Mobile Phones Spread Fast in N.Korea

      December 10, 2009 09:00

      A North Korean poster advertises mobile phones (file photo)

      Mobile phone subscriptions have spread fast in North Korea and are due to reach 120,000 early next year only a year after service began, AFP reported on Wednesday.

      The North began mobile phone service in Pyongyang in November 2002 but shut it down in 2004 to tighten controls on outside information. Orascom, an Egyptian telecom firm, and the North Korean government established a joint venture named Koryolink on Dec. 15, 2008 with a 75:25 stake. The firm has since been providing subscribers with third-generation W-CDMA mobile service.

      "It is a bigger-than-expected success," a Koryolink spokesman was quoted as telling a visiting Japanese researcher, Masayuki Aramaki, in Pyongyang. The spokesman said the telecom joint venture had aimed at 50,000 subscribers in the first year of service and 120,000 in the third year but the number of subscribers already exceeded 70,000 in just 11 months.

      Nicole Finneman of the Washington-based Korea Economic Institute, who led a U.S. delegation to North Korea in late November, on Tuesday said she was impressed by the spread of mobile phones there. All North Koreans the delegation met including their driver and their guide had one, she added.

      Jiji Press reports that North Koreans exchanged information by mobile phones during the latest controversial currency reform.

      The phones in use in Pyongyang are made in China and cost 200 euros (about 340,000 won). They operate on pre-paid cards priced at 3 and 5 euros. Ordinary people can use the service only in Pyongyang. Internet service on mobile phones has also begun recently there.

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