VoIP service in Japan

Observations from a VoIP.MS user in Japan:

It used to be possible to get inexpensive IP-phone numbers in Japan (numbers starting with 050, which are non-geographic), and by all accounts those numbers were popular, understandably also among non-Japanese. Many if not all of the Japanes providers would use servers in Japan for the VoIP service using 050 numbers.

I’ve done some research into the situation, and from among all the 050 number providers whose websites I was able to check (some of them have disappeared from the web since last year), only one provider is left that offers inexpensive 050 numbers to private individuals, but you can only apply for such a number using QR codes via specific smartphone based browsers, and you can only use that number via the provider’s own applications (which are not only locked-in softphones but, per the terms of use, also used for the delivery of ads).

I have a flat rate plan on my cellphone and don’t need an IP phone number on my cellphone, so the offer mentioned above is not really of interest to me - the purpose of my research was to find a VoIP service whose number I could use from my computer. Now, rumour has it that once a number from the provider mentioned above has been obtained it can be used via a PC based softphone, such as MicroSip, but that would not be reliable (so I am not interested): using anything that is not a smartphone would violate the provider’s terms of use (yes, they spell that out) and they can shut the number down any time if they discover a violation of their terms.

Some of the websites I surveyed carry a notice that they do not accept new applications any longer (meaning, existing customers can still use their numbers). No provider gives an explanation as to why they don’t offer the 050 number service anymore, but it is apparent in some cases that they stopped offering it last year. There were plenty of articles in the news between 2021 and 2022, about how 050 numbers were easy to get - apparently with less stringent proof of identity requirements than other phone numbers (why?) - and how they were therefore a prefered tools of fraudsters (why am I not surprised?), so my guess is that last year the providers were simply told (by the relevant regulatory authority) to stop offering the 050 number service.

There is one company here that offers VoIP service without prescribing the tools with which to use it, but their smallest plan is about 8,000 Yen (which, at current exchange rates, is a bit above US$50) per month, so I don’t count them under “inexpesnsive”, but they could be a good choice for businesses that need a number in Japan.


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