North Korea to offer mobile internet access

Girls on mobiles in a park in North Korea
Image caption North Korean citizens will not have access to the 3G network.

North Korean mobile phone provider Koryolink is planning to launch a 3G data service for foreign visitors and residents from abroad.

Egyptian telecoms firm Orascom, which is a partner in Koryolink, estimates that more than 1 million North Koreans use mobile phones.

They will not be able to use the new service, according to reports.

Orascom launched a 3G phone network inside North Korea in 2008, but users can only use it to make phone calls.

International calls, including calls to South Korea, are banned.

In January 2013 the government began allowing foreign visitors to bring their own mobile devices into the country with them for the first time.

Following a recent visit to the notoriously closed country, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt wrote in a blog post that North Korea's decision to isolate itself "is very much going to affect their physical world and their economic growth."

He added that it would be "very easy" for 3G internet access to be enabled on the existing service.

Current internet access is extremely limited for locals, with most people only having access to a small number of state-run pages.

North Korea expert Scott Thomas Bruce previously told the BBC this comprises mainly "message boards, chat functions, and state sponsored media".

"The system they've set up is one that they can control and tear down if necessary," he said.

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