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Mobile internet usage in Japan - statistics & facts

Japan has a high internet penetration rate, and this also extends to mobile internet use. Smartphones were increasingly adopted by Japanese consumers during the 2010s, and the already high number of smartphone users is expected to continue growing in the coming years. Today, smartphones are the most common device used to access the internet, followed by PCs and tablets. While the share of people who use smartphones to access the internet is particularly high among those in their twenties and thirties, tablet use tends to be more common among children than among other age groups. Mobile devices are not only used for looking up information on the internet, but also for accessing social media and the highly popular chat app LINE, as well as for entertainment purposes, which include streaming services and mobile gaming, among others. Apple iOS is the leading mobile operating system when it comes to web traffic, reflecting the strong position of the iPhone in the Japanese market.

The mobile telecommunication market

While domestic companies face various challenges by global competitors, Japan has long been considered a leader in mobile technology. In 1999, the i-mode was launched as the first commercial mobile browser-based web service, enabling users to access desktop HTML websites and to use services such as e-mail. Japan was also the first country to introduce handsets with cameras. Today, the number of subscriptions to telecommunication services far exceeds the number of citizens in the country, with Long-Term Evolution (LTE) subscriptions enjoying a high popularity. For many years, the mobile telecommunication market in Japan has been dominated by the three large mobile network operators (MNOs) NTT Docomo, KDDI Corporation, and SoftBank Corp., with NTT Docomo being the leading mobile carrier in terms of subscriber shares. In 2020, Rakuten Mobile, which had previously operated as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), became the fourth proper MNO.

Rollout of 5G in 2020

The year 2020 marked the beginning of the 5G rollout in Japan, with all four mobile carriers starting to deploy their own 5G networks. While NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank launched their services in March, Rakuten Mobile followed in September. According to news reports, the four carriers are expected to spend more than 14 billion U.S. dollars in network-related capital expenses over the course of five years, which includes large investments in infrastructure, such as base stations and fiber optics. The fifth generation technology standard for mobile networks is supposed to greatly increase performances regarding speed, capacity, and latency. In this way, the new network standard is expected to help in overcoming some of the problems faced by Japan’s telecommunication infrastructure. Among other issues, problems include usage constraints in highly populated areas, such as a low speed during peak times. While the unit sales of 5G-capable mobile phone devices are expected to reach 32 million by 2026, the number of 5G subscriptions for handset devices is expected to reach more than 75 million by the same year.

Key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Mobile internet usage in Japan" and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.

Device and app usage

Awareness of security issues

Interesting statistics

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Mobile internet usage in Japan

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Mobile internet usage in Japan - statistics & facts

Japan has a high internet penetration rate, and this also extends to mobile internet use. Smartphones were increasingly adopted by Japanese consumers during the 2010s, and the already high number of smartphone users is expected to continue growing in the coming years. Today, smartphones are the most common device used to access the internet, followed by PCs and tablets. While the share of people who use smartphones to access the internet is particularly high among those in their twenties and thirties, tablet use tends to be more common among children than among other age groups. Mobile devices are not only used for looking up information on the internet, but also for accessing social media and the highly popular chat app LINE, as well as for entertainment purposes, which include streaming services and mobile gaming, among others. Apple iOS is the leading mobile operating system when it comes to web traffic, reflecting the strong position of the iPhone in the Japanese market.

The mobile telecommunication market

While domestic companies face various challenges by global competitors, Japan has long been considered a leader in mobile technology. In 1999, the i-mode was launched as the first commercial mobile browser-based web service, enabling users to access desktop HTML websites and to use services such as e-mail. Japan was also the first country to introduce handsets with cameras. Today, the number of subscriptions to telecommunication services far exceeds the number of citizens in the country, with Long-Term Evolution (LTE) subscriptions enjoying a high popularity. For many years, the mobile telecommunication market in Japan has been dominated by the three large mobile network operators (MNOs) NTT Docomo, KDDI Corporation, and SoftBank Corp., with NTT Docomo being the leading mobile carrier in terms of subscriber shares. In 2020, Rakuten Mobile, which had previously operated as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), became the fourth proper MNO.

Rollout of 5G in 2020

The year 2020 marked the beginning of the 5G rollout in Japan, with all four mobile carriers starting to deploy their own 5G networks. While NTT Docomo, KDDI, and SoftBank launched their services in March, Rakuten Mobile followed in September. According to news reports, the four carriers are expected to spend more than 14 billion U.S. dollars in network-related capital expenses over the course of five years, which includes large investments in infrastructure, such as base stations and fiber optics. The fifth generation technology standard for mobile networks is supposed to greatly increase performances regarding speed, capacity, and latency. In this way, the new network standard is expected to help in overcoming some of the problems faced by Japan’s telecommunication infrastructure. Among other issues, problems include usage constraints in highly populated areas, such as a low speed during peak times. While the unit sales of 5G-capable mobile phone devices are expected to reach 32 million by 2026, the number of 5G subscriptions for handset devices is expected to reach more than 75 million by the same year.

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