Tokyo is arguably one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world. It has world-class public transport, is home to many of the world’s most innovative tech companies and Akihabara is arguably mecca for nerds. So why can’t I connect to the ‘net using my phone?
OK, that’s not entirely true. If I switched on data roaming on my handset I could be sucking down the gigabytes like a drowning man sucks down water. The problem is that the second I did that, I’d probably prefer to drown than to face my next phone bill, with data roaming charges costing at least $15 per MB.
Telstra and Optus do both offer roaming data packs for when you travel to certain countries, but the included data starts at just 10MB for $30, which can be chewed through in seconds on today's smartphones.
This situation is bad, but there are options available to get around it. Obviously free Wi-Fi hotspots are the best option, but there's also the possibility of picking up a prepaid SIM card with a high data allowance and either sticking it in your phone for the duration of your trip, or using a personal hotspot gadget while you're away.
The problem is that in Tokyo, neither of these two options are available. Wi-Fi hotspots are few and far between – there seems to be a few around that require you to pay, but at best you get a 24-hour limited access – and the Japanese telcos don't offer prepaid cards.
This CNN article reckons the lack of Wi-Fi in Tokyo is a result of the country being so advanced with their mobile data networks. Which is great for Japanese people, but for travellers from far away on a pilgrimage to the homeland of many of their favourite gadgets, being without mobile internet connection is a rather confronting experience.
With smartphones taking over and mobile internet now becoming ubiquitous, we really need to see telcos lifting their game to broker deals with international carriers to offer affordable data bundling services with more than a maximum of 60MB. Because not being able to tweet the amazing sights of Akihabara or the Ginza shopping district, or even be able to send a quick email to my wife, leaves me feeling a bit technologically naked. Which I never thought would happen in Tokyo...
Nick's in Tokyo at the moment courtesy of Sony.