Free Internet access in Japan just got easier

Takehiro Ogita, Founder & CEO at TownWiFi

Takehiro Ogita, Founder & CEO at TownWiFi

Free Wi-Fi hotspots began popping up across the country a few years ago, in the run up to the 2020 Olympic Games. Previously, free Wi-Fi was tough to find, frustrating millions of visitors and locals seeking to reduce mobile network charges. The need to fill out finicky online registration forms, often in the Japanese language, still thwarts all but the most determined users.

Relief is at hand.

In May 2016, TownWiFi rolled out an app that automatically connects users with over 250,000 hotspots nationwide. Lawsons, 7-11, FamilyMart, McDonalds, Starbucks, Tully’s, Pronto, Flets-portal, Wi2_free, JR East, Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway are but some of the 450 organizations whose public hotspots TownWifi can access.

Download TownWiFi’s free app onto any IOS or Android Smartphone, register once, and click ‘Add every Wi-Fi to auto-connect’. The app automatically and silently registers users with most of Japan’s public hotspots. Users need only be within Wi-Fi range to automatically connect.

TownWiFi has no special working agreements with Wi-Fi operators. Provider limits apply: Some operators allow only thirty minutes usage. Others allow time-restrained access up to four times each day. When a connection drops, TownWiFi automatically reconnects within the limits set by each operator. Hotspots targeting foreigners, like 000Shibuya, require a foreign passport number to register.

The TownWiFi service is free to users. The firm profits by charging providers a fee to access a dashboard containing user usage information. “It’s a Wi-Fi marketing tool,” explains Takehiro Ogita, TownWiFi’s Founder and CEO.

The firm also profits by charging premium users for connecting to selected paid Wi-Fi services, or for the added protection of a VPN. Two million users have downloaded the TownWiFi app so far. Half of them are monthly active users. “They’re using it. They’re lovin’ it,” says Ogita, who is working to take TownWiFi global.

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