Photo/IllutrationThe Hayabusa bullet train runs through the Seikan Tunnel from the main Japanese island of Honshu to Hokkaido. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

For those who fear missing a moment of cellphone contact while riding on a Shinkansen, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Tohoku Bureau of Telecommunications decided to subsidize work such as setting up antennas to provide mobile access in tunnels on the Tohoku and Hokkaido Shinkansen lines linking Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto Station in Hokkaido with Tokyo Station and the Akita Shinkansen Line between Akita and Morioka.

According to the bureau, the construction costs will be about 300 million yen ($2.68 million) for a tunnel in a section between Shichinohe-Towada Station and Shin-Aomori Station in Aomori Prefecture on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line and about 1.7 billion yen for a section between Shin-Aomori Station and Kikonai Station on the Hokkaido Shinkansen Line.

About 1.1 billion yen will be required for tunnels between Shizukuishi Station in Iwate Prefecture and Tazawako Station in Akita Prefecture on the Akita Shinkansen Line.

“We will strive to provide cellphone service on all Shinkansen lines as early as possible by steadily carrying out the construction,” said an official of the Japan Mobile Communications Infrastructure Association, comprising cellphone carriers.

The association carries out construction, with subsidies from the government, which is bearing one-third of the total costs.

However, completion of the work to ensure smooth cellphone service in tunnels on the Yamagata Shinkansen Line is nowhere in sight because some tunnels cannot be covered by government subsidies.

About 650 million yen will be required for tunnels in a section between Fukushima Station and Yonezawa Station on the Yamagata Shinkansen Line.

Antennas and other equipment must be installed in tunnels because cellphones generally cannot receive signals from wireless base stations when bullet trains run through them.

As of the end of March, the networks of the three major carriers, including NTT Docomo Inc., cover a section from Tokyo Station all the way to just before Shichinohe-Towada Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen Line.