[AFP] The Egyptian company which launched a mobile phone service in secretive North Korea says the joint venture turned a profit in the first quarter on growing demand.
Koryolink reported 4.4 million dollars in revenue in the first quarter to March with operating profit of 312,000 dollars, Orascom Telecom said in an earnings statement seen Thursday on its website.
The service was launched last December in the hardline communist state. Market reaction has been positive with 5,300 subscribers in the first month, the company said.
At the end of the first quarter the number had grown to 19,200.
Orascom Telecom chief executive Naguib Sawiris said here last week that the number of subscribers to the 3G service surpassed 40,000 in April and was expected to break the 100,000 mark by the end of this year.
Despite the communist state's "conservative nature" and almost non-existent marketing and advertising industries, the Egyptian firm said Koryolink's launch was publicised in major newspapers and on radio.
The company said it also erected the first advertising billboard of its kind in Pyongyang.
The North attempts strictly to control access to outside information and fixes the tuning controls of radios and televisions to official stations.
It began a mobile phone service in November 2002 but shut it down without explanation 18 months later and began recalling handsets.
It was unclear how many local people were being given access to the network but the phones would be outside the price range of many, at 110 euros (153 dollars) for a basic handset.
Mobile service in NKorea turns a profit: Egyptian company