Over 6 million mobile phones seem to be in use in N. Korea: research

SEOUL– The number of mobile phones in use in North Korea is estimated at 6.5 to 7 million, marking a steady increase in subscriptions since the 3G network was first launched in 2008, a new research by an American group showed Tuesday.

During a press briefing in Seoul, researchers at 38 North, a Washington-based think tank specializing in North Korea issues, presented their latest research on digital communications in the North, including a map of the estimated cellular coverage based on satellite imagery of more than 1,000 cellular base stations.

“We believe there are now between 6.5 and 7 million subscriber lines in North Korea split between the two carriers,” Natalia Slavney, a research associate at the think tank, said, referring to Koryolink, a joint venture between North Korea and Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, and Kang Song NET, a government-owned operator.

“The number of subscriptions has risen steadily for most of the last 14 years since 3G service began,” she added.

Martyn Williams, a fellow at 38 North, also said mobile phones have become an “integral and indispensable part of daily life” for millions of North Koreans despite government restrictions and sanctions.

He also pointed out that the expansion of mobile coverage in the North is one of the key factors that has fueled the rise of the private economy and private marketplaces across the country.

“Whether you’re someone that is producing goods to be made in markets, whether you’re a wholesaler, whether you’re distributing goods around the country, whether you’re buying these goods, cellular communications is how all of the communications happen,” he said.

“Looking at the coverage of the cellular network is important because this is now available deep into the rural areas, so it’s enabling the entire country to get involved in this market economy where a few years ago that might not have been possible everywhere.”

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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