While all eyes are cast on South Korea’s technological progress (mobile TV, broadband penetration), its northern neighbour is showing some signs of technological catching up! According to Chinese-Japanese sources, North Korea plans to lift its ban on the use of mobile phones in April 2008 starting from Pyongyang.
While most other countries in the world, including some of the least democratic, have been keen to join the digital era, North Korea together with Myanmar and its 200’000 mobile phones, have tried to stay away from connectivity. Why now? The North Korean leadership has often acted in leaps and bounds so the lift does not come as a surprise – it may well be reversed in May. Will it change anything? This depends on the number of users who will be allowed to get mobile phones – one just needs to think about the importance of text messaging in Philippine politics.
Who will be the lucky operator allowed to serve the country? Egypt’s Orascom Telecom (a pan-african mobile operator) which entered into a joint-venture agreement with North Korea’s Post and Telecommunications Corp. Even more interesting is the announcement that North will use W-CDMA – a 3G technology used in countries such as South Korea and Japan – which is known to support video calls and high-speed data transmissions. Will free roaming (of the users) come with the mobile plans?