Spoiler alert: it’s maybe not quite as great as the title of this post would suggest.
If you’re visiting Japan, especially with someone else, a portable WiFi hotspot rental is a great idea. Rather than line up at an airport counter for a local SIM and futz with radio bands and APN settings you can get a hotspot delivered right to your hotel, complete with a return mailer so you can hand it to the front desk when you check out.
For my recent trip to Osaka I rented a hotspot from Global Advanced Communications, whose name always seems to pop up when searching the likes of TripAdvisor and Yelp. I went for the “Super Premium” option, and upon arrival at our hotel was handed a package containing the ZTE 303ZT you see here.
I wasn’t 100% clear on which network GAC uses (its website seems to suggest Y! Mobile), but here are some sample speed tests. You can disregard the bottom entry with the 4ms ping time—I’m pretty sure that was the airport WiFi. Anyway, you’ll notice that the speeds are nowhere near the claimed 187.5Mbps “Super Premium” downloads, but it was perfectly usable nonetheless.
Our “Super Premium” service came with “unlimited data”—that is, the data was throttled after 10GB. That is, it would have been throttled, had we come anywhere near that amount of throughput.
The only real complaint I had with the hotspot was its meagre 2,700mAh battery, which wasn’t quite enough to get us through a whole day of use. For comparison’s sake I rented another hotspot from Japan Cell Rentals in 2013, and that one had a 3,600mAh battery on-board.
A rental from GAC is cheaper, however. We paid 11,950 JPY for nine days of service, the equivalent of about $106 USD or $142 CAD. Our 2013 rental from JCR was a bit pricier than that.
There’s actually a third popular option for Japan hotspot rentals from a company called PuPuRu. Their rates are cheaper still, though I’ve read about similar issues with battery life from people who have rented hotspots from them.
Personally I think I’m going to stick with JCR from now on. They’ve been connecting me in Japan since my first-ever visit in 2001, and though their rates are a bit higher, I’ve always been happy renting from them.