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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
A pamphlet recently obtained by NK News has revealed the mobile broadband services provided to foreigners by Koryolink, one of the country’s main internet providers, services which allow for wireless internet access inside and outside the capital city of Pyongyang.
Koryolink offers three different rates, entitled “Browser, Streamer, and Business,” all with connection fees of 21,000 North Korean Won (€150 at the official exchange rate) for USB modem and SIM card provision.
“USB Modem with SIM card inside to get connected to the internet on your laptop or PC anywhere anytime!” the brochure reads. The UBS modem automatically installs the software when the customer plugs it into their laptop, it adds.
Customers wanting to use the “Browser” mobile broadband service pay €150 (around $160) per month, and can get access to 2GB of data. The charge for exceeding the limit is €0.05 per MB, the most expensive extra fee of the three price plans.
The “Streamer” package offers 5GB of data if subscribers pay 35,000 KPW (€250) for monthly usage, but it has an out of bundle rate of €0.04 per MB.
The 10GB mobile broadband plan called “Business” provides the most data, with a monthly fee of €400 (56,000 KPW), and customers have to pay €0.02 per MB if they exceed the monthly data limit.
The brochure, intended for foreign mobile subscribers, says they can pay in “Euros or U.S. dollars” for the connection and the first month’s subscription fees. Monthly fees are converted into Euros based on the “official exchange rate of 140,” but monthly subscription or activation fees will “vary on the day of purchase.”
One of South Korean largest telecommunication companies, SKT, provides temporary internet services to visitors to the South, but they can use 4G LTE and connect “various devices such as mobile phone, tablet PCs and laptops” to the Internet across the country. Users pay 5000 South Korean Won (around $4.47) per day for unlimited data usage.
“South Korean mobile broadband networks are based on WiFi systems: several types of equipment, including laptops, can connect to the internet,” Dr. Park Mun-woo, Executive Principal at the Department of ICT Convergence at the National Information Society Agency, told NK News.
“But subscribers to Koryolink can only access the Internet through 3G [wireless USB] modems, not wifi. Only a specific device equipped with USIM and USG modem such as a laptop can have the Internet access.”
The brochure also clarifies that “high-speed” wireless internet access is only available in “Pyongyang city center and main highways”, but doesn’t clarify what it means by “city center”.
Subscribers also can use an average speed of connection “outside Pyongyang”. Foreigners can use wireless internet “anywhere that has mobile coverage,” according to the pamphlet, suggesting mobile broadband services are available even in the provinces.
MOBILE INTERNET SERVICES
This coverage is largely the same as that offered by Koryolink for internet services on mobile phones, according to another pamphlet entitled “Mobile Internet on Your Phone.”
Subscribers can send emails, upload posts on “social media”, and stream video and music – as well as download games, songs, and applications.
The brochure also suggests a “general guidelines for the amount of data used per service” such as the data usage per email or one minute’s streaming of music and video. But, it adds, the “actual amount of data” used for these activities can “vary.”
While Koryolink offers mobile data services with a variety of data-oriented price plans in a pamphlet written in Korean, Koryolink appears to provide just one prepaid internet data plan in the brochure for foreign subscribers.
Subscribers need to pay €10 (1,400 KPW) for 50MB mobile data and extra data usage is charged at a rate of €0.15 (21 KPW) per MB. But new subscribers need to pay connection fees of €75 (10,500 KPW).
The brochure also suggests that activating and deactivating mobile data services are very simple: users send *#FD75A# to the number 555 to activate the service and send *#FD75D# to deactivate.
Both pamphlets said the subscribers can check their balance by dialing *900*#, suggesting broadband services for laptops and wireless Internet service for mobile phones are prepaid and not pay-as-you-go.
Featured Image: Kazuteru T
Edited by Oliver Hotham