Let's bring your attention to something you may be overlooking when using mobile internet of any variety. (Pocket WiFi, a Cellular Data plan, SIM, you name it.) It's a small clause typically hidden away by providers on their websites or contracts. That something is Fair Usage Policy. Let's break down exactly what Fair Usage Policy (FUP) is and give some real world examples to help bring this relatively unknown concept into light. You can then be better prepared when renting a Pocket WiFi in Japan!
What is Fair Usage Policy
In a nutshell, Fair Usage Policy is a policy utilized internationally by broadband providers of all types of mobile internet to ensure that every subscriber uses mobile data in moderation. When subscribers (users) use large amounts of mobile data, other users in the same network can be adversely affected. In order to prevent those few mass-data consumers from eating into the bandwidth of the other users, the provider will cap said abuser’s data speed. Online activities that could violate Fair Usage Policy include streaming high quality content for long time of period, sending or receiving extremely large data files, etc..
Although Fair Usage Policy may seem unreasonable, the reasons behind these measures are practical. Network providers implement Fair Usage Policy to ensure that everyone can have the best experience using the internet service. These providers may monitor your internet usage and if you go beyond your fair-use limit, they can restrict your network speed accordingly until the next month/ end of billing cycle.
Why is Fair Usage Policy needed for mobile internet?
Most user's home or office internet needs are being met with what is called fixed wireless. Fixed wireless, unlike mobile broadband, operates by connecting a physical cable between two fixed locations via a receiver. This enables data transfer at ultra high speeds but can only be utilized in densely populated areas. Fixed wireless is not subjected to these Fair Usage Policy regulations because the bandwidth being fed to each specific location is controlled by each individual connection.
Mobile broadband however, operates differently. It uses cell towers to transfer data to mobile devices, including cell phones, tablets, eReaders, etc. Visualize a broadband highway of data, each lane on that highway is a separate band of internet. The amount of data being used corresponds to the number of vehicles on said highway. But a highway has its physical limits. There are only so many lanes to be utilized, when the highway gets too crowded by users using too many of these data vehicles, it could result in a traffic jam of activity thus slowing your speed. In order to prevent this, providers monitor the data of each user to keep the broadband highway operating at best efficiency. If there is a user in the mix causing too much traffic (using too much data) on the highway of broadband, the provider will take action and slow that user's data to keep everyone's usage balanced.
Pocket WiFi uses mobile broadband
This may come as a surprise to some but Pocket Wifi devices are not using fixed wireless. Unlike the router in your house/business' WiFi, Pocket WiFi uses a SIM card that operates with, you guessed it, mobile network (cellular data)!
Almost all the Pocket WiFi website's include the Fair Usage Policy somewhere within the fine print in some way shape or form. Below are two examples from two of the bigger Pocket WiFi providers in Japan.
Even if the wording doesn't explicitly state "Fair Usage Policy" it contains the reminder that your data can be slowed if you exceed a certain usage limit.
Here is another example.
Are Providers Lying When They Say "Unlimited Data"?
Unfortunately, marketers aren't lying when they offer Pocket WiFi plans as having "Unlimited Data" because technically, you still have mobile data going to and from your device even if the speed has been restricted. What they're not telling in large fonts, however, is that you will experience much slower Internet connection after going beyond your fair-use limit. In short, you'll have an uncomfortable experience with the service for the rest of your rental period or at least for that day.
What Should I Look For When Renting Pocket WiFi?
So to avoid surprises with your mobile data usage, make sure to know more than just the data volume, speed, coverage and price of the Pocket WiFi rental plans offered to you. Don't forget to ask the rental providers about possible speed restriction/throttling. Even better, talk to them about your data usage habits so they can help you find the best plan for you. Moreover, and especially if you're staying for a long time in Japan, make it a habit to regularly check your data use.
On eConnect Japan's website, there is information on Data Allowance under Specifications. You can check how much data you can get for each plan. For your information, our Pocket WiFi does not have a daily data cap, only a cap on total data allowance. It should work better for all users because your daily data use varies from day to day.
At the end of the day, there is nothing you should be afraid of as long as you use a Pocket WiFi within normal limits. eConnect Japan's Pocket WiFi devices give you more than enough data allotment for you to enjoy your stay in Japan.