July 30, 2009 08:56
About 48,000 North Koreans had by the end of June subscribed to the mobile phone service that started in the North last December, VOA reported Wednesday quoting data released by the service operator.
Orascom, the Egyptian telecom firm that runs it, plans to expand the service area from Pyongyang to the whole of North Korea by the end of this year, VOA said. The operator is poised to start HSPA service at the request of foreigners in North Korea who need to use wireless high-speed internet there, the report said.
Currently, officials of the North Korean Workers' Party or the government are reportedly banned from using mobile phones for security reasons. Ordinary North Korean residents, whose monthly pay is about 4,000 North Korean won (around US$30), cannot afford the service due to the high price of handsets, which cost at US$300-500, and the subscription fee.
"We understand that mobile phones are used chiefly by foreigners, wealthy people, and trade functionaries," a South Korean government official said.
North Korean phone users buy prepaid phone cards and can send text messages. The North started the European-style GSM service in Pyongyang and the Rajin-Sonbong special economic zone in November 2002 but suspended it after an explosion at Ryongchon Railway Station in April 2004.
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