Tuesday, December 16, 2008

World Media Take Notice of North Korea's New Mobile Network

Now that the Chairman of Orascom has visited North Korea and that country has formally initiated its new mobile communications service, the media around the world are taking notice. According to BBC News , the system has now been launched in the capital, Pyongyang, by Orascom's billionaire chief executive Naguib Sawiris. "The prospect of this company is to build a network that will accommodate the 22 million people in North Korea," he said.
The BBC report goes on to note that "The new network will be able to provide fast internet connections and handle large quantities of information. However, that is a commodity the North Korean authorities have been extremely anxious to restrict. Radios and televisions sold there have their tuning controls fixed to official stations and making phone calls out of North Korea is impossible for ordinary citizens."
The North Korean leadership is caught on the horns of a dilemma.  It now has a modern, CDMA-based mobile network that could be expanded throughout the country and used to help bring it up to parity with its highly networked neighbor to the south.  Such a move would help it immensely in economic terms and would help move toward reunification.  However, it would also undercut, in one fell swoop, efforts by North Korea's leadership to control the information its citizens receive.  
A very interesting aspect of all this is that North Korea has installed a CDMA network.  Is this an indication that they may be looking ahead toward unification with South Korea, which has the most extensive and sophisticated CDMA-based mobile networks in the world?  Just how long will people in North Korea be able to resist the various attractions of the information age that is transforming so much of the world?

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