Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Media and Technology (OTMT) has reported no significant progress in talks with the North Korean government over two big issues it faces in the country.
In its second quarter financial results, Orascom says it’s still trying to figure out how to get its cash out of the country and a possible merger of its Koryolink (고려링크) 3G network with a new competitor run by Internet provider Star(별).
But a merger isn’t necessarily on the cards.
A group of North Koreans with cellphones take pictures in April 2012 (Photo: Joseph Ferris III/CC-by-2.0)
The new cellular carrier run by the North Korean government to compete with Koryolink is being run by a local Internet service provider, according to a source in Pyongyang.
The ISP, called Byol (별) or Star, is targeting the wireless service at North Koreans.
Star currently offers wired Internet connections to foreigners in Pyongyang at a rate of 600 euro (US$660) for a 1Mbps line with unlimited data, according to a subscriber.
But the city’s relatively few foreign residents and tourists won’t be offered service from the new cellular carrier, the source said.
That simplifies operation as Koryolink offers a two-tier service, with foreigners able to access the Internet and make international phone calls while local users are restricted to domestic calls and websites.
It was not possible to immediately verify the claims.
Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang in May 2014 (UN Photo)
Orascom Telecom, the majority owner of North Korean cellular network Koryolink, is facing major problems getting its money out of North Korea and now has new competition from its partner, the government, in the form of a rival cellular network.
The new network was recently launched in competition with Koryolink and the two parties are currently discussing merging the two networks.
Its disclosure came as a surprise — it hasn’t been mentioned in the past in state media reports or other dispatches from the country.
The revelations were included in Orascom’s quarterly financial report, which was published on Wednesday, and also blames the tightening grip of international sanctions for its problems.
A woman speaks on a cellphone in Pyongyang on September 5, 2010 (Photo: Roman Harak / CC-by-sa-2.0)
It was always a bit of a paradox: in the country with some of the strictest censorship on the planet, Internet access for the lucky ones that had even less restrictions than neighboring China.
In North Korea, the Internet divide between the elite and the rest of the country couldn’t have been wider: you either had everything or you had nothing at all.
But no longer.
Late last week the country began blocking Instagram, according to an Associated Press report from Pyongyang, and with it began plugging what had been an unusual gap in the country’s censorship that had existed for more than two years.
The Koryo Hotel and other buildings in Pyongyang on April 16, 2007 (Photo: Chris Price/CC-by-nd-2.0)
Foreigners in Pyongyang can once again access the Internet from their smartphones, according to a report.
Service was suspended last Friday because of an Internet connection problem with no estimated time of restoration, according to a message sent to subscribers by carrier Koryolink. The outage and message were reported by Reuters. More >
SEOUL (Reuters) – Foreigners in North Korea no longer have access to the country’s 3G network, the country’s mobile phone provider said in a message sent to its subscribers in the country.
North Koreans are unable to access outside uncensored Internet, except for on rare occasions, but foreign residents and visitors to the isolated country are able to buy 3G mobile SIM cards which are largely unrestricted.
“Unfortunately we are facing internet service outage from the local internet provider’s side with no estimated time, we will keep you posted once the service is back to normal,” the provider, Koryolink, said in a notice sent in English to subscribers and seen by Reuters. More >
The Egyptian company that runs North Korea’s sole cellular network appears to be finally confronting one of its biggest problems in North Korea: the value of its money there.
Egypt’s Orascom Telecom and Media Technology (OTMT) said on Tuesday that it is delaying the filing of its latest quarterly financial report while it attempts to agree with the North Korean government on the value of its cash held in the country.
At the center of the problem is the exchange rate for the North Korean won and rules on money transfers.