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Orascom to provide wireless in North Korea

01 февраля 2008

Egypt’s Orascom Telecom said on Thursday it had won the right to provide wireless services to North Korea, which, as well as being one of the world’s most isolated countries, strictly controls information access for the general public.

The company, which operates throughout the Middle East and North Africa, said that its subsidiary CHEO Technology, a joint venture 75 per cent owned by Orascom and 25 per cent owned by North Korea’s state-run Korea Post and Telecommunications, won the right to provide mobile phone services using 3G technology.

Orascom to provide wireless in North Korea Orascom said the licence was valid for 25 years with an exclusive period of four years. It plans to invest up to $400m in network infrastructure and licence fees over the first three years with the aim of rapidly deploying a network and offer mobile phone services to North Koreans.

Naguib Sawiris, chief executive of Orascom, said the move was “in line with our strategy to penetrate countries with high population and low penetration by providing the first mobile telephone services. OTH has consistently proved its ability to successfully roll out mobile services into countries where no other operator has.”

North Korea has a population of about 23m, but there is currently no mobile service in the country. Orascom plans to offer cover to Pyongyang and most of the major cities during the first year of operations.

In spite of Orascom’s upbeat statement on the business prospects in North Korea, analysts doubted if the company’s venture into the communist state could be profitable. The communist state has strictly restricted ordinary people’s access to information for fear of political change.

To try to keep the country isolated from the outside world, the North Korean regime has banned anything other than state TV and radio. Foreign newspapers are illegal and the internet is unavailable to all but a handful of the elite.

North Korea launched a mobile phone service in November 2002 but banned the service for ordinary citizens a year and a half later and began recalling handsets, according to media reports. A mobile network is still believed to exist in Pyongyang to provide mobile services to government officials but foreigners are not allowed to use mobile phones in the country.

Источник: Financial Times

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