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North Korea opens up to cell phones, mobile users boom

Posted: , by Victor H.

North Korea opens up to cell phones, mobile users boom
There’s light at the end of the tunnel of cell phone use in the totalitarian communist country of North Korea. After the country banned handset use in 2004 following a railway explosion possibly targetting the country’s dictatorial leader, Kim Jong-il, and believed to have been triggered by a phone, residents were blocked from using handsets until 2008. Since then the country has moved relatively quickly opening up to mobile communication. 

A report was released this month by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability and it claims that 60% of people between 20 and 50 years old now use cellphones in Pyongyang, the 3 million capital of North Korea. Residents of the capital are by no means a representative factor for the whole country, though, as only select people are allowed in the city where government authorities vet very strictly for residency permits. 

Nonetheless, it’s a huge leap from 300,000 users reported on the only network in the country built by Egyptian company Orascom last year. Two years ago, mobile users amounted to less than 70,000 users. Now, the number stands at the comparatively impressive 800,000 users. It’s even more striking if you consider the fact that the average cell phone price in North Korea is reported to be around $350, while the average monthly wage stands at only $15.

For the three years that passed since mobile communications started opening up in the country in 2008, network provided Orascom has managed to build a contemporary 3G network covering 94% of the population but only 14% of the country. The otherwise poor country invested a massive $400 million in that one and only network.

Its use however is severely restricted. Things we take for granted, like the Internet and international calls are simply not allowed in North Korea. One thing it has managed to save on is R&D, though - the technology was all there for the taking when the country started rolling out the service.

"The DPRK (North Korea) mobile communications industry has crossed the Rubicon and the North Korean government can no longer roll it back without paying a severe political price," Alexandre Mansourov who wrote the report concludes.

source: Reuters

Image courtesy of AFP/Yonhap.

14 Comments
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posted on 21 Nov 2011, 07:03 2

1. rendHELL (Posts: 304; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)


too bad for north koreans.... they have been missing one of the good parts in life

posted on 21 Nov 2011, 07:23 6

2. nastynaps (Posts: 93; Member since: 16 Aug 2011)


Late adoption of cell phones is probably the last thing you should feel sorry about for N. Koreans.

posted on 21 Nov 2011, 08:46

3. Phoneguy007 (Posts: 218; Member since: 02 Jun 2011)


right....Cuba also just allowed cell phones recently

posted on 22 Nov 2011, 07:37

12. iKingTrust (banned) (Posts: 716; Member since: 27 Jul 2011)


What about freedom?

posted on 21 Nov 2011, 09:37 3

4. Firedrops (Posts: 215; Member since: 06 Sep 2011)


Nobody in my country uses cellphones = nobody in the world can attempt to assasinate me. logic for you right there.

posted on 21 Nov 2011, 09:45 4

5. Mehha (Posts: 26; Member since: 25 May 2011)


Eliminate USA from our mother earth and we'll see more than half of the world living happily in peace. These are the countries who oppose bulls**t US policies and therefore are being pushed back.

posted on 21 Nov 2011, 12:44 3

6. Debbie (Posts: 2; Member since: 16 Nov 2011)


But yet hundreds/thousands flock to the USA seeking a better life from their former country.

posted on 22 Nov 2011, 00:31 1

9. Mehha (Posts: 26; Member since: 25 May 2011)


And thats because US has control over those countries who have gold mines, are rich in oil and gas reserves and more importantly had faith in themselves. They (US) are trying to raise their living standards by feeding on other's resources, they have got almost nothing their own.

posted on 21 Nov 2011, 13:13 3

7. Penny (Posts: 1192; Member since: 04 Feb 2011)


You have the freedom to use the internet. Don't take it for granted.

Blame the U.S. all you want - it's certainly had its hand in its fair share of the world's problems. Just remember to blame the dictators and oppressors more.

posted on 21 Nov 2011, 16:44

8. GeckoHA559 (Posts: 47; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


But obviously the US doesn't need to take military action against North Korea because those incharge of North Korea, don't abuse their people nor do they have nuclear power which could potentialy be dangerous?

posted on 22 Nov 2011, 00:39 1

10. Mehha (Posts: 26; Member since: 25 May 2011)


And US exactly did that to Iraq, where they first claimed that they had weapons of mass destruction and then ended up accepting that they were wrong after killing millions of innocent people who didn't even know the 'w' of weapons. But they got it what they wanted...the oil fields. huh.

posted on 22 Nov 2011, 11:14

13. GeckoHA559 (Posts: 47; Member since: 28 Jan 2011)


Correct.

posted on 22 Nov 2011, 06:52

11. allenmax (Posts: 2; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)


Mobile marketing is commonly known as wireless marketing. However wireless is not necessarily mobile.
http://mobilestrategyconsultants.com/

posted on 24 Aug 2012, 04:31

14. Raymond_htc (Posts: 430; Member since: 06 Apr 2012)


If only North Korea can be democratic... like South Korea, that'll be great!

But it'll never happen under the Kim Family's ruling..... :(

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