North Korea gets 3G up and running

James Middleton

May 21, 2008

1 Min Read
North Korea gets 3G up and running

Egypt’s Orascom Telecom has revealed that it has successfully trialled WCMDA 3G services inside the so called Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The company, which won a contract through its subsidiary, Cheo Technology, won a licence to deploy a cellular network earlier this year, bringing the first official, commercial 3G mobile services to the country.

There is, of course, nothing democratic about the secretive communist state of North Korea. In stark contrast to its southern neighbour the growth of mobile communications has been severely hampered by president Kim Jong-il’s government.

A GSM network was introduced in 2003, however, in May 2004 the government banned the use of mobile phones by its citizens. A GSM service is still being used by authorized government officials. Informa Telecoms & Media says that there are 5,000 official GSM users, giving the country a penetration rate of 0.02 per cent.

The analyst suggests that GSM services are also being used illegally by some North Korean citizens possibly using phones smuggled in from China. Mobile phone signals emanating from Chinese carriers are reported to be strong enough along the border to penetrate some distance into North Korea.

However, the penalties for using an unauthorised phone are extreme.

Cheo said it is looking to launch its full commercial mobile services within the second half of 2008.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of | Follow him @telecomsjames

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