More on the DPRK-Orascom deal…

Since Orascom announced at the end of January that it was going into the cell phone business in the DPRK, there has been a lot of follow up reporting which has flushed out a broader picture of the DPRK’s attempts to launch a mobile phone network.

Today Yonhap is reporting that Pyongyang will likely go live with the Orascom project in April, although on a piecemeal schedule:

The measure will affect only Pyongyang, the North’s capital, this time and gradually expand to cover other major cities in the communist country, the Tokyo Shimbun said, quoting an unnamed North Korean official in Beijing.

North Korea has prohibited its people from using mobile phones since a deadly explosion occurred at the Ryongchon train station near the North’s border with China in April 2004. Debris of a mobile phone with adhesive tape attached to it was reportedly found at the scene of explosion, leading the authorities to impose the sudden ban in the belief that the mobile phone could have been used as a detonator.

More details of the deal also emerged:

Cheo [an Orascom subsidiary] secured a 25-year license and will invest up to US$400 million in network infrastructure. The North Korean state company owns a 25 percent stake in Cheo, Orascom said.

How accessible will the  new phones be?

Choi Yeong-cheol, 43, who defected from North Korea in 2006, said that senior party and administrative officials as well as trade workers were given mobile phones for free in 2002. “But ordinary people have not even dreamed of using a mobile phone because it cost them 170,000 North Korean won,” Choi told Daily NK, a Seoul-based Internet newspaper. The figure of 170,000 won is big money considering the average monthly payment for ordinary North Korean workers is up to 3,000 won (US$1) now.

The full article can be found here:
N.K. to lift mobile phone ban in April: Japanese daily


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