Spread of the internet in Japan
Commercial internet services became available in Japan in the early 1990s and were subsequently adopted by ordinary users in the years that followed. The use of modems was made possible by the Telecommunications Business Act, which came into effect in 1985 and liberalized the telecommunications business. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Public Corporation (NTT), which had a monopoly on the telecommunications system until then, was privatized during that year. Compared to other parts of Asia, regulation of internet service providers (ISPs) in Japan was less strict, making it easy for entrepreneurs to establish related startups. However, high-speed digital leased lines were comparatively expensive. A further hurdle that had to be overcome was the complexity of the Japanese writing system. As these problems became solved, the internet gained greater acceptance in Japan, so that by the mid-2000s it was used by a majority of people in the country. While the degree of internet penetration still shows regional differences today, the number of internet users in Japan was estimated at more than 116 million people in 2021.
Internet usage today
Survey data show that the most common reasons for people to use the internet in Japan are the engagement with social networking services, communicating with other people via e-mail, and looking up information. Among social networks, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook enjoy a high popularity, while LINE reigns supreme among messaging apps. The main devices used to access the internet are smartphones and PCs. Leading internet service providers include Asahi Net, Biglobe, Nifty Corporation, NTT Plala, and So-net, while the three major mobile carriers in Japan are NTT Docomo, au by KDDI, and SoftBank. E-commerce giant Rakuten joined the competition by launching its own mobile carrier service in 2020.