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 Wednesday, June 03, 2009

North Korea has permitted a limited internet service for mobile phone users, reports AP News, citing a government website. The service allows access to the country's official news website, the Korean Central News Agency, as well as other news sites for the capital Pyongyang. The Korean Central News Agency website allows users to listen to North Korean music and read information about books, art and investment opportunities in the country, although it is unclear whether these services will be available when accessed via a mobile handset.

Mobile phones are tightly controlled in North Korea and were banned until November 2002. Two months later incumbent fixed line telco Northeast Asia Telephone and Telecommunications (NEAT&T) launched GSM-900 services under the banner SUN NET. However, cellular devices were once again banned following an explosion on a train in June 2004, which was thought to have been triggered remotely by a wireless handset. In January 2008 Egypt-based telecoms operator Orascom Telecom announced to the surprise of most that CHEO Technology, a joint venture between itself (75%) and Korea Post and Telecoms Corp (25%), had been awarded a licence to operate 3G wireless services by the government. Under the terms of its licence, CHEO is permitted to provide mobile telephony services for 25 years, the first four of which on an exclusive basis. The company launched the country's first 3G network in the capital in December 2008 under the name Koryolink. By April 2009 CHEO had reportedly signed up 20,000 subscribers and its 3G network had been expanded to include the main road running up to the northern city of Hyangsan, with national coverage expected by 2012.

Source: TeleGeography.

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