North Korea has begun to import second-hand Huawei equipment as part of plans to upgrade its existing mobile networks.

As reported by Daily NK, Huawei equipment will be used to upgrade 3G base transceiver stations (BTS) in major cities such as Pyongang, Nampo, Pyongsong, Sariwon, Wonsan, and Hamhung.

North Korea
– Getty Images

According to the publication, a source noted that authorities in the country began upgrading existing telecoms infrastructure last month, and that equipment is being imported from China.

To date, North Korea has yet to establish a 4G network, however, it's thought that the upgrades to the existing 3G network will play a role in supporting this.

It's being done through the purchase of cheap second-hand Huawei devices, reports Daily NK.

The modernization of North Korea's networks had been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, added the unnamed source, who said that the telecom equipment replacement projects are being conducted with the cooperation of regional trade agencies and the communication sector.

“The authorities have been dispatching technicians to the base transceiver stations to help with equipment replacement, provide technological assistance, and to computerize the operations management systems,” said the anonymous source, who didn't give their name due to security fears.

Governed by Kim Jong Un, North Korea is run as a totalitarian dictatorship. The country's government has significant control over the media content that is consumed by its population.

North Korea currently has two active mobile network operators, Koryolink and Kang Song NET.

Koryolink was formed in 2008 as part of a JV between Egyptian company Orascom Investment Holding (OIH) and state-owned Korean Post & Telecoms Corporation (KPTC). Kang Song NET was formed more recently, in 2015.