Koryolink mobile phone update

…from the Korea IT Times:

Back in 2008, North Korean mobile operator Koryolink entered the mobile communications business to serve 126,000 subscribers, but demand far exceeded the company’s expectations. Therefore, Koryolink plans to secure enough mobile phone circuits so as to serve all the people who wish to use mobile communications services.

In addition, the Choson Sinbo, a newspaper based in Japan, reported that the number of North Korean mobile subscribers would break the 600,000 mark by the end of this year. That means just one year and four months after 3G mobile carrier Koryolink started its business in December of 2008, the number of mobile subscribers topped 120,000 as of April of this year. The mobile communications bureau of the Chosen Post said, “In 2009, base stations were put up throughout Pyongyang and communications networks have been complemented. And major highways leading to Pyongyang (e.g. Pyongyang-Hyangsan, Pyongyang-Nampo highways), major railways sections, and each province have been equipped with communications networks.

“In the future, more than half of the counties and towns will have networks with the rest scheduled to be equipped within this year” said the Chosen Post. North Korea is planning to expand mobile connectivity to the entire nation by 2012. Those who wish to use 3G services can go to mobile service centers called “Bongsaso”, pick up an application form and submit it with a payment (the price of the mobile phone plus a 50 euro subscription fee). The prices of terminals range from 110 euro to 240 euro and some mobile devices have built-in cameras. The basic mobile device is supplied by China’s Huawei Technologies.

In the future, the 3G mobile communications service will go beyond simple voice calls: Multimedia services such as TV phones and high-volume, high-speed communications will be made possible. The subscription fees, call charges and the prices of mobile phones will go down. On the hardware front, North Korea aims to develop and manufacture its own hand-held mobile phones, but at the moment, mobile phones will be imported from foreign nations, primarily from China. For now, a new production line is planned to be built by a joint venture company, which was formed by foreign capital and the Chosen Post, to assemble imported parts into finished goods.

North Korea said it would set up a nation-wide mobile communications system in order to modernize its communication system. Building an upgraded mobile communication system has been of great interest to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, so this project is expected to gain momentum quickly. According to South Korean mobile carriers and South Korea’s Korea Communications Commission (KCC), only senior government figures are using mobile phones right now in the North. Yet the general public will soon get their hands on mobile devices.

As for the North Korean mobile communications industry, getting foreign investors can be a problem. But the real issue lies with North Korea’s poor electricity grids, which are so insufficient that anticipated high electricity demand from maintaining network facilities and charging mobile phones may not be met. Regardless, it is indeed very encouraging that the North offers 3G mobile communication services to the public. I believe that the commercialization of 3G mobile communication services would serve as a stepping stone to North Korea’s gradual reform and market opening, which are deemed to be inevitable in the end.

Read the full story below:
North Korea’s Mobile Communications Service
Korea IT Times
Choi Sung


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