WIFI on the Go

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I’ve lost count of the number of times friends visiting from overseas have asked me where they can get free wifi in Tokyo, and I’ve had to disappoint them with my answer.

Whilst there are a growing number of cafes offering ‘free’ internet access, they often require that the customer be signed up with the partnering internet service provider for their home internet connection in order to use it. Then there’s the networks such as ‘Wifine’, found at stations, cafes and restaurants across town – free to join, but once your online you find you’re restricted to a few pages of discount coupons for sponsor services.

Completely free and open wifi networks in public spaces are notoriously hard to come by in Tokyo – I can only think of one offhand, that being around Shibuya’s Hachiko Crossing.

EMOBILE D25HW However, as of this month, I am no longer a disappointment to my visiting friends, as I have become the proud owner of the EMOBILE D25HW. This sleek-looking device feels like something from the future – it’s a wifi hotspot transmitter – with no wires needed. Like the USB wifi dongles we’ve been plugging into our laptops for some time now, it sends data over the 3G network. However, unlike your typical USB dongle, this device doesn’t need to be plugged in to anything: simply switch it on, and then connect your device to its wifi network.

Up to 5 devices can connect to the D25HW at one time

Speed Both the data transfer rate and battery life are pretty impressive: whilst the speedtests I’ve done have not seen it come close to the 7.2mbps down and 5.8mbps up that EMOBILE claim ontheir site, it is noticeably faster than the Softbank network that my iPhone is on. I’ve used it many times with my computer and forgotten that I’m on a mobile network, as load times of everyday text-rich websites don’t appear all that much slower than our optical connection at home. YouTube videos require very little time to buffer, and the quality of outgoing live video streams (from an iPhone connected to the D25HW wifi network) is significantly better than those sent over the Softbank network.

The battery will give you at least four hours use – pretty impressive considering it’s both receiving a 3G signal andbroadcasting a wifi signal. Up to five devices can connect to it at any one time – although of course the speed will suffer with multiple users.

The cost The D25HW is available from all EMOBILE dealers on a two year unlimited-data contract for just under 5,000 yen a month. If you pay with a credit card at places such as Bic Camera, you can also get an iPod touch with it for an extra 1,000 yen.

Recently, contract-free models have  started to appear on the market, priced at a little under 40,000 yen.

I’ve found it incredibly useful these past few weeks, using it with my computer in outside meetings when I’ve needed to show clients various websites, in cafes when waiting for friends – and with my iPhone on station platforms when having a sudden desire to talk to friends back in the UK. Having your iPhone on a wifi network means that now apps which were partially disabled when out and about on 3G (such as Skype) can now be used to their full extent anywhere. Of course, the same goes for iPod touch users (and iPad users come the spring).

Summary The D25HW is an incredible little device, marking the next step in mobile internet. It’s fast, has decent battery life and is very easy to set up and use. It could quite easily replace a home internet connection for those who tend to limit their online activity to email / YouTube etc – heavy users would find the speed restrictions frustrating.

The only real downside I see is the two-year emobile contract. Having said that, 5,000 yen is not a bad price for unlimited data. There is also the strong possibility that those suffering from an internet addiction (such as myself) will only find their condition worsen having purchased this device.

Still, at least the next time a visiting friend asks where they can get free internet access, I can tell them, “right here!”

Article from: WIFI on the Go – GaijinPot