Bloomberg: North Korea to Allow Mobile Phones

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Egyptian communications company Orascom Telecom will launch mobile-phone services in North Korea starting on the 15th of this month.

The report stated that, “Orascom Telecom won the North Korean mobile-phone license on January 31 and has been investing in installation of services. Orascom succeeded in testing its network in May and is planning to invest 400 million dollars over the next three years in three main cities, including Pyongyang, to provide mobile-phone services.”

Orascom Telecom is expecting to generate annual revenue of U$12 to 15 per user. According to its agreement with the North, Orascom will have exclusive operating rights in North Korea for four years.

Teymour El-Derini, a trader at Beltone Securities Brokerage in Cairo was quoted by Bloomberg as saying, “It (North Korea) is a new, untapped market. Growth will be limited, but even if the service is only offered to government officials, in a military state like North Korea, that is a substantial number.”

“If you believe in North Korea, and that it will eventually open up, it’s an excellent market for Orascom” added El-Derini.

Radio Free Asia reported on the 4th that “The North Korean authorities have been selling mobile phones to those who wish to join the service for 700 dollars per phone. This signifies that North Korea has officially begun preparing for the installation of mobile-phone services. They are planning to first launch the services in Pyongyang then slowly expand to different cities and provinces.”

‘Voice of Russia’ also quoted an Orascom spokesperson saying that about 150,000 people are expected to join the mobile-phone service once it is launched.

Orascom Telecom Holding S.A.E. is the biggest mobile-phone company in the Middle East. First established in 1998, there are Orascom offices in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe.

Orascom shares traded in Cairo rose 9.8% on the back of the news.