NTT Telephone Subscription Rights
NTT is Japan's Original Landline Telephone Service Provider providing residential and business services for over 100 years.
Subscription Right System
Until late in the 20th century, before telephone service would be connected by NTT, it was necessary in Japan to buy a Telephone Subscription Right. Purchase of the Subscription Right has generally been called "buying a phone line" by foreign residents of Japan. The purchase of Subscription Rights is no longer required but, if you do own one, the monthly basic telephone fee is less (¥263/month as of 2008).
Subscription Rights may be purchased directly from NTT or you may buy them second-hand "on the street" from users who no longer need them or or from dealers.
NTT charged ¥75,600 (including tax) for Subscription Rights until 2005 when the price was reduced by 50% to ¥37,800. From the 1980's through the mid-90's, the street price generally ranged from ¥40,000 to ¥50,000.
In the late 1990's the requirement to "own" a Subscription Right was dropped when NTT began to make "Lite Plan" telephone service available. Under the Lite Plan, instead of buying a Subscription Right, you could choose to pay a monthly surcharge. At that time, street prices began to drop. Later the drop accelerated when NTT's official price was halved. By 2007, the street price for phone lines (Rights) had plunged to ¥10,000 and less.
Buying Phone Lines
Buying a phone line (Subscription Right) is not required but may be a good idea if you plan to remain in Japan long term.
If you purchase a Right on the street for, say, ¥10,000, the break-even point is about 38 months (10,000/263 = 38.02). Of course, you may be able to sell the Right when you stop using the line and get some portion of the price back, making it worthwhile for even shorter use periods.
If you buy a phone line, be sure the Subscription Right is actually transferred to your name. The ownership transfer form has space for both the buyer and the seller to enter their name and address, etc., and sign or hanko the form. Copies of the ID of both parties are attached to the form which must then be carried or mailed to NTT.
Do not trust the seller to carry or mail the form. You should do that yourself. There have been cases where the "seller" simply makes a 5-minute call to NTT to arrange a rental line in the "buyer's" name and charges him or her ¥10,000 or more. In other cases, the seller does not even know an official transfer is needed and just takes the money and leaves Japan.
Service without A Subscription Right
Users who do not wish to buy a "Regular" line (Subscription Right) may obtain "NTT Lite Plan" telephone service. Lite service is essentially the same as Regular service but there is a ¥263 yen/month surcharge above the usual monthly basic fee. Some of the other differences between Regular and Lite Plan service are noted below.
Differences in Service
Two notable differences between Regular and Lite service, besides the price, are transfer and prorating. Regular service may be transferred to another user (i.e., you can change the name on the account for the number). With a Lite line, however, that is not possible. If the name is changed, the number is lost. Also, with Lite service, there is no prorating for partial months when the service is cancelled.
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