Orascom Telecom begin North Korean service
Coverage to start with capital Pyongyang and later extend to rest of country.
Orascom Telecom (OT), the largest Arab mobile operator by subscribers, started mobile service in North Korea on Monday, the company said in a statement.
"Orascom Telecom Holding celebrates today the inauguration of Koryolink... the first 3G mobile network to operate in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," the company said.
The statement said Koryolink's network would initially cover the capital, Pyongyang, with its population of more than 2 million, and planned to expand coverage to the entire country.
"We are making history in a country that is developing and opening up in a remarkable way," CEO Naguib Sawiris said.
OT won the reclusive communist state's first mobile licence in January, and said earlier this year it had successfully tested its network and would start mobile services before the end of 2008, but many investors had expected the project to be delayed as the global financial crisis hit.
Orascom had said it expected a couple of million subscribers for the unit, in which the North Korean government holds a 25 percent stake, in the first three or four years.
Its licence duration is 25 years, with an exclusivity period of four years.
Orascom Telecom also has operations in Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
OT's third-quarter profit fell short of analysts' forecasts as revenue from its Pakistan unit disappointed.
Egypt has had historically close ties with the communist Korean state. Following the 1967 war with Israel and the destruction of the Egyptian airforce, North Korean aircraft patrolled Egyptian airspace in tandem with warplanes from the USSR on Egypt's behalf.
North Korean advisers also helped build Cairo's landmark 6 October Panorama war museum.