The provision of public wireless internet is Japan is pretty terrible. I’ve personally only tried a few times, but either I got no signal or I couldn’t get my hardware configured correctly. One place I’m very surprised that it’s not installed is on the Shinkansen, the Bullet Train. Their latest N700 series now has laptop power plugs on most of the seats, but sadly they chose not to include either wired or wireless internet connections even though mobile phone service is supported on even the older models of trains. So, recently japan.internet.com published the results of a survey conducted by JR Tokai Express Research Inc (part of the same group that operates the wireless-free Shinkansens) into public wireless LANs.
On the 20th of September 2007 334 members of the JR Tokai Express Research monitor panel who were employed in either the public or the private sector completed an internet-based questionnaire. 84.1% of the sample was male, 13.2% in their twenties, 35.3% in their thirties, 37.1% in their forties, 12.6% in their fifties, and 1.8% in their sixties.
One other reason, perhaps, that there is not as strong a demand for wireless is that you can get high-speed mobile phone-based access from companies such as EMobile, with their offering of unlimited 3.6 Mbps at a fixed price of just 4,980 yen per month. I’m typing this up in a hotel in Los Angeles that has free wireless in all the rooms and all the public areas, yet when I stayed in a relatively posh hotel in central Osaka a couple of months ago I couldn’t get a signal at all, and there was no mention of wired or wireless service in the hotel information booklet.
Note that this survey covers services in all public areas from stations to hotels via restaurants and cafes. Deliberately leeching off a wide-open domestic router probably doesn’t count!
Q1: Have you ever used a public wireless LAN service? (Sample size=334)
Yes (to SQs) 28.7% No, but would like to 50.6% No, and don’t want to 20.7% Don’t know 3.3%
From when this survey was conducted back in January of this year the number who have had experience with public LANs has increased by almost four percentage points, although interestingly those who don’t want to use it has increased by over five percentage points.
Q1SQ1: How often do you use public wireless LANs? (Sample size=96)
Almost every day 0.0% 4 or 5 times a week 2.1% 2 or 3 times a week 3.3% Once a week 7.3% Once a month 28.1% Once every two or three months 12.5% Once every six months 10.4% Once a year 5.2% Only a few times ever 27.1% Don’t know, can’t remember 2.1%
Q1SQ2: On average, how long is each session using wireless LANs? (Sample size=96)
Less than one hour 63.5% One to two hours 15.6% Two to three hours 3.3% Three to four hours 4.2% Four to five hours 0.0% Five to six hours 0.0% Six hours or more 1.0%
When asked what they were unsatisfied with, the top answer was the lack of hotspots, with 44.8% highlighting that. Next was the costs being high, with 30.2%, then 24.0% complained that inital registration was a pain.