North Korea halts 3G mobile Internet service to foreign tourists

The 3G service to foreign tourists began earlier this month

North Korea has abruptly stopped offering 3G mobile Internet access to tourists entering the country, just three weeks after the service was launched, according to a travel company.

The country's sole 3G provider, Koryolink, halted the service because of a government decision, said Hannah Barraclough, the tourism manager for Beijing-based Koryo Tours. "There was no additional reason given. It's unclear if its permanent or not," she said.

Koryo Tours learned of the 3G stoppage last week, and posted about it on their company website. Foreigners living in North Korea, however, can still sign up for a 3G mobile plan, Barraclough said.

North Korea is notoriously known for its isolation from the rest of the world, and global Internet access is still banned to native residents. But while it's unclear why North Korea halted the mobile Internet access to tourists, the service was likely seldom used. "It was not particularly popular," Barraclough said. "It's very expensive and you don't want to drop 150 Euros (US$192) just to get a bit of Internet access."

Prices for the 3G service ranged from 150 Euros for 2GB of data, up to 400 Euros for 10GB, according to a report from China's state-run Xinhua News Agency.

A representative for Dandong Chosun Tour Service, also based in China, said it was unaware of the 3G service stoppage to tourists. But he said few foreigners visiting the country would even apply for it, given that most tend to stay in North Korea for only a few days.

3G provider Koryolink is a joint venture between Egypt-based Orascom Telecom Holding and the North Korean-owned Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation. Orascom did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Michael Kan

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