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MVNOs or MNOs for Pixel 2 (unlocked)?


Hi everyone.

I feel like similar questions have been asked a lot of times before but I can’t find any other threads here so here we go:

I’m coming to Japan in September for university (Keio SFC). I’m bringing my own phone (Google Pixel 2 XL) and I had a few questions.

I’ve read on Reddit that there’s a certain seal/logo (conformity mark) that your phone needs to have for Mobile Network Operators (the big 3, at least) to issue a SIM to you. The Pixel does not have that. However, while talking to a friend, he said that they’d sometimes make an exception if you’re persuasive enough (I know very little Japanese so I think that’s out of the window).

Since the Pixel 2 wasn’t released in Japan, I was also unsure that it would work in Japan but a quick check on tells me that au and Softbank’s LTE bands will be compatible with the phone. But then, I checked a similar thread on reddit and a user commented that au uses CDMA which is not compatible with most international phones. So I’m siding towards Softbank (I’ve used the 30-day Softbank traveller SIM cards in my short visits to Japan and they work flawlessly).

But then, I was introduced to the world of MVNOs. Apparently they’re cheaper but come at the cost of lower priority given by MNOs. I’ve looked at Line Mobile and Rakuten Mobile and they seem to have much better and cheaper plans compared to the big 3 (voice + data) and now I’m confused. Would they work with the Pixel or would I face the same problems as I would with the Big 3?

I’m a decently heavy data user (about 8-10 GB a month) but I also need a phone number for various other purposes. Can anyone help me solve this dilemma?

(PS: I’m staying in Shonandai, if that helps)


Hi Shaimay,
I don’t have specific knowledge about the Pixel 2, but I do know a little about the MVNOs. The large majority of them piggyback on the Docomo network, with a smaller number piggybacking on the AU network. Some give you the option of either Docomo or AU network SIMs. The only MVNOs that use Softbank are Mobal and Y!Mobile (which is actually just part of Softbank). The monthly plan for Mobal is 4,500yen for voice + 7GB of data, which is a little higher than some of the competition, but it is on the Softbank network so it will work with your phone. There are rumours that there will be more MVNOs using the Softbank network, but nothing has been announced.
Living in Shonandai doesn’t make much difference, except there isn’t much to do there so you’ll spend more time looking at your phone! (used to work in Shonandai)