Tuesday, June 17, 2014

KDDI offer public Wi-Fi free to au smartphone users in Keio train cars

Wi-Fi サービスが利用可能な車両に貼られるステッカー
Sticker at stores/stations/cars showing Wi-Fi support
Starting Tuesday, June 16th, Keio train lines began offering Wi-Fi to all of its smartphone users (Android and iPhone) on the two Keio lines:
  • Keio Line (京王線 {Keio-sen}): 698 cars
  • Inokashira Line (井の頭線 {Inokashira-sen}): 145 cars
The Keio Railway supports much of western Tokyo, with trains running from Shibuya and Shibuya Stations to the western suburbs.

The two main public Wi-Fi services, "au Wi-Fi SPOT" and "Wi2 300", are supported; those who aren't au phone owners but subscribe to the Wi2 service will still be able to access the service. Docomo's Wi-Fi service, "Flets Spot" (フレッツ・スポット {Furettsu·Supotto}), is already supported.

These Wi-Fi services aren't complimentary to the general public: they're complimentary for most Japanese smartphone users. Why offer Wi-Fi to people that already have a LTE or 4G connection? A few reasons:
  • Non-free Wi-Fi is almost always faster and has less latency (even compared to 4G) during rush hour when tens of millions of people are commuting and trying to use their phones all at the same time.
  • The Wi-Fi connection will work not just at stations, but inside tunnels as well.
  • Using the Wi-Fi does not count against monthly quotas your mobile data plan may have.
au Wi-Fi接続ツール
au's background helper app/widget
for Android
Because every carrier's "supplemental" Wi-Fi is not open, all the providers have provided applications (often with Android auto-connect apps/widgets or an automatic iPhone Profile) to allow you to connect to the Wi-Fi almost automatically without needing to authenticate through a "Wi-Fi capture portal".

I habitually connect to docomo Flets Spots — my current provider, although I've used them all — whenever I am at my commuting stations, as getting enough bandwidth to do something intensive (streaming video or updating an app) is very difficult during commuting rush hour.

In a previous post, I criticized the au Wi-Fi for its lack of coverage. It appears that KDDI is working to correct that deficiency by expanding its coverage beyond just au shop stores.

If you are a mobile phone user in Japan subscribed to a Japanese mobile plan and are frustrated by the performance of the network during peak usage times around the morning/evening commutes, you should probably consider configuring your phone to use your carrier's Wi-Fi for its subscribers.

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