North Korea started a long-delayed leap from 3G to 4G services, with Daily NK reporting authorities began signing up subscribers after upgrading its network in parts of the capital Pyongyang.

Citing an anonymous source, the news site noted the government imported second-hand LTE base stations from China, with plans to use the equipment purchased mainly from Huawei to upgrade its existing 3G network in six cities, including the capital.

North Korea has a population of 26.2 million and currently has two 3G network operators.

GSMA Intelligence data showed Byol closed 2023 with 7.1 million 3G connections and Koryolink 400,000.

The research unit estimated only 28.3 per cent of the population has a mobile connection, all prepaid and only a quarter with smartphones.

In 2023, the annual growth rate of mobile connections was less than 3 per cent.

Smartphone connections grew nearly 12 per cent to 1.9 million.

In 2022, Egypt-based Orascom pulled out of the Koryolink joint venture with state-owned Korean Post and Telecoms: the JV introduced the country’s first mobile service in 2008.

The first 4G networks were launched in late 2009.