Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris has taken over as CEO of the parent company of Cheo Technology, which runs North Korea’s Koryolink 3G cellular telephone network.
Sawiris assumed the top job at Orascom Telecom Media and Technology (OTMT) after the former CEO, Ahmed Abou Doma, stepped down for personal reasons. He had been CEO for less than a month, taking the job on October 1.
Earlier in October, Sawiris made his latest visit to Pyongyang.
He arrived in the North Korean capital on October 12 and left two days later. During his trip, he met with DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju at Mansudae Assembly Hall and, as is customary, presented a gift for Kim Jong Un, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported. The news service did not release details of the talks, but it did release some images.
Naguib Sawiris meets DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in this October 13, 2014, image from Korean Central News Agency
Subscriptions to Koryolink, North Korea’s only 3G mobile phone network, have just passed the 2.4 million mark, according to the latest figures from the operator.
The figure represents a significant slowdown in growth in the last year over the previous year and points to the first big spurt in subscriptions being over. The carrier might have to start working harder to continue attracting new users.
Total subscriptions to the Koryolink network (Graphic: North Korea Tech)
North Korea’s sole 3G mobile network operator has moved to plug a potential gap in the country’s considerable national censorship regime.
The loophole could have provided North Koreans with unrestricted access to international phone calls and Internet access and relied on the prepaid SIM cards that have been available to tourists since February 2013.
The cards, purchased upon arrival in Pyongyang, provide visitors with access to a part of the 3G network reserved for foreigners and those in powerful positions.
Typically, North Koreans that can afford a mobile phone can only make domestic phone calls and have no international Internet access from their handsets. The restrictions mirror domestic phone lines in houses, which cannot make or receive calls from overseas. More >
Shops in cities on the Chinese side of the border are attempting to tempt North Koreans with cheap cellphones for use on their country’s mobile phone network, according to a report by Radio Free Asia.
The phones are on sale for about half the price they would fetch in North Korea, but are attracting few customers, the Washington, D.C., -based organization said quoting an unnamed source in the Chinese city of Dandong.
It said “candybar” -style phones cost about US$55, folding “clamshell” -style phones are about $80 and smartphones cost around $130.
A shop in Dandong, China, advertising cellphones that work on North Korea’s network (Photo: Radio Free Asia)
North Koreans used cell phone messaging to independently organize a soccer group, surprising authorities, according to a new report on cell phone usage in the country.
The soccer club was apparently organized by a group at Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang, and could be one of the reasons that pushed authorities to launch a regional cell phone service that was more restrictive than previous offerings, said the report by Kim Yonho, a journalist with the Voice of America.
The report, “Cell Phones in North Korea,” was earlier this month by the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS, the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies. Kim is a long-time reporter on North Korea having worked for Radio Free Asia before joining VOA.
His report walks through numerous aspects of cellular telephony in the DPRK, including the technical side of the network, the phones and the operator Koryolink. But perhaps the best parts are anecdotes from North Koreans. More >