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Docomo to test paid Wi-Fi service geared to foreigners

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

NTT Docomo Inc. announced Wednesday that it’s launching a paid wireless Internet service geared to foreign visitors at its 150,000 Wi-Fi access points across Japan.

Japan’s top mobile carrier will offer two plans on a trial basis starting Thursday. One costs ¥900 for a week and the other ¥1,300 for three weeks. Use requires registration online. Customers will be given a password to connect to the service after payment has been received.

Docomo’s Wi-Fi spots have a maximum download and upload speed of 72.2 Mbps. The hot spots include cafes, train stations and convenience stores.

The hot spots were previously only available to Docomo’s 65 million or so subscribers. But with the rise in foreign visitors expected to continue, the carrier is now apparently looking to leverage a business opportunity through the network.

“This is a trial service and we’d like to see whether there is a need for paid Wi-Fi service among foreign visitors,” a Docomo spokesman said.

Free Wi-Fi service is scarce in Japan.

Docomo is accepting orders for the trial service until March 31 and will consider whether to continue offering it based on the results of the trial, it said.

As for the other major carriers, Softbank Corp. CEO Masayoshi Son said at the last shareholders’ meeting in June that it would commit to providing free Wi-Fi to inbound tourists in the future, but it had not yet set a deadline as of Wednesday.

Docomo rival KDDI Corp. has a subsidiary named Wire and Wireless Co., known as Wi2, that offers paid Wi-Fi services geared to foreign visitors.

Which of the three will prove most popular?