The Korea Times reported the other day that cell phones are becoming more popular in North Korea, and the article included some recent data. The number of North Koreans with a state-approved cell phone reached nearly 185,000 as of the end of June, operator Orascom Telecom said Thursday, as more citizens have mobile access after a recent government expansion of services. Egypt’s Orascom, which operates the mobile operator Koryolink in partnership with the North Korean regime, said in a first-half report that services have expanded to several cities other than Pyongyang and that 184,531 subscribers had signed up as of June 30.
Although 60 percent of North Korea's citizens now technically have access to mobile communication, the network reportedly excludes cities near the border with South Korea because authorities fear the proximity could allow cross-border communication. According to Orascom, foreigners, middle class people and young people are all taking advantage of the service. However, according to Radio Free Asia, North Koreans have to pay a steep price to go mobile. Customers must pay the equivalent of $250 for a phone, in addition to high-priced pre-paid minutes.