Koryolink hits a million subscribers

Koryolink, North Korea’s only commercial 3G cell phone network, has signed up its millionth subscriber. The landmark was reached just over three years since service was launched.

Koryolink has been adding more than 100,000 new subscribers for each of the last five quarters and was expected to hit the million mark in early 2012.

The company is operated by Cheo Technology, which is a joint venture between Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Media And Technology Holding (OTMT) and North Korea’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications. OTMT holds a 75 percent stake and the North Korean government owns the remaining 25 percent.

Koryolink’s service has popularized cell phones and visitors to Pyongyang say they are now a common site on the city streets. The Koryolink network covers the capital city in addition to 14 major cities, 86 smaller cities, and 22 highways. That equals 14 percent of the landmass but about 94 percent of the population, according to Orascom.

The announcement from OTMT came on Thursday and coincides with a current visit to Pyongyang by its chairman, Naguib Sawiris.

Sawiris was shown arriving at Pyongyang airport and offering flowers in memory of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il in video released by the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).

During the trip he met with Kim Jong Nam.

His last public visit to Pyongyang was in early 2011 when he met Kim Jong Il.

The video pictures also revealed he arrived in Pyongyang on a private jet, a Bombardier BD-700 with registration M-ASRI.

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