[Photos] Mobile users reluctant to switch to homegrown telecoms network

Seol Song Ah  |  2017-06-28 17:19
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The North Korean authorities have instructed residents to join the state-run telecommunications network Kangsong Net, but many are reportedly not heeding the instruction. Instead, USIM cards from Koryolink are the popular choice and available on the black market. These cards connect to a collaborative network service built by the Egyptian telecommunications firm Orascom, renowned for its call quality.

"Recently, the state-run cell phone stores are automatically connecting clients to the domestic network service, Kangsong Net, and the regime is officially prohibiting the use of Koryolink USIM cards. In view of this, some merchants are finding ways to purchase the old USIM cards and reselling them," a source in North Pyongan Province told Daily NK on June 22.

"The used Koryolink USIM cards are being sold at between 110~140 USD on the black market in North Pyongan Province. They are comparatively more expensive than the Kangsong Net USIM cards which are 10 USD, but nonetheless remain more popular. This is due to the fact that Koryolink has a higher quality network and cheaper fees."

The North Korean regime is trying to monopolize the communications market via its state-run network service, but residents are aware of the technical limits of the domestic service.

According to the source, the call quality of Kangsong Net (which uses numbers starting with 195) is very low and signal is often lost in both suburban and rural areas. However, Koryolink numbers (which start with 191) have good signal in most places and good call quality, presumably because the technology was made overseas.

"The fees for the two companies appear similar, but clients soon notice the difference. The calling fee for Kangsong Net is 4 KPW per minute, but there are many issues - including the fact that if you spend one second over the first minute while calling, you are charged for the cost of two minutes," the source noted.

In particular, Kangsong Net charges the cost of calling to both the caller and the receiver, so people often don't take calls from numbers that start with 195, even if they are from a friend. 

"People regard Kangsong Net as rubbish, labeling it an '8.3 communications service,' implying that its a fake (second-rate) network service [mocking reference to August Third Movement]. A lot of people are fed up with the regime forcing them to use inferior domestic products in the name of self-reliance and development," added a source in South Pyongan Province.

The North Korean authorities launched the state-run communications company Kangsong Net in 2011. The regime previously attempted to merge the company with Koryolink, creating conflict with the Egyptian company Orascom over asset control.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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