Tokyo Metro unwired

by Matthew Gast

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On a recent visit to Japan, I took the Tokyo Metro to the Meiji Shrine. As I was getting off at the nearest station, I noticed a sign announcing wireless LAN service on the platform. At the time, I only had my tourist gear with me (the 802.11-equipped laptop was back at the hotel), and couldn't see what the service was like.

It must be very convenient whenever there are train delays to be able to pull out a PDA and get networked. I wouldn't be surprised if the wireless LAN service is part of a longer-term plan by NTT DoCoMo (the operator) to offload mobile phone minutes on to much cheaper unlicensed spectrum. It's a lot easier to put 802.11 access points underground than mobile phone equipment, and much less costly to expand.

The picture is a bit fuzzy because I snapped it with my camera phone, but here it is.



2005-08-04 02:00:07
Tokyo WiFi and trains
> It must be very convenient whenever there are train delays

This is Japan we're talking about. They don't have train delays.

On my trips to Japan I have found that all those "public" WiFi hotspots are WEP protected. Apparently, you must already be a customer of the hotspot provider. There is no option to enter a credit card and use it.

At one Japan Rail-owned café, I was told that if I bought a drink I could use their WiFi. When I sat down with my chocolate, I opened my Powerbook to be greeted with a request for a WEP password. I asked the café staff about this and they had no idea what I was supposed to do.

2005-08-06 14:08:13
Tokyo WiFi and trains
Contrary to popular belief, Japan can have train delays in extraordinary circumstances. I was in Tokyo as a typhoon swept through, and all the extra water caused 8-10 minute delays on several lines throughout the Metro. A few lines were not operating due to the weather. The main Japan Rail lines were unaffected, though. (Granted, a typhoon is a far cry from the typical American rail system, where "carrying passengers" seems to be a delay-causing activity.)