Egyptian firm says it wins mobile phone licence in NKorea
An Egyptian firm says it has won the right to provide a mobile phone service in communist North Korea, a country which has strictly restricted such services to the general public.
Orascom Telecom, in a statement Wednesday on its website, said the licence was granted to its subsidiary CHEO Technology, which is 25 percent owned by the state-run Korea Post and Telecommunications Corporation.
It said the terms allow it to offer services throughout the country over a 25-year period with an exclusivity period of four years.
"Orascom Telecom intends to invest up to 400 million dollars in network infrastructure and licence fee over the first three years in order to rapidly deploy a high quality network and offer voice, data and value-added services at accessible prices to the Korean people," it said.
Orascom said it intends to cover Pyongyang and most other major cities during the first year of operations in the country of 23 million.
The North Korea deal "is in line with our strategy to penetrate countries with high population and low penetration by providing the first mobile telephony services," said Naguib Sawiris, chairman and CEO.
The firm "has consistently proved its ability to successfully roll out mobile services into countries where no other operator has."
North Korea began a mobile phone service in November 2002. But in a change of heart 18 months later, it banned the service for ordinary citizens and began recalling handsets, according to media reports at the time.
There is still thought to be a mobile network in Pyongyang which is open for government officials. Most foreigners are not allowed to use mobile phones inside the country.
Orascom Telecom currently operates networks in Algeria, Pakistan, Egypt, Tunisia, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.