North Korea embraces 3G service

statues of North Korean leaders North Koreans cannot access the internet via 3G on their phones

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Almost two million North Koreans now use the country's only 3G network, reports a blog dedicated to technology news in North Korea.

The figure has been confirmed by 3G provider Koryolink, a partnership between Egyptian telecoms firm Orascom and the North Korean government.

The service can only be used to make voice calls, and all international calls are banned.

At the start of 2012 Koryolink claimed to have one million 3G subscribers.

In January 2013 the government began allowing visitors to the country to bring in their mobile phones for the first time.

Unlike residents, they would now be able to use the 3G network for mobile internet access as well, by purchasing local SIM cards, the country said at the time.

However last month a China-based tour operator called Koryo Tours, which specialises in tourist visits to North Korea, posted a note on its website saying that 3G was no longer available for visitors.

North Koreans only have access to a very limited, state-run set of internet pages.

When Google Chair Eric Schmidt visited the country at the start of the year he urged the government to allow citizens access to the wider internet and said it would be "easy" for the 3G network to include data access.

"As the world becomes increasingly connected, the North Korean decision to be virtually isolated is very much going to affect their physical world and their economic growth," he wrote in a blog post.

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