Wifi-To-Go - The package

We chose the hotel option to avoid the morning rush hunting the post office at Narita Airport. When we checked in at the Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel, we asked the staff about our package. It’s already there (according to eConnect Japan, they deliver a day in advance).

eConnect Japan Wifi-To-Go - Package items

A lot of things inside the envelope: The device, USB cable, a power adapter, carrying case and pouch to hold all everything.

eConnect Japan Wifi-To-Go - Instructions

It is ready to use right away. Since we collected this as we were checking in, I took a photo of the instruction sheet, stuffed everything else into luggage and only brought the mobile hotspot device along. To use: Power up the device. Set Wi-Fi settings on your phone. Done.

Obviously, your smartphone should always be set to Airplane Mode while overseas, with Wi-Fi manually switched on. This will prevent roaming data charges from being incurred.

eConnect Japan Wifi-To-Go - Huawei GP02

eConnect Japan’s P-420 is actually a Huawei GP02 pocket router. It supports up to 5 Wi-Fi connections at any time. Using it is very simple, since there’s only one button – a power button. All you can do is:

Switch On: Hold the button for 3 seconds to turn it on. Wi-Fi broadcast will automatically start.

Switch Off: Hold the button for 3 seconds again.

Start/Stop Wi-Fi broadcast: Hold the button for a second, then release. This keeps the device connected to the cellular network, but stops the Wi-Fi hotspot. If no device is connected to the router for 10 minutes, Wi-Fi broadcast will automatically stop to save energy – pressing the button will turn it back on.

Wake up display: Quick press the button. The display goes to sleep to save power, so this will wake it up.

Network Coverage/Speeds

Like HSDPA/LTE connectivity in Singapore, reception is very good when in the open. This is true even for places where there are a lot of people using mobile phones (e.g: parade viewing areas). However, this particular model (eConnect P-420) does not step down to 2G.

Reception in completely enclosed spaces is poor and internet connection may not be available. An example of such places in Tokyo Disney Resort theme parks would be:

– Indiana Jones Adventure: Inside the show/queue building
– Journey to the Center of the Earth: Anywhere from the Entrance onwards
– Tower of Terror: Anywhere from Harrison Hightower’s Private Study/Library room onwards
– Mermaid Lagoon: Triton’s Kingdom (entire basement level)
– Splash Mountain: Indoor queue area
– Star Tours: Inside show building

In some indoor areas, such as in a street-level restaurant or hotel room, reception is also poor. I had to place the device near our hotel room’s balcony window for better speeds.

Other notables

How fast is the download speed?
I didn’t benchmark the download (or upload) speed, but it was very responsive – fast enough to load webpages very quickly and could support group WhatsApp conversations with no delay, even with lots of picture uploads. Basically, whenever reception is strong, it feels as fast as the max speed of Singtel LTE.

How strong is the Wi-Fi?
Surprisingly, this tiny thing has quite wide range. At Tokyo DisneySea, my sister was able to get access to the internet around Tower of Terror’s entrance when I was at Toyville Trolley Park. That’s about 15-20 metres. Then again, apart from people walking around, there isn’t anything to obstruct and weaken the Wi-Fi signal.

Take note that the Wi-Fi signal may seem strong on your smartphones and tablets, but the device may not be able to connect to cellular data network. When this happens, you should press the power button to turn off the device’s Wi-Fi hotspot broadcast temporarily – this will save power.

How does it charge?
The device has a built-in battery. It can be charged with any USB battery/portable power supply. It uses a micro-USB plug, and a micro-USB to USB cable is provided.

How long does the battery last?
About 6-7 hours. I unplug the device from its charger at about 6:30AM, and usually it’ll run out of power at 12:30PM~1:00PM. I carry in my bag a 12000mAh USB battery, so after lunch, I keep the router plugged in to that. Technically, I can continuously have the hotspot active for a day or two.

Returning the device

You have to remember to return the device before the end of the last day of rental. Since the package included a pre-paid envelope, just place everything inside (including the papers) and drop it off at any red postbox in Japan. You can also leave it to your hotel to mail on your behalf.

I had the device with me until I entered the departure area of Narita Airport. There is a postbox right before the restricted departure area. That is the last postbox you’ll ever see, so please make sure that you return it before stepping into the restricted area!

There are many rental companies in Japan apart from eConnect Japan, such as Global Advanced Communications, Softbank and Japan Wireless.

In most cases, renting a mobile internet service overseas can be cheaper and/or more convenient than roaming with your telco. You don’t have to worry about your smartphone/tablet being compatible with the mobile network overseas. The service providers usually also offer customer support in English. One thing you have to remember is to reserve early (at least 2-3 weeks in advance) to secure your set.

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11 Responses to eConnect Japan WiFi-to-Go – review

  1. Hino October 1, 2013 at 9:54 am #

    hi, chanced upon this article, and it’s made me consider renting the P420 from econnect as well. Just hope i could get some insight on it from someone who has used it previously – how many devices did you hook up to it at 1 point? would it drain more battery if i hooked up more than 2 devices? (i’m thinking of hooking at least 3 devices)

    i also intend to follow your advice as well and use a portable charger to charge the wireless when i’m out. how long can you use the 12000mAh charge it while it is on before you need to return to hotel to recharge?

    sorry about the questions, i hope its not too troublesome. i will be taking a night bus right off the first night upon my arrival in tokyo, so i would need the device to be able to last a minimum of 1.5-2 days while we’re out.

    appreciate your help!

    • Dejiki October 1, 2013 at 10:10 am #

      Hi Hino,

      For the last trip to Japan, the device was connected to 2 smartphones almost all the time. Connecting more devices will definitely drain more energy, but the power drain is not multiplied by the number of devices connected.

      If you have a 12000mAh portable charger, it should be able to last at least 2 days (and probably up to 3). This is if the charger used is truly 12000mAh, and whether you are charging only the router or other devices along as well.

      The key to maximizing the battery life of these portable routers is to always switch the device off when not in use.

  2. Duy January 7, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    I went with my friends who use docomo smart phone and softbank and both works inside most of the attractions. But my pocket wifi (using docomo signal) is same as your situation above. Therefore, signal is not low due to poor indoor connection but due to the device, most of the rental companies use China manufacture devices….

  3. SirEdge January 10, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    Considering option 2 for my trip next year, because I already own a personal pocket device. I was wondering if you had any recommended telcos for the second option.

  4. Mike March 10, 2014 at 5:54 am #

    I know this is all about TDR and Mi-Fi but could you perhaps post a review of the Sheraton hotel? I stayed at the Hilton hotel last time and check in at the welcome centre was very smooth and generally a pleasant experience. Would like to see your opinion on the Sheraton hotel.

  5. Simple Tourist August 5, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    I decided to rent one of their mobile wifi simply because their website was easy to use.

    Paid around 9,000 Yen for 10-day rental of unlimited gigabyte and asked them to deliver to my hotel in Kyoto.

    The four of us in our family were able to connect seamlessly to the wifi – both in and out of the hotel while on-the-go, including in Shinkansen trains.

    Self-addressed envelope was provided, so we just returned the wifi unit to a postbox at Kansai Airport.

    Japan is a country of abundant choice – only if you can read and speak Japanese. If you don’t, econnect Japan is a safe and reliable choice.

  6. JK November 20, 2014 at 10:03 am #

    Thanks so much for your review….very helpful! 🙂

  7. Fiona March 6, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    Hi there may I know if you can still make phone calls while connected with their pocket WIFI? (Apps like Whatsapp, LINE etc)


    • Dejiki March 7, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

      Certain types of calls (Voice Messaging) that uses data will work with Pocket WIFI (meaning WhatsApp to Whatsapp, or LINE call to LINE user). You can also make phone calls to outside of an App Service platform via services such as LINE Premium Call or Skype Premium.

  8. Beloved March 26, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    I am currently using the 3G data sim in japan, second time from econnect. Will never buy another sim card from them. Both occasions had issues. 1st time card couldn’t be used on iphone for some unknown reason, worst still requires internet connection to install before it can be used, duh. Didn’t bother to contact econnect as was travelling around. But 1G card ran out in less than 7 days, no way possible with my level of usage.

    Made mistake in getting 3G card from them again this time. Couldn’t get internet connection on either iphone or ipad this time. Tried installing via hotel wifi, default code 0000 wasn’t accepted. Emailed them, just read reply: english helpdesk supports payg and visitor sim only. Please call xxxxx for assistance. Double duh, go figure.

    Should we have to put up with paying for a product, then using our time and data (at our own expense) to try to get service to rectify problems, and encountering issues with getting that service, product still not usable? It’s time consumers stop putting up with this, and sellers stop assuming this is a given state of things. Such a**es should be hauled up and put out of business until they get the end to end act together.

  9. Rico567 April 5, 2015 at 8:17 am #

    We arrived in Japan three days ago, having reserved an eConnect Japan Pocket MFi router two months previous. Just as promised, the package containing the router, charger and accessories was awaiting us at our hotel in Fukuoka.
    We chose the router because our Japanese language skills are so limited that our iPhones would be next to useless, even with a Japanese SIM card. It has proven to be the ideal choice for us.
    The router will support up to 5 devices, so our two iPhones and two iPads have been no problem. Speeds (we have 4G LTE) have been very fast, comparable to any other Wi-Fi network we have connected to in Japan.
    Connecting to the Pocket MFi router could not be more straightforward, just enter the WPA2 password given on the instruction sheet accompanying the unit, and Dozo! we were connected. It is advisable when using a Pocket MFi router with an iPhone to disable ALL cell functions on the phone: on the iPhone, go to Settings > Cellular and turn off Data Roaming and any other phone function. You may also place phone in “Airplane Mode,” then re-enable just the Wi-Fi.
    E-mail suuport from eConnect Japan was alo prompt and efficient.
    If you want Internet connectivity at a bargain price, I highly recommend the Pocket MFi router approach.

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