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Flash your passport for free Wi-Fi in Japan

Flash your passport for free Wi-Fi in Japan


Long-standing tourist complaint may see a fix in 2016

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As any tourist who's visited Japan will know, free Wi-Fi access is a lot less prevalent than in much of the Western world — a quirk of the country's rapid adoption of mobile broadband. That's changed a little in the past year or two, with Starbucks, convenience stores, and others rolling out various services, and according to a Nikkei report the government is planning to launch its own Wi-Fi system aimed at tourists.

Visitors to the country will reportedly be able to get an access ID by downloading a smartphone app or showing their passport at tourist spots or airports, which will let them use free Wi-Fi at train stations and other locations. A similar service is already in operation by telco NTT East, but the new initiative could unify access across Japan.

The government will set up a committee this summer including NTT, the Japan Tourism Agency, and others; the aim is said to be setting up a common ID system where hotels, airports, railways and so on will be able to share foreign visitors' information. That might raise privacy concerns, but if you're already making plans for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, rest assured you probably won't have issues checking your email by then — the government service should be available in fiscal 2016.